Posted by: ken98 | February 2, 2010

Julian Rapes Assyria, and Gibbon Gets Cranky

Day 144 – Ken here (T)(2-2-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.23, pp.920-930)

The Story
 
Julian’s Persian Campaign
 
Preparations and March Through Outer Mesopotamia

  • Military Preparations – this is to be a significant invasion, and an answer to the Persian King Sapor’s levelling of the Roman fortress at Amida the year before – 65,000 men and 1,100 ships (for the Euphrates), 1,100 flat bottomed boats (for temporary bridges and re-supplying the army)
  • Julian prepares great stores, prohibits wine
  • Julian crosses the Chaboras at Circesium (where it enters the Euphrates) and leaves Roman Mesopotamia and enters the Kingdom of Persia – he gives a speech, burns the boats that were the bridge (signalling his intent to conquer, and not just harass and retreat). Leaves 4.000 men (to bring total force up to 12,000 men) at Circesium to guard rear and protect against Arab marauders(4-7-363)
  • Julian marches over Mesopotamian desert – takes the Arab town of Annah, resettles inhabitants in a town in Syria
  • Marches 300 miles in 15 days (lightning strike) and comes before the fortress walls of Macepracta (it is 400 miles from Macepracta to Basra where the Tigris and Euphrates join to empty into the Persian Gulf)
  • Gibbon gives a page-long description of Assyria (Mesopotamia) modern central Iraq, Iran – mainly palm trees, canals, lack of fig trees, grape, and olive, incredible wealth in grain (3 harvests per year) – Gibbon estimates inflow of taxes to Persian at 1.2 million pounds sterling (1780’s) – which would be approximately 6.2 billion US$ 2009 (or 138,000 lbs gold)
  •  
    March Through Assyria

  • Julian invades Assyria (May 363)
  • Julian lays siege to and takes and levels the great Persian fortress of Perisabor (50 miles from Ctesiphon – Persian Capital)
  • Julian lays siege to and takes the fortress of Maogamalcha by mining underneath and coming up through the middle of the city-fortress. He utterly destroys it.
  •  
    Julian’s Character

  • He is severe with cowardice or retreat, rewards valor, but surprisingly allow unmitigated sacking and pillaging
  • Map of Middle East showing the Chaboras (Khabour) river, the boundary between Roman Mesopotamia and Persian Assyria

    Map of Middle East showing the Chaboras (Khabour) river, the boundary between Roman Mesopotamia and Persian Assyria

     

    Picture of the Lower Chaboras (modern Khabour) river in Iran - showing the sandy low desert through which the river runs before emptying into the Euphrates.  This was the highly contested frontier between 2 of the greatest powers of the Late Antique World - Rome and Persia.  Julian crossed it in May 363, burned his bridges (literally) and irretrievably began his massive invasion and conquest of Persia

    Picture of the Lower Chaboras (modern Khabour) river in Iran - showing the sandy low desert through which the river runs before emptying into the Euphrates. This was the highly contested frontier between 2 of the greatest powers of the Late Antique World - Rome and Persia. Julian crossed it in May 363, burned his bridges (literally) and irretrievably began his massive invasion and conquest of Persia

     

     
    Quotable Gibbon – Gibbon Gets a Little Cranky in Chapter 24
     
    Quotable Gibbon – Gibbon Correcting Ammianus Marcellinus and/or Julian
    Specific awards were given for specific actions in the Army of the Repbulic 400 years before Julian’s time. Gibbon remarks on a very small detail in a text of Ammianus when commenting on Julian’s rewards/punishments for his own soldiers. Apparently someone – either Ammianus or Julian were not reading their Republican history very thoroughly…

    The two sieges allowed him some remarkable opportunities of signalising his personal valour, which, in the improved state of the military art, can seldom be exerted by a prudent general. The emperor stood before the citadel of Perisabor, insensible of his extreme danger, and encouraged his troops to burst open the gates of iron, till he was almost overwhelmed under a cloud of missile weapons and huge stones that were directed against his person. As he examined the exterior fortifications of Maogamalcha, two Persians, devoting themselves for their country, suddenly rushed upon him with drawn scimitars: the emperor dexterously received their blows on his uplifted shield; and, with a steady and well-aimed thrust, laid one of his adversaries dead at his feet. The esteem of a prince who possesses the virtues which he approves is the noblest recompense of a deserving subject; and the authority which Julian derived from his personal merit enabled him to revive and enforce the rigour of ancient discipline. He punished with death, or ignominy, the misbehaviour of three troops of horse, who, in a skirmish with the Surenas, had lost their honour and one of their standards: and he distinguished with obsidional crowns the valour of the foremost soldiers who had ascended into the city of Maogamalcha

    (DEF v.2, ch.24, p.930)

    and this from the footnote

    Obsidionalibus coronis donati. Ammian. xxiv. 4. Either Julian or his historian were unskilful antiquaries. He should have given mural crowns. The obsidional were the reward of a general who had delivered a besieged city (Aulus Gellius, Noct. Attic. v. 6).

    (DEF v.2, ch.24, p.930, fn. 62)

    Gibbon is quite right.

     
    Quotable Gibbon – Gibbon Commenting on Those Who Value Things Over People

    Yet these wanton ravages need not excite in our breasts any vehement emotions of pity or resentment. A simple, naked statue, finished by the hand of a Grecian artist, is of more genuine value than all these rude and costly monuments of barbaric labour; and, if we are more deeply affected by the ruin of a palace than by the conflagration of a cottage, our humanity must have formed a very erroneous estimate of the miseries of human life

    (DEF v.2, ch.24, p.929)

    Gibbon goes to comment in a footnote on the passage above

    The operations of the Assyrian war are circumstantially related by Ammianus (xxiv. 2, 3, 4, 5), Libanius (Orat. Parent. c. 112-123, p. 335-347), Zosimus (1. iii. [c. 18] p. 168-180), and Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. iv. p. 113, 144). The ‘military’ criticisms of the saint are devoutly copied by Tillemont, his faithful slave.

    (DEF v.2, ch.24, p.929, fn. 57)

    Tillemont his slave? It was good that Tillemont was approximately 90 years dead at the time Gibbon wrote this, as I’m sure he would have been called to defend himself in a duel had Tillemont read this heavy sarcasm in a published work. But then again, Tillemont was French, and over-the-top critical rhetoric was second nature to his nationality and his career (historian).

     
    Quotable Gibbon – Gibbon Commenting on Those Who Have Spent Too Much Time Studying Their Favorite Subject

    This from the main text:

    The face of the country was interspersed with groves of innumerable palm-trees, and the diligent natives celebrated, either in verse or prose, the three hundred and sixty uses to which the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the juice, and the fruit were skilfully applied.

    (DEF, v.2, ch.24, p.925)
     

    and buried in the footnote – commenting on the palm trees – a plaintive plea for moderation from a man who tracked down every reference (Gibbon on the fervor of the botanist Kaempfer)

    The learned Kaempfer, as a botanist, an antiquary, and a traveller, has exhausted (Amoenitat. Exoticae, Fascicul. iv. p. 660-764) the whole subject of palm-trees.

    (DEF, v.2, ch.24, p.925, fn.55)

    (of course, historians or bloggers obsessed with Late Roman History are excepted)

     

    Tillemont - History of the Emperors - Title Page - Tillemont was a French Historian working at the end of the 1600's, one of the first to critically analyze texts and manuscripts and write histories of the Late Empire and the early Church - Gibbon loved and hated him

    Tillemont - History of the Emperors - Title Page - Tillemont was a French Historian working at the end of the 1600's, one of the first to critically analyze texts and manuscripts and write histories of the Late Empire and the early Church - Gibbon loved and hated him

     
    Gibbon’s Boys (#1) the Indefatigable Historian Loius Sebastien Tillemont

    This from Wiki (here )

    Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont (30 November 1637 – 10 January 1698) was a French ecclesiastical historian.
    He was born in Paris into a wealthy Jansenist family, and was educated at the Petites écoles of Port-Royal, where his historical interests were formed and encouraged. At the age of twenty, he began his two monumental works, the Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire ecclésiastique des six premiers siècles and the Histoire des empereurs et autres princes qui ont régné pendant les six premiers siècles de l’Église. The first is a history of the first six centuries of the Christian Church; the second is a history of the Roman emperors during the same period.
    Tillemont became a priest at the age of thirty-nine and settled at Port-Royal. When Port-Royal was dissolved in 1679, he moved to his family estate at Tillemont, where he spent the rest of his life, pursuing his historical work with single-minded devotion. His Histoire began to issue from the press in 1690 and his Mémoires in 1693, though the publication of both works was not completed until after his death.
    Tillemont is cited frequently by Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. His works were among the first to provide critical surveys of the full range of source material. His prose style is considered dry, but he had a reputation for accuracy, detail and conscientiousness. His work was attacked on a large scale by Honoratus a Sancta Maria in his Réflexions sur les règles et l’usage de la critique, three volumes (1712-1720).
    (mainly from “Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont”. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913)

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