Theodotus was a coward as well as a murderer, and fled away, while a brave warrior named Vitiges was proclaimed king by the Goths at Rome. But with the broken walls and all the Roman citizens against him, Vitiges thought it best not to try to hold out against Belisarius, and retreated to Ravenna, while Rome welcomed the Eastern army as deliverers. But Vitiges was collecting an army at Ravenna, and in three months was besieging Rome again. Never had there been greater bravery and patience than Vitiges showed outside the walls of Rome, and Belisarius inside, during the summer of 536. There was a terrible famine within; all kinds of strange food were used in scanty measure, and the Romans were so impatient of suffering, that Belisarius was forced to watch them day and night to prevent them betraying him to the enemy. Indeed, while the siege lasted a whole year, nearly all the people of Rome died of hunger and wretchedness; and the Goths, in the unhealthy Campagna around, died of fevers and agues, until they, too, had all perished except a small band, which Vitiges led back to Ravenna, whither Belisarius followed him, besieged him, made him prisoner, and carried him to Constantinople. Justinian gave him an estate where he could live in peace.
The Moors in Africa revolted, and Belisarius next went to subdue them. While he was there, the Goths in Italy began to recover from the blow he had given them, and chose a brave young man named Totila to be their king. In a very short time he had won back almost all Italy, for there really were hardly any men left, and even Justinian had only two small armies to dispose of, and those made up of Thracians and Isaurians from the shores of the Black Sea. One of these was sent with Belisarius to attack the Goths, but was not strong enough to do more than just hold Totila in check, and Justinian would not even send him all the help possible, because he dreaded the love the army bore to him. After four years of fighting with Totila he was recalled, and a slave named Narces, who had always lived in the women’s apartment in the palace, was sent to take the command. He was really able and skilled, and being better supported, he gained a great victory near Rome, in which Totila was killed, and another near Naples, which quite overcame the Ostrogoths, so that they never became a power again. Italy was restored to the Empire, and was governed by an officer from Constantinople, who lived at Ravenna, and was called the Exarch.
Belisarius, in the meantime, was sent to fight with the king of Persia, Chosroes, a very warlike prince, who had overrun Syria and carried off many prisoners from Antioch. Belisarius gained victory after victory over him, and had just driven him back over the rivers, when again came a recall, and Narses was sent out to finish the war. Theodora, the Empress, wanted to reign after her husband, and had heard that, on a report coming to the army of his death, Belisarius had said that he should give his vote for Justin, the right heir. So she worked on the fears all Emperors had—that their troops might proclaim a successful general as Emperor, and again Belisarius was ordered home, while Narses was sent to finish what he had begun.