Belisarius (Slavic Beli-tzar, white prince), a Byzantine general, born at Germania in Illy-ria about 505, died in Constantinople, March 13, 565. While a youth he served among the private guards of Justinian, and upon the ac-eession of that prince to the throne in 527 was promoted to military command, and in 529 made general-in-chief of the eastern army of the empire, stationed at Dara in Mesopotamia, near the frontier of Armenia. At this town he took into his service, as private Becretary, Procopius the historian, whose writings are the principal authority for the events of his life. In 530, near Dara, he gained a derisive victory over an army of Persians nearly twice as large as his own. In the spring of 531 he marched from Dara to protect Syria, which had been invaded from the desert. He baffled the designs of the Persians against Antioch, and although, owing to the rashness of his troops, he was defeated in a battle at Callini-cum, April 19, he successfully defended the eastern frontier till the end of the war in 532. Returning to Constantinople, he married Antonina, a woman of ignoble birth and dissolute character, who sometimes accompanied him in campaigns, and at other times intrigued with the empress for his recall.
He suppressed an insurrection of the party of the greens in Constantinople against Justinian, attacking them in the race course at the head of his life gnards. In 533 he was made commander of a land and naval force of 600 vessels and 35,000 men, with which he sailed from Constantinople against the Vandals in Africa. He took Carthage, captured the Vandal king Gelimer, and sent detachments which reduced Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic isles. For these services he was on his return to Constantinople rewarded with the first triumph granted to a subject since the reign of Tiberius, a medal was struck in his honor, and in 535 he was chosen sole consul and awarded a second triumph. In the same year he commanded an expedition to recover Italy from the Ostrogoths. He regained Sicily, subdued a rebellion which had broken out in Africa, and returned to the island and quelled a mutiny in his army. He then captured Naples after a siege of 20 days, and at the end of 536 was in possession of Rome. Here he was besieged in 537 by an army of 150,000 Goths, under Vitiges, their newly elected king. He maintained his position until early in 538, when the army of the Goths retired to Ravenna, whither, after repelling an inroad of the Franks, Belisarius followed and invested the city.
During the siege Vitiges obtained terms from Justinian which Belisarius refused to recognize. Then the Goths offered him their support if he would assume the title of emperor of the West. By pretended compliance he gained possession of Ravenna for the emperor, and afterward of all Italy, when he was recalled by Justinian. In 541, with an unpaid and undisciplined army, he defended the eastern frontier against the Persians under Chos-roes Nushirvan. In 542 or 543 he was again recalled by the intrigues of the empress Theodora and his wife Antonina, who accused him of disloyalty to Justinian. His treasures were attached, but he was finally pardoned on condition that he should pay a heavy fine and become reconciled to his wife. In 544 the Goths, under Totila, having attempted the reconquest of Italy, Belisarius was sent against them, and during the year 546 strove to prevent their taking Rome. Though unsuccessful in this, he saved it from total destruction, and after its evacuation by Totila entered and held it against him. But no reenforcements being sent him, he gave up his command in September, 548, and his rival Narses succeeded him.
His last victory was gained over the Bulgarians, who in 559 invaded the empire and threatened Constantinople. In 563 he was accused of conspiring against the life of Justinian, his property was sequestered, and "the Africanus of new Rome" passed the greater part of the last year of his life in prison. The popular legend that his eyes were put out and that he passed his last days a beggar in the streets of Constantinople has been generally rejected by modern historians, but is accepted by Lord Mahon (Earl Stanhope) in his "Life of Beli-sarius " (London, 1830).