Posted by: ken98 | December 29, 2009

Death in Venice, Agincourt, and the Beginning of the End

Day 109 – Ken here (T)
(DEF v.2, ch.18, pp.670-680)

The sun is shining, the birds singing, and I’m trapped here in front of a keyboard and screen. It’s a little difficult to begin the long, arduous climb back down the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire after a break of a week or so – but here goes

The Story
 
Civil Wars of the Sons of Emperor Constantine

  • Death in Venice (not exactly Thomas Mann’s version). Constantine II (eldest son of Constantine), unhappy with his rapidly diminishing portion of the empire alloted to him, attacks Constans in the South (Aquileia, near Venice) with a raiding party (rather than an invading army). Constans replies with a few legions, and Constantine is slain in an ambush. Constans gains the provinces once under Constantine II’s control (340)
  • The new Praetorians (Herculians and Jovians) under Magnentius in Italy rebel, and proclaim Magnentius emperor. The elderly general on the Dacian frontier, Vetranio, assumes the emperorship also. Magnentius tricks the Gaulish Senate into supporting him (rather than the designated emperor Constans), and has the support of Constantina (daughter of Constantine, former husband of Hannibalianus). Magnentius then surprises Constans while Constans is hunting, pursues, and kills him (3-1-350)
  • Constantius refuses to recognize the 2 new emperors (350)
  • Constantius deposes Vetranio, after inviting him to joint legion exercises, and tricking his legions to proclaim him (literally) sole emperor (“Away with these Usurpers. Long Life and Victory to the Son of Constantine”). The aged Vetranio lays down his diadem, and enjoys the remaining 6 years of his life in comfortable retirement (and recommends retirement to Constantius also (“the peaceful obscurity of private condition”)(12-25-350)
  • Constantius – War against Magnentius (351)
  • They meet on the plains of Hungary – Magnentius greatly outnumbering Constantius with legions of Gauls, Spaniards, Franks, Saxons (351)
  • Constantius digs in for siege with considerable fortifications. Magnentius forced to harry and attack around him to dismember his supply lines. He succeeds in discouraging Constantius’ men and appears to be about to carry the day (351)
  • Magnentius loses some forces (Franks) who defect to Constantius (351)(
  • Famous Battle (esp. in Hungarian history) Battle of Mursa (or Essek) – Constantius defeats Magnentius (9-28-351)
  • Battle of Mursa – Beginning of the end for the legion as a military force – the heavily-armored cavalry
  • (Constantius’) carries the day – collapsing the Gallic legions (Magnentius’). The distant beginning of feudalism – knights and kings, and the decline of the armed militia (until arguably – the battle of Agincourt during the 100 years war, 1100 years in the future)

  • Agincourt – the beginning of the end of the knightly domination of Europe – Mursa is the beginning of the beginning of armored cavalry military domination in Europe
  • The Beginning of the End. Huge losses on both sides of the battle of Mursa – some argue that this huge loss in the 350’s was never gained back, and directly resulted in barbarian take-over of the Western Empire in the next 50 years
  • Sega Game - Rome, Barbarian Invasions, Total War - it is a game to us, but to the (unsuspecting) citizens of the Roman empire in the 350's, within their lifetimes Rome will change utterly

    Sega Game - Rome, Total War, Barbarian Invasions - it is a game to us, but not to the (unsuspecting) citizens of the Roman empire in the 350's, who will experience within their lifetimes the fall of Rome as they knew it in the West

    The Beginning of the End – Total Exhaustion
    In a few short years, the last gleam of Roman arms in the West will fade, and barbarian kingdoms will awkwardly step into the shoes of the Stalinesque machinery of the Late Roman bureaucracy. This happens, in part, because the empire is exhausted, and has not the men, materials, or will to defend the long borders of central, middle Europe which are (now – in the late 300’s) inhabited by half-romanized barbarian nations.

    In much the same way, after the long Götterdämmerung of the Roman/Persian wars of the 500’s and early 600’s, the ancient and powerful Persian Empire is to fall to Arab Islamic invasions, never to rise again (until modern times, in another form entirely).

    The Roman Empire, after centuries of civil war, is on the point of exhaustion, and the battle of Mursa is (possibly) the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    Contemporary miniature painting of the The battle of Agincourt (1415)  - the English won the battle over the heavily armored French with a force almost entirely composed of FOOT soldiers with LONGBOWS - this is the opposite of what is happening in our period - Magnentius and his FOOT legions are defeated by the heavily armored CAVALRY of Constantius (in imitation of PERSIAN cavalries the Romans have met in past battles)

    Contemporary miniature painting of the The battle of Agincourt (1415) - the English won the battle over the heavily armored French with a force almost entirely composed of FOOT soldiers with LONGBOWS - this is the opposite of what is happening in our period - Magnentius and his FOOT legions are defeated by the heavily armored CAVALRY of Constantius (in imitation of PERSIAN cavalries the Romans have met in past battles)

    The Beginning of the Beginning – the Domination of Heavily Armed Cavalry for the Next 1000 Years

    Partly as a result of repeated battles with the horse-driven armies of Persia, and partly in an arms race to create the most defensible, hardest-to-kill man/beast war machine, armored horses begin to break the lines of the once-undefeatable Roman legion. Notably, in civil wars, the Romans begin to learn to use cavalry and begin to neglect foot soldiers.

    This is the beginning of the classic feudal knight and the obvious superiority of armored men and beast over citizen foot soldiers. The superiority continues until men on foot, armed with new weapons that can successfully challenge armored forces (example: the common English foot-soldier armed with the English Longbow at Agincourt in 1415) and re-assert the primacy of a foot soldier. Of course, Gunpowder deals the final blow to the arms race in armoring horses and men.

    Magnentius - Double Centenionalis - mixed French British blood, he rose to be the frist general under Constans, killed Constans, and acclaimed himself emperor

    Magnentius - Double Centenionalis - mixed French British blood, he rose to be the top general under Constans, killed Constans, and acclaimed himself emperor

    How to kill a Usurper – ANY WAY YOU CAN – of Puppets and Sons
    Magnentius and Vetranio both rebelled at the same time. One was pursued and forced to commit suicide (Magnentius), the other (Vetranio) enjoyed a peaceful, state-supported retirement. Was Vetranio a puppet emperor, created by Constantius to pull away the armies of the Danube from Magnentius? It all seems very suspicious. Magnentius eventually loses and dies to Constantius’ greater money and more honorable pedigree (the son of Constantine). Vetranio loses, but lives.

    This from Wiki for Magnentius:

    ” Flavius Magnus Magnentius (303–August 11, 353) was a usurper of the Western Roman Empire (January 18, 350 – August 11, 353).

    Born in Samarobriva (Amiens), Gaul, Magnentius was the commander of the Herculians and Iovians, the imperial guard units. When the army grew dissatisfied with the behaviour of Roman Emperor Constans, it elevated Magnentius at Autun on January 18, 350. Constans was abandoned by all except a handful of retainers, and he was slain shortly afterwards by a troop of light cavalry near the Pyrenees.

    Magnentius quickly attracted the loyalty of the provinces in Britannia, Gaul, and Hispania, in part because he proved to be far more tolerant towards both Christians and Pagans. His control on Italia and Africa was applied through the election of his men to the most important offices. However, the short-lived revolt of Nepotianus, a member of the Constantinian dynasty, showed Magnentius that his status of Emperor was to be consolidated against the members of that dynasty.
    The self-proclaimed emperor tried to strengthen his grasp on the territories previously controlled by Constans, moving towards the Danube. Vetranio, commander of the Pannonian army, had been elected Augustus by his troops in Mursa on 1 March. This revolt had a loyalist mark, since Vetranio was supported by Constantina, and Constantius II himself recognized Vetranio, sending him the imperial diadem.

    The remaining emperor of the family of Constantine I, Constantius II broke off his war in Syria with Persia, and marched west. Despite Magnentius’ efforts to gain Vetranio to his cause, the old general reached Constantius with his army, and resigned the crown.

    After electing Magnus Decentius (probably his brother) to Caesar and gathering as many troops as possible, the armies of Magnentius and Constantius met in the Battle of Mursa Major in 351; Magnentius led his troops into battle, while Constantius spent the day of battle praying in a nearby church. Despite Magnentius’ heroism, his troops were defeated and forced to retreat back to Gaul.

    As a result of Magnentius’ defeat, Italy ejected his garrisons and rejoined the loyalist cause. Magnentius made a final stand in 353 in the Battle of Mons Seleucus, after which he committed suicide by falling on his sword.
    Following the suppression of Magnentius’ rebellion, Constantius commanded an investigation be made to find his followers. The most notorious agent in this search was the primicerius notariorum Paulus Catena.
    Some sources state that Magnentius’ father was a Briton and his mother a Frank.”

    Vetranio - Maiorina - accession money - Vetranio assumed the purple, kept the legions of Hungary loyal, then gave them back to Constantius at the 1st opportunity - was he just a PUPPET

    Vetranio - Maiorina - accession money - Vetranio assumed the purple, kept the legions of Hungary loyal, then gave them back to Constantius at the 1st opportunity - was he just a PUPPET

    And this from Wiki on Vetranio

    “Vetranio (d. c. 360), born in the province of Moesia in a part of the region located in modern Serbia, is sometimes but apparently incorrectly referred to as Vetriano. He was an experienced soldier and officer when he was asked by Constantina, the sister of Roman Emperor Constantius II, to proclaim himself Caesar (March 1, 350).

    Her brother Constans had been killed by Magnentius earlier that year and she probably thought Vetranio could protect her family and herself against the usurper. Vetranio accepted and coins were minted in his name, showing the title of Augustus (full emperor), rather than Caesar. Constantius first seemed to accept the new Emperor and sent him money to raise an army, as well as his regalia.
    Constantius, who was on a campaign against the Persians when Magnentius came to power, returned to the west and met with Vetranio.

    Vetranio subsequently abdicated on December 25, 350. He was allowed to live the remainder of his years as a private citizen on a state pension.”

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