Posted by: ken98 | December 30, 2009

The Roman Inquisition, Sadism, and the End of an Emperor

Day 110 – Ken here (W)
(DEF v.2, ch.18, pp.680-690)

Gibbon finishes out Chapter 18 with the end of the “usurper” Magnentius, and a brief description of the reign of terror of the secret agent/Inquisitor General Paul Catena in Britain (of all places). Chapter 19 starts with a typical Gibbonian tirade against eunuchs (something very Freudian there), and our first introduction to Gallus and more importantly, Julian (a favorite of Gibbon, who will occupy many chapters in the future).

The Story

Civil Wars of Constantius (cont)

  • Magnentius has a revolt (minor) within the city of Rome (Nepotianus)
  • – Magnentius puts it down with troops. Rome continues to act as if it were important to the empire – but by this time a Roman revolt is more of a civil disturbance and a historical drama than a war (352)

  • Rome and Italy declare for Constantius (revolt of nobles), and Magnentius compelled to flee to Gaul (352)
  • The navy takes Africa and Spain, and approaches Gaul. Magnentius loses the loyalty of city after city, Constantius uses a convenient German army to besiege Magnentius
  • Battle of Mount Seleucus – lost by Magnentius. Magnentius takes his own life rather than be captured by Constantius (8-10-353)
  • Constantius launches global terror campaign into discovering who supported Magnentius and punishing Magnentius supporters
  • Paul Catena‘s Inquisition – even though the rebellion was far to the south and east, the infamous Secret Service investigates the province of Britain (among others) and in a reign of terror punishes and kills across the island
  •  
    Eunuchs

  • A brief history of the use of eunuchs in imperial government – Gibbon hates eunuchs – “unhappy beings”, “imperfect species”, “incapable of any generous sentiment…or worthy action” (DEF v.2, ch.19, p.685)
  • Eunuchs (esp Eusebius, under Constantius) rule the empire – Eusebius brings down Gallus eventually
  •  
    Julian and Gallus

  • Their early lives – all other (numerous) relatives initially killed in the Constantinian bloodbath that followed Constantine’s death in the 330’s
  • Brought up in furthest Cappadocia (central Turkey) -the private estates of the emperors – in prison/seclusion
  • Gallus declared Caesar and sent to administer the rich and important Diocese of the East (bordering with Persia) while Constantius finishes dealing with Magnentius (3-5-351)
  • Gibbon notes Gallus is noted for his quick temper and cruelty (why are ALL the young men in Roman histories either effiminate or hot-tempered – I suspect some literary device here (using the stock forms of old histories to describe contemporary situations) – or maybe that’s just the way young men are
  • He is visited by the highest officers of the empire, to “correct him gently”, but is insulted by them, and throws them into prison. A mob collects and forms a spontaneous “lynch mob” and drags them through the streets until their bodies are unrecognizable
  • Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition - scene/skit shot from Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC) - Paul Catenus and the Roman Secret Service descended without warning on unsuspecting provincials determined to root out treason and political malevolence in the Late Roman world

    Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition - skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC) - Paul Catenus and the Roman Secret Service descended without warning on unsuspecting provincials determined to root out treason and political malevolence in the Late Roman world

    Paul Catenus – Nobody Expects the Roman Inquisition
    The Later Roman Empire had a very organized and efficient internal Secret Service (organization and efficiency – along with recession and poverty – are among the most notable hallmarks of the Later Empire). In a previous chapter Gibbon described the new Dominate system of government including new offices, and included a brief history of the dreaded secret service of the Roman empire – the CIA of the Later Roman world. Paul Catenus is a notorious agent in the middle 300's – from references in Ammianus Marcellinus’ histories. As always, if there is a small reference to the island of Britain in history, Gibbon alerts us to it (which I suppose is only natural). This from Gibbon:

    “A severe inquisition was extended over all who, either from choice or from compulsion, had been involved in the cause of rebellion. Paul, surnamed Catena from his superior skill in the judicial exercise of tyranny, was sent to explore the latent remains of the conspiracy in the remote province of Britain. The honest indignation expressed by Martin, vice-praefect of the island, was interpreted as an evidence of his own guilt; and the governor was urged to the necessity of turning against his breast the sword with which he had been provoked to wound the Imperial minister. The most innocent subjects of the West were exposed to exile and confiscation, to death and torture; and as the timid are always cruel, the mind of Constantius was inaccessible to mercy.”

    Gallus - Solidus from Thessalonica - brought up in a prison by his uncle, he was suddenly set upon the throne and given the richest provinces of Rome to govern - Gibbon dwells on his sadistic hobbies and infamous temper and cruelty - it all seems a little too formulaic for me - young men are either ineffectual or beasts in Roman history it seems - very suspicious

    Gallus - Solidus from Thessalonica - brought up in a prison by his uncle, he was suddenly set upon the throne and given the richest provinces of Rome to govern - Gibbon dwells on his sadistic hobbies and infamous temper and cruelty - it all seems a little too formulaic for me - young men are either ineffectual or beasts in Roman history it seems - very suspicious

    The young Gallus – the 1st Marquis de Sade
    This from Gibbon:

    ” The cruelty of Gallus was sometimes displayed in the undissembled violence of popular or military executions: and was sometimes disguised by the abuse of law and the forms of judicial proceedings. The private houses of Antioch, and the palaces of public resort, were besieged by spies and informers; and the Caesar himself, concealed in a plebeian habit, very frequently condescended to assume that odious character. Every apartment of the palace was adorned with the instruments of death and torture, and a general consternation was diffused through the capital of Syria. ”

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    Responses

    1. Ken, did you mean to characterize Gallus as “Marquise de Sade” which is the feminine form?


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