The Secret History of Procopius - Richard Atwater

The Secret History of Procopius

Author: Richard Atwater

  • Publication Date: 2012-04-01
  • Category: Christianity


LIKE most notables of the Roman Empire in Byzantine times, the historian Procopius was not a Latin. He was born in Caesarea in Palestine about 500 A. D., and apparently was one of those Samaritans whom he mentions in the 'Secret History' as adopting Christianity for formal protection and not at all for spiritual reasons. Certainly his frequent allusions to the religion of his period, if they do not, in the words of Edward Gibbon, "betray occasional conformity, with a secret attachment to Paganism and Philosophy," at least show the detached mind of a critic to whom the hierarchy is not exactly infallible. If our historian shows at times a Grecian simplicity and an unorthodox distaste for the killing of heretics, it must be remembered that before he became a Roman he had been a Rhetorician, which profession required a long and thorough acquaintance with that seductive siren, Hellenic literature. And one who once dallies with the language of Aeschylus and Sappho is only too likely thereafter to disdain any country other than Arcady. If the young Procopius, journeying to Constantinople in his middle twenties, anticipated himself a second Lysias in another Athens, he was likely to be disappointed. Here, washed by the waters across which Leander had plunged to Hero, and in sight of the Crashing Rocks between which the Argonauts had once venturously sailed, was a colorful but mad city of pomp and confusion, intrigue and cruelty.
For a while, of course, the excitement of living in the kaleidoscopic capital of the world, after the rustic quiet of Samaria and the imagined tranquillity of Theocritus, would stimulate the young stranger to seek a worldly success. The rhetorician's trade included giving lessons in elocution and acting as advocate in law cases. Apparently Procopius's skill at either was eminent; for in 527 he had become renowned enough to be appointed secretary and aide to the great general Belisarius, and as such accompanied him on the campaign against the Persians.