Posted by: ken98 | March 15, 2010

Melted Melting Pots, Armageddon, and Less Pious Nonsense Please

Day 185 – Ken here (M)(3-15-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.30, pp.140-150)(pages read: 1240)

The Story
 
German Tribes Pushed Out of Middle Europe By Asian Migration
 
  • Gibbon notes the Georgen (Jwen) empire in Mongolia expanded, pushing tribes in a domino effect across the Russian steppes
  • The Huns were the last pushed, who in turn pushed the Goths into the empire
  •  

    Radagasius and the Sueve, Vandals, Burgundians Invade Italy
     
  • Seeing an opportunity with the invasion of Italy by Alaric and the Visigoths, Radagasius moves 20,000 and 100,000 “civilians” from the Baltic into Italy (405)
  • This is the invasion of the Suevi, Vandals and Burgundians – they were never to return to the Baltic, but instead end up occupying and destroying Roman Gaul (406) as well as many other provinces later
  • Radagasius moves on Italy, Stilicho brings all the troops together with what is the last Roman army left in the empire and waits for his chance to strike (with 50,000 men)
  • Radagasius pillages the cities of Italy, beseiges Florence, which defends itself and waits. Eventually, Stilicho sourrounds the army of Radagasius and starves Radagasius out, Radagasius tries to escape, and is caught by Romans and executed. 12,000 warriors from Radagasius’s army are inducted into the Roman army. Stilicho’s great victory, Rome is safe, but down to one functioning army (406)
  •  

    Remainder of Radagasius Army Invades Undefended Gaul
     
  • The remainder of the Suevi, Vandals, Burgundians move on unopposed to Gaul
  • Gibbon paints a pretty picture (through the poet Claudian) of the peace and prosperity of the last days of the frontier between Germania and Romania. They were very close to conquering through trade and acculturation. Gibbon notes it was diffucult to distinguish the barbarian side of the Rhine from the Roman side
  • On December 31, 406 the 3 large tribes pass over into Gaul – unbeknownst to anyone at the time, they were entering Gaul as conquerors, the province was never to be Roman again
  •  

    A Sign of the Melting Pot – Germany Stays Loyal (at first)
     
  • The German frontier was quiet – the Franks and the Alemanni actually came to the aid of the Romans when Vandals attacked. This is another sign, that given time, the “barbarian” nations to the North probably would have become as acculturated as the Spanish and North Africans and British had become over the centuries – Rome might have expanded eventually to become the European Union 1500 years earlier than it did
  •  

    Political Cartoon from the 19th century - Citizenship as the Great American Melting Pot and equalizer.  A controversial subject even today, let alone a century or more ago.  But one that works and was busily in the process of working on the borders of the Roman Empire in the turbulent 300's.  Whether the Franks were BETTER or HAPPIER as Romans than as 'barbarians' is another point entirely.  The Fall of the Roman Empire kind of eliminated the need to ask that question in the end

    Political Cartoon from the 19th century - Citizenship as the Great American Melting Pot and equalizer. A controversial subject even today, let alone a century or more ago. But one that works and was busily in the process of working on the borders of the Roman Empire in the turbulent 300's. Whether the Franks were BETTER or HAPPIER as Romans than as 'barbarians' is another point entirely. The Fall of the Roman Empire kind of eliminated the need to ask that question in the end

    Struggling With the Facts – Why was the Roman Empire so Weak and so Strong at the Same Time
     

    Gibbon notes (quoting the poet Claudian) that Gaul was prosperous and the frontier peaceful just before the conquest/invasion by the Germans in the first decade of the 400’s. How can this be so? In an empire that could barely field one army out of all the troops stationed in Northern Europe, how was is so successful? Why was it that the barbarians were actually becoming more Roman than the Romans (example: Stilicho himself – a Vandal – the Franks NOT attacking, nor the Alemanni when Radagasius invaded Italy, etc) and yet, it was all destroyed in a matter of a few years, by other nations more to the North on the Baltic?

    Perhaps the Late Roman economy had become, in effect, a slave, villa-based economy like the Pre-Civil War South in the U.S. Perhaps, it was in the process of assimilating barbarian nations as small-farmers, starting the whole cycle of small farmer, big farmer, enserfment all over again (the same story that had happened to the Italians in Italy at the end of the Republic at the hands of the citizens of the powerful City of Rome). Perhaps with time, a solid farmer-class, and the potential for viable cities and gradual construction of stable german kingdoms across the border would have brought the empire out of its Stalinesque Fascist permanent depression and allowed a greater European trade to start in the North, jump-starting the formation of a “Modern Europe” a thousand years earlier than when it actually happened.

    But the beginning of the “Wandering of the Peoples” the great barbarian invasions brought all this cultural/political melding to a halt.

    It seems for human history in the Northern Hemisphere (except for the Americas), the most significant part of the whole globe was the steppes of Central Asia. Like the great ocean currents that spring out of the North Sea and drive the climate of the Atlantic, Europe and a great deal of the globe, the “weather” of history seems to have been driven by the nomad peoples who occasionally erupted out of the steppes and destroyed patterns of culture that had been stable for centuries prior to their arrival. Just a thought….

    Poster for the Augustinians at the Fethard Abbey, celebrating the birthday of their Spiritual Father St. Augustine on the weekend 13th &14th November (Augustinian Abbey, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Ireland).  An interesting interpretation of a much-read and much-discussed man.  I'm sure Augustine would have been a very serious young recent convert.  He and Orosius firmly placed the credit for Late Antique victories of Rome over German with God rather than the General Stilicho

    Poster for the Augustinians at the Fethard Abbey, celebrating the birthday of their Spiritual Father St. Augustine on the weekend 13th &14th November (Augustinian Abbey, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Ireland). An interesting interpretation of a much-read and much-discussed man. I'm sure Augustine would have been a very serious young recent convert. He and Orosius firmly placed the credit for Late Antique victories of Rome over German with God rather than the General Stilicho

    Pious Nonsense – Gibbon on Piety and History – the Accounts of Orosius
     

    During the siege of Florence, Saint Ambrose encouraged the exhausted city to continue to hold out by recounting his prophetic dreams that they would be speedily delivered. This Christian victory (rather than a well-thought-out military victory by the ever-resourceful General Stilicho), became part and parcel of Christian literature and myth of the age. It is telling, that famous, prominent men (such as Orosius, and his friend Augustine of Hippo) were declaring that not a single Christian was killed in the battles (Radagasius was a pagan, an unconverted King of unconverted peoples of the North), and that God gave the victory to the Romans miraculously – its no wonder the empire had such a dismal military at this point – if everyone was relying on prayer to deliver them from the barbarians.

    Gibbon picks up on this theme tangentially – Christianity as the Destroyer of the Empire when he comments on Orosius and Augustine and the seige of Florence and how it was won by Rome.

    This from Gibbon:

    Florence was reduced to the last extremity; and the fainting courage of the citizens was supported only by the authority of St. Ambrose, who had communicated in a dream the promise of a speedy deliverance. On a sudden they beheld from their walls the banners of Stilicho, who advanced with his united force to the relief of the faithful city, and who soon marked that fatal spot for the grave of the barbarian host.

    The apparent contradictions of those writers who variously relate the defeat of Radagaisus, may be reconciled without offering much violence to their respective testimonies. Orosius and Augustin, who were intimately connected by friendship and religion, ascribe this miraculous victory to the providence of God rather than to the valour of man. (77) They strictly exclude every idea of chance, or even of bloodshed, and positively affirm that the Romans, whose camp was the scene of plenty and idleness, enjoyed the distress of the barbarians slowly expiring on the sharp and barren ridge of the hills of Faesula, which rise above the city of Florence.

    Their extravagant assertion that not a single soldier of the Christian army was killed, or even wounded, may be dismissed with silent contempt; but the rest of the narrative of Augustin and Orosius is consistent with the state of the war and the character of Stilicho.

    Conscious that he commanded the last army of the republic his prudence would not expose it in the open field to the headstrong fury of the Germans. The method of surrounding the enemy with strong lines of circumvallation, which he had twice employed against the Gothic king, was repeated on a larger scale and with more considerable effect. … The imprisoned multitude of horses and men was gradually destroyed by famine other than by the sword; but the Romans were exposed during the progress of such an extensive work to the frequent attacks of an impatient enemy. The despair of the hungry barbarians would precipitate them against the fortifications of Stilicho; the general might sometimes indulge the ardour of his brave auxiliaries, who eagerly pressed to assault the camp of the Germans; and these various incidents might produce the sharp and bloody conflict; which dignify the narrative of Zosimus and the Chronicles of Prosper and Marcellinus.

    and this from the footnotes:

    Note 077
    Augustine, The City of God, v.23. Orosius, l. vii. c. 37, p. 567-571. The two friends wrote in Africa ten or twelve years after the victory, and their authority is implicitly followed by Isidore of Seville (in Chron. p. 713, edit. Grot.). How many interesting facts might Orosius have inserted in the vacant space which is devoted to pious nonsense!

    (DEF II, v.3, p.146, fn.77)

     
     
     

    Coat of Arms of the Commune of Firenze - City of Florence.  Stilicho broke the siege of Florence in 406, thus stopping Radagasius's invasion of Italy in its tracks (but the empire was doomed anyway to fall in just a few more years)

    Coat of Arms of the Commune of Firenze - City of Florence. Stilicho broke the siege of Florence in 406, thus stopping Radagasius's invasion of Italy in its tracks (but the empire was doomed anyway to fall in just a few more years)

    Last Word…
    The Beginning of Florence and Machiavelli
     
    Modern day collage of Florence showing the Uffizi (top left), followed by the Pitti Palace, a sunset view of the city and the Fontana del Nettuno in the Piazza della Signoria from Wiki.  The city Stilicho saved became a dynamo of art, study, and science during the Renaissance 1000 years in the future

    Modern day collage of Florence showing the Uffizi (top left), followed by the Pitti Palace, a sunset view of the city and the Fontana del Nettuno in the Piazza della Signoria from Wiki. The city Stilicho saved became a dynamo of art, study, and science during the Renaissance 1000 years in the future

    I surely didn’t know that the beginning of the illustrious City of Flowers – Florence, the Commune of Firenze, made its first significant entry on the world stage during the long, painful denouement of the empire in the West. None other than Machiavelli, loyal son of Florence, traced the city’s history and Gibbon apparently read and approved of him.

    This from Gibbon:

    Many cities of Italy were pillaged or destroyed; Besieges Florenceand the siege of Florence(74) by Radagaisus is one of the earliest events in the history of that celebrated republic, whose firmness checked and delayed the unskilful fury of the barbarians. The senate and people trembled at their approach within an hundred and eighty miles of Rome, and anxiously compared the danger which they had escaped with the new perils to which they were exposed

    and this from the footnote:

    Note 74
    Machiavel has explained, at least as a philosopher, the origin of Florence, which insensibly descended, for the benefit of trade, from the rock of Faesulae to the banks of the Arno (Istoria Florentina, tom. i. l. ii. p. 36; Londra, 1747). The triumvirs sent a colony to Florence, which, under Tiberius (Tacit. Annal. i. 79), deserved the reputation and name of a fourishing city. See Culver. Ital. Antiq. tom. i. p. 507, etc.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.145, fn.74)

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