Posted by: ken98 | March 23, 2010

Legends of the Fall and Gibbon prefers Goths (to Spanish-Germans)

Day 193 – Ken here (T)(3-23-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.31 pp.200-210)(pages read: 1300)

Kind of a cloudy day, not feeling so hot again, but doing OK. We continue on in chapter 31 – the Big Sack Chapter.

Today is a big day – the Sack of Rome – the first in 600 years! And, this a big wake-up call to the self-satisfied Roman Empire that something had gone seriously wrong in the Imperial family of provinces. It’s no longer just a dysfunctional family – the family itself is disappearing.

The Story
 
Build-up to Alaric’s Sack of Rome (Aug 24, 410)
 
  • Surrounded at Ravenna, Honorius allows Sarus (rival chieftain of the Goths, enemy of Adolphus) to attack the Goths besieging Ravenna, Sarus wins, then taunts the remaining Goths from the walls (the further we get into the Dark Ages, the more taunting – with very bad consequences – seems to go on
  • Rome is besieged also, slaves open the Salernian Gate and the Goths enter for 6 days of raping and pillaging
  •  

    The Legends of the Fall – the Goths Have Religious Scruples
     
  • Gibbon tells stories of Goths who respect churches and virgins – apparently not the usual outcome of any story involving a Goth, a church, and a virgin
  • Many Romans survive by taking refuge in the churches of St Peter and St Paul – the Vatican
  •  

    The Sack of Rome and the Fire
     
  • Streets are filled with dead bodies
  • 40,000 slaves rise up against their masters
  • Rome is denuded of any gold, silver, gems which turn up centuries later in Visigothic Spain, and Frankish Gaul
  •  

    Katrina of 410 – Refugees and Captives
     
  • Captives were publicly auctioned off in the open market
  • Rome passed a law that those ransomed would have to work for 5 years to re-pay their redemption
  • Many captured provincials had been herded into Italy with Alaric’s forces
  • Cities across the empire accepted families fleeing Italy, for resettlement (temporary, or permanent) just like the Katrina resettlements for New Orleans – like Katrina, many did not return after Alaric left
  •  

    Gibbon Tangent – Charles V Sacks Rome
     
  • Gibbon compares the Sack of Rome (410)to Charles V’s Sack of Rome (1527) (a Catholic, and a Spaniard, not a good combination in Gibbon’s view) – Charles V rates very low in comparison
  • Charles V is a Hohenzollern, a German (Holy Roman Emperor) who inherited and owned most of Europe (including Spain) in the 1500’s (with the notable exceptions of France and Britain among others)
  •  

    Alaric leaves Rome after 6 days of Plunder and Rape, Begins his 4 Year Rape of Italy
     
  • Alaric leaves and moves SOUTH, not NORTH as everyone expected
  • He rapes and pillages through Campania
  • His plan is to cross to Sicily, and then to Africa to continue his plundering (and rule)
  •  
     

     

    Painting of the 1527 Sack of Rome by Johannes Lingelbach -  17th century.  Gibbon (typically English and definitely anti-Spaniard, anti-Empire) contrasts the Sack of the Goths in 410 of Rome with the Sack by the Imperial Troops of Charles V (remember, this is the same Imperial, globe-girdling Spain that tried to invade England in the late 1500's - the Spanish Armada).   Gibbon gives a page to denouncing the barbarity of the Imperials, and the relative civilization of the Gothic barbarians

    Painting of the 1527 Sack of Rome by Johannes Lingelbach - 17th century. Gibbon (typically English and definitely anti-Spaniard, anti-Empire) contrasts the Sack of the Goths in 410 of Rome with the Sack of Rome by the the Imperial Troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain, Germany,et al. (remember, this is the same Imperial, globe-girdling Spain that tried to invade England in the late 1500's - the Spanish Armada). Gibbon devotes a page and a half to denouncing the barbarity of Charles V's Imperials, and praising the restraint of Alaric's Gothic barbarians. Gibbon LIKES Alaric. What's not to like?

    Legends of the Fall – The Sack of Rome – The End of the World, But for Christian Annalists, an Opportunity for Imagination and Proselytization
     

    The sack of Rome represented something far larger than the fall of what was probably the biggest city in the world at the time, it was a spiritual and political heart-attack for the Roman Empire. The unthinkable had happened, rough barbarism had triumphed entirely (and easily) over the rule of law and the cultured, civilized, city-life of the nations living around the Mediterranean (or so it seemed to the inhabitants at the time). It seemed the end of the world, and it was to some extent.

    Annalists, the men who took over for classical historians and recorded each year’s notable events (annum = latin for year), performed the outward form of history-writing without any of the reflexes or critical review of evidence which would separate a listing of facts, myths, and legends, from a true attempt at a history. So from here on in, much of the historical evidence in “histories” mix the everyday with the fantastical – making the modern reconstruction/interpretation of what actually happened all the more difficult.

    Gibbon has the same difficulty, but confronted with the need to WRITE SOMETHING, he is forced to use sources he probably would not have even considered in previous centuries.

    Of the stories annalists felt important enough to write down and preserve, here are a couple of examples of the miraculously civilized behavior of the Goths during the sack of Rome in 410 (as reported by Gibbon, quoting

    This from Saint Augustine in his City of God!

    but he (Alaric) exhorted them at the same time to spare the lives of the unresisting citizens, and to respect the churches of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul as holy and inviolable sanctuaries. Amidst the horrors of a nocturnal tumult several of the Christian Goths displayed the fervour of a recent conversion; and some instances of their uncommon piety and moderation are related, and perhaps adorned, by the zeal of ecclesiastical writers.

    While the barbarians roamed through the city in quest of prey, the humble dwelling of an aged virgin, who had devoted her life to the service of the altar, was forced open by one of the powerful Goths. He immediately demanded, though in civil language, all the gold and silver in her possession, and was astonished at the readiness with which she conducted him to a splendid hoard of massy plate of the richest materials and the most curious workmanship. The barbarian viewed with wonder and delight this valuable acquisition, till he was interrupted by a serious admonition, addressed to him in the following words: “These,” said she, “are the consecrated vessels belonging to St. Peter: if you presume to touch them, the sacrilegious deed will remain on your conscience. For my part, I dare not keep what I am unable to defend.”

    The Gothic captain, struck with reverential awe, despatched a messenger to inform the king of the treasure which he had discovered, and received a peremptory order from Alaric, that all the consecrated plate and ornaments should be transported, without damage or delay, to the church of the apostle. From the extremity, perhaps, of the Quirinal hill to the distant quarter of the Vatican, a numerous detachment of Goths, marching in order of battle through the principal streets, protected with glittering arms the long train of their devout companions who bore aloft on their heads the sacred vessels of gold and silver, and the martial shouts of the barbarians were mingled with the sound of religious psalmody.

    From all the adjacent houses a crowd of Christians hastened to join this edifying procession, and a multitude of fugitives, without distinction of age or rank, or even of sect, had the good fortune to escape to the secure and hospitable sanctuary of the Vatican.

    The learned work concerning the City of God was professedly composed by St. Augustin, to justify the ways of Providence in the destruction of the Roman greatness. He celebrates with peculiar satisfaction this memorable triumph of Christ, and insults his adversaries by challenging them to produce some similar example of a town taken by storm, in which the fabulous gods of antiquity had been able to protect either themselves or their deluded votaries.(100)


    (DEF II, v.3, p.201-2)

     
     
     

    Modern photo of Santa Susanna (finished 1603) in Rome.  It is the last in a long series of churches and palaces which have occupied that same spot.  A palace from Julius Caesar's time of Sallust was still standing at the time of the Goth's invasion (410) (and had been a -house church- before).  It was in ruins for a century and a half at least up to Justinian's time (550's).

    Modern photo of Santa Susanna (finished 1603) in Rome. It is the last in a long series of churches and palaces which have occupied that same spot. A palace from Julius Caesar's time (of Sallust) was still occupied 400 years later at the time of the Goth's invasion (410) (and had been a -house church- for a long time). The palace was in ruins for a century and a half at least up to Justinian's time (550's). It was a significant ruin, and a sign of the permanent effects of the Gothic invasion for many, many years. Rome would never really recover, until after the Renaissance, 1000 years in the future

    Last Word…
    The Ruins of a Roman Palace Turning up in the Ukraine
     

    Gibbon writes (quoting his contemporary author Nardini – Roma Antica) about the ruins of the palace of Sallust (built 400 years earlier, but still in the family) destroyed in the Goth’s Sack of Rome (410) and still un-rebuilt 130 years later in the time of Justinian (530-550). It was subsequently used for expansion of the Church of Santa Susanna, which itself was rebuilt several times, the last version being the most famous (the very Roman Baroque Counter-Reformation Church above). The Church to Santa Susanna has an earliest reference in the early 200’s in a “house church” – which might have been part of the old Sallust-ian palace. The church was a couple of doors down from the Baths of Diocletian, Santa Susanna is still at the same address.

    In the Ukraine, in brick rather than travertine, a copy of the new Santa Susanna was built later in the 17th century in Lviv Ukraine (see photo below). What a long, strange history – from palace, to house-church, through various large buildings and finally ending up with the “modern” 17th century Santa Susanna, and its 17th century twin.

    A replica of Santa Susanna in Rome, built in the 17th century in Lviv Ukraine.

    A replica of Santa Susanna in Rome, built in the 17th century in Lviv Ukraine.

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