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