The fancy price

September 28 2015

Justinian’s Solomonian glory was a luxury out of season which had to be paid for at a fancy price; and, forty-five years after Justinian’s death, a bill of a staggering magnitude was duly presented to the magnificent emperor’s devoted successor Heraclius when he was summoned from Carthage to defend Constantinople against a Persian invader whose advance-guard had by then already pushed its way unhindered right across the Asiatic torso of Justinian’s Mediterranean empire – from the banks of the Khabūr to the shores of the Bosphorus. Heraclius, with his ominous name, is a typical representative of the saviour with the sword in his final appearance on the stage, when the tragic actor once for all lays aside a Jovian mask that has now become utterly incongruous, and once more plays Hêraklês in the only scene that it is any longer possible for even a Hêraklês to play. This scene is the death of a “Die-Hard”; a “Die-Hard” is a soldier who offers up his life for a cause when he is convinced that all but Honour is already lost; and, as a classic example of the type, the Roman Emperor Heraclius is worthy to rank with the British Colonel Inglis whose call to his men first put the phrase into currency.

The Khabūr is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Its source, like that of the Euphrates, is in Turkey.

A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939

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