Posted by: ken98 | October 18, 2009

Ninja barbarians and Thousand Year Prophecies, Tacitus and Probus

Day 33 – Ken here

I have to say, at the risk of sounding like a mutual admiration society, that it is, for me, a joy to read the fluid, cogent, and acerbic prose of my companion in crime here, Mark. Maybe it would be better to admit I am envious of his encyclopedic (and irritatingly instantaneous) grasp of the smallest historical details, and even more jealous of the evident ease with which he expresses himself on this blog – he makes it all look so simple – damn him.

And yes, Mark, I’ve been doing a little “probing” around and I’d really like to know what the dirt is on Pupienus and Probus (besides their suggestive names – Probus sounds like a Roman porn star to me). I haven’t even been thinking about all the gay sub-text in Gibbon, I guess I need to pay more attention when I read (doing it before midnight would probably help).

I would love to know more about Alexander – do you have any suggestions for more reading? Gibbon kept on going back and forth – Alexander was noble, stoic, and gentle, no, he’s weak, effeminate, and cruel. It all seemed like more Augustan Histories humor – Saturday Night Live sketches – to me. If you paint the same man simultaneously black and white, you make him utterly ridiculous. I’ve obviously missed the boat on Alexander, and stand in need of enlightenment.

The next 10 pages:

  • Tacitus is elevated (late 275) by the Senate
  • Tacitus is acknowledged by the  army (276)
  • Campaigns in Asia Minor during the winter
  • Tacitus dies (Apr 12, 276), either by disease and cold, or murder
  • Florianus (his half brother back in Rome) claims the empire (rules 3 months)
  • Probus (an Illyrian general) is acclaimed in the East by the army (July 276), Florianus killed
  • Probus in continually at war 1) Gaul, 2) Upper Egypt, 3)Franks, 4) Burgundians, 6) Lygians, 7) Germans

  • Probus - a military man who governed well for 6 years and was cut down by his own troops in the end

    Probus - a military man who governed well for 6 years and was cut down by his own troops in the end

    Probus as Emperor
    Probus is acclaimed at 44 years old, is continually at war by either by design or necessity (after all this is still the Crisis years of the 3rd Century) on at least 7 fronts, and trains the next generation of usurpers and emperors in his stable of able lieutenants and generals (famous names such as: Carus, Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius, Galerius, Asclepiodatus, Anniblianus) (DEF xii, p.338).

    Florianus - coin Antoninianus - note the SC - with the consultation of the Senate

    Florianus - coin Antoninianus - note the SC - with the consultation of the Senate

    This on Florianus from Wiki:
    Florian was reportedly a maternal half-brother to Marcus Claudius Tacitus. According to sources, he was chosen by the army in the West to succeed Tacitus in 276, without the Roman Senate consensus. However he minted coins bearing the “SC” legend, thus showing some bonds to the Senate.
    He was fighting against the Eruli when the army in the East elected Probus. He had the support of Italia, Gaul, Hispania, Britain, Africa, and Mauretania. The two rival emperors met in battle in Cilicia. Florianus had the larger army, while Probus was an experienced general, and avoided a direct clash. When it was clear Probus was superior, Florianus was assassinated by his own troops. He had been emperor for 88 days. A prophecy circulated that a descendant would one day restore the Senate and rule as far as Ceylon.
    Florianus died in September 276.
    In the Middle Ages the von Blumenthal family claimed descent from him, apparently because both names refer to flowers.”

    More Strange Augustan History Kinks
    Gibbon repeats the odd tales of the Histories as if they were fact. I can’t ever be sure if he’s writing ironically, or thinks he’s being descriptive and informative. Either way – a little different…

    The Legend of a Thousand Years
    Per Gibbon: “The only consolation of their fallen state (the family of Tacitus) as the remembrance of transient greatness, and a distant hope, the child of a flattering prophecy, that at the end of a thousand years, a monarch of the race of Tacitus should arise, the protector of the senate, the restorer of Rome, and the conqueror of the whole earth” (DEF xii, p.335). Let’s see, that would be about mid 13th century, perhaps the legend refers to Michael VIII and the retaking of Constantinople in 1261 from the last barbarian invasion (the Venetians)?

    The First Ninja Army
    The Arii held the first rank by their numbers of fierceness. They(the Arii, Lygians – modern day Longiones) studied to…improve the innate terrors of their barbarism. Their shields are black, their bodies are painted black, they chose for combat the darkest hours of the night.” (DEF xii, p.339). These are but one of the barbarian tribes Probus (or one of his able stars in his stable of generals) vanquished during his short reign.

    Quoteable Gibbon
    Of the Senators who gladly no longer served in the military: “They soon experienced, that those who refuse the sword, must renounce the sceptre.” (DEF xii, p.337).


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