Posted by: ken98 | March 2, 2010

The Love of Slave Boys, Tax Revolts, and Rasputin

Day 172 – Ken here (T)(3-2-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.27, pp.50-60)(pages read: 1150)

I’m dead tired – just couldn’t get to sleep last night. So… if I’m a little less coherent than my usual middling level of coherence, forgive me.

and on to Gibbon…

We continue with chapter 27 and the emperor Theodosius. Gibbon reviews his virtues (which are many – Gibbon loves Theodosius), and his faults (which are few, but great). Gibbon then reviews two of the greatest trials of Theodosius – the Revolt of Antioch in 387, and the Revolt of Thessalonica in 390. Gibbon makes a point of showing how malleable the Great Theodosius was to church influence, esp. the Bishop of the Imperial capital at Milan, Ambrose. On one occasion, Theodosius is berated in harsh terms for punishing monks in Asia Minor persecuting Jews and burning synagogues. On another occasion, Ambrose forces Theodosius to do public penance (a la Canossa and Henry IV and Gregory VII) for his massacre of the citizens of Thessalonica. With the church having so much influence, one can only hope that no Rasputin gains the ear of the emperor.

The Story
 
Virtues and Faults of Emperor Theodosius

  • Classic Gibbonian list of Virtues/Faults of an Emperor
  • VIRTUE: Wisely legislated (the Law Codex (Summary) of Theodosius (both past and Theod. law) is a fundamental building block of European law to this day)
  • VIRTUE: Forgiving of his enemies, and the relatives of his enemies
  • VIRTUE: Liberal with gifts
  • VIRTUE: The more fortunate, the more virtuous he became
  • VIRTUE: also successful in battle
  • VIRTUE: Theod even supported at public expense, the mother and daughters of Maximus the usurper
  • FAULT: Worked hard, but played even harder – Gibbon calls him lazy or indolent
  • FAULT: A very quick and harsh, passionate temper – massacres/decimates whole cities, altho his later repentance is real
  •  
    Revolt of Antioch

  • Crowds in Antioch (of course – the passionate, superficial Antiochenes), upset at new taxes, overturn sacred statues of Theodosius, his wife, and children, that were placed about Antioch (fascinating that a 100 years into the Christian empire, the sacred statues to the “genius” of the emperor still stand and hold such power – both political and spiritual – the pagan empire of Julian is not REALLY so far away – even tho it seems like it) (2-26-378)
  • The Antiochenes immed repent of their riot – and wait helplessly while a senator (Hilarius), an orater (our old friend Libanius) and (significantly) their BISHOP (Flavian) plead their case before the imperial representatives of Theod now in Antioch to try the case of the Treason of Antioch the City – hoping that the city isnt levelled completely like Rome did to Carthage
  • Also as they were passionately Arian (remember, Theod is passionately Catholic) and had 3 bishops competing for the episc throne, they were fearful for the worst (3-22-387)
  • Theod strips Antioch of all priveleges, turns off all public funds, closes all public places (baths, circus, etc) and reduces it to a municipal village (this, the 4th biggest city in the Empire)
  • Theod repents, and gives back its priveleges – all hail Theod clemency, due mostly to the eloquence of the bishop and the swarms of hermits and monks (who live around Antioch and Syria) who descend upon Antioch to plead in her defense
  •  
    Massacre of Thessalonica (390)

  • Botheric, barbarian general has a slave boy, a very famous charioteer falls for the boy – so cause is a gay lover’s quarrel
  • Botheric has the charioteer jailed
  • the crowds of Thessalonica go wild, murder Botheric and his assistants
  • Theodosius is incensed – orders the massacre of the citizens
  • Citizens lured into the circus, doors sealed, most inside killed (5000 – 15000)
  •  
    Theodosius Versus the Bishop Ambrose -Public Humiliation

  • Ambrose (Bishop of Milan) forces Theod to seek penance
  • Forces Theod to do 8 month penance before allowing him back into the church for communion
  • First instance of imperial temporal power subjugated before the spiritual power of the church – this a technique often used in the Middle Ages – Papal Ex-Communication of a king/emperor/duke etc
  • Victorian etching of the Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow before Canossa in 1077, doing penance required of him by the Pope Gregory VII.  Ambrose did much the same thing to Theodosius 700 years earlier in the first great win of church moral authority over state civil authority.  It only works if the religious person at the helm is not a Rasputin

    Victorian etching of the Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow before Canossa in 1077, doing penance required of him by the Pope Gregory VII. Ambrose did much the same thing to Theodosius 700 years earlier in the first great win of church moral authority over state civil authority. It only works if the religious person at the helm is not a Rasputin

     
    The Cause of the Thessalonican Riots – A Gay Lovers Quarrel (390)
    I had no idea that the famous penance of Theodosius – the first great instance of the subjugation of the temporal power (read: empires and emperors) to the spiritual power (read: Bishops and Popes).

    The cause of the massacre? – a very famous charioteer fell in love with a beautiful slave boy of a barbarian General (Botheric) of some troops stationed in Thessalonica (to defend against the Goths). Botheric was jailed because of it (I’m sure Gibbon assumes it was homosexuality, but I’m thinking property rights had something to do with it – after all, if you liked your neighbors sexy new car, and your neighbor is a General/State Governor, and you’re a popular, professional football quarterback, you probably STILL DON’T just go over and TAKE IT FOR A TEST DRIVE just because you’re attracted to it – that seems to be the much more Roman, Late Antique explanation for the jailing – Botheric may even have been jealous, and the whole thing a love triangle).

    The crowds in Thessalonica are crazy to get their charioteer back in the chariot and racing again. They do the Antioch-Riot thing, but this time they murder an imperial general and his staff (Botheric). Theodosius is not amused, and in a fit of fury decides to make an example of them (which is understandable) – he gives the order to massacre thousands of citizens by tricking the citizenry into the circus, sealing the exits, then allowing the barbarian troops to kill at will.

    Remember that Thessalonica (unlike Antioch) is often a temporary capital for the Roman empire and occupies a key strategic position in the defense of the Danube and the Goths (who are still overrunning the Balkans). Theodosius repents after Ambrose (Bishop of Milan) makes him feel wretched. It takes 8 months (but only because he is emperor, a normal man would have been repenting on the order of 50,000 years – according to Gibbon’s calculations of the penance required of homicides in the Church in the late 4th century).

    Here, is Gibbon’s take on the cause of the riots – which was the cause of the famous penance of Theodosius:

    The sedition of Thessalonica is ascribed to a more shameful cause, and was productive of much more dreadful consequences. That great city, the metropolis of all the Illyrian provinces, had been protected from the dangers of the Gothic war by strong fortifications and a numerous garrison. Botheric, the general of those troops, and, as it should seem from his name, a barbarian, had among his slaves a beautiful boy, who excited the impure desires of one of the charioteers of the circus. The insolent and brutal lover was thrown into prison by the order of Botheric; and he sternly rejected the importunate clamours of the multitude, who, on the day of the public games, lamented the absence of their favourite, and considered the skill of a charioteer as an object of more importance than his virtue. The resentment of the people was embittered by some previous disputes; and, as the strength of the garrison had been drawn away for the service of the Italian war, the feeble remnant, whose numbers were reduced by desertion, could not save the unhappy general from their licentious fury. Botheric and several of his principal officers were inhumanly murdered; their mangled bodies were dragged about the streets; and the emperor, who then resided at Milan, was surprised by the intelligence of the audacious and wanton cruelty of the people of Thessalonica.

    Insolent and brutal lover? Had he been modest and gentle would all of this have never happened?

    Map - Thessalonica - in Macedonia, Northern Greece, protecting the Balkans, the capital (Constantinople) and the back door to Italy.  An important military city and one reason Theodosius flipped when some of the military staff there were slaughtered in a citizen riot over 2 men and a young slave boy

    Map - Thessalonica - in Macedonia, Northern Greece, protecting the Balkans, the capital (Constantinople) and the back door to Italy. An important military city and one reason Theodosius flipped when some of the military staff there were slaughtered in a citizen riot over 2 men and a young slave boy

     

     
     
     

    Last Word…

    Gibbon Monk-Hating again
    A comparitively mild Gibbonian reference, but still in keeping with the general – the-only-good-monk-is-a-dead-monk attitude of Gibbon towards the ascetic orders of the Church. Gibbon here comments on the insect-like crowds of monks etc who descended to Antioch to “battle” for the city after Antioch’s brief civil tax revolt.

    This from Gibbon:

    But the ministers of Theodosius performed with reluctance the cruel task which had been assigned them; they dropped a gentle tear over the calamities of the people, and they listened with reverence to the pressing solicitations of the monks and hermits, who descended in swarms from the mountains

    and the footnote

    Note 089
    Chrysostom opposes their courage, which was not attended with much risk, to the cowardly flight of the Cynics.

    (DEF II, v.3, ch.27, p.55, fn.89)

    Actual photograph of the mesmerizing Russian monk Rasputin who had the last empress of Russia in his thrall.  Spiritual guidance is great as long as it tends towards a strong moral purpose.  Ambrose's guidance of the emperor Theodosius was both good and bad.  Ambrose hated Theodosius's massacre of the Thessalonicans, but also hated Theodosius's sticking up for the Jews - a race he detested.  What strange combinations of what we would consider virtue and vice in the 4th century Fathers of the Church!  I had no idea.

    Actual photograph of the mesmerizing Russian monk Rasputin who had the last empress of Russia in his thrall. Spiritual guidance is great as long as it tends towards a strong moral purpose. Ambrose's guidance of the emperor Theodosius was both good and bad. Ambrose hated Theodosius's massacre of the Thessalonicans, but also hated Theodosius's sticking up for the Jews - a race he detested. What strange combinations of what we would consider virtue and vice in the 4th century Fathers of the Church! I had no idea.

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