Posted by: ken98 | October 12, 2009

Two Women and One Man: the Beginning of the End

Aurelian’s Walls

There are 2 sets of famous walls around Rome – The Servian (300’s BCE), and  The Aurelian (271-275). Each is probably the visible high-water mark of a flood of Roman invasion hysteria.

Note on Big accomplishments happen often unexpectedly: Case in point, The Aurelian Walls (271 – 275)
The Alemanni roaming about northern Italy, ransacking and being harried by Aurelian, sent Rome into a riot of defensive activity. Not since the Gauls had threatened Rome in the early 100’s BCE (almost 400 years before) had Rome known the panic of imminent pillaging. Its probably a mark of the extreme wealth still intact and vital in the pulsing heart of the empire in Rome, that the entire circuit of massive walls and gates (Gibbon estimates at 21 miles in extent) was built in 5 years.

Aurelian Walls - massive brick and mortar - 21 miles in circum. built in 5 years

Aurelian Walls - massive brick and mortar - 21 miles in circum. built in 5 years

From Wiki: “The Aurelian Walls continued as a significant military defense for the city of Rome until September 20, 1870, when the Bersaglieri of the Kingdom of Italy breached the wall near the Porta Pia and captured Rome. The walls also defined the boundary of the city of Rome up until the 19th century, with the built-up area being confined within the walled area.
The Aurelian Walls remain remarkably well-preserved today, due largely to their constant use as Rome’s primary fortification until the 19th century.”

Aurelian Walls - Porta Asinaria - one of many huge gates into the city through the new walls

Aurelian Walls - Porta Asinaria - one of many huge gates into the city through the new walls

DISCLAIMER – the usual Augustan History Discalaimer – much of the following may be total fabrication.

Aurelian triumphs over 2 women: Victoria and Zenobia
Aurelian Reconquers the 2 sub-empires (Gaul/Britain/Spain, and Palmyra/Asia/Egypt). He devotes a couple of pages to Gaul, but gives 10+ pages for Zenobia, despite his misogynistic comments (see below).

The Empire of Gaul (260-275)
It’s brief History started with Posthumus to defend against the Franks in the absence of central Roman help. Postumus is killed by troops upset at a less-than-ample plunder, his companion, Victorinus was murdered by a posse of jealous husbands in Cologne (sounds like more Augustan History comedy material). Victoria, his wife, rules as the power behind the throne for Marius and Tetricus. Tetricus eventually tricks his army into an un-winnable battle with Aurelian and allows the military force of the Empire of Gaul to be defeated and re-absorbed back into the empire (along with Gaul, Britain, and Spain) (July 271).

Per Wiki:
– 260-268 Postumus
– 268 Marius
– 268-270 Victorinus
– 271-? Domitianus (usurper)
– 270-274 Tetricus I
– 270-274 Tetricus II (Caesar)
(this chronology based upon actual coins found documenting their reigns – there is no non-Augustan History proof apparently for the existence of Victoria)

The Empire of Palmyra and Zenobia (250-275)
Zenobia married Odenathus (the senator who led campaigns in the East to push Sapor out of Roman provinces and stop Sapor’s pillaging of defenseless cities. Odenathus was accepted as a colleague by Aurelian. In 250, Odenathus is assassinated by his nephew Maeonius, and Zenobia claims the title Queen and continues to rule alone, including now her own home province of Egypt. In 272, Aurelian, fresh from the re-union of the Gallic empire with Rome, marches on Asia Minor, and with his approaches each city (eventually) cedes him dominion (with a curious aside which Gibbon includes in his narrative about the city of Tyana and the mystic Apollonius of Tyana – which has the overtones of Constantine’s conversion to christianity a generation later). After 2 major battles Palmyra falls, revolts, and falls again to Aurelian. Egypt is put down, then revolts under the leadership of a captain of industry (a certain Firmus) who boasted he could support an Egyptian army against the force of the empire (read Aurelian) solely on the profits of his papyrus division alone. He was killed by Aurelian and Egpyt returned to Rome.

Per Wiki:
– 260-267 Septimius Odaenathus
– 267-271 Zenobia

In typical Augustan History fashion, Aurelian returns the whole Mediterranean world to Roman control in just 3 years.

Apollonius of Tyana

Apollonius of Tyana

Apollonius of Tyana
Per Wiki:
“Apollonius of Tyana (Greek: Ἀπολλώνιος ὁ Τυανεύς; ca. 15?–ca. 100? AD[2]) was a Greek Neopythagorean philosopher and teacher. He hailed from the town of Tyana in the Roman province of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. A contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, the life and wandering mission of Apollonius is often compared to his.
After his lifetime, Apollonius’ name remained famous among philosophers and occultists. In a novelistic invention inserted in the Historia Augusta, Aurelian, at the siege of Tyana in 272, was said to have experienced a visionary dream in which Aurelian claimed to have seen Apollonius speak to him, beseeching him to spare the city of his birth. In part, Aurelian said that Apollonius told him “Aurelian, if you desire to rule, abstain from the blood of the innocent! Aurelian, if you will conquer, be merciful!”
“By far the most detailed source is the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, a lengthy, novelistic biography written by the sophist Philostratus at the request of empress Julia Domna!” (exclamation point mine) (we’ve met her already as the wife of Septimus Severus and the mother of Caracalla and Geta in the early 200’s)

Gibbon, a woman-despiser?
Of course, being a man of his times, and English, Gibbon wouldn’t be expected to be very understanding of women, let alone powerful women. A contemporary of Gibbon, Samuel Johnson, was the subject of a famous jibe concerning educated women: “I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” (Boswell: Life of Samuel Johnson).

Gibbon on the whole finds he likes Zenobia, and concludes she did remarkable well, considering her sex. He does, however, send a few barbed asides her way (and any female’s way) in this chapter: “Zenobia was esteemed the most lovely as well as the most heroic of her sex. She was of a dark complexion (for in speaking of a lady, these trifles become important)” (DEF xi, p.313), “Instead of the little passions which so frequently perplex a female reign, the steady administation of Zenobia was guided by the most judicious maxims of policy” (DEF xi p.314), “but as female fortitude is commonly artificial, so it is seldom steady or consistent.” (DEF xi p.319).

until tomorrow

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