Posted by: ken98 | November 10, 2009

Churches, Bathhouses, and Civil War

Day 60 – Ken here
(DEF v.1, ch.14, pp.400-410)

After the abdication of Diocletian, all hell breaks loose.

The Story

  • Period of civil wars -18 years (303-323)
  • Galerius (chief Augustus), Constantius (2nd Augustus), Severus and Maximus Daza are new Caesari
  • Brief sketches of characters of Constantius (clemency, moderation), and Galerius (proud, indifferent, possibly the one who forced Diocletian to retire)
  • Galerius secretly begins to move against the Constantius – foiled by legions declaring for Constantine as new Caesar (Constantine is the son of Constantius) Galerius does not recongnize him, but brings Constantine to court to watch him (274)
  • Brief account of character, early life of Constantine (good soldier, very ambitious)
  • Constantine effectively jailed by Galerius, escapes to Britain
    Joins father Constantius in York, battles the Scots (Caledonians)
  • Constantius dies, Constantine succeeds him by acclamation, Galerius forced to accept him for now as a Caesar, Severus is now Augustus (7-25-306)
  • Rome taxed by Galerius, leads to rebellion, Maxentius (son of Maximian) leads rebellion (10-28-306)
  • Maximian (Maxentius’ father comes out of retirement) and becomes emperor again
  • Severus battles Maximian and loses, takes own life (Feb, 307)
  • Constantine - famous monumental head (like 12 feet tall), which originally sat upon a body of brass - note the upward looking spiritual eyes

    Constantine - famous monumental head (like 12 feet tall), which originally sat upon a body of brass - note the upward looking spiritual eyes

    The devil incarnate: Galerius or Constantine?

    The next 20 or so years are a merry-go-round of Augusti and Caesari – more than 10 people battling it out for the domination of the Roman world. Gibbon, and I suspect, most historians generally hate Galerius, but if you look at his record, you see that he was only following the example and advice of Diocletian – that is: to reign 20 years and, in turn, hand over the empire to someone else. The hero of this period of Roman history, Constantine, totally destroyed this plan over the course of 20 years. And he was the eventual victor, taking the empire into christianity with him as he won his bloody civil wars.

    Galerius - head - a very crude head in comparison with Constantines

    Galerius - head - a very crude head in comparison with Constantines


    Remembered history is written by the conqueror usually, and so it is no surprise that Galerius is vilified and Constantine praised. Add to that the fact that the next generation of historians are mostly christian, and writing under Constantine, and again, it is fairly easy to predict the attitude of Roman history towards the last of the pagan emperors.

    Galerius’ acts actually pale in comparison with the single mindedness with which Constantine pursues the sole rule of the Roman empire over 2 decades.

    On Taxation
    Gibbon comes out very strongly against the taxation of land for Roman citizens. (DEF ch.14, pp.407-408). This is the 3rd time he has rehearsed the Romans unhappiness with taxation, although I don’t quite follow the argument for his outrage. At this time, and increasingly so, the land was owned by enormously wealthy absentee landowners, not small farmers with family-sized plots. In fact, the “citizens” of the empire were rapidly being converted into serfs and slaves: tied to the land, under the justice of the landlord. Only the uber-wealthy could still avail themselves of the old forms of justice and law. Galerius extending the tax to the extremely wealthy seems only fair to me.

    On Churches and Bathhouses

    St Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs - church in Rome - it is built entirely within just one room of the fabled baths of Diocletian (the frigidarium)

    St Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs - church in Rome - it is built entirely within just one room of the fabled baths of Diocletian (the frigidarium)

    Gibbon seems to take especial delight in pointing out the profane origins of some of the holier places in Rome. In this case, the vast ruins of the Baths of Diocletian, given to Rome in the early 300’s, spawn numerous churches, basilicas, and convents.

    This from Gibbon: (The emperors attempted to placate the Roman’s sense of wounded pride at having the capital of the empire moved to Milan and Nicomedia with vast public works). “It was in vain that, a few months after his abdication, his successors dedicated, under his name those magnificent baths, whose ruins still supply (this in the 1770’s) the ground as well as the materials for so many churches and convents.” (DEF ch.14, pp.407).

    San Bernardo alla Terme - basilica in Rome - a tiny round corner piece of the former Baths of Diocletian

    San Bernardo alla Terme - basilica in Rome - a tiny round corner piece of the former Baths of Diocletian


    This from Wiki:The construction of the church recycled the remains of one of only two circular towers, which marked the corners the southwestern face of the perimeter wall around the Baths of Diocletian, the other tower is today part of a hotel building and lies 225 meters southeast from San Bernardo alle Terme. Between these two tower-like structures, also part of the same perimeter wall, there used to exist large semicircular recess, similar to an exedra and was probably used as an Sphaeristerium, Nowadays, the enormous scale of this recess and that of the wall itself may only be imagined from the layout of the modern Piazza della Repubblica, which followed the original layout of the ancient wall.

    Severus, Galerius' best friend and his co-Augustus

    Severus, Galerius' best friend and his co-Augustus


    Maximinius Daza (Daia) - friend of Galerius - Caesar under Galerius - a rough guy - Galerius and Maximinius must have used the same crude sculptor or sculpting school

    Maximinius Daza (Daia) - friend of Galerius - Caesar under Galerius - a rough guy - Galerius and Maximinius must have used the same crude sculptor or sculpting school

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