Posted by: ken98 | October 11, 2009

Peasant Princes, Shrinking Empires, and Trantor

Day 30 – Ken here

We plow on into Chaper 11…

Claudius Gothicus, Aurelian, the loss of Dacia, and Goth/Alemanni plundering

But first, something completely different, the Augustan Histories (again)
It’s all extremely murky. You can almost feel Gibbon inching through the dark, light-less years (without good primary sources) trying to create a coherent thread of historical narrative out of frivolous and contradictory accounts (phrases like “we may presume p.301, it should seem some unexpected emergency required… p.308 etc).

Gallienus Killed under Suspicious Circumstances ( Mar 20, 268)
“Gallienus, who was never deficient in personal bravery, started from his silken couch, and, without allowing himself time either to put on his armour, or to assemble his guards, he mounted on horseback, and rode full speed toward the supposed place of the attack. Encompassed by his declared or conceealed enemies, he soon, amdist the nocturnal tumult, recieved a mortad dart from an uncertain hand. Before he expired… (he desired the empire) be delivered to Claudius.” (DEF xi, p.296)

Claudius II (Claudius Gothicus) (268 - 270)

Claudius II (Claudius Gothicus) (268 - 270)

Claudius (later Claudius Gothicus) emperor
Claudius reigns for only 2 years, gains a victory and dies. Which is maybe why he is considered one of the “good” emperors – no time to irritate the Senate or the Army with pesky “reforms”.

Goths Invade (Again) the Empire (Oct 269)
During Claudius’ reign, Gibbon relates the next naval siege of the civilized world. They attack and lay siege to Thessalonica under Mount Athos. Claudius races to meet them. The paucity of sources make it difficult to reconstruct the exact sequence of events (a frustration to Gibbon), but in general:

3 Battle Areas (269 – 270)
1. Naissus – complete Roman Victory
2. Protracted war over all Measia, Thrace, Macedonia (Bulgaria through the Balkans)
3. Destruction of the Gothic Fleet

Claudius dies of Plague (270) (see previous post on Great Plague (late 200’s)
Claudius (one of the “good” emperors – which usually means someone who pleased the elite writers of Antiquity, and usually someone of noble birth – although Claudius apparently was not) is one of the huge numbers of victims of the Plague years of the later 200’s (250-280 or so).

Claudius names Aurelian to succeed him. Claudius himself had been named by Gallienus as his successor before Gallienus died – this is the 2nd time in a row an emperor has named his successor before he dies. A sign of stability? Or is this story a later fabrication to bolster Aurelian’s claim to the throne in place of Claudius’ brother Quintilius?.

Quintilius, brother of Claudius Gothicus - Coin

Quintilius, brother of Claudius Gothicus - Coin

The (April, 270) (brother of Claudius), Quinitilius, assumed purple in Aquileia, ruled 17 days, took his own life or died of disease. In any case, his death paved the way for Aurelian’s succession.

Aurelian - He re-united the empire, was detested by the Senate, eventually killed by his own generals

Aurelian - He re-united the empire, was detested by the Senate, eventually killed by his own generals

Aurelian was from Pannonia (the frontier, a part of modern day Slovenia, Hungary, Austria), a peasant who took his name from his landlord of the area, Aurelius, rose up in the military ranks, and was taken under the wing of rich Senator Ulpius Crinitus where he got the wealth and influence to advance into upper management in the empire.

His reign lasted 4 years 9 months – but was very eventful. He took back (re-conquered) the sub-empires of Gaul/Britain/Spain and Egypt/Syria/Palmyra, was known for his severe military discipline (his severity meriting a half page in Gibbon (p.304), concluded a treaty with the Goths, giving up Trajan’s Dacia province (the strange knob of a province poking into the northern barbarian’s lands) entirely to the Goths. He was eventually hated by the Senate and the army for his reforms (and probably (in the Senate) for his low birth.

Gibbon has much to say about the end of Dacia (DEF xi, p. 305-306), seeing it as a positive move, and the creation of a buffer state which ended future incursions from the North through that territory, and still encouraged “romanization” of the Goths through trade and exchange of noble Goth captives to be educated in Rome.

Gibbons Note on philosophy of Empire – a brief explanation of the British in India?
“A sense of interest attached these more settled barbarians to the alliance of Rome, and a permanent interest very frequently ripens into sincere and useful friendship”. (DEF xi, p.306).Gibbon remarks that the client kingdom/decentralized authority model of maintaining an empire might be (in the long run) a more efficient means of control over subject peoples, and subtly allows the infiltration of cultural values over long periods of time. Interesting that this is an upper-class Brit writing at the beginnings of the British Empire.

On the Road System of the Roman Empire
You’ll notice the next set of battles take place all over northern Italy. Gibbon casually mentions that the Alemanni are using the Via Flaminia to move down from the Adriatic to besiege Rome. The incredible efficiency of the road system was a huge detriment once the barbarians were within the empire, they allowed them to quickly move from one place to the other, carrying their plunder and household goods easily alone well-maintained roadways.

The U.S. would be in the same situation were a foe to use our own Interstate Highway System (a system conceived and driven in the Eisenhower administration as a means to move our own men and materials quickly across our own country). Internal transportation efficiency is a 2-edged sword, without breach-less borders.

Roads of the Roman Empire - the Via Flaminia is the one the heads northeast out of Rome over the Apennines towards the Adriatic

Roads of the Roman Empire - the Via Flaminia is the one the heads northeast out of Rome over the Apennines towards the Adriatic

Aurelian fights the Alemanni Wars (Sep 270 – 271) (Successfully!)
3 battles
1. Placentia Romans lost (270) In the middle of Lomardy!
2. Fano Fighting now on the east coast (the Adriatic)!
3. Pavia Fighting now in central Po valley again!

Foundation Series, Isaac Asimov - Second foundation book cover

Foundation Series, Isaac Asimov - Second foundation book cover

Trantor and Rome
This whole period keeps on reminding me of descriptions of Trantor in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series – an incredibly rich city in the (as yet) stable and rich central lands of a vast empire. A doomed and fragile economy, if the inhabitants only knew. Except in Rome’s case, a new Stalin (Diocletian) is going to take the helm and with his iron grip transform the fading economy and empire into a life-support system for the empire’s military (talk about a military-industrial complex!).

for more on Aurelius see you tomorrow – same bat time same bat channel

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