Posted by: ken98 | February 25, 2010

Gratian’s 15 Minutes of Fame Die with Him and the Bob Jones of Late Antiquity

Day 167 – Ken here (Th)(2-25-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.27, pp.1-30)(pages read: 1120)

I’m doing a little better today – lots to see and do here – and it hasn’t started storming yet outside – although it looks threatening.

We begin a whole new book today (see previous post) the 2nd book and the 3rd volume of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. We are in the early 380’s and the empire is in deep trouble.

Gratian, the young and handsome 19-20 year old ruler of the Western Empire is starting to prefer hunting to soldiering and German barbarians to Roman troops (he IS after all barely into his twenties, and the head of the entire Mediterranean World) – discontent rises. Gratian is rebelled against and is murdered at the age of 24.

Theodosius is baptized Tritheist (Catholic) and this promises a firestorm of persecution and change in the imperial church, especially at Constantinople, headquarters of Arianism.

A General, who was passed over when Valens died and Gratian gave the throne to Theodosius, General Maximus in Britain, revolts and emigrates with 150,000 people into Bretagne in France (Gaul) – an emigration that turned out to be permanent and was the beginning of the Roman abandonment of Britain after 400 years of rule – although no one realized it at the time.

We also begin to trace with Gibbon the amazing career of the celebrity preacher (who started his own church from scratch in the capital city – even though he wasn’t supposed to) Gregory of Nanzianzen – the Bob Jones of his time – and the SCOURGE of the Arians. It helps to have the reigning monarch in your religious camp, especially if you’re a very ambitious young man with a burning desire for a great career. Gregory does well.

Suddenly there’s tons to talk about.

So we begin…

The Story
 
The Short Reign and Death of Gratian

  • Gratian accused of having the best of virtues, character, and motives up to the age of 19
  • Then he becomes an inveterate HUNTER surrounded by GERMANS – of course we’re deep in Church-Historian land and it’s difficult to tell fact from fiction here – Gibbon’s footnotes are FILLED with irritated references to mistaken/conflicting/silly historical accounts now – a sign of the times I’m afraid for the next 800 years or so
  • Legion and legion rebel and flock to Maximus the Usurper’s banner – Gratian is forced to flee from city to city within his own provinces – he is eventually killed by subterfuge – thru delaying tactics on the part of the gov of Lyon – he is summarily executed by Maximus’ barbarian General of Cavalry (383)
  •  
    The Revolt of Maximus in Britain (383)

  • Maximus rebels in Britian, immed. sails for Gaul to claim the continent, takes a vast number of Brits and soldiers with him (40,000 soldiers, 100,000 plebians) and in effect plants a British colony in Gaul – to be later called Bretagne – THEY NEVER WENT BACK – the beginning of the end for Roman Britain
  • Maximus sends embassy to Theodosius – Theodosius’s hands are tied – he cannot fight both the Goths and the Maximum – he cedes Maximus all of the provinces beyond the Alps, for the time being
  • Theodosius raises his son Arcadius to the purple
  •  
    The Ruthless Conversion of the Empire into Tritheist (Catholic) Christianity

  • Theodosius is baptized Tritheist – big thing – 1) being baptized and NOT ON YOUR DEATHBED and 2) being baptized NOT INTO ARIANISM – 1st time the imperial house wasn’t Arian in maybe 50 years or so
  • Theodosius immediately calls for Imperially sponsored persecutions of non-Tritheists (non-Catholics), bad sign – the toleration of the Julian era is now not even a memory – it’s a knee-jerk reaction to promote your own brand of Christianity, persecute all others – IN THE CIVIL GOVERNMENT as well
  • Gibbon is horrified – and, of course writes politely worded pious applause for the triumph of the Nicene-creed class of people over the dirty, stinking Arians – interesting man with a lot of juxtaposing, conflicting motives, this Gibbon
  •  
    The Amazing Career of Celebrity Preacher Gregory of Nanzianzen – the Late Roman Bob Jones

  • We start the story of Gregory – the extremely talented, handsome, young, rich newly-minted preacher/bishop about to make his way in the world
  • Gibbon will pursue his story for 7 pages – quite the investment for Gibbon
  • His friend, Basil of Caesarea (whom we have met before) apparently extremely disliked Gregory. Upon Basil’s elevation to the rich see of Caesarea, his 1st appointment was to put Gregory in a small town noted for the intersection of 3 highways and having a tavern and not much else – exile and prison in essence
  • Gergory ignores this – sees the rising star of Tritheism and decides to show Basil and the world what he’s made of – he sets out for Constantinople – the hotbed of Arianism – capital of the empire – and decides to convert the fickle, but passionate populace to Tritheism (Catholicism)
  • Gregory goes there, mixes in the right circles, finds a rich patron, who turns over a large town-house to Gregory for a church – the house is renamed the Church of Anastasia
  • He preaches, gathers followers, and is raided by the Arian bigger churches through a riot of monks and beggars who sack his little church – Gregory is overjoyed – he is actually making waves – and his celebrated oratorical skills are giving him a wider and wider audience – he’s on his way
  • to be continued
  •  

    Photo of Snowdonia, Caernarvonshire, Wales - the place Maximus' local bride was from - although Gibbon of course doubts the Welsh evidence

    Photo of Snowdonia, Caernarvonshire, Wales - the place Maximus' local bride was from - although Gibbon of course doubts the Welsh evidence

     
    Quotable Gibbon – Gibbon dislikes the Welsh
    In an unsurprising footnote jab to the kingdom to the West of England, Gibbon hesitates dramatically before using sources from that country. In this footnote, Gibbon comments on the usurper Maximus’s bride Helena, the daughter of Eudda, and notes that Maximus married a local (British) lord’s daughter. Some place the lord whose family he married into in Wales. Gibbon is not so sure.

    This from Gibbon:

    Note 10
    Helena the daughter of Eudda. Her chapel may still be seen at Caersegont, now Caernarvon. (Carte’s Hist. of England, vol. i. p. 168, from Rowland’s Mona Antiqua.) The prudent reader nay not perhaps be satisfied with such Welch evidence.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.22 fn.10)

    Map of Caernarvonshire Wales - possible home in the far west of Britain of Maximus's wife's family.  Gibbon doubts it - in a typically English reaction to a non-English, British historian's evidence

    Map of Caernarvonshire Wales - possible home in the far west of Britain of Maximus's wife's family. Gibbon doubts it - in a typically English reaction to a non-English, British historian's evidence

     

     
     
     

    Last Word…

    The Famous Quote of Britain’s Natural Propensity to Start Rebellions and Sponsor Usurpers
     
    Gibbon Doesn’t Quite Know If it’s False or True
     

    I’ve read this quote myself in many a history book, and heard it pronounced from the desks of History Professors I was taking courses from. Apparently it may have no origins at all in Ancient History and might be the equivalent of an Urban Myth – is there such a thing as a Late-Antique-History-Myth?

    This from Gibbon:

    Constantinople was the principal seat and fortress of Arianism; and, in a long interval of forty years,(24) the faith of the princes and prelates who reigned in the capital of the East was rejected in the purer schools of Rome and Alexandria. The archiepiscopal throne of Macedonius, which had been polluted with so much Christian blood, was successively filled by Eudoxus and Damophilus.

    Their diocese enjoyed a free importation of vice and error from every province of the empire; the eager pursuit of religious controversy afforded a new occupation to the busy idleness of the metropolis: and we may credit the assertion of an intelligent observer, who describes, with some pleasantry, the effects of their loquacious zeal.

    “This city,” says he, “is full of mechanics and slaves, who are all of them profound theologians, and preach in the shops and in the streets. If you desire a man to change a piece of silver, he informs you wherein the Son differs from the Father; if you ask the price of a loaf, you are told, by way of reply, that the Son is inferior to the Father; and if you inquire whether the bath is ready, the answer is, that the Son was made out of nothing.” (25)

    And in the footnote:

    Note 025

    See Jortin’s Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. iv. p. 71. The thirty-third Oration of Gregory Nazianzen affords indeed some similar ideas, even some still more ridiculous; but I have not yet found the words of this remarkable passage which I allege on the faith of a correct and liberal scholar.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.28, fn.25)

    Map of the British Isles - apparentle the breeding ground of usurpers and heretics in Late Antiquity - although Gibbon cannot find the source that says so exactly - it could be an Urban Myth of the 4th century

    Map of the British Isles - apparentle the breeding ground of usurpers and heretics in Late Antiquity - although Gibbon cannot find the source that says so exactly - it could be an Urban Myth of the 4th century

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