Posted by: ken98 | March 4, 2010

Erasing Religions, Cultural Suicide, And the Turn of the Century (400)

Day 174 – Ken here (Th)(3-4-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.28, pp.70-80)(pages read: 1170)

Feeling a little better (and wordier) today – so here goes…

We start a new chapter (28) today – which is on the Destruction of Paganism. We have about 26 pages or so to get through (2-1/2 days) and I was expecting at first that we were in for more dry Christian “18th century politically correct” rhetorical flourishes on the victory of Truth over Error, and Beauty over Filth. But no. Gibbon actually does the old Edward-Is-Not-Here-Anymore-You-Are-Speaking-To-The-Voice-Of-The-Enlightenment persona – a person far more interesting than the blatantly pandering best-selling-Expatriate-British-Author persona sometimes manifesting in previous chapters dealing significantly with Christianity.

He has plenty of opportunity to throw jibes at monks, give sage comments on the Theory of Political/Religious Conversions of States, and the wanton destruction of the cultural heritage of 2 millenia by ignorant priests supported by confused Imperial bureacracies (which at this state of the game were staffed in a large way with barbarians – 1st-2nd-3rd generation).

This is how the Dark Ages started. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions…

So we plow on merrily (with Gibbon) in his witty tale of the culture of the Mediterranean basin’s wholesale destruction and cheerful, optimistic conversion into a wasteland…

The Story
 
Political Theory of the Destruction of Paganism – per Gibbon

  • Gibbon briefly reviews the political logical LEGAL theory of why Paganism or Polytheism had to be annihilated – basically a magistrate was guilty if he did not punish the guilty, an emperor was a magistrate answerable to God for his empire, idolatry was the worst of crimes to have in an empire – excellent synthesis by Gibbon – see also below
  •  
    State of Paganism at Rome

  • Gibbon lists the state of Official Paganism at Rome (from Cicero, admittedly 400 years old, 8 offices)
    1) 15 College of Pontiffs – with Pontifex Maximus (most prestigious offices to hold),
    2) Fifteen Augurs – read omens,
    3) 15 Keepers of Sybilline Books of Prophecy (QuinDecimVirs),
    4) 6 Vestal Virgins – keeper of Sacred Fire (talk about direct references to ancient Indo-European rituals – a la Fustel de Coulanges),
    5) 7 Epulos – prepare table of the Gods,
    6) Flamens of Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus – special worship of the most important Roman Gods – to ensure good favor
    7) King of Sacrifices – holdover of King’s sacerdotal function from 500’s BCE (Indo-Eur. – de Coulanges again)
    8) Confraternities of Salians, Lupercals, etc – private groups worshiping in festival the Gods
  • 19 year old Gratian in the late 370’s was the first Roman emperor to refuse the Pontifex Maximus and entry into the college of Pontifexes – BIG SEA CHANGE – but he WAS only 19
  • Rome has 420 temples and chapels to the Gods – incl many in the Senate – ex. age-old Altar of Victory./li>
  •  
    Getting Back the Altar of Victory – Symmachus and the Roman Senate versus 4 Emperors (the Petitions/Letters)
     

  • Rome has 420 temples and chapels to the Gods – the age-old Altar of Victory becomes the rallying point/flash point of political controversy over Paganism
  • The highly respected Symmachus writes letters to/appears before emperors (Gratian, Valentinian I, Theodosius, and Valentinian II) to ask for the altar of Victory to be brought back to the floor of the Roman Senate – removed by Constantius in the second quarter of the 300’s 30 years or so before
  • All to no avail – Gibbon takes 2 pages to summarize Symmachus’ speeches
  •  
    Bishop Ambrose of Milan’s Responses/Letters to Symmachus, and Ambrose’s Puppet Emperors – Gratian and Theodosius Edicts of Intoleration
     

  • Bishop Ambrose steps in with his great influence on emperors, esp those resident for any time in Milan (except the ever-strong Justina – widow-empress of Valentinian I, mother of Val. II)
  • The result – the absolute conversion in 388 of Rome to Christianity – all places that involved themselves in immolation (ie sacrifices to the Gods/Idols) were outlawed – the only temples saved were those converted to churches (ex. the Pantheon) or to non-sacred public places of meeting
  • Christian writers say the reason for the abrupt and permanent change was faith – Gibbon mentions that those that disagreed with Theodosius (example: Symmachus) were exiled. A hefty incitement. Gibbon also notes the Generation Gap and the Gender Gap (in terms of Christianity) – wives and children converted and pestered their fathers to convert – resulting in happily married Christians raising Christians instead of battling spouses and disobedient (to the Gods) children
  • It also helped that you could sell off temple lands and endowments legally now – (reminiscent of Henry VIII and the Dissolution of Monasteries 1200 years later)
  •  
    Destruction of Temples (Part I) – Real Political End of Paganism (the 380’s)
     

  • Wholesale destruction of temples began in earnest (1st in East, then later after the Troubles and Val II death in the West) when the Emperors publicly endorsed destruction AND THE TAKEOVER OF ALL TEMPLE PROPERTY AND REVENUES
  • For a specific example – see below (Marcellus and the Monks)
  •  

    Charles V, Famous Holy Roman Emperor by Tizian - In the Peace of Augsburg(1555), the religious wars between Catholicism and Protestants that had broken Germany into pieces was settled by allowing the princes each small state to determine the state religion of their subjects - this institutionalized the North-South split of German Kingdoms in terms of faith.  Gibbon's religious/political views are a direct political descendant of this compromise of Charles V - as is the U.S.'s  Separation of Church and State, reacting against the idea of political determination of faith

    Charles V, Famous Holy Roman Emperor by Tizian - In the Peace of Augsburg(1555), the religious wars between Catholicism and Protestants that had broken Germany into pieces was settled by allowing the princes each small state to determine the state religion of their subjects - this institutionalized the North-South split of German kingdoms and made it easier for England to separate later. Gibbon's religious/political views are a direct political descendant of this compromise of Charles V - as is the U.S.'s Separation of Church and State, reacting against the idea of political determination of faith

    How Rome became Christian – the Politicians Did It
     
    The 500 year-old political compromise “Cuius Regio, Eius Religio” (“whose kingdom, his religion – i.e. whoever runs the kingdom, subjects follow that religion) in the Peace of Augsburg (1555) 1st made the startling proposition that in terms of religion and the state, religion (absolute truth) took a back seat to the will of the State. Eventually, this leads to the idea of Separation of Church and State – the proposition that religion (absolute truth) was neutral to the will of the State. Gibbon falls somewhere in between, being a man of the Enlightenment and a son of John Locke, and a staunch Englishman/Anglican (who believed by default in the union of the leadership of the State Church and the State itself – the heritage of Henry VIII a couple of centuries earlier)

    Gibbon traces the political theory (which was brand-new at the time – the late 300’s) of WHY AN EMPEROR SHOULD PROMOTE A SINGLE-RELIGION SYSTEM FOR ROME – again, a radical concept for the time – Rome had a 1200 year history of implicit toleration of all religions (they knew theirs was best, why argue with the losers? – a manifestly Roman solution and an efficient one – no wars of conscience against alien gods – just political wars for booty, tribute, and conquest – but mostly tribute).

    This from Gibbon on the radical change:

    The ruin of Paganism, in the age of Theodosius, is perhaps the only example of the total extirpation of any ancient and popular superstition, and may therefore deserve to be considered as a singular event in the history of the human mind. The Christians, more especially the clergy, had impatiently supported the prudent delays of Constantine and the equal toleration of the elder Valentinian; nor could they deem their conquest perfect or secure as long as their adversaries were permitted to exist…

    Two specious principles of religious jurisprudence were established, from whence they deduced a direct and rigorous conclusion against the subjects of the empire who still adhered to the ceremonies of their ancestors: that the magistrate is, in some measure, guilty of the crimes which he neglects to prohibit or to punish; and that the idolatrous worship of fabulous deities and real daemons is the most abominable crime against the supreme majesty of the Creator.

    The logical argument runs as follows: The Good Magistrate is guilty of un-punished crimes, the Good Magistrate (read: the emperor) is answerable to God for his empire, Impiety is the worst of crimes for a citizenry to engage in – esp. public sacrifice to known demons and idols (read: the entire temple-system of the Mediterranean basin).

    This IS a logical reading of the Old Testament and God’s continuing war on the Israelite’s idol-worship applied to 60 million people living in the Roman Empire. Great efficiency is sometimes not a good thing. The key to the effectiveness of Theodosius’s stand is it is a matter of Jurisprudence – The LAW – something the Romans took seriously and were good at – very good at. That made it (along with the unswerving zeal of Theodosius) a foregone conclusion.

    The rise of the Bishops in the power vacuum of the later 300’s, coupled with the decline of local city-state power and thus local/state worship of Gods led, in part, to the end of Western European culture for the next 700 years or so, and the beginning of something new: Modern Europe. We stand at that crossroads in our reading right now – the turn of the century – the 400’s.

    Last Word…
    Photo of African Elephant - the animal Gibbon supposes would be insulted if they understood themselves to be compared to the insatiable, rapacious appetites of  4th century hermits, ascetic,  and monks

    Photo of African Elephant - the animal Gibbon supposes would be insulted if they understood themselves to be compared to the insatiable, rapacious appetites of 4th century hermits, ascetic, and monks

    Quotable Gibbon – Elephants should be insulted to be compared to Monks

    Among numerous other places in the empire inflamed by Theodosius’s proclamations to destroy all venues of demon sacrifice – thus including all temples in the Mediterranean world practically, one example was the crusade of the priest Marcellus in the wealthy city of Apamea Syria (a Hellenistic city named for Seleucus I’s wife 500 years earlier – one would think it would be a hotbed of paganism – but this IS Syria after all). Along with Egypt, Syria was famous for its particular specialty niche monks and ascetics – both for their imaginative ways of subjugating the body (living in caves, on columns, etc) but also for the populous communities of zealous and uneducated monks who flocked about the cities of Egypt and Syria.

    Gibbon, in talking about the help Marcellus got to destroy the temples of his native Apamea, remarks (of course) on the monks and hermits who took part in the destruction.

    This from Gibbon:

    But this prudence was the occasion of his death; he was surprised and slain by a body of exasperated rustics; and the synod of the province pronounced, without hesitation, that the holy Marcellus had sacrificed his life in the cause of God.

    In the support of this cause, the monks, who rushed with tumultuous fury from the desert, distinguished themselves by their zeal and diligence. They deserved the enmity of the Pagans; and some of them might deserve the reproaches of avarice and intemperance, which they indulged at the expense of the people, who foolishly admired their tattered garments, loud psalmody, and artificial paleness

    And in the footnote:
    Note 032
    Libanius pro Templis, p. 10-13. He rails at these black-garbed men, the Christian monks, who eat more than elephants. Poor elephants! they are temperate animals.

    (DEF II, v.3, ch.28, p.80, fn. 32)

    Photo of ruins of Apamea, the street Cardo Maximus (Main Street basically) - Apamea lost its temples at the center of the city in the 380's to a zealous priest (Marcellus) who attacked the well-built temples for days/weeks before he could bring it down (with the help of hordes of monks who swarmed in from the surrounding deserts (this from Gibbon) (of course).  Marcellus was eventually killed by angry pagans as he was pulling down their neighborhood temple and was promptly created a holy martyr by the Syrian Church

    Photo of ruins of Apamea, the street Cardo Maximus (Main Street basically) - Apamea lost its temples at the center of the city in the 380

    Apamea -  Tomb at Apamea taken on albumen ca. 1860-1890 - Cornell University Library, A D White Collection - another view of the very Graeco-Roman city of Apamea - the homeplace of the violently anti-pagan, temple-destroying Marcellus of the 380's - If you want to mark the end of Paganism officially - it happens right around here

    Apamea - Tomb at Apamea taken on albumen ca. 1860-1890 - Cornell University Library, A D White Collection - another view of the very Graeco-Roman city of Apamea - the homeplace of the violently anti-pagan, temple-destroying Marcellus of the 380's - If you want to mark the end of Paganism officially - it happens right around here

    MAP - Apamea in Syria  - one of about 10 cities in Asia named Apamea - Apama was the wife of Seleucus I, companion of Alexander who Hellenized the East after Alexander's death in the 200's BCE - this is the city Marcellus laid waste to in a fit of erasing 500 years of Graeco-Roman culture

    MAP - Apamea in Syria - Apamea is up in the far, upper, left-hand corner of this map of Syria - a good 10 or 20 miles off the coast of the Mediterranean. It was one of about 10 cities in Asia named Apamea - Apama was the wife of Seleucus I, companion of Alexander who Hellenized the East after Alexander's death in the 200's BCE - this is the city Marcellus laid waste to in a fit of erasing 500 years of Graeco-Roman culture

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