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Belisarius – What is in a name?

Beneath a name can lie many concepts, images and derivations.  Our name is Belisarius Translations, after Flavius Belisarius, the Byzantine general who served as bodyguard to the Byzantine emperor, Justin I, and more famously Justin’s nephew and successor, Justinian I.  Belisarius is known as The last Roman, a rare figure of loyalty and honour in a challenging world.

Belisarius was probably born in Bulgaria and lived from AD 500 to AD 565.  Most sources identify Belisarius as a skilled general with many victories to his name against armies of vastly superior numbers and despite limited support from his emperor.  As the man to reunite the Eastern and Western Empires after reclaiming Africa and Italy from the barbarians, in AD 534, Belisarius became the last to receive an imperial triumph.  When offered the position of Western Emperor by the Ostrogoths, Belisarius declined.  Instead, Belisarius took the Ostrogoth capital of Ravenna and reunited the empire in the name of Justinian in AD 540, only to be recalled to Constantinople and retired by Justinian as a potential threat.

Belisarius was soon summoned out of retirement in AD 541 to attack the Persians.  After a truce was reached with the Persians, Belisarius was sent to Italy with grossly insufficient resources to resist the Ostrogoths who had driven the Byzantines out of Rome.  After recapturing Rome, in AD 548, Belisarius was replaced and the successor general was given full supplies to enable the final victory against the Ostrogoths that should rightly have belonged to Belisarius – while Belisarius was again forced into the anonymity of retirement.

Belisarius was restored to active duty in AD 559 to drive back the Bulgars from the walls of Constantinople itself, again with a vastly outnumbered army, only to return victorious to face trumped up criminal charges and potential disgrace – although he was pardoned by Justinian shortly afterwards and restored to court favour.

Belisarius and Justinian died in AD 565 of natural causes and within a short time of one another. By Belisarius’ campaigns, during their lifetime, the Byzantine empire was expanded by more than 45% in size.  History now remembers Justinian as one of the greatest of all the Byzantine emperors, in an empire lasting more than 1,000 years.  Through Byzantine scholars returning to the West around the time of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Europe also rediscovered many lost Greek philosophical texts, introduced via Arabic translation.

For more information on Belisarius, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belisarius.

Belisarius today remains one of the defining models for the complex military hero in art, literature, poetry, and even computer games, and cinema.  Our company is specifically named after this character as it is portrayed in the 1938 novel, Count Belisarius, by Robert Graves.

For Belisarius Translations

30 April 2012

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