Day 742 – Ken here (F)(9-23-2011)
(DEF II, v.4, Ch.47, pp.990-1002)(pages read: 2050)
Tired, sick, and a little grumpy – so maybe a little short today – but more hopeful now that we are moving towards the end of miscellaneous essays on Religion and 18th Cent. English Enlightenment Thought, and back to Roman History (tomorrow). I’m sorry, although I’ve enjoyed parts of this long chapter, it still feels more like filler than actual Roman history. But maybe that’s just me…
A momentous day – well, in terms of numbers of pages, volumes, books read. Today is the end of the Fourth Book, the Second Volume. It took us 2000 pages to cover about 400 years (250-650), at this rate we would have 4000 pages left to get to 1453 and the end of the empire in the East. We’ll do it in about 1000 pages. Granted, the closer we get to the end, the smaller the country of the Romanioi is – at the very end its not much bigger than Rhode Island and the emperor is a minor vassal of the Turkish sultan – but still, we will be going very very fast from here on out – faster and faster as we reach the end.
Today we finish up the interminable Chapter 47 on Christianity – looking at the national churches that were the descendants/children of the Eastern Roman Churches. It’s fascinating that Gibbon leaves out the Greek, Russian, and all other Slavic Orthodox Churches – as these, like birds are to dinosaurs – are the true descendants of the Greek Roman Empire in the East. But I suppose we’ll be doing a lot more Eastern and Middle European history in the last 1000 pages. We’ll see…
Even at this point, for most people even today (200 years after Gibbon wrote the Decline and Fall) most historians would say that he was venturing out of Roman history into another kind of history. But Gibbon is persevering and so should we. The history of Rome in the East was a constant thorn in the side of Europe – Medieval Europe had a love-hate relationship with the Greek Empire. And as we are children of the European Middle Ages, and the Greeks aroused such passions, we probably can (and will) learn a lot about ourselves in looking at them.
But first we have to finish up 47: The Armenian, Copt, and Abyssinian Churches.
If you’ve ever read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle – ALL THE WAY THROUGH – there is a section near the end where for a page and half (and this is around 1904) Sinclair indulges himself in one the most over-the-top racist passages against African Americans (outside of a Ku Klux Klan manual) I’ve ever read – fires, cannibals, eyes and teeth, the whole works – enough to make you question the sanity/reason of the author in that muckraking book exposing industrial corruption (literally). Its shocking in its casualness I guess – much in the same way anti-gay sentiments that seem (to some) self-evident will one day soon seem as bizarrely out of place as the plot to the 1967 movie Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. One can only hope.
Here is Gibbon vomiting forth another elegant aside on the bestial nature of anyone with more melanin than he:
But the Nubians at length executed their threats of returning to the worship of idols; the climate required the indulgence of polygamy, and they have finally preferred the triumph of the Koran to the abasement of the Cross. A metaphysical religion may appear too refined for the capacity of the negro race: yet a black or a parrot might be taught to repeat the words of the Chalcedonian or Monophysite creed.
(DEF II, Book 4, Ch.47, pp.998)