Posted by: ken98 | February 8, 2010

Jovian, the Unlamented 15 Minute Emperor Dead, Replaced by Soldier-Farmer

Day 150 – Ken here (M)(2-8-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.23, pp.960-970)

Cloudy and cold, and I’m feeling a little under the weather myself. But here I sit, unshaven and unshowered, dutifully reading my Gibbon and writing whatever pops into my head (basically). Better get going…

Chapter 25 continues with the middle and end of Jovian’s 7 month reign, and the election of a new emperor Valentinian (son of a Pannonian (modern day Serbian) farmer who made good in the Army and died a rich military Count over Africa and Britain. In a typically Roman Jovian dies a mysterious death en-route to Constantinople, rushing to the capital city to cement his unexpected new relationship with the world as world-ruler. The last Late Roman emperor, Valentinian, son of a farmer, a semi-literate soldier takes his place.

The Story
 
Sallust – The Man Who was Almost Emperor Twice

  • Historically, there could have been 2 men or 1 man – it’s unclear – Sallust (Flavius Sallustius OR Saturninus Secundus Salutius – probably the latter)
  • The friend, mentor, and universally-loved Stoic NeoPlatonist philosopher Sallust was offered the throne after Julian died when the generals were conferring in Persia (at the time he was Praetorian Prefect of the East)
  • Sallust was again offered the purple 7 months later after Jovian died, he refused a 2nd time and continued in the office of Praetorian Prefect of the East under Valentinian for some time
  •  
    Jovian Proclaims Universal Toleration

  • With the exception of magic (?) Jovian proclaims universal toleration of all religions (ending actually the Julian-inspired persecution of Christianity, and ACTUALLY making Christianity the state religion again – after all the Emperor IS a Christian)
  • The Church and Monasteries may receive bequests from wills again, bishops may use the public post for free to get about the empire again, Christian property is free from taxes again – in other words back to status quo of the Constantine-era empire
  • Remember, at this point Christianity has been a state religion for only about 50 years or so, maybe a little under 1/2 the empire is Christian, still a minority – but once again, with imperial backing, Christianity is the religion of the upwardly mobile
  •  
    Jovian Hurries from the Eastern Front to Constantinople, Dies On the Way

  • Jovian flies to Antioch (after he have away 5 provinces in the East to the Persians in a shameful, hurried Peace negotiation) to try and secure his power
  • He is surprised to find he has been accepted by the empire, he buries Julian, and hurriedly begins to make his way to Constantinople to consolidate his power with the populace/officials/Consistory in the capital
  • 7 months into his reign (Feb 17, 364), Jovian is dead
  • Suspicious Death – due to mushrooms? Jovian found dead the next morning after heavy meal the night before – the suddenness of it, Jovian’s youth, and the lack of any inquisition into his death makes it seem (to Gibbon) to be a probable court-murder (poisoning?)
  •  
    Vacancy for 10 days – Election of Valentinian – a career General

  • For 10 days (Feb 17 – Feb 26) there is no emperor
  • Valentinian – son of a Serbian farmer – is “nominated” by the high officers – special care is taken to present him to the army for acclamation for him to be acclaimed unanimously without competing “candidates”
  • This seems to be a 4th century (300’s) reflex (remembering the bad old times of the 200’s when emperors were made and unmade with speed and ease by the legions of the emperors bodyguard or frontier-guarding legions) – to be hyper-afraid of an interregnum and of civil war
  • Sallust (Praet. Pref. of the East) gives orders that no other high-ranking officer is to show his face on the day or days following Valentinian’s “scheduled, spontaneous” acclamation. The acclamation goes off without a hitch. Valentinian (and the Pannonian Dynasty) is off and running
  • TWO GREAT EVENTS just happened: 1) Valens (Valentinian’s brother) is made co-Augustus of the West by Valentinian – unknown to everyone else, THIS IS THE FINAL BREAK/SEPARATION of EAST and WEST (after this they are separate entities) and 2) Valentinian is the last emperor to have absolute sole dominion over both East and West, and to campaign above the Danube and over the Rhine – after Valentinian the empire goes through a rapid period of decline from which it never recovers. Valentinian is (in some ways) the last Late Roman Emperor (364-375)
  •  

    Broken head of Valentinian I, wearing the diadem.  Valentinian (364-375) was the last Roman emperor - the last to campaign above the Rhine/Danube, the last to hold the senior power over East AND West.  After him, the empire rapidly declines and falls to pieces in the West.

    Broken head of Valentinian I, wearing the diadem. Valentinian (364-375) was the last Roman emperor - the last to campaign above the Rhine/Danube, the last to hold the senior power over East AND West. After him, the empire rapidly declines and falls to pieces in the West.

    Photograph of Horatio Alger, author of the voluminous "Rags to Riches" series of pulp fiction which did much to perpetuate the American Dream of getting rich by "pluck, luck, and virtue".  Alger's dream was played out over and over again in the Roman Army of the Late Empire - the Great Leveller of classes - where repeatedly, (in fact at the beginning of each dynasty) a man who is the son of barbarians or farmers becomes the ruler of the Roman World - all major offices in the Army were open to ANY man of talent and ambition

    Photograph of Horatio Alger, author of the voluminous 'Rags to Riches' series of pulp fiction which did much to perpetuate the American Dream of getting rich by 'pluck, luck, and virtue'. Alger's dream was played out over and over again in the Roman Army of the Late Empire - the Great Leveller of classes - where repeatedly, (in fact at the beginning of many dynasties) a man who was the son of barbarians or farmers became the ruler of the Roman World - major offices in the Army were open to ANY man of talent and ambition

     
    The Roman Army and Horatio Alger
     
    No, not death alone, the Roman Army of the Later Empire was the Great Leveler of Roman Society. Most of the Legions, their upper officers, and from there Military Governors/Generals (Counts) of provinces were open to ALL men (barbarian-born, farmers, grandsons of former slaves, etc). In fact, the more centralized, stable, and bureaucratic the government of the empire became during the 200’s and after Diocletian in the 300’s (i.e. the more totalitarian and class-ridden), the more open all posts in government were to all citizens of the empire, regardless of pedigree and class. In late Antique society classes were mostly fixed, but the army was class-blind (or at least class-myopic).

    Like Horatio Alger and the “Rags to Riches” stories which a part and parcel of the American Dream and the mythos of being an American (success = “luck, pluck, and virtue”), hard work, luck and a clean life could lead to unimaginable riches by joining the Roman Legions of the 200’s and 300’s. Many changes of dynasty (where a new emperor was NOT a son/relative of the preceding emperor) involved a man whose origins were plebeian at best, and who gained fame and respectability through service in the Army.

    Valentinian was the son of a military governor of Africa and Britain, but the military governor himself started out life as a farmer in the back country of Pannonia. He follows in the footsteps of the great Diocletian who started life out as a commoner in Illyria (interestingly near Pannonia – the Late Roman Balkans must have been a good place to breed Roman officers).

     
    Very Tangential Interesting Note
     
    Academic Forgeries or Always Check Your References
    Mayes’ (almost completely) Fictional Non-Fiction Biography of Horatio Alger
    I always find it interesting when authority remains unquestioned, and the “authority” is actually consciously fraudulent (example: the Augustan Histories, for Roman History in the troubled 3rd century which was an intentional comedic treatment of what would have been back then commonly-known recent history, but which has (unfortunately for us in the 21st century) become the ONLY remaining source of historical narrative for the 200’s

    (For the complete article in Wiki on Horatio Alger (from which the following was taken) see here)

    In 1928, Herbert R. Mayes published the spurious biography Alger: A Biography without a Hero. This pseudo-biographical novel presented itself as a biography of the well-known author, allegedly based on Alger’s diaries and secondary sources consulted by the author. However, in reality those diaries and secondary sources did not exist; Mayes simply made up anecdotes to fill in the gaps in his knowledge of Alger’s life. Those stories ranged from the merely speculative — for example, Mayes made Alger’s father into a stern, repressive personality who contributed to Alger’s semi-repressed homosexuality later in life — to the bizarre.

    In the latter category, Mayes had his 26-year-old Alger run off to Paris rather than gratify his father with a job in the clergy. Later, in New York, the fictional Alger adopts a young Chinese boy named Wing and cares for him until Wing is conveniently killed by a runaway horse. Mayes said in 1972:

    “If Alger ever kept a diary, I knew nothing about it. In any case, it was more fun to invent one. I had no letters ever written by Alger, which was fortunate. Again, it was more fun to make them up, as it was with letters presumably sent to Alger, none of which I had ever seen.”

    Mayes’ fictional biography went practically unquestioned until the 1960s. In 1961, amateur Alger enthusiast Frank Gruber published Horatio Alger, Jr.: A Biography and Bibliography, challenging Mayes’ account, and this challenge was followed by Ralph D. Gardner’s similarly fact-based 1964 Horatio Alger, or the American Hero Era. (Ironically, these biographies were ill-received by many critics, who preferred Mayes-based works such as John Tebbel’s 1963 From Rags to Riches: Horatio Alger and the American Dream.)

    In the 1970s, Mayes finally admitted the hoax, but statements and anecdotes from A Biography without a Hero continue to turn up in poorly-researched biographies even today. Reliable alternatives include Gary Scharnhorst’s Horatio Alger, Jr. (1980) and Carol Nackenoff’s The Fictional Republic: Horatio Alger and American Political Discourse (1994).

    Herbert Mayes' unauthorized (and largely fictitious biography) of Horatio Alger.  Mayes freely imagined letters, journals, and interviews - decades after it was in print (and accepted by all as a definitive biography) was it exposed and Mayes admitted to the forgery

    Book cover of Herbert Mayes' unauthorized (and largely fictitious biography) of Horatio Alger. Mayes freely imagined letters, journals, and interviews. It took over 30 years after it was published (and accepted by all as a definitive biography) to be exposed as a work of fiction - Mayes admitted to making up most of the documentary evidence himself. The moral: Question Authority, and Check It Out For Yourself Before You Believe

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    Responses

    1. Ken,

      Theodosius I (379-395) was the last Roman Emperor of the East and West. Below is the opening paragraph about him from Wikipedia:

      “Theodosius ( 11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius I and Theodosius the Great was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Reuniting the eastern and western portions of the empire, Theodosius was the last emperor of both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire.”

      I’ve been reading everything since the invasion of Persia. It’s all very good, well-organized. Bravo for all the work you’ve put into this. I also received your mass e-mail regarding your Christmas cards. Most intriguing. What is that all about?

      Mark (your delinquent collaborator on this blog)


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