Instigator / Pro
Justinian I did not blind Flavius Belisarius
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Contender / Con
Flavius Belisarius was a Byzantine general during the reign of Justinian I. It was widely believed that Belisarius was blinded by Justinian, due to a painting made, called 'Belisarius Begging for Alms.' It is understandable if nobody does this debate, as there is a lot of evidence supporting my claim that he was not. If anyone is looking for a challenge, however, this is a good debate to take.
Pro= Belisarius was not blinded
Con= Belisarius was blinded
Pro= Belisarius was not blinded
Con= Belisarius was blinded
I would like to begin by apologizing to my opponent for taking so long. I have been very busy in the past few days, and did not know that this debate had been accepted.
History of the Theory
The origins of the theory can be traced back to the writings of John Tzetzes, a 12th century monk who wanted to criticize politicians. Many people began to believe it during the French Revolution, when it was used as a symbol of tyranny.
Evidence Against the Theory
In 1204, the fourth crusade made a stop in Constantinople. After the sacking, many soldiers mentioned statues of Belisarius. Assuming he had been blinded and disgraced, all statues of him would have been torn down. Other evidence comes from the writings of the Byzantine historian, Procopius. He went along with Belisarius on most of his military campaigns, and wrote about them all. Even in his book, Secret History, criticising Justinian, he never mentioned it. If it had happened, he surely would have mentioned it in his book criticising him.
While some historians still believe that Belisarius was blinded, there is little evidence to back up their claim. I would like to apologise for my argument being so short, and I hope I have more time to put into the next argument.
While I do have multiple sources, I do not know how to put them into my argument. If someone can tell me in the comments, I will put them there.
I will begin by "in the nicest possible way", pointing out an error in my opponents description
Flavius Belisarius was a Byzantine general during the reign of Justinian I. It was widely believed that Belisarius was blinded by Justinian, due to a painting made, called 'Belisarius Begging for Alms.' - Eclipse
My opponent later goes on to contradict this assertion himself when he announces that the Theory actually arose from John Tzetzes in the 12th Century
History of the TheoryThe origins of the theory can be traced back to the writings of John Tzetzes, a 12th century monk who wanted to criticize politicians. Many people began to believe it during the French Revolution, when it was used as a symbol of tyranny. - Eclipse
And my opponent is correct. The theory is known to have originated much earlier than the painting 'Belisarius Begging for Alms", as my sources below reveal
According to a story that gained popularity during the Middle Ages, Justinian is said to have ordered Belisarius's eyes to be put out, and reduced him to the status of a homeless beggar near the Pincian Gate of Rome, condemned to asking passers-by to "give an obolus to Belisarius", before pardoning him. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belisarius#Legend_as_a_blind_beggar
And the 'Belisarius Begging for Alms" was not even painted by Jacques-Louis David until 1781, which is well beyond the middle-ages.
Now, regarding my opponents assertions towards John Tzetzes. I can find no evidence of John Tzetzes being a monk. According to my source below, John Tzetzes was a Byzantine poet and grammarian who is known to have lived at Constantinople in the 12th century, and he was to preserve much valuable information from ancient Greek literature and scholarship.
He worked as a secretary to a provincial governor for a time and later began to earn a living by teaching and writing, as my source below reveal. But no where can i find anything where he claims that the legend of Belisarius was his creation. John Tzetzes was considered a knowledgeable man in contemporary Greek history and was a History teacher. He was not regarded as a conspiracy theorist.
He worked as a secretary to a provincial governor for a time and later began to earn a living by teaching and writing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tzetzes#Biography
Also, In truth, the origins of the theory cannot be properly established as it is a Theological belief. Comparable to that of religion. A believer would be of the belief that the knowledge was passed down via oral tradition. My source below will reveal
Marmontel's novel received a public censure by Louis Legrand of the Sorbonne, which contemporary theologians regarded as a model exposition of theological knowledge and clear thinking. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belisarius#Legend_as_a_blind_beggar
Whilst this debate is regards to theosophy. I do not see any attempts to turn the legend of the blind beggar in to something divine or religious, and i see no real benefit for any 12th century historian to think that teaching his pupils that Belisarius was blinded by Justinian will serve any real political gains whatsoever.
Now on to my opponents next claim.
Evidence Against the Theory In 1204, the fourth crusade made a stop in Constantinople. After the sacking, many soldiers mentioned statues of Belisarius. Assuming he had been blinded and disgraced, all statues of him would have been torn down. Other evidence comes from the writings of the Byzantine historian, Procopius. He went along with Belisarius on most of his military campaigns, and wrote about them all. Even in his book, Secret History, criticising Justinian, he never mentioned it. If it had happened, he surely would have mentioned it in his book criticising him. - Eclipse
First of all, there is absolutely no reason why any statues made of Belisarius should have depicted him with no eyes, even if he indeed did have his eyes pulled out before his death. I assume those statues are to commemorate his victories in battle, during a period he was regarded as a hero, and not to commemorate his imprisonment in later life. I will produce some evidence below that Justinian did indeed imprison Belisarius in later life. We also need to understand that the account below, did not come from Procopius, as it is mere speculation that the Prokopius in this case is the same person that wrote the earlier writings.
In 562, Belisarius stood trial in Constantinople, having been accused of participating in a conspiracy against Justinian. His case was judged by the prefect of Constantinople, named Prokopius, and this may have been his former secretary Procopius of Caesarea. Belisarius was found guilty and imprisoned but not long after, Justinian pardoned him, ordered his release, and restored him to favor at the imperial court. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belisarius#Later_life
Now this might suggest that Justinian wanted to Pardon Belisarius, at the same time as making it impossible to conspire against him.
Now, the only problem with my opponents theory, is that "the Secret History, written by "Procopius" is not necessarily considered "factual" by historians, and is thought to be a Satirical account, and perhaps even a complete lie, in order to protect himself against the death penalty should Justinian ever fall to his opponents..We see from the link below, that it was considered "Satire".
In the next link we see that many historians consider his book could have been lies
On the other hand, it has been argued that Procopius prepared the Secret History as an exaggerated document out of fear that a conspiracy might overthrow Justinian's regime, which—as a kind of court historian—might be reckoned to include him. The unpublished manuscript would then have been a kind of insurance, which could be offered to the new ruler as a way to avoid execution or exile after the coup. If this hypothesis were correct, the Secret History would not be proof that Procopius hated Justinian or Theodora. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procopius#Secret_History
Also it needs to be taken in to consideration, that most historians believe this book to have been written in 550AD. Though 558AD at the latest. Yet Belisarius is thought to have lived until 565AD. So this would mean Procopius would not have been able to write about Belisarius having his eyes pulled out anyway, as Belisarius outlived Procopiuses writings. I will produce evidence below.
Secret History covers roughly the same years as the first seven books of The History of the Wars and appears to have been written after they were published. Current consensus generally dates it to 550, or less commonly, 558.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procopius#Secret_History
And now Belisarius Obituary
Now my opponents next argument below
Closing StatementsWhile some historians still believe that Belisarius was blinded, there is little evidence to back up their claim. - Eclipse
But let us take a look beneath at the credentials of one historian that does support the claim
Philip Stanhope, a 19th-century British philologist who wrote Life of Belisarius believed the story to be true, based on his review of the available primary sources. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belisarius#Legend_as_a_blind_beggar
And beneath, we see that Philip Stanhope from the House of Lords was mainly responsible for proposing and organising the foundation of the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1856. Was president of the Society of Antiquaries. president of the Royal Literary Fund. A trustee of the British Museum and founded the Stanhope essay prize at Oxford in 1855. And was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1827.
Stanhope's chief achievements were in the fields of literature and antiquities. In 1842 took a prominent part in passing the Literary Copyright Act 1842. From the House of Lords he was mainly responsible for proposing and organising the foundation of the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1856. A sculpted bust of Stanhope holds the central place over the entrance of the building, flanked by fellow historians and supporters Thomas Carlyle and Lord Macaulay. It was mainly due to him that in 1869 the Historical Manuscripts Commission was started. As president of the Society of Antiquaries (from 1846 onwards), he called attention in England to the need of supporting the excavations at Troy. He was also president of the Royal Literary Fund from 1863 until his death, a trustee of the British Museum and founded the Stanhope essay prize at Oxford in 1855. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1827. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Stanhope,_5th_Earl_Stanhope#Contributions_to_culture
Now whilst i will accept the rolly eyed emoji, that "yeah" and his employee the head of the Church of England is the patron for Jesus belief 🙄, i will still point to Philip Stanhope being about the most respected and upstanding Historian of that time, and if it is being passed as true by a member of the House of Lords, then it is definitely supposed to be accepted as true, whether it is true or not.
Now more below about who Philip Stanhope was. Stanhope was the son of Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl Stanhope, and the Hon. Catherine Stanhope, daughter of Robert Smith, 1st Baron Carrington.. So definitely not a man that is supposed to be considered a conspiracy theorist
Stanhope was the son of Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl Stanhope, and the Hon. Catherine Stanhope, daughter of Robert Smith, 1st Baron Carrington. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Stanhope,_5th_Earl_Stanhope#Background_and_education
So given that no contemporary historian is able to "prove" nor "disprove" the allegation, it is doubtful that my opponent is going to succeed where all contemporary historians before him have failed.
Likewise it is doubtful i am going to be able to prove anything either. So all i can do is point out contradictions and errors in my opponents arguments "in the nicest possible way" (it's all in good nature).
Though, i have already highlighted above a few reasons to suspect that it would not be beyond the realms of believability for Justinian to have done such a thing. Afterall, Justinian had imprisoned Belisarius for allegedly conspiring against him, and if Justinian believed this, then why would he want a person that he believes to be conspiring against him, freed from prison, unless he knew that Belisarius was no longer capable of conspiring against him?
Historians do appear to believe that this type of act would be quite typical of times. As revealed below.
After the publication of Jean-François Marmontel's novel Bélisaire (1767), this account became a popular subject for progressive painters and their patrons in the later 18th century, who saw parallels between the actions of Justinian and the repression imposed by contemporary rulers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belisarius#Legend_as_a_blind_beggar
Also is this type of act something that would be typical of Justinian?
Justinian is portrayed as cruel, venal, prodigal, and incompetent. In one passage, it is even claimed that he was possessed by demonic spirits or was himself a demon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procopius#Secret_History
Well according to Procopius, who is my opponents unreliable source, the answer is "yes". Justinian was a "cruel, venal, prodigal, and incompetent", as well as demon possessed. Apparently.
Now i would like to appeal to my opponents better nature, and make an appeal to him due to the current situation humanity is facing with the Corona-virus. I am having to go away for a couple of days. I will be unavailable to respond to any arguments my opponent makes until Friday.
Therefore i would like to ask my opponent to not post any reply until possibly Thursday.
I will be back on Friday afternoon.
So if my opponent could hold back on responding, just a day or two, this would be much obliged.
I would like tho thank my opponent for pointing out the error in the description, and apologise for not being able to continue this debate. Unfortunately, a few things have come up where I will not be able to do much else. I wish I could do more, but I will not be able to find time to in the next few weeks. I am willing to let the victory go to my opponent. I will be forced to forfeit the final round. Thank you for your understanding.
Thank you for the debate.
It is unfortunate that it did not reach a conclusion.
In the absence of my opponent i lacked motivation to continue a one sided debate, and therefore did no more research on the subject, so unfortunately i have nothing revelational with which to conclude this debate with.
But thanks again.
You can have several debates active at a time. So by all means, start another.
Just like to say thank you for the debate, and for helping me choose my avatar. I went for a picture of Procopious, seen as how my first debate on this site was regarding the writings of procopious, thanks to you.
Thank you for the kind help and support you are providing to newbies such as myself. Please feel free to also answer the question i posed to Ragnar regards to whether i can now start a new debate, even though this debate has currently ran it's course prematurely, but is still for all intents and purposes active
As this debate has ran it's course prematurely, i would like to partake in a new debate. The only problem is that "officially" this current debate is no longer being argued, though i am willing to continue the debate in round 3 if my opponent decides to change his/her mind. I am just wondering however, am i able to create a debate whilst i still have a for all intents and purposes debate running?
I am not a mod. I failed the background check. Ragnar is a mod. You can tell by his Trump colored crown. I don't mind answering questions tho.
My favorite David is Death of Marat, Napolean Crossing the Alps is second. Last year, I suggested we use Tennis Court Oath for our front page- a notion that received exactly zero endorsement.
Unfortunately the number of rounds cannot be edited after the debate has started. You can simply type one word like "extend," instead of writing any paragraphs for your closing.
I assume you are a moderator? My opponent no longer wishes to contunue due to unforseen circumstances. In the event of me having no debate to counter. I have nothing else to add. Can we close the debate now please?
I am willing to wait until Thursday morning to post my next argument.
The time for arguments for this debate is 3 days- Eclipse has 30 more hours to offer an opening argument.
If Eclipse forfeits, the round will pass to you and I recommend that you make some argument in R1 before giving it back to Eclipse. Most folks simply say something about how they're choosing to wait to see if their opponent will make any effort. I usually make some low effort argument just to stay ahead of my opponent and demonstrate worthiness for full points: argument, sources, grammar, conduct, but in this specific case that might take more effort than will seem worthwhile. If Eclipse forfeits more than 50% of arguments (2 rounds in this case) this debate will be judged a full forfeit and likely any and all points will be awarded to you.
the rule for new voters is "read the site's COC AND either completed at least 2 non-troll debates without any forfeits" I assume that only means no forfeits on your part, since you have not control over opponent's forfeits. Voting period is one month so even if Eclipse never shows this won't count towards voting for another five weeks or so.
Thank you oromagi....It appears my opponent has gone awol. What happens in the event that he does not show up? Will this debate still be included in one of my three debates to obtaining voting status? Will the debate just be pulled? Or will the round just pass to me?
I would just like to say, i am away working without internet access between Wednesday and Friday evening, so if this debate is still going on, on wednesday morning, can i then ask for the good grace of my opponent to not post his argument until Thursday evening or Friday morning, so that i can then resond, with what i imagine would be the final round, on Saturday
Welcome, Nevets. I am glad this is going to get a debate.
Justinian I was the emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 527-565. Belisarius was one of his best generals. Justinian had Belisarius conquer North Africa, Italy, and Parts of Iberia, which was its largest extent.
Who is this guy?
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Concession. Good opening by pro, and a very well researched counter case by con
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While this is a forfeit there are a few things I would like to point out.
The debate is a clear assertion "Justinian I did not blind Flavius Belesarius."
Pro took the opening approach to dispute the origins of the story. A very powerful move, if the references were present. They were not. However Pro made a partial redemption by putting the onus on Con to provide evidence that the blinding did occur as contended.
Pro is still alive in the debate at this point.
Con starts by a systematic sentence by sentence dissection of Pro. One of the first lines Con says he will point out an error in the description, but never does. Con spends significant energy discussing if John Tzetzes was a monk. Con never addresses if this is material to the question.
Con then later admits that the theory cannot be properly established I quote. "Also, In truth, the origins of the theory cannot be properly established as it is a Theological belief."
Con has admitted that the blinding is a theological theory.
Con brings up some valid points about the logic of a blind begged being used for political purposes, and the state argument presented by Pro. Con then proceeds to present a reference from the House of Lords. Con does preemptively partially impeach his own source by referencing a conflict of interest with the Church of England, which turns out to be the only real reference to support the claimed blinding.
Con then argues that while he cannot prove one side, Pro cannot prove the other.
Based on the evidence presented by Con, and his own admission that the retire theory was theological in origin, Pro made a better case. Unfortunately Pro specifically stated they would forfeit, and "willing to give victory". He did not give full victory.
For that reason, I will give Con the warranted victory, however not because of arguments.
Con provided extensive references and was providing links to first sources. Albeit there was no real argument that the blinding occurred, which is central to the debate.
It was very noble of Con to let the issue rest, and not try to belay the issue. Both parties showed polite demeanor, and there was nothing notable in S&G.
If I have erred in my voting strategy, and reasons pursuant to the rules on this site, please let me know and I will make the corrections, and learn from the mistakes.