Posted by: ken98 | March 9, 2010

The Beginning of the End of Bathing and Cheap Ministers Get what they Deserve

Day 179 – Ken here (T)(3-9-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.29, pp.100-110)(pages read: 1200)

Short day – mostly about the career of Rufinus. The moral of the story: if you cheat a Roman, at least don’t be cheap when the time comes to spread around a little of your ill-begotten funds back into general circulation. Romans have long memories, short tempers, and healthy appetites.

The Story
 
Rufinus – The Long Tale of a Successful Byzantine courtier – ending of course in Murder

  • Personally, I feel we’ve left the old Roman empire behind, and so even tho we may be in the West AND the East, I call both the Byzantine empire – we are in a land of intrigue, poison, double-crossing, eunuchs, barbarian generals, and child-emperors
  • Rufinus oppresses the East – taxation, endless extortion, and he’s cheap (which the Romans of the Late Roman Empire could never forgive – extortion, yes, . Gibbon tells Rufinus’ story like a soap opera (395)
  • Rufinus hopes to wed his daughter to the young Arcadius – emperor of the East – Arcadius has been brought up like a monk, and is the puppet of Rufinus, Praefect of the East
  • Lucian purchases the office Count of the East from Rufinus, attempts to administer the East fairly, is executed by Rufinus (Rufinus travels 1000 miles from Constantinople to Antioch and back in record time to accomplish the execution)
  • However, while Rufinus is gone, the head eunuch (Eutropius) conspire to wed off the lusty Arcadius to Eudoxia, daughter of Bauto (a Frankish General in the armies of Rome) – they accomplish it in secret, while Rufinus murders Lucian in Antioch (4-27-395)
  • So Rufinus is frustrated at beginning a new dynasty of his blood
  • Rufinus asks barbarians to enter the empire and attack to offset his archrivals – Gildo and Stilicho
  •  
    Stilicho – the Tale of a Byzantine General

  • This reads like a soap opera also
  • Gibbon really likes Stilicho – Minister and General of the Western Empire – Stilicho is a vandal, and is praised (which is how we know him so well) by the famous and excellent late roman poet Claudian
  • Stilicho is married to the daughter of one of Theodosius’s brothers (Honorius’s daughter) – her name is Serena
  • Stilicho has a successful and well-known career (395-408), and unlike Rufinus, is known for his liberality, and open-handedness with enemy and friend alike
  • Stilicho did a lot of work under Theodosius, at Theod death, Stilicho is recommended by Theodosius to be the senior mentor/pseudo-regent for the 2 boys until they should come of age and mature into the emperor-ship
  • Stilicho decides to march in Rufinus – uses the ploy of a campaign against Goths near Constantinople to allow him to maneuver an army close to Rufinus – remember, Rufinus has the riches provinces and the most wealth and troops
  • Rufinus calls his bluff, and sends an order to Stilicho to return to the West (through the mouth of Arcadius (East), but his troops are to continue on to Constantinople. Stilicho immed returns to the West, and directs the troops to continue on – but gives an order to his Goth general (Gainas) to kill Rufinus at the earliest opportunity through deceit
  • Rufinus thinks he’s won. Stilicho is home – Rufinus comes out of the city (Constantinople) to review the new troops, is surrounded (by what he thought were friendly legions) and is cut down without mercy – the citizens – who hated the Rufinus and his cheapness, drag his body parts thru the streets
  •  
     

    Stilicho - The ivory diptych of Stilicho (right) with his wife Serena and son Eucherius, ca. 395 A.D (Monza Cathedral ).  Stilicho the Vandal represents for Gibbon the image of the modern man (of the Late Roman Empire).  A barbarian by birth, who upheld the highest Roman virtues of law, government, and finance - who defended the empire but had the misfortune to be a leader in the extreme twilight of Roman power

    Stilicho - The ivory diptych of Stilicho (right) with his wife Serena and son Eucherius, ca. 395 A.D (Monza Cathedral ). Stilicho the Vandal represents for Gibbon the image of the modern man (of the Late Roman Empire). A barbarian by birth, who upheld the highest Roman virtues of law, government, and finance - who defended the empire but had the misfortune to be a leader in the extreme twilight of Roman power

     
    Thoughts on Stilicho and the Roman Melting Pot

    There is a great deal of irony and tragedy in the life of Stilicho – he is the last of the great Roman generals and was the last to command effectively the largely-barbarian Roman legions who defended the West at this point. In effect, Rome had succeeded in setting up a conveyor belt of romanization of barbarian nations, and by the end of the 300’s, the West was nationally diverse, but culturally bound by Roman custom and law. They were proto-barbarian kingdoms that could have been folded back into the empire’s embrace, had there been a strong man still standing in the West to draw the barbarian allies in and coordinate them.

    When Stilicho fell in the early 400’s, the nascent ties of many barbarian allies were broken, and the civilian Roman population launched a vendetta against barbarian allies living within the empire (esp wives and children) driving the allies out of the empire and into the arms of warlords waiting on the fringes. You have to wonder how much difference there was at this point between trans-Germania across the borders, and the inner provinces of Gaul etc. Probably not much.

    The West didn’t have to fall. The empire didn’t have to reject its new identity. Given another half-century, the empire might have become the truly polyglot, multi-cultural entity it thought it already was at the turn of the century (400). But, bad luck and accidents ensued, and the result was collapse of Roman authority in the West in the first decade of the 400’s.

    Or maybe it did have to fall. Perhaps, like Isaac Asimov (a la The Foundation Series – Asimov modelled his future history of the empire on Gibbon’s Decline and Fall), the empire at this point was incapable of allowing a successful general to survive – and thus had a built-in death-wish – a self-destructive tendency that was to bear dramatic fruit in the coming years.

    Modern photo of the city of Jerusalem.  When the minister Rufinus was executed, usually entire families disappeared as well in the general execution.  His sister Sylvania lived out her life famously in a monastery in Jerusalem - starting a tradition of taking holy orders instead of poison when family members met grisly political ends in the Roman Empire.  We have entered the Dark Ages on yet another front

    Modern photo of the city of Jerusalem. When the minister Rufinus was executed, usually entire families disappeared as well in the general execution. His sister Sylvania lived out her life famously in a monastery in Jerusalem - starting a tradition of taking holy orders instead of poison when family members met grisly political ends in the Roman Empire. We have entered the Dark Ages on yet another front

     
     
     
     

    Last Word…

     
    Never had a Bath and was Holier For It – Little Known Powerful Women – Rufinus’s sister Sylvania
     
    After the fall of Rufinus, usually almost all members of his family would have been executed with him, and their possessions default to the state. But, once again, we are now in a completely different era (in just 20 years!) and the tried-and-true expedient of allowing noble women/men. related to fallen courtiers, to take holy orders is tried out for the 1st time. You can mark it here – 395 was the year the Dark Ages began (culturally).

    This from Gibbon:

    According to the savage maxims of the Greek republics, his innocent family would have shared the punishment of his crimes. The wife and daughter of Rufinus were indebted for their safety to the influence of religion. Her sanctuary protected them from the raging madness of the people; and they were permitted to spend the remainder of their lives in the exercises of Christian devotion in the peaceful retirement of Jerusalem.(32)

    and this from the footnote:

    Note 032
    The Pagan Zosimus mentions their sanctuary and pilgrimage. The sister of Rufinus, Sylvania, who passed her life at Jerusalem, is famous in monastic history. 1. The studious virgin had diligently, and even repeatedly, perused the commentators on the Bible, Origen, Gregory, Basil, etc., to the amount of five millions of lines. 2. At the age of threescore she could boast that she had never washed her hands, face, or any part of her whole body, except the tips of her fingers, to receive the communion. See the Vitae Patrum, p. 779, 977.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.111, fn.32)

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