From: “The Secret History” – by Pocopius of Caesarea
19 - How He Seized All the Wealth of the Romans and Threw It Away
How he seized all wealth I will next discuss: recalling first a vision which, at the beginning of Justinian's rule, was revealed to one of illustrious rank in a dream.
In this dream, he said, he seemed to be standing on the shore of the sea somewhere in Constantinople, across the water from Chalcedon, and saw Justinian there in midchannel. And first Justinian drank up all the water of the sea, so that he presently appeared to be standing on the mainland, there bring no longer any waves to break against it; then other water, heavy with filth and rubbish, roaring out of the subterranean sewers, proceeded to cover the land. And this, too, he drank, a second time drying up the bed of the channel. This is what the vision in the dream disclosed.
Now Justinian, when his uncle Justin came to the throne, found the state well provided with public funds. For Anastasius, who had been the most provident and economical of all monarchs, fearing (which indeed happened) that the inheritor of his Empire should find himself in need of money, would perhaps plunder his subjects, filled all the treasuries to their brim with gold before he completed his span of life. All of this Justinian immediately exhausted, between his senseless building program on the coast and his lavish presents to the barbarians; though one might have thought that it would take the most extravagant of Emperors a hundred years to disburse such wealth. For the treasurers and those in charge of the other imperial properties had been able, during Anastasius's rule of more than twenty-seven years over the Romans, easily to accumulate 3,200 gold centenaries; and of all these nothing at all was left, for it had been squandered by this man while Justin still lived; as I have already related.
What he illegally confiscated and wasted during his lifetime, no tale, no reckoning, no count could ever make manifest. For like an ever flowing river swallowing more each day he pillaged his subjects, to disgorge it straightway on the barbarians.
Having thus carried away the public wealth, he turned his eye upon his private subjects. Most of them he immediately robbed of their estates, snatching them arbitrarily by force, bringing false charges against whoever in Constantinople and each other city were reputed to be rich.
Some he accused of polytheism, others of heresy against the orthodox Christian faith; some of pederasty, others of love affairs with nuns, or other unlawful intercourse; some of starting sedition, or of favoring the Greens, or treason against himself, or anything else; or he made himself the arbitrary heir of the dead and even of the living, when he could. Such were the subtleties of his actions. And how he profited from the insurrection against himself which is called Nika, making himself heir to the Senators, I have already shown; and how, some time before the sedition broke out, he privately robbed each man of his estate.
To all the barbarians, on every occasion, he gave great sums: to those of the East and those of the West ' to the North and to the South, as far as Britain, and over all the inhabited earth; so that nations whose very names we had never heard of, we now learned to know, seeing their ambassadors for the first time. For when they learned of this man's folly, they came to him and Constantinople in floods from the whole world. And he with no hesitation, but overjoyed at this, and thinking it good luck to drain the Romans of their prosperity and fling it to barbarian men or to the waves of the sea, daily sent each one home with his arms full of presents.
Thus all the barbarians became masters of all the wealth of the Romans, either being presented with it by the Emperor, or by ravaging the Roman Empire, selling their prisoners for ransom, and bartering for truces. And the prophecy of the dream I mentioned above, came to pass in this visible reality.
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