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Flight is Not the Right Course

January 18, 532 — Nika revolt, to Justinian and his advisors, Constantinople, Byzantine Empire

 

My opinion then is that the present time, above all others, is inopportune for flight, even though it bring safety. . . .

For one who has been an emperor it is unendurable to be a fugitive. May I never be separated from this purple, and may I not live that day on which those who meet me shall not address me as mistress.

If, now, it is your wish to save yourself, O Emperor, there is no difficulty. For we have much money, and there is the sea, here the boats.

However consider whether it will not come about after you have been saved that you would gladly exchange that safety for death. For as for myself, I approve a certain ancient saying that royalty is a good burial-shroud.

 

Translation by H.B. Dewing.

 

 

Source: Procopius, History of the Wars, I, xxiv, translated by H.B. Dewing (New York: Macmillan, 1914), pp. 219-230, slightly abbridged and reprinted in Leon Barnard and Theodore B. Hodges, Readings in European History, (New York: Macmillan) 1958, pp. 52-55.