Posted by: ken98 | December 15, 2009

The French Foreign Legion and Rome

Day 95 – Ken here (T)
(DEF v.2, ch.17, pp.620-630)

I’m starting late in writing this, and it’s always harder writing on Monday (for Tuesday morning) after a break of a couple of days – so I’m kind of grouchy, and probably missing a lot of interesting tidbits (well, interesting to me) that will be lost in the FLOOD of 2000 pages of history to follow – ah well….

On with Gibbon and his report card on the empire during the reign of Constantine –

Gibbon continues with an overview of the new Late Roman military, and the new Late Roman (Diocletian/Constantine) government structure.

The Story

 
Military Changes – Expansion and Dilution

  • Gibbon Thesis: late Roman practice of differentiating Palatine (internal) from Limitanei (Borderers (Gibbon’s term)) legions destroyed the military effectiveness of the empire – in essence, the internal Palatine were paid 1-1/2 times what the Borderers were paid – increasingly Palatine used for putting down civil war, fast-moving core set of army sent to trouble spots – the Borderers were fastened by law permanently on the frontier
  • Old Legion strength also reduced greatly – from historical (old Roman) standard of 6000 men, down to 1,500 men – if that – so that the legions on paper looked impressive, but were much smaller – also included half-trained Borderers
  • Despite changes in military structure – total number of soldiers greatly increased (Gibbon’s estimate: 645,000) – based on the 583 garrisons or permanent stations he finds in the Notitia Dignitatum – an astounding number, and an incredible number of mouths to feed
  • Because the military was becoming a sort of farmer-serf-soldier – recruiting was getting more and more difficult, often young men would cut of the fingers of their right hand to avoid military service (compulsory 20 years – but probably life)
  • Great increase of barbarians as complete legions of the military – in fact, the best generals, soldiers, were acknowledged to be barbarian
  • Common Theme of 4th century: Increasing Barbarization of farmers, territories, military – the acceptance of undigested whole populations allowed to live within Roman state without assimilating, and allowed to keep own local government (foederates) bound by treaty, NOT CITIZENSHIP. The military was following suit by introducing foreign bands working as units in the legions
  •  

    Government Changes – Great Expansion of Hierarchy

  • Office: Chamberlain – always a eunuch – in charge of bed and table – Gibbon hates eunuchs in general, and the new office in particular
  • Office: Quaestor – originally a kind of assistant accountant, then a comptroller, they eventually lost all Treasury duties, and became the head of the Senate , then became a kind of Imperial Ambassador to the Senate (speaking in the emperor’s voice) – not unlike the Vice-President attending Congress – but with much more real political power
  • Office: Public Treasurer – Headed the government utilities. Utility at this point meaning the basic industries that had failed by now and had to be taken over as a government monopoly/factory to provide imperial institutions (emperor’s household, military) with basic items – examples: linen, wool manufactures. Also in charge of public monopolies – ex. mints, mines etc)
  • Office: Private Treasurer – private wealth accumulated by all past emperors, and NOT given over to the state, but set aside for the personal use of whatever emperor was currently reigning. Wealth from confiscations, forfeitures, treason trials, suppression of pagan temples, etc, – included slaves, and the entire province of Cappadocia (central Turkey)
  • Office: Counts of the Domestics – the chosen infantry and cavalry of the emperor’s personal guard. Mostly Armenian (per Gibbon) – 3,500 men. The best were in the elite Protectors – a new kind of Praetorian Guard
  • The Gaul Ducar in the battle of Lake Trasimeno - Joseph-Noel Sylvestre (1882) - this is an example of incipient chauvinism as France in the late 1800's sought national heroes in their barbarian past (Ducar is presumably a part of the cavalry that accompanied Hannibal as he battled Rome during the 2nd Punic War  217 BCE)

    The Gaul Ducar in the battle of Lake Trasimeno - Joseph-Noel Sylvestre (1882) - this is an example of incipient chauvinism as France in the late 1800's sought national heroes in their barbarian past (Ducar is presumably a part of the cavalry that accompanied Hannibal as he battled Rome during the 2nd Punic War 217 BCE)

    A Reverse French Foreign Legion in Late Rome
    Instead of the French allowing foreigners to enlist in their national army, this is a case of the Romans allowing the French foreigners to enlist in their legions.

    This per Gibbon:

    “The camps and the palace of the son of Constantine were governed by the powerful faction of the Franks, who preserved the strictest connection with each other and with their country, and who resented every personal affront as a national indignity. When the tyrant Caligula was suspected of an intention to invest a very extraordinary candidate with the consular robes, the sacrilegious profanation would have scarcely excited less astonishment if, instead of a horse, the noblest chieftain of Germany or Britain had been the object of his choice. The revolution of three centuries had produced so remarkable a change in the prejudices of the people, that, with the public approbation, Constantine showed his successors the example of bestowing the honours of the consulship on the barbarians who, by their merit and services, had deserved to be ranked among the first of the Romans.” (DEF, v.2, ch.17, p.624).

    “who resented every personal affront as a national indignity” – ah, the French never change n’cest pas?

    Of course, this is only one example of the increasing barbarization of the imperial military – not that barbarians were bad for the military – it’s just distressing that Roman citizens were less and less likely to enlist/be forced to enlist to defend their own civilization. And when a massive civilization ceases to believe in itself and defend it’s right to exist (especially in the volatile, hostile world of Late Antiquity), can Great Change be far behind?

    French Foreign Legion - a part of the military machinery of the state of France, but not French citizens - the reverse of the Franks who served in the Roman Empire's legions

    French Foreign Legion - a part of the military machinery of the state of France, but not French citizens - the reverse of the Franks who served in the Roman Empire's legions

    Advertisements

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s

    Categories

    %d bloggers like this: