If we know anything about war, we know it is violent, traumatic, tragic and cold. It is rejection, abandonment, isolation, and danger.
While conducting my research for my book, "Empire Resurgent," I came across a particularly startling account from Procopius' writings on General Belisarius' war against the Goths in Italy (the campaign that was meant to liberate the land from the Goths and return it to Roman rule).
The Time of the Gothic War: 538 A.D
Imagine this: it's the summer of 538 A.D. Belisarius and his men are advancing northward through Italian lands held by the Goths. The weather is changing drastically and the crops are failing. The sun is no longer shining over blue-tinted earth. It is cold. And everyone is worried. The soldiers are not being paid enough and are grumbling. And whenever Belisarius is successful in retaking a town, his contentions are not over. He must do what he can to relieve the miseries of the people. Not such an easy feat.
The Story of the Mother & the Swaddled Infant
It is within this context that Procopius writes the account of the Mother and the Swaddled Infant. This unnamed woman lives in a small village in rural Italy and is forced to flee her home along with the others. She quickly grabs what she can from her home and runs into the mad scramble of the open street. Her arms are bumped by a sea of desperation, and her child is dislodged from her. She looks around frantically, dreading the possibility that her child had been trampled by the mob. Unable to stop, pushed along by the crowd she must carry on through the gates of the village and out into the countryside. The Goths were coming.
The mother hadn't returned.
After some time, the Romans secured the area and found a baby crying in the streets. Beside the baby was a sympathetic she-goat, lying in a bed of rushes looking relaxed. The Roman soldiers tried to take the baby away from the she-goat to give it to the various women who had begun to repopulate the village. But the she-goat was reluctant to give up her new kid. She lowered her horns and prevented their approach. Seeing too that the babe preferred its four-legged wetnurse, the women assisted the goat in nourishing the infant.
Thinking of Ukraine
As I read over this account from the contemporary historian Procopius, I thought of all the Ukrainian mothers who have had to flee their homelands from the onslaught of Russian invaders. I wondered how many children had been accidentally separated from their loving parents while the Russians trampled the land.
Pray for the liberation of Ukraine.