Posted by: ken98 | March 16, 2010

Killing whom you love, Kristallnachts, and Useless Acts of Honor

Day 186 – Ken here (T)(3-16-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.30, pp.150-160)(pages read: 1250)

Not feeling so hot, so kind of a short day.

We continue chapter 30 with an un-ending series of calamities which must have seemed like life-as-usual to the Romans, but actually signified the beginning of a new world order; a new world order WITHOUT Romans at the helm. Courtiers fight over the last bones of the empire in the West, exceedingly rich senators argue about paying bribes to invading armies, while owning absolutely unprotected, vast estates throughout the Western empire.

What were they thinking?

Income streams only continue as long as you OWN what produces the income. Rome was about to learn that if you can’t hold it, you lose it. Especially when you have centuries of accumulated wealth lying in an invisible fortress without walls, and the people around you (read: barbarians) are being pushed into you literally by foreign invasions half a world away (read: the Huns, pushed by the far-off Turkic tribes). A bad situation in the best of times – then, as if it it could not possibly get worse, Rome murders practically all its capable generals and starts a civil war. The end is not only near, it’s upon them.

The Story
 
Britain Rolls Out the Usurpers – the Last Constantine
 
  • In rapid succession three emperors are made in Britain – Marcus, Gratian, and finally a common soldier called Constantine (407) – the first two are murdered a few months after each man’s election to the purple, Constantine lasts a little longer
  • As Honorius has effectively given up on any territory north of the Alps, Gaul recognized Constantine as legitimate emperor – as Constantine lands with a very small force (all that’s left of Roman military Britain) on the shores of the continent
  • Const. marches across Gaul, get’s holed up in Vienna, after losing 2 of his best generals to the barbarian general Sarus (under orders from Stilicho – and the empire) – one general is lost in battle, another (typically, Byzantine – we’re in a new age here) is killed by the imperials during an ambush during an peace negotiation
  •  

    Theodosius’ Brothers fight for Honorius
     
  • The (very rich) brothers of Theodosius, still on the vast family estates (the size of small kingdoms) in Spain, arm and recruit their own retainers, slaves, etc and with this “private” cobbled-together “army” declare Spain for Honorius and cross the Pyrenees to fight the usurper Constantine
  • Constantine sends 5000 Honorians to deal with them as they crossed the Pyrenees into Gaul (irony here – that the personal guard of Honorius is now fighting to keep Honorius’s uncles from helping him)
  • The private army is cut to shreds – such is the state of affairs in the empire that private armies and very small forces now determine the fate of provinces – it is a mystery what is going on in the empire now – either it is a vast serf-state, or vastly depopulated or both – but hardly anyone fights for Rome, except the barbarians at this point, yet the very rich seem to be doing very well still – probably a SLAVE ECONOMY
  • Honorius is oblivious to all – one more reason to think that we are dealing with a handicapped emperor – history and life was not fair to Honorius – in my opinion
  •  

    Alaric and Stilicho Negotiate – Alaric Has All the Cards in his Hand
     
  • Alaric plays Western Empire against the East, and bargains with Stilicho – hinting he’ll attack Italy, hinting he could be bought off as an imperial general to the WEST at this point – an example of where the empire is right now – titles and money are used instead of weapons and armies – the West is exhausted, but incalculably rich, and unprotected – WHAT WERE THE ROMANS THINKING? – the accumulated wealth of centuries is about to change hands
  • Renounces his appt to Master General for the East, asks to be paid a large amt of money now to be Master General in the West
  • The Roman Senate debates this – calls it a bribe – but eventually sends 4000 lbs of gold to Alaric to keep him happy – BAD MISTAKE – NEVER DEAL WITH TERRORISTS – the senators actually were paying for their own executions (404-408)
  •  

    Palace Intrigue – No One’s At the Helm in the Empire – Stilicho Executed
     
  • Olympius – a courtier – seeking to get power in the rapidly disappearing empire of the West – starts working on Honorius to get him to execute Stilicho (Stilicho is at this point the only thing keeping the empire together – just barely) (May 408)
  • Arcadius (Honorius’s brother -emp of the East) dies, and Honorius (at 25 years old) (and handicapped) makes motions to move to the East and assume the regency – something at this point which would never have worked
  • Stilicho attempts to dissuade him, Olympius uses this as a pretext to show Stilicho means to murder Honorius and seize the throne – Olympius in one blood-filled night murders all of Stilicho’s friends and adherents – the best generals and administrators left in the West
  • Stilicho takes refuge in a church, a Roman Count lures him out with lies, then executes him immediately
  • Rome is effectively lost at this point
  • Stilicho murdered (8-23-408)
  •  

    Arcadius Dies – Can Anything Else Possibly Go Wrong With the Empire?
     
  • Arcadius in the West dies – we’ll go into it later – how much MORE can happen to the Empire
  •  

     

    Photo of aftermath of Kristallnacht - the night of vandalism and rampant violence in the 3rd Reich against Jews in Germany and an example of political, extreme racism.  The murders of Goths in the empire in the decade before Stilicho (a barbarian Vandal by birth) and his adherents were murdered represent a similar series of events: extreme political persecution/killing of racial-cultural minorities to further majority political ends.

    Photo of aftermath of Kristallnacht - the night of vandalism and rampant violence in the 3rd Reich against Jews in Germany and an example of political, extreme racism. The murders of Goths in the empire in the decade before Stilicho (a barbarian Vandal by birth) and his adherents were murdered represent a similar series of events: extreme political persecution/killing of racial-cultural minorities to further majority political ends.

    The KritallNacht of the Vandal Stilicho
     

    Late Antique Rome was rabidly anti-barbarian, probably because the best and brightest of the imperial military and bureacracy were barbarian born or first/second generation barbarians. Stilicho (a Vandal by birth, a Roman by culture) was murdered, along with all his adherents in a killing spree initiated by a palace intrigue (by the courtier Olympius) in essentially one night.

    Unfortunately for the empire, the persons/families killed were essentially the only intelligent, active bulwark against the onslaught of barbarians dancing about the dying empire in the West. Their deaths marked the end of any defense of the empire and the beginning of total capitulation and the establishment of barbarian kingdoms (within a year or so) over all the prettily organized provinces of the Western Empire.

    Vaguely like the Kristallnacht, this was yet another example of anti-barbarian hysteria – much like the murders of the ethnic Goths (whether they be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation Romans) 15 years earlier.

    Note also the “trembling emperor in the streets without robe or diadem” – yet another example which leads me to believe that poor Honorius was in fact, handicapped and mentally not an adult. It must have been hard and terrifying for him at times, being in that poisonous court.

    here is

    the is the account of how the murders happened is in Gibbon:

    In the passage of the emperor through Bologna a mutiny of the guards was excited and appeased by the secret policy of Stilicho, who announced his instructions to decimate the guilty, and ascribed to his own intercession the merit of their pardon. After this tumult, Honorius embraced, for the last time, the minister whom he now considered as a tyrant, and proceeded on his way to the camp of Pavia, where he was received by the loyal acclamations of the troops who were assembled for the service of the Gallic war.

    On the morning of the fourth day he pronounced, as he had been taught, a military oration in the presence of the soldiers, whom the charitable visits and artful discourses of Olympius had prepared to execute a dark and bloody conspiracy. At the first signal they massacred the friends of Stilicho, the most illustrious officers of the empire; two Praetorian praefects, of Gaul and of Italy; two masters-general of the cavalry and infantry; the master of the offices, the quaestor, the treasurer, and the count of the domestics. Many lives were lost, many houses were plundered; the furious sedition continued to rage till the close of the evening; and the trembling emperor, who was seen in the streets of Pavia without his robes or diadem, yielded to the persuasions of his favourite, condemned the memory of the slain, and solemnly approved the innocence and fidelity of their assassins.

    The intelligence of the massacre of Pavia filled the mind of Stilicho with just and gloomy apprehensions, and he instantly summoned, in the camp of Bologna, a council of the confederate leaders who were attached to his service, and would be involved in his ruin. The impetuous voice of the assembly called aloud for arms and for revenge; to march, without a moment’s delay, under the banners of a hero whom they had so often followed to victory; to surprise, to oppress, to extirpate the guilty Olympius and his degenerate Romans, and perhaps to fix the diadem on the head of their injured general. Instead of executing a resolution which might have been justified by success, Stilicho hesitated till he was irrecoverably lost. He was still ignorant of the fate of the emperor; he distrusted the fidelity of his own party and he viewed with horror the fatal consequences of arming a crowd of licentious barbarians against the soldiers and people of Italy.

    The confederates, impatient of his timorous and doubtful delay, hastily retired with fear and indignation. At the hour of midnight Sarus, a Gothic warrior, renowned among the barbarians themselves for his strength and valour, suddenly invaded the camp of his benefactor, plundered the baggage, cut in pieces the faithful Huns who guarded his person, and penetrated to the tent, where the minister, pensive and sleepless, meditated on the dangers of his situation. Stilicho escaped with difficulty from the sword of the Goth, and after issuing a last and generous admonition to the cities of Italy to shut their gates against the barbarians, his confidence or his despair urged him to throw himself into Ravenna, which was already in the absolute possession of his enemies.

    Olympius, who had assumed the dominion of Honorius, was speedily informed that his rival had embraced, as a suppliant, the altar of the Christian church. The base and cruel disposition of the hypocrite was incapable of pity or remorse; but he piously affected to elude, rather than to violate, the privilege of the sanctuary. Count Heraclian, with a troop of soldiers, appeared at the dawn of day before the gates of the church of Ravenna. The bishop was satisfied by a solemn oath that the Imperial mandate only directed them to secure the person of Stilicho: but as soon as the unfortunate minister had been tempted beyond the holy threshold, he produced the warrant for his instant execution.

    Stilicho supported with calm resignation the injurious names of traitor and parricide; repressed the unseasonable zeal of his followers, who were ready to attempt an ineffectual rescue; and, with a firmness not unworthy of the last of the Roman generals, submitted his neck to the sword of Heraclian

    (DEF II, v.3, p.159-160)

    Tomb of Stilicho in San Ambrogio, Milan Italy.  Stilicho, the last, best hope for the Roman West as it collapsed, was murdered in a court coup.  This construction of various parts of old columns, capitals, old sarcophagi and re-used statuary is remembered as the final resting place of the executed Roman General

    Tomb of Stilicho in San Ambrogio, Milan Italy. Stilicho, the last, best hope for the Roman West as it collapsed, was murdered in a court coup. This construction of various parts of old columns, capitals, old sarcophagi and re-used statuary is remembered as the final resting place of the executed Roman General

    The Tomb of Stilicho
     

    A very hodge-podge construction of various materials is remembered now as the tomb of Stilicho in San Ambrogio in Milan, Italy. There is a very good overview with pictures at penelope.uchicago.edu here. The tomb could be a fake, or could actually be the construction from Late Antiquity as often (at this point in imperial architecture) building a monument meant raiding someone else’s and stealing the best bits for yourself (pictures from the same source as uchicago.edu above).

    More on Stilicho's tomb in San Ambrogio in Milan.  Detail of Stilicho's tomb - showing Late Antique capitals

    More on Stilicho's tomb in San Ambrogio in Milan. Detail of Stilicho's tomb - showing Late Antique capitals


    More on Stilicho's tomb in San Ambrogio in Milan.  Detail of Stilicho's tomb - showing Late Antique capitals

    More on Stilicho's tomb in San Ambrogio in Milan. Detail of Stilicho's tomb - showing Late Antique capitals

     
     
     

    Last Word…
    Famous Quote – Romans Don’t Give Tribute – Lands Speaker in Jail – Useless Acts of Honor
     

    On the occasion of giving Alaric 4000 lbs of gold to bribe him to take the General Master office of Illyricum for the West and LEAVE ITALY ALONE, the Roman Senate debated whether to pay or not – Lampadius made his famous statement, then scurried to a church to prevent his being seized and killed – not exactly the same as a Brutus defying imperial authority for the honor of the Senate and People of Rome. But it is a surprising act of belligerency by a Roman senator this late in the game of the Western empire.

    This from Gibbon (using the historian Zosimus as his guide):

    The tumult of virtue and freedom subsided; and the sum of four thousand pounds of gold was granted, under the name of a subsidy, to secure the peace of Italy, and to conciliate the friendship of the king of the Goths. Lampadius alone, one of the most illustrious members of the assembly, still persisted in his dissent; exclaimed with a loud voice, “This is not a treaty of peace, but of servitude ;”(103) and escaped the danger of such bold opposition by immediately retiring to the sanctuary of a Christian church.

    and in the footnote (Gibbon noting the huge gulf between East and West now – Latin (and bad Latin at that) has to be translated into a civilized language (Greek) for civilized historical readers to understand (Zosimus’s readers in the East).

    Note 103
    Zosimus, 1. v. [c. 29].p. 338, 339. He repeats the words of Lampadius as they were spoken [ in Latin, “Non est ista pax, sed pactio servitutis,” and then translates them into Greek for the benefit of his readers.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.157 fn.103)

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