It was just at this time that there was living at Monte Casino, in the South of Italy, St. Benedict, an Italian hermit, who was there joined by a number of others who, like him, longed to pray for the sinful world apart rather than fight and struggle with bad men. He formed them into a great band of monks, all wearing a plain dark dress with a hood, and following a strict rule of plain living, hard work, and prayers at seven regular hours in the course of the day and night. His rule was called the Benedictine, and houses of monks arose in many places, and were safe shelters in these fierce times.
The Teutonic nations soon lost their spirit when they had settled in the luxurious Roman cities, and as they were as fierce as ever, their kings tore one another to pieces. A very able Emperor, named Justinian, had come to the throne in the East, and in his armies there had grown up a Thracian who was one of the greatest and best generals the world has ever seen. His name was Belisarius, and strange to say, both he and the Emperor had married the daughters of two charioteers in the circus races. The Empress was named Theodora, the general’s wife Antonina, and their acquaintance first made Belisarius known to Justinian, who, by his means, ended by winning back great part of the Western Empire.
He began with Africa, where Genseric’s grandson was reigning over the Vandals, and paying so little heed to his defences that Belisarius landed without any warning, and called all the multitudes of old Roman inhabitants to join him, which they joyfully did. He defeated the Vandals in battle, entered Carthage, and restored the power of the empire. He brought away the golden candlestick and treasures of the Temple, and the cross believed to be the true one, and carried them to Constantinople, whence the Emperor sent them back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem.
Just as Belisarius had returned to Constantinople, a piteous entreaty came to Justinian from Amalosontha, the daughter of Theodoric, who had been made prisoner by Theodotus, the husband she had chosen. It seemed to be opening a way for getting back Italy, and Justinian sent off Belisarius; but before he had sailed, the poor Gothic queen had been strangled in her bath. Belisarius, however, with 4500 horse and 3000 foot soldiers, landed in Sicily and soon conquered the whole island, all the people rejoicing in his coming. He then crossed to Rhegium, and laid siege to Naples. As usual, the inhabitants were his friends, and one of them showed him the way to enter the city through an old aqueduct which opened into an old woman’s garden.