Posted by: ken98 | September 29, 2011

More Popcorn Princes, Eunuch-Hating, and Brother-Son-Husband-Poisoning

Day 748 – Ken here (Th)(9-29-2011)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.48, pp.50-60)(pages read: 2090)

That's what this chapter feels like to me - JUNK FOOD

That's what this chapter feels like to me - JUNK FOOD - each emperor Gibbon describes is the textbook definition of fungible - look it up and see for yourself

I admit it – I’m not feeling so hot again, and as a result am just an ornery cuss today – and probably will remain so for then next week – so you were warned…

I guess you should be careful what you wish for – sometimes you GET EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAY YOU WANT – and live to regret it - in the last chapter (47, last of the 3rd Volume, 4th Book) I wanted “real” history and not just a history of heresy – NOW, we run through approximately 120 years every 10 pages. The names are a blur. And there ARE NO FOOTNOTES as I have mentioned. So the whole thing begins to have the look and feel of a febrile imaginary fantasy kingdom in some badly written MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online game). I know, I know, I’m just whining and complaining, but for the love of Mike, how can anyone get anything out of any part of what Gibbon’s writing? It’s like watching a popcorn machine, each kernel is exactly like the other one, except GIBBON GIVES EACH ONE A SEPARATE NAME (ie the name of the emperor).

Again, another measure of the CONTEMPT Gibbon felt for BYZANTINE history.

This is just ridiculous. It takes every particle of my resolve just to READ it each morning now, let alone WRITE ABOUT IT

But here goes – this is the hopeful eight-hundreds. A time of growing consolidation and power in the Eastern Empire rather than a long drawn out sigh over past glories and lost territories. It is a new kind of empire a-borning.

The Story
 
Basil I Macedonian (867-886)
 
  • Basil is supp the desc of Armenian kings, who are the desc of Persian princes sent to rule Armenia, which means Basil is somehow Persian King of Kings royalty, many times removed – however by Basil’s day they were POOR FARMERS in Macedonia
  • Basil’s descendants were married into the Carolingians (Otto 3rd), ancestor of the French Bourbon Dynasty, which happens to include the current King Of Spain (Juan Carlos I) – with a little history, and some genealogy, you can go anywhere, from the Persians Shahs to modern parliamentary European democracies – GIBBON, being English,and therefor culturally genealogy-mad, loves this sort of thing
  • Basil starts out as a Bulgarian slave (Bulgs attack the farm and take the family)
  • He is ransomed, enters the emperors service, defeats a famous wrestler, tames an untameable horse, comes to the attention of Emp Michael
  • The curr favorite – Bardas – for the succession is killed in a plot by the empress Theodora, Basil takes his place, kills Michael a year later, gains the empire
  • He is virtuous, moderate, good civil administration, reformulates the laws (the Basilics), died from a wound in a hunt
  •  

    Leo VI – the Philosopher (886-911)
     
  • Gibbon goes on and on about why he was called philosopher – Gibbon assumes its basically because he can read, and reads books – a typically sarcastic comment on Byz civilization by the Enlightenment
  • He tries and fails 3 times to get a son (like Henry VIII) but runs foul of the Orthodox rules – you can only marry 2 times, rarely 3, never 4 – so the son of his 4th wife (the 1st 3 died) is Constantine VII – who always rules under a cloud of hazy illegitimacy – birthwise that is – COnst VII mother = the beautiful ZOE – the patriarch that refuses to condone it is exiled
  •  

    Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus(911-919)
     
  • Porphurogenitus = born in the purple – it was 1st attested in/for COnst VII – it meant very-special legitimacy – you had to fulfill 4 req’s to be purple-born 1)born in a special pavilion lined with purple marble in the Great Palace of Constantinople, 2) The father must be a reigning BASILEUS, 3) the mother must be married to the BASILEUS, 4) the mother must be formally declared an AUGUSTA – you didn’t have to be purple-born to rule, or really do anything in the empire, it was just the CADILLAC of births for a ROMAN in the 800’s ON – our friend ANNA COMNENUS (of Alexiad fame) in the late 1000’s/early 1100’s was a porphyrogenitus – as she proudly proclaims in her history of her father Alexis in the Alexiad
  • Empress ZOE manages Const VII minority
  • Naval leader Romanus Lecapenus sails a fleet in and TAKES OVER for ZOE as the REGENT, But essentially becoming emperor
  •  

    Romanus Lecapenus(919-945)
     
  • 3 sons of Romanus – Christopher, Stephen, Constantine all made Augustus, so now Const VII=5th most important emperor – but HE WAS STILL PURPLE-BORN
  • Gibbon has not much to say, except that Const VII made his living by painting
  •  

    Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus(945-959)
     
  • Helena, Const’s wife=power of throne
  • Helena supp poisoned him to get her son on the throne
  •  

    Romanus II (959-963)
     
  • Theophano=Const VII wife – a person of “base origin, masculine spirit” – Gibbon hates her
  • Romanus leaves his bros – Nicephorus and Leo to fight the Arabs, he does the pro circuit of Byzantine Tennis – per Gibbon – the sphaeristerium
  • dies after 4 years – poisoned by Theophano
  •  

    Nicephoras II Phocas (963-969)
     
  • A hero and a saint, supp greedy
  • Marries Theophano
  •  
     

    John I Tzimiskes – John Zimisces to Gibbon (969-976)
     
  • Strength, beauty, soul of a hero
  • one of the numerouus lovers of Theophano
  • Theophano allows John to murder Nicephoras
  •  
     

     

    Coin of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus

    Coin of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus

     
     
     

    Last Word…

     

    Quotable Gibbon – the Random Eunuch-Baiting Comment
     

     

    And again, eunuchs appear in the most unlikely places – here John Zimisces, Roman Emperor, just back flush with victory from the Eastern frontiers makes a derogatory observation about eunuchs and immediately is killed for it.

    Those Eunuchs! You can never trust them.

    Here, directly from he mouth of Gibbon (and what’s even odder is that even though this is a quote from a person speaking – ie John Zimisces – we are in the footnote-less chapter, so we are left to our own resources to try and find this odd observation by a Roman Emperor with such deadly results:

    The greatest part of his (John Zimisces’s) reign was employed in the camp and the field: his personal valour and activity were signalized on the Danube and the Tigris, the ancient boundaries of the Roman world; and by his double triumph over the Russians and the Saracens, he deserved the titles of saviour of the empire, and conqueror of the East.

    In his last return from Syria, he observed that the most fruitful lands of his new provinces were possessed by the eunuchs. “And is it for them,” he exclaimed, with honest indignation, “that we have fought and conquered? Is it for them that we shed our blood, and exhaust the treasures of our people?” The complaint was reechoed to the palace, and the death of Zimisces is strongly marked with the suspicion of poison.

    (DEF III, Vol.5, Ch.48, pp. 60)

    This is about how individual each emperor appears in Gibbons whirlwind tour of 600 years of Eastern Roman emperors in one 50 page chapter - pretty worthless actually - and really really irritating - but then again, I'm just generally irritated these days, so forgive the ongoing rant...

    This is about how individual each emperor appears in Gibbons whirlwind tour of 600 years of Eastern Roman emperors in one 50 page chapter - pretty worthless actually - and really really irritating - but then again, I'm just generally irritated these days, so forgive the ongoing rant...

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