Belisarius casts a long shadow


You know who Belisarius was, right?

“So I asked the History teacher–”

Yes, Kurtzhau, 11, has just started high school and looks very dapper in his school uniform, tie and fast-growing mane of long hair. He’s not cute anymore.

“–if we were doing the fall of the Roman Empire as well, and the Early Middle Ages and she said yes. Then I spoke to (call him) Ajax and told him and he said What? and I said you know Early  Middle Ages with Belisarius and Justinian and we spent the rest of break talking about Belisarius and how cool he was…”

“Uh?” I set down my coffee. “Hang on. He knew who Belisarius was?”

“Well yes, he said he’d be researching him himself. We talked about how they got into Europe then overstretched…”

I laugh.


In a year group of 200, Kurtzhau has happened on the one other kid who knows about Belisarius.

Kurtzhau has been fascinated by Belisarius since he was 5 and I told him how the great general loosed the first arrow at the Siege of Rome, slaying an Ostrogothic chieftain. Just under two years ago, I read him Harold Lamb’s book on Belisarius, and we got to thrill over this real-life Maximus’s cunning and courage.

However, it’s all rather… specialized knowledge. It seems really odd for him to have simply dropped into a conversation with another pre-teen on this of all subjects.

I mention this.

“Yes,” says Kurtzhau. “I thought it was pretty random too.”

“He sounds like our sort of person,” I say.

Kurtzhau nods and sips his iced latte.

I watch the buses growl throw the rain beyond the coffee shop window and wonder what Flavius Belisarius would have made of two barbarian boys discussing his fame a millennium and half after his death, and half a millennium after the Turks erased the East Roman Empire.

If there’s a Valhalla for Christian soldiers, then I think he would have raised his wine cup in a toast then gone back to his game of Warhammer 40K with the Duke of Wellington.


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Posted in Geek Parenting, History

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