Posted by: ken98 | February 16, 2010

World-Ending Invasions, World-Changing Tsunamis and Double Wives

Day 158 – Ken here (T)(2-16-2010)
(DEF I, v.2, ch.25, pp.1030-1040)

The Story
 
Polygamy of Valentinian I – Early Mormons?

  • Socrates of Constantinople states Valentinian lusted after the nubile Justina and made a law that Romans could have 2 wives – and took Justina as his 2nd wife
  • Gibbon and other historians say he divorced his first wife Marina Severa 1st, then took Justina as his 2nd wife – and that this is a garbled story of how divorce might be allowed under a Christian Empire
  • Who knows what the truth of it was?
  •  
    Great Tsunami/Earthquake of 365 in Crete

  • 50,000 people die in Alexandria – the day is commemorated for 300 years up to the Muslim invasion of Egypt as the Day of Horrors
  • Bad sign for the empire
  •  
    Invasion of the Huns – Background (376)
     
    Pastoral Culture of the People of the Steppes – Scythians, Tartars

  • Gibbon compares the pastoral people’s to beasts – governed by instinct
  • Gibbon goes off on a socio-anthropological tangent – describing the Diet, Habitation, Exercises, etc of the Steppes people and how those naturally create a Steppe culture of militarism, violence, unreason, instinct, destruction
  • Diet: carnivorous, little grain – creates aggressiveness
  • Habitation – sheds on wheels (yurts), mobile
  • Exercise – continuous warfare, arrows, horseback
  • Gibbon concludes – the races of the Steppe are built for warfare and destruction, but not rational civilization
  •  

    Coin of Marina Severa, Augusta, First wife of Valentinian I.  Valentinian either did or didn't take 2 wives when he fell in "lust" with Justina (a noble friend of Marina Severa) after hearing his wife describe Justina's beauty alluding to an even physical attraction between Marina and Justina.  Other historians (and Gibbon) reason he divorced Marina Severa first, before marrying Justina and had 2 wives successively, not concurrently

    Coin of Marina Severa, Augusta, First wife of Valentinian I. Valentinian either did or didn't take 2 wives at the same time when he fell in 'lust' with Justina (a noble friend of his wife Marina Severa). After hearing his wife describe Justina's beautiful, naked body in the baths (Marina even alluding to a physical attraction between Marina and Justina), Valentinian determined he had to possess Justina also. Other historians (and Gibbon) reason he divorced Marina Severa first, before marrying Justina and had 2 wives successively, not concurrently


     

    Polygamy of Valentinian I
    Although Gibbon deprecates the story (as a fable) he tells it anyway (what does that mean?). Sometimes Gibbon comes across less like an 18th century proto-socio-anthropological historian, and more like a prissy, prudish, upper-class gossip relating slightly off-color stories in a stuffy London parlor, artfully balancing tea on one knee and cucumber sandwich on the other.

    Supposedly, (per the historian Socrates of Constantinople) Valentinian became enamored of the daughter of a Roman governor (Justina) who was a friend of Severa (current wife of Valentinian and mother of the next emperor Gratian). Hearing of her beauty (from persons seeing her at the baths), he took her as a 2nd wife. Gibbon maintains that he did it AFTER divorcing Severa. Socrates says not.

    This from Wiki in an article about Marina Severa – Valentinian’s first wife (here) including the relevant passage from Socrates of Constantinople
     

    Marina Severa married Valentinian before he ascended to the throne. Their son, Gratian was born in 359 at Sirmium in Pannonia.

    Valentinian was chosen emperor in 364. He divorced his wife around 370 to marry Justina, widow of usurper Magnentius.

    According to Socrates of Constantinople:
     
    “Justina being thus bereft of her father, still continued a virgin. Some time after she became known to Severa, wife of the emperor Valentinian, and had frequent intercourse with the empress, until their intimacy at length grew to such an extent that they were accustomed to bathe together. When Severa saw Justina in the bath she was greatly struck with the beauty of the virgin, and spoke of her to the emperor; saying that the daughter of Justus was so lovely a creature, and possessed of such symmetry of form, that she herself, though a woman, was altogether charmed with her. The emperor, treasuring this description by his wife in his own mind, considered with himself how he could espouse Justina, without repudiating Severa, as she had borne him Gratian, whom he had created Augustus a little while before. He accordingly framed a law, and caused it to be published throughout all the cities, by which any man was permitted to have two lawful wives.”
     

    This account was dismissed by later historians whose interpretation of it was an unlikely legalization of bigamy. However Timothy Barnes and others consider this decision to only allow various Romans to divorce and then remarry. The controversy being that Christianity had yet to accept the concept of a divorce. Barnes considers that Valentinian was willing to go forth with the legal reformation in pursuit of dynastic legitimacy that would secure his presence on the throne.

    John Malalas, the Chronicon Paschale and John of Nikiû report Severa to have been banished because of involvement in an illegal transaction. Barnes considers this story to be an attempt to justify the divorce of Valentinian I without blaming the emperor.

    According to the account of John of Nikiû:

    “For this just and equitable emperor hated oppression and judged with the voice of justice and practised equity. This great emperor did not spare (even) his wife, the empress Marina. Now she had bought a garden from a nursery woman (lit. a female planter of plants) and had not paid her the price which it was equitably worth, because the valuers had valued (it) out of regard to the empress and so had inclined to do her a favour. And when the pious Valentinian was apprised of what his wife had done, he sent Godfearing men to value that garden and he bound them by a solemn oath to value it justly and equitably. And when the valuers came to that garden, they found that she had been guilty of a grave injustice and had given the woman but a small portion of the price. And when the emperor heard, he was wroth with the empress (and) removed her from his presence and drove her from the palace and took to wife a woman named Justina, with whom he lived all the rest of his days. As for his first wife, he drove and exiled her from the city, and gave back the garden to the woman who had sold it.”

    When Valentinian died in 375, he was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, next to his first wife.

     

    Painting detail from Atilla and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts by Eugene Delacroix (a near-contemporary of Gibbon and his Decline and Fall).  A very romantic and heroic portrayal of a Hun.  Unlike Gibbon, not everyone thought pastoral Steppes-Peoples were little better than animals.

    Painting detail from Atilla and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts by Eugene Delacroix (a near-contemporary of Gibbon and his Decline and Fall). A very romantic and heroic portrayal of a Hun. Unlike Gibbon, not everyone thought pastoral Steppes-Peoples were little better than animals.

    Quotable Gibbon – The Huns are Animals – Just Tell Us What You Really Mean! – Gibbon Heaps Carefully-Phrased Scorn on the Pastoral Nations and Peoples of the Steppes

    Gibbon, in describing the invasions of the Huns, and the ensuing movements of barbarian cattle herding nations makes some pretty damning comparisons between wild beasts and men of the open steppes. In effect, all men of instinct (read: non-Enlightenment, non-rational men) are beasts and animals – the adjective sub-human comes to mind. Gibbon is nothing if not honest about his prejudices and favorites. This from Gibbon:
     

    But the operation of instinct is more sure and simple than that of reason; it is much easier to ascertain the appetites of a quadruped than the speculations of a philosopher, and the savage tribes of mankind, as they approach nearer to the condition of animals, preserve a stronger resemblance to themselves and to each other. The uniform stability of their manners is the natural consequence of the imperfection of their faculties

    (DEF I, v.2, ch.26, p.1025)

    Map of Crete - Minoan Crete (circa 1500 BCE) - Crete dominated the Eastern Mediterranean until it was destroyed by earthquake in the early 1420's BCE.  Later, in 365 another Cretan earthquake rocked the Mediterranean causing enormous tsunamis (365)

    Map of Crete - Minoan Crete (circa 1500 BCE) - Crete dominated the Eastern Mediterranean until it was destroyed by earthquake in the early 1420's BCE. Later, in 365 another Cretan earthquake rocked the Mediterranean causing enormous tsunamis (365)

     
    Tsunami! – The Great Cretan Earthquake of 7-21-365
    The earthquake created a tsunami in the Eastern Mediterranean that was remembered for centuries. In Alexandria alone, 50,000 people died in one day when the waters poured over that low-lying delta city as much as 2 miles inland. For 300 years (up through the Muslim invasions of Egypt), the Alexandrians marked July 21 as the “Day of Horror” in commemoration of the deaths and destruction due to the quake and floods.

    The Mediterranean earthquake centered on Crete in July 365 in the early hours of the morning (see Wiki here) – it is described by a number of historians, among them our friend Ammianus Marcellinus – here is a translation of his (now classic) description of a tsunami, 1) earthquake, 2) sea-withdrawal, 3) sudden-sea-return:
     

    Slightly after daybreak, and heralded by a thick succession of fiercely shaken thunderbolts, the solidity of the whole earth was made to shake and shudder, and the sea was driven away, its waves were rolled back, and it disappeared, so that the abyss of the depths was uncovered and many-shaped varieties of sea-creatures were seen stuck in the slime; the great wastes of those valleys and mountains, which the very creation had dismissed beneath the vast whirlpools, at that moment, as it was given to be believed, looked up at the sun’s rays.

    Many ships, then, were stranded as if on dry land, and people wandered at will about the paltry remains of the waters to collect fish and the like in their hands; then the roaring sea as if insulted by its repulse rises back in turn, and through the teeming shoals dashed itself violently on islands and extensive tracts of the mainland, and flattened innumerable buildings in towns or wherever they were found. Thus in the raging conflict of the elements, the face of the earth was changed to reveal wondrous sights.

    For the mass of waters returning when least expected killed many thousands by drowning, and with the tides whipped up to a height as they rushed back, some ships, after the anger of the watery element had grown old, were seen to have sunk, and the bodies of people killed in shipwrecks lay there, faces up or down. Other huge ships, thrust out by the mad blasts, perched on the roofs of houses, as happened at Alexandria, and others were hurled nearly two miles from the shore, like the Laconian vessel near the town of Methone which I saw when I passed by, yawning apart from long decay

     

    Gibbon strangely doubts Ammianus Marcellinus and his viewing of the ship. After our 20th and 21st century experience with tsunamis, we tend to be much less skeptical of Ammianus’ account. Sometimes being “rational” means erring on the side of pig-headed disbelief and foolishness. Perhaps it would have been better for Gibbon (a la Benjamin Franklin – a contemporary of Gibbon’s) to “doubt a little of his own infallibility”. This from Gibbon:
     

    Note 001
    Such is the bad taste of Ammianus (xxvi. 10) that it is not easy to distinguish his facts from his metaphors. Yet he positively affirms that he saw the rotten carcase of a ship, ad secundum lapidem, at Methone, or Modon, in Peloponnesus.

    (DEF I, v.2, ch.26, p.1023, fn.1)

     

    Santorini (Thera) from Landsat photograph.  The entire middle part of the island (the hole in the island above) exploded, collapsed, and disappeared in one day in a massive volcanic eruption in the early 1400's BCE that resulted in earthquakes and tsunamis that destroyed entire civilizations

    Santorini (Thera) from Landsat photograph. The entire middle part of the island (the hole in the island above) exploded, collapsed, and disappeared in one day in a massive volcanic eruption in the early 1400's BCE that resulted in earthquakes and tsunamis that destroyed entire civilizations

     
    Previous World-Changing Cretan Quakes (1420 BCE) – The Disastrous End of Minoan Civilization Makes Room for the Rise of Classical Greece

    Crete, and the sea around Crete has been the epicenter of disaster before the Earthquake of 365. The most famous example is the destruction of the island of Thera (Santorini). This peaceful Aegean isle – settled and citied by Minoan Crete but also home to a volcano, experienced a world-shaking volcanic explosion in the early 1400’s BCE – ripping the top of the entire island and destroying an entire civilization (see Minoan Eruption here).

    Granted, Minoan Crete is a far cry from Valentinian I and the 360’s CE, but the murals are gorgeous, and for some reason Crete seems to lend itself to Mediterranean-World-Changing events.

    An excellent archaeological site with incredible Minoan Cretan wall paintings is here at the Thera Foundation – an organization dedicated to resurrecting the Bronze Age city that stood on Thera (Santorini) before the incredibly disastrous volcanic explosion that destroyed the island, ended Cretan dominance of the Mediterranean, and allowed Asia and the Greek isles and mainland to be overrun by what was to become Classical Greek civilization. This is an almost ecological example of how an empty niche in the political “foodchain” (the destruction of Minoan Crete), leads to unexpected growth by a competing political culture (the Greeks). Without the volcano, would we have had Plato?

    An overview in Wiki of the rise and fall of Minoan Crete here.
     

    Mural from Thera, and the Minoan city of Akrotiri (which disappeared due to volcanic eruption circa 1420 BCE) - West House, Room 5, East Wall - Miniature River Frieze.  All of Cretan civilization disappeared after the eruption of the volcano of Thera (now Santorini).  The year 365 marks another major quake, tsunami, and huge natural disaster for the Eastern Mediterranean

    Mural from Thera, and the Minoan city of Akrotiri (which disappeared due to volcanic eruption circa 1420 BCE) - West House, Room 5, East Wall - Miniature River Frieze. All of Cretan civilization disappeared after the eruption of the volcano of Thera (now Santorini). The year 365 marks another major quake, tsunami, and huge natural disaster for the Eastern Mediterranean - from the Thera Foundation.org

     

    Cretan Miniature Frieze - the flotilla, from Minoan Thera, Akrotiri - West House, Room 5, South Wall.  Another example of the civilization that disappeared in one day sometime during 1420 BCE after the volcanic eruption of Thera (Santorini)

    Cretan Miniature Frieze - the flotilla, from Minoan Thera, Akrotiri - West House, Room 5, South Wall. Another example of the civilization that disappeared in one day sometime during 1420 BCE after the volcanic eruption of Thera (Santorini) - from the Thera Foundation.org

     

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