Posted by: ken98 | December 17, 2009

Constantine – When I Am Old I Shall Wear Purple

Day 97 – Ken here (Th)
(DEF v.2, ch.17, pp.640-650)

We end the long introduction to the new age of the Dominate under Constantine with a brief description of the “voluntary”, minor tax of “crowns of gold” – which was as voluntary and as minor as a crown of gold sounds. Thus the end of chapter 17.

We begin the new chapter 18 (all about Constantine and his sons and their sons) with a description of Constantine and his family. Also included is a brief tirade (by Gibbon) on inappropriate senior behavior.

The Story
 
Taxes (cont)

  • Tax: Free Gift (crowns of gold) – declared at random – a tax which was a “free gift” to the emperor from his subjects on the occasion of some happy circumstance – accession, consulship, birth of a son, creation of a Caesar, victory over barbarians, etc. Could be onerous – the city of Rome’s “free” gift was fixed at 1,600 lbs gold (approx. 60 million dollars US (2008) (see below for calc) – an example of how extremely and extraordinarily rich the center of the empire still was
  •  
    Constantine – his character, family, and jealousies

  • Constantine: character, virtues – diligent, chaste, moderate, incredibly patient and inexorably driven in executing a plan to accomplish long term goals, wise and just
  • Constantine: character, vices – beginning of reign (reigned over 30 years – extraordinary length of time for a Roman emperor) = noble, end of reign = cruel and dissolute
  • Constantine: character – vices – assumed “Asiatic pomp”, spent liberally, taxed even more liberally (probably the reason the latter part of reign was so disliked)
  • Constantine’s Family: numerous, very numerous – those elevated to imperial rule: 2 nephews – Dalmatius, Hannibalianus, and 1 son by 1st wife – Crispus, 3 sons – Constantine, Constantius, Constans
  • Crispus – does well against Licinius in the Civil Wars, Constantine becomes jealous – this is the beginning of a very tragic end for the whole family of Constantine – it doesn’t turn out well
  • Book cover - Jenny Joseph's When I am Old I Will Wear Purple - Constantine wore whatever he felt like in his (much) later years, and got (predictably) clocked for it - old men are apparently supposed to be (barely) seen and not heard

    Book cover - Jenny Joseph's When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple - Constantine wore whatever he felt like in his (much) later years, and got (predictably) clocked for it - old men are apparently supposed to be (barely) seen and not heard

    Senior-Citizen Constantine becomes Fabulous: When I am Old I Shall Wear Purple
    Of course, Constantine was always wearing purple (he was the emperor after all), but as he got older, he did more and more of what he wanted, rather than what was expected of him. Anyone who has known (or IS) an older member of our society knows the feeling – why go through all the elaborate daily ceremonial of a 20 something, always thinking about what others are thinking about you, when you just don’t care anymore WHAT they think? This from a poem by Jenny Joseph (here)

    “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
    with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
    And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
    and satin candles, and say we’ve no money for butter.
    I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
    and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
    and run my stick along the public railings
    and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
    and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
    and learn to spit.”

    Gibbon (remember, he is a relatively young man when he writes this) is appalled and flabbergasted that an old man would act in any way undignified. But Constantine was one emperor that was not going to go out with a whimper, but a bang. He’d worked hard his whole life to ensure at least a couple of years of peace and he meant to enjoy them!

    This per Gibbon:

    “The Asiatic pomp which had been adopted by the pride of Diocletian assumed an air of softness and effeminacy in the person of Constantine. He is represented with false hair of various colours, laboriously arranged by the skilful artists of the times; a diadem of a new and more expensive fashion; a profusion of gems and pearls, of collars and bracelets; and a variegated flowing robe of silk, most curiously embroidered with flowers of gold. In such apparel, scarcely to be excused by the youth and folly of Elagabalus, we are at a loss to discover the wisdom of an aged monarch and the simplicity of a Roman veteran.”

    Currency Conversion
    An average salary of a legionnaire is 30 solidi per year, solidi were struck at 75/lb gold, if we use 15,000 as the median, low equivalent income today – we get 30/75 = .40 lbs gold/year salary – 15,000/.4 = 37,500 US$ 2008 for a lb of gold, so, 1,600 x 37,500 = 60 million dollars.

    Fresco by Romano - Donation of Constantine (1520's) Apostolic Palace, Vatican - An example of the Renaissance interpretation of the wealth and pomp of Constantines later years as emperor - it is a portrayal of the infamous (forged) donation of land to the bishop of Rome by Roman emperor Constantine

    Fresco by Romano - Donation of Constantine (1520's) Apostolic Palace, Vatican - An example of the Renaissance interpretation of the wealth and pomp of Constantines later years as emperor - it is a portrayal of the infamous (forged) donation of land to the bishop of Rome by Roman emperor Constantine

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