Posted by: ken98 | October 7, 2009

Goths, they’re back…

Day 26 – Ken here

I couldv’e SWORN Mark snuck a paragraph into my Gibbon – this is EXACTLY the way he writes and thinks:
“The Goths were now in possession of the Ukraine, a country of considerable extent and uncommon fertility, intersected with navigable rivers, which from either side, discharge themselves into the Borysthenes (Dneiper?); and interspersed with large and lofty forests of oaks. The plenty of game and fish , the innumerable bee-hives (BEE HIVES?), deposited in the hollow of old trees, and in the cavities of rocks, and forming, even in that rude age, a valuable branch of commerce, the size of cattle, the temperature of the air, the aptness of the soil for every species of grain, and the luxuriancy of the vegetation , all displayed the liberality of Nature, and tempted the industry of man. But the Goths withstood all these temptations, and still adhered to a life of idleness, of poverty, and of rapine.” (DEF x, p.260).

Gibbon notes in a footnote that he got this description from a Mr. Bell Genealogical History of the Tartars who “traversed the Ukraine in his journey from Petersburgh to Constantinople. The modern face of the country is a just representation of the ancient, since, in the hands of the Cossacks, it still remains in a state of nature.” (DEF x, p260 fn.28).

Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed THAT morning, I’m imagining… I’d hate to have been on the business-end of Gibbon’s razor sharp wit in a public place.

A Cornucopia of Emperors (and its just going to get worse)
I warned you about the faster and faster spins of the Imperial Wheel of Fortune – in 10 pages we got through more than 7 men.

Decius, hardworking, but slaughtered by Goths, body never found

Decius, hardworking, but slaughtered by Goths, body never found

Decius(249-251)
Gibbon remarks on his worthy personality and capable administration. Decius dies in a bloodbath (Dec 251) at Forum Terebronii in Measia (Razgard, Bulgaria) at the hands of the Goths, after almost entirely destroying them (the Goths go on in 150 years to pillage Italy, Rome, and Spain, ending the empire in the West).  Its fascinating that Gibbon mentions ABSOLUTELY NOT A WHISPER about the famous Decius christian persecutions of 250.  A forewarning of his attitude towards christians in the late empire.

Gallus - bribed Goths to leave, was killed by legions 18 months later

Gallus - bribed Goths to leave, was killed by legions 18 months later

Gallus (and Hostilianus-Decius’ son )(251-253) Decius is succeeded by his son Hostilianus, but power given to Gallus, an older, more experienced man. Gallus proceeded to buy off the Goths with gold and promises of an annual payment. They agree, but this sets off a hornets nest of barbarian attacks on the apparently vulnerable empire. With the death of Decius’ son Hostilianus in 252, and dissatisfaction in the army with the payments of tribute rather than fighting, the governor of Pannonia and Maesia, Aemilianus revolts and marches on Italy, meeting Gallus and his son Volusianus at Spoleto and defeating/killing them (May 253).

Aemilianus - emperor 3 months

Aemilianus - emperor 3 months

Aemilianus (May253 – Aug253) (and here)
Aemilianus ascended the throne with promises to put the Goths back in their place. He is a capable general, and is on the dirty Bulgarian front lines fighting. He seems sincere, and honorable, and willing to work hard for the good of the state. He never has a chance. He had a very, very short time (Valerian was approaching with an army during his whole reign). He was described by the historian Eutropius in this way: “Aemilianus came from an extremely insignificant family, his reign was even more insignificant, and he was slain in the third month.” (Wiki). Aemilianus is in turn defeated by Decius’ old friend (and general in Gaul and Germany), Valerian.

Valerian (friend,co-executor with Decius at the end) (253-260)

Valerian and Gallienus rule for 15 years (253-268).  Valerian is much the older (60 at the time of his accession), and rules 7 or so years, with Gallienus ruling the final 8 or so alone.  A horrible fate awaits the just and honorable Valerian.

Valerian-aureas gold coin (much debased), a serious honorable man who died a horrible death

Valerian-aureas gold coin (much debased), a serious honorable man who died a horrible death

Gallienus, capable, effeminate?(Gibbon), with his spiritual, upward looking gaze

Gallienus, capable, effeminate?(Gibbon), with his spiritual, upward looking gaze

Gallienus (Valerian’s son) (253-268)

Gallienus presides over some of the most difficult times of the empire – for example the loss of Gaul – and his reputation suffers for it. The next 10pages or so deal with more of the disasters in detail, so I’ll save those for the next posts.  Although I will say Gibbon’s description of him is a little sharp – “a youth whose effiminate vices had been hitherto concealed by the obscurity of a private station.” (DEF x, p.268).

Wiki has this to say about him: “His record in dealing with those crises is mixed, as he won a number of military victories but was unable to keep much of his realm from seceding.”  And also: “In portraying himself with the attributes of the gods on his coinage, Gallienus began the final separation of the Emperor from his subjects. A late bust of Gallienus (see below) shows him of largely blank face and gazing heavenward as we see on the famous stone head of Constantine I. One of the last rulers of Rome to be theoretically called “Princeps” or First Citizen, Gallienus’ shrewd self-promotion assisted in paving the way for those who would be addressed with the words “Dominus et Deus” (Lord and God).” (Wiki).

Sources
Ammianus Marcellinus
Writing in middle 300’s, Ammianus is a soldier and a Greek (and a pagan in a christian empire). He served in the household guard under Constantinus II. He served in many Persian campaigns, lastly under Julian(the Apostate – last pagan emperor 350’s). The surviving portions of his work are mostly Julian’s time – an emperor for whom he was wildly enthusiastic. This from Wiki: “Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330-after 391) was a fourth-century Roman historian. His is the second-to-last major historical account written during Antiquity (the last was written by Procopius). His work chronicled in Latin the history of Rome from 96 to 378, although only the sections covering the period 353 – 378 are extant.” I’ve read some of Ammianus – he is definitely a brisk soldier-writer and a tireless pagan in a nation of first/second generation christians. A very interesting man.

Jornandes
Jordanes (also Jordanis or even Iornandes), was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, and a Goth, was also a secretary in Justinian’s administration in Constantinople. He was asked to write a summary ofCassiodorus History of the Goths, and so wrote Getica which has become one of the only primary sources to have survived of Gothic history. A fascinating history by a minority person writing within the majority culture about his natal culture.

Interesting Note on Women and coins

Wives of Emperors
Even an emperor as short-lived as Aemilianus (3 months) had coins issued with his wife’s face on it. Here are some coins from this period – note how the face changes but the outside of the coin stays the same (esp Aemilianus and Decius – on this page). With emperors coming and going, the imperial mint had to change dies A LOT.

Decius (249-251)

Decius (249-251)

Aemilianus (May 253- Aug 253) - almost IDENTICAL to Decius - face, inscription changed

Aemilianus (May 253- Aug 253) - almost IDENTICAL to Decius - face, inscription changed


Cornelia Supera - wife of Aemilinaus - her own coin! for the 3 months- I wonder what happened to her afterwards...

Cornelia Supera - wife of Aemilinaus - her own coin! for the 3 months- I wonder what happened to her afterwards...

Mariniana - wife of Valerian, mother of Gallienus  (what a musical name)

Mariniana - wife of Valerian, mother of Gallienus (what a musical name)

goodnight and sweet dreams –

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Responses

  1. See, I KNEW there would be parallels to the present, or the recent past. Little did Goth club-culture of the 1980’s know what they owed to their Dneiper ancestors. “Oh look, large cattle, plenty of water, and bee hives.” reply “Gross, if you think I am going to get my new cloak dirty going near any of that, you can forget it, ooooh, let’s make some deadly nightshade garland instead and take a nap.” I am so happy to make my own historical discoveries using the hard work put into this blog. Actually, I have been printing this out and reading it at lunch. It has been perfect.


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