Posted by: ken98 | October 9, 2009

Dissolving Before His Very Eyes

Day 29 Ken here

Still plowing through Chapter 10 –

Goths

Temple of Diana Ephesus - miniature reconstruction in a Turkish park

Temple of Diana Ephesus - miniature reconstruction in a Turkish park

The Goths burn the Temple of Diana (Artemis) at Ephesus. Gibbon gives an entire page to describing it (and comparing it ‘s great size to the even greater size of Saint Paul’s cathedral in London).
This from Wiki:
“Dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis, it took 120 years to build. Herostratus burned it down to achieve lasting fame (356 BCE). Rebuilt by Alexander the Great only to be destroyed again by the Goths (262CE). It was rebuilt once again after, only to be closed in 391 and destroyed by a mob led by St John Chrysostom in 401 CE.”

Artemis (Diana) of Ephesus - Efes Museum

Artemis (Diana) of Ephesus - Efes Museum

It’s touching how much the Goth’s destruction of Antique civilization shocks him. You kind of get the point after awhile. Where did Antiquity go? It was broken, burned, pulled down, melted, and put onto boats and shipped back to the Crimea. That’s where it went. Oh yeah, and to Persia.

Persia
Valerian and Sapor

Sapor, son of Artaxerxes, begins his utter subjugation and plunder of the provinces of the old Persian empire (3rd cent BCE) held now by Rome in the 3rd century CE. He does this, not to reclaim the people and land, but just to sack it and leaved wasteland behind to enrich Persia, and weaken Rome. He takes over Armenia (a sometime Roman province/client kingdom), and then takes the famous border towns of Nisibis and Carrhae (2 cities near each other in southeastern Turkey). Both towns were taken and retaken over and over again by the Persians and Romans in the endless frontier wars of the next 4 centuries.

Sapor (Shapuri) Persian coin ~260

Sapor (Shapuri) Persian coin ~260

Nisibis in Turkey

Nisibis in Turkey

Sapor went on to attack Antioch in Syria and sacked town after town in Cappadocia – areas of the Middle East on the Mediterranean – all definitely well into Roman territory and peaceful provinces for the last 300 years. Valerian decides at his advanced age to personally lead an army into Persia, leaving his son Gallienus to rule in Rome. He is defeated, taken prisoner, and never is seen or heard from in the Roman world again.

There is something amazed and helpless about the Romans at this time, at least in Gibbon’s telling of it. If ever there were an Armageddon (with a polite nod to Nostradamus, 1200 years in the future), it was NOW. 260 A.D. Whole cities were being destroyed, the population of entire provinces were dying and being enslaved. No wonder the 3rd century is a century of hyperinflation and drastic economic decline. The world as they knew it had ended for the peoples huddled about the Mediterranean basin relying on Rome for protection for their families and property.

Valerian
There is a romance, mystery and tragedy of Valerian, a capable man faced with insurmountable tasks crushed in old age by the cruel fate of being the emperor of Rome at a time when the empire was dissolving before his very eyes. In the last century, a huge cliff sculpture of 2 Romans and a Persian king with AhuraMazda was identified as Valerian and ? before Sapor. How small the Romans look. How strange to see them kneeling after seeing all the monuments (like Trajan’s column in Rome) with Romans victorious, returning with triumph and spoils from their foreign wars.

Valerian humbled before Shapur - he was never heard from again in the West

Valerian humbled before Shapur - he was never heard from again in the West

The Romance of Valerian the Emperor Captive - Hans Holbein imagining the scene in Renaissance Germany

The Romance of Valerian the Emperor Captive - Hans Holbein imagining the scene in Renaissance Germany

Odenathus of Palmyra
Gibbon relates 2 more “episodes”. The first: a senator from Palmyra (remember that place), mounts a series of harrying guerrilla attacks on Sapor’s flanks, forcing the Great King to recross the Euphrates. Gibbon takes almost a page to relate that.

The Era of the Sub-Empires: Palmyra/Egypt, Gaul/Spain, and Italy/Africa

The second: the “Thirty Tyrants”, and here were are again at the mercy of the Augustan Histories. Gibbon lists 19 tyrants (DEF x, p.288), of those at least 4 are unknown to modern history (i.e. probably perfect fakes – typical Augustan History humor). But after spending only a few paragraphs on the Tyrants he moves on, camouflaging the real importance. He’s describing (without knowing it exactly) the total break-up of the Roman Empire for a period of 20 – 30 years of so in the middle 200’s.

Divided Empire 3rd cent ~271 CE

Divided Empire 3rd cent ~271 CE

More on this later with Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra.

and, I’m off to bed –

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