Day 195 – Ken here (Th)(3-25-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.31 pp.220-230)(pages read: 1320)
A short day – not feeling so well, hopefully I won’t leave too much out of a very interesting period in the life of Europe, the extremely remote and subtle beginnings of Spain and France rising out of the ruins of provincial Roman Hispania and Gaul.
We continue with the character of Constantius III, general, and emperor for 7 months with Honorius, his killing of the usurper Constantine (lots of guys with Const-prefixes to their names in the 4th-5th centuries – hard to keep straight sometimes), more usurpers (Honorius had 7 – all of which were defeated – BY BARBARIAN-GENERALS – was no one noticing this pattern yet? – Honorius may have reigned for 30 years – a long reign indeed – but he never ruled), the multiple invasions of Spain, the death of Adolphus (the Gothic king – murdered), and the sacking and pillaging of Gaul by the now legally acknowledged barbarian “hospites” (that is “guests” of the Roman Empire – living under their own laws, taking Roman land, but acknowledging the emperor and delivering taxes sometimes from Roman landlords, but mostly keeping it for themselves).
All in all a sad state of affairs – and a sad, but interesting day of reporting from the Gibbon-world
Spain was a totally un-ravished set of Roman provinces in the early 400’s and had been for 400 years. Not that Spain was un-warlike , it was protected by its remoteness and its natural frontier in the Pyrenees and the protection (most importantly) by its own native troops who guarded the borders. How did it fall eventually, and so easily in 409? The native troops were replaced by imperial legions (who were mostly mercenary, almost barbarian at this point, and not particularly interested at all in dying for the sake of Roman Hispania or the concept of the Roman Empire even if it came to that). Constantine (the usurper) re-assigned the border (the Pyrenees) to his own “crack” imperial troops, then sped off to Arles to defend his life. Unsurprisingly, when the Alanic, Suevic, and Vandalic hordes descended upon the Spanish peninusula, instead of finding a fierce contest (which may have spared Spain for a generation possibly), they found pliable, buy-able, treasonous imperial troops who opened the doors wide open and brought the war to every city, field, and village in Roman Spain – thus destroying the economy, and breaking the back of Spanish prosperity for centuries.
This from Gibbon:
The arts and sciences flourished under the protection of the emperors; and if the character of the Spaniards was enfeebled by peace and servitude, the hostile approach of the Germans, who had spread terror and desolation from the Rhine to the Pyrenees, seemed to rekindle some sparks of military ardour.
As long as the defence of the mountains was intrusted to the hardy and faithful militia of the country, they successfully repelled the frequent attempts of the barbarians But no sooner had the national troops been compelled to resign their post of the Honorian bands in the service of Constantine, than the gates of Spain were treacherously betrayed to the public enemy, about ten months before the sack of Rome by the Goths. The consciousness of guilt, and the thirst of rapine, prompted the mercenary guards of the Pyrenees to desert their station; to invite the arms of the Suevi, the Vandals, and the Alani; and to swell the torrent which was poured with irresistible violence from the frontiers of Gaul to the sea of Africa. The misfortunes of Spain may be described in the language of its most eloquent historian, who has concisely expressed the passionate, and perhaps exaggerated, declamations of contemporary writers.
The irruption of these nations was followed by the most dreadful calamities: as the barbarians exercised their indiscriminate cruelty on the fortunes of the Romans and the Spaniards, and ravaged with equal fury the cities and the open country. The progress of famine reduced the miserable inhabitants to feed on the flesh of their fellow-creatures; and even the wild beasts, who multiplied, without control, in the desert, were exasperated by the taste of blood and the impatience of hunger boldly to attack and devour their human prey. Pestilence soon appeared, the inseparable companion of famine; a large proportion of the people was swept away; and the groans of the dying excited only the envy of their surviving friends. At length the barbarians, satiated with carnage and rapine, and afflicted by the contagious evils which they themselves had introduced, fixed their permanent seats in the depopulated country.
(DEF II, v.3, p.224)
Galicia, the far North-Western coast of Spain, was the relatively inaccessible stronghold of Spanish loyalists who did not want to be the “subjects” of the new Vandal, Suevi, Alani horde pillaging Hispania at the time. Not that they particularily wanted to pay Roman taxes again either.
This from Gibbon:
The ancient Gallicia, whose limits included the kingdom of Old Castille, was divided between the Suevi and the Vandals: the Alani were scattered over the provinces of Carthagena and Lusitania, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean; and the fruitful territory of Baetica was allotted to the Silingi, another branch of the Vandalic nation.
After regulating this partition, the conquerors contracted with their new subjects some reciprocal engagements of protection and obedience: the lands were again cultivated; and the towns and villages were again occupied by a captive people. The greatest part of the Spaniards was even disposed to prefer this new condition of poverty and barbarism to the severe oppressions of the Roman government; yet there were many who still asserted their native freedom, and who refused, more especially in the mountains of Gallicia, to submit to the barbarian yoke.(158)
and this in the footnote:
Mariana de Rebus Hispanicis, 1. v. c. 1, tom. i. p. 148. Hag. Comit. 1733. He had read in Orosius (1. vii. c. 41, p. 579) that the barbarians had turned their swords into ploughshares; and that many of the provincials preferred inter Barbaros pauperem libertatem, quam inter Romanos tributariam solicitudinem, sustinere. (…preferred impoverished liberty among the barbarians rather supporting Tributes and Special Taxes among the Romans.)
(DEF II, v.3, p.225, fn.158)