DANTE'S SUBLIME COMEDY: PARADISE: Chapter 6
CHAPTER 6: Justinian
“Three hundred years after the birth of Christ
Constantine led the Roman Eagle east
near ruined Troy from which Aeneas fled 3
and built its nest on Europe’s farthest coast.
This new Rome was the Empire’s capital
while old Rome stayed the home of Papacy. 6
When Goth’s invading Italy destroyed
Rome’s earthly strength, they did not harm the Pope.
That was before I wore the Empires crown 9
and titled Caesar – am Justinian.
God’s love led me to unify Rome’s laws
into one useful code, weeding out words 12
that might pervert the justice of a cause.
I was unfit for this great task at first.
My faith was still impure, for I believed 15
Christ was the Holy Ghost in manlike shape,
not flesh and blood. A letter from the Pope
corrected me, then Heaven gave me peace. 18
Count Belisarius my general,
drove Goths from Italy, and so again
around Earth’s Middle Sea one emperor 21
ruled all, and there my legal code was used,
and thus Rome’s Empire worked at giving birth
to what Augustine said all should create: 24
God’s Citadel on Earth. My peaceful rule
made Church and State supreme yet separate.
You know me now, but I have more to tell 27
of how the Roman Empire got renown
and used it well centuries after me
before the Whigs and Tories broke it down. 30
Aeneas toiled for years on seas and lands
before his wedding to a Latin Queen
gave a new home to Trojan refugees, 33
the ancestors of Rome. For centuries
their fighting royalty, wise senators
conquered kingdoms and communes. Rome’s Eagle 36
flew through Europe, Africa, Asia,
forcing far-flung nations into one vaster,
longer-lasting state than in his brief life 39
the great Alexander managed to create.
The time arrived when Heaven wanted peace.
The Roman Eagle perched on Caesar’s fist, 42
none being fit to manage it but he.
No tongue, no pen does justice to his deeds,
quelling revolting principalities, 45
crossing the Rubicon, then putting down
the civil war in Gaul, Spain, Egypt, Greece.
Satan in Hell chews those who murdered him. 48
There Cleopatra weeps. She chose to die
by snakebite to escape the Eagles beak.
Augustus Caesar was it’s master next. 52
He spread the Empire to the Red Sea shore,
declared the Pax Romana everywhere,
and needed to support it by a tax, 55
so ordered men back to their place of birth
for registration. Thus in Bethlehem
our Prince of Peace was born. Now listen hard! 58
Tiberius was Caesar number three.
Under his reign the Eagle did one thing
upon a hill outside Jerusalem 61
that makes all other splendid Roman deeds
look small and dim when viewed by Christian eyes.
Here God’s wrath made the Eagle work for Him – 64
helped God Himself revenge Himself on God.
Later, when Titus reigned, Heaven ensured
vengeance on that revenge for ancient sin. 67
The Roman legions slew Hebrew hordes,
looted and burned Solomon’s synagogue,
made a whole ruin of Jerusalem. 70
Look forward now. When Whiggish Lombard crows
tried to peck out Pope Leo’s tongue, he found
protection in Emperor Charlemagne. 73
Rome’s bishop and Imperial Eagle then
were allies though apart, as they should be.
Look at the state of politics today! 76
Now ancient symbols of the common good
achieved by men whose fame is like my own
are used on flag and badge to foster hate 79
by greedy statesmen with short local aims.
The Roman Eagle and the Fleur de Lys
are trampled by a squabbling multitude. 82
We in this little star strove to do well,
but also strove for fame, so rose less far
than those whose virtues lacked all selfishness 85
This we cannot regret, happy to know
good choirs all sound the more melodious
where diverse voices sing both high and low. 88
In this pearl also shines the light of one
not quite as grand as mighty emperors.
He worked as hard for goodness as did we 91
but won no great reward. His birth was low
and name was Romeo, and he became
an honest steward of Count Berenger – 94
served him so well, four daughters of the Count
got such rich dowries that they married kings.
Envy declared he filled his pockets too, 97
which was untrue. Dismissed, he had to beg.
Though he is famous, those who honour him
would do it much more if they understood,
how sore it is to beg your livelihood.” 101