Posted by: ken98 | March 29, 2010

Silly Rebellions, Insanely Corrupt Bureaucracies, and Bandit Princes

Day 199 – Ken here (M)(3-29-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.32 pp.240-250)(pages read: 1340)

We continue chapter 32 with more on the eunuch Eutroprius, a silly rebellion in Asia Minor, and a seriously flawed Treason Law.
I’m a little beat, so this will be shorter than usual today.

The Story
 
The Eunuch Eutroprius’s Character – the People He Ruined – Insanely Corrupt Late Imperial Bureaucracies
 
  • Gibbon cannot let up on Eutroprius – granted Gibbon loves the poet Claudian, and Claudian hates Eutroprius, and Claudian’s satyrical poems are also one of Gibbon’s primary historical sources for this period – so it makes sense (although it’s too bad we’re relying on comedy material for history again – back to the National Lampoonish – Augustan Histories problem. However,
  • He sells provinces for a price -the prices posted on a board in front of his office (this is one of the most common offenses in all Roman history – everyone is accused of it)
  • He ruins great men – Abundantius – because Abundantius knew Eutroprius when he was just a cook’s helper, and introduced Eutr. to the palace. Could there be another reason? (ruining great men is another one of those most-common offenses)
  • He ruins Timasius – because of an improper promotion? Much more and much less to this story than meets the eye – see below LAST WORD
  • Timasius – according to some, becomes a sort of Bandit Prince
  •  

    The Extraordinary Treason Law – Which Lasted Well into the 18th Century in Law Books (9-4-397)
     
  • This is a law that made it into the Summary of Laws in the Theodosian Code, AND Justinian’s Summary – the problem (in Gibbon’s eyes) is that from there, the Theodosian and Justinian Codes became the basis of European Continental Law, and so this definition of Treason became a model, or at least a debating point for modern (read: Gibbon’s 18th century) legal theory
  • Under Eutroprius, the emperor Arcadius enacts a Treason Law which makes treasonable – acts of conspiracy against those the emperor CONSIDERS PART OF HIS OWN BODY. Conspiracy may be proved by THOUGHTS and ACTIONS. This opens up the definition of treason to almost anyone of importance in the imperial bureacracy under a weak emperor – the penalty is death and confiscation of property
  • Also, children of the condemned are NOT executed (a sign of leniency?) but are prevented from inheriting any property – from anyone (kin or stranger) ever again as long as they live
  • 3 thoughts: 1) it didn’t help Eutroprius in the end – he was convicted and condemned and executed. 2) Romans consistently ignored laws. The same laws had to be re-enacted over and over and over again. Its mere presence in the code is interesting, but not exactly meaningful. 3) It is one definition of Treason in the code – there are others.
  •  

    Silly Revolts – The Ostrogoth Tribigild’s Rebellion – Asia Minor Gets Ransacked (399)
     
  • This revolt seems silly to me, because 1) it starts because one Gothic nation sees another Gothic nation sacking its HOST NATION (Rome) and wants in on the action, and 2) the Romans send a Gothic General, who promptly goes to other side, cuts a deal with the marauding general and PRETENDS to fight, while actually DIRECTING the marauders to profitable, undefended towns. Is everyone MAD at this point?
  • The Ostrogoth Tribigild revolts in Asia Minor – he is mad at watching Alaric march through the empire getting rich while he politely tills the soil in Phrygia in Asia Minor. He rampages across Asian Minor.
  • Eutroprius sends Gainas the Goth to take care of him with a host of barbarian troops. Tribilgild corrupts the troops of Gainas easily, and Gainas from then on avoids fighting Tribigild – Gainas actually aids Tribigild in raping and pillaging by actively dis-protecting areas of Asia Minor, leaving them open and available for Tribigild’s plundering. Is this really true?
  •  

    The Eunuch Eutroprius’s Fall (After 4 Years in Power) (399)
     
  • After 4 years, the empress Eudoxia turns on Eutroprius and he is condemned.
  • He seeks sanctuary in Constantinople’s Cathedral under the great John Chrysostom
  • He is exiled, but recalled by Eudoxia, tried a second time (for using the imperial color of horses (white) harnessed to his chariot) and condemned to death, and executed
  •  

     

     
     
     

    Photo of the Siwa oasis in Egypt - deep in the desert, close to the modern Libyan border.  This is the place the great General Timasius was exiled to after his trial in Constantinople.  From here he either died, was executed by order of the (evil eunuch) Eutroprius, or became a Libyan bandit and outlaw with his son Syagrius.  Gibbon likes the last explanation the best.

    Photo of the Siwa oasis in Egypt - deep in the desert, close to the modern Libyan border. This is the place the great General Timasius was exiled to after his trial in Constantinople. From here he either died, was executed by order of the (evil eunuch) Eutroprius, or became a Libyan bandit and outlaw with his son Syagrius. Gibbon likes the last explanation the best.

    Last Word…
    The Ruin of Timasius – the late emperor Theodosius’s Master General – More a Medieval Romance Than History at this Point – Gibbon Struggles To Write History Working With No Material At Hand and Ends Up With a Bandit Prince
     

    Timasius, the Great Master General under Theodosius, after a signal victory over the Goths in Thessaly, gave command of a cohort to a man who was not worthy of command, but was just a friend of Timasius’s. Apparently, Eutroprius encouraged the better choice, a man called Bargus, to instigate charges against Timasius (Bargus himself is ruined by Eutroprius later). He was charged and found guilty (of what? exactly?) – and sent into exile in a remote desert oasis in Libya where he either did, or did not 1) die of thirst trying to escape, 2) died of a private death warrant sent by Eutroprius, 3) became a Libyan outlaw with the help of his son Syagrius. All of this is subsumed under Gibbon’s recitation of Eutroprius’s crimes – it’s hard to see the innocent man here though. Is it Timasius? Is it Eutroprius? Is it Bargus? Is it everybody? – (most likely everyone – the Late Empire was a hornet’s nest of endemic corruption and perpetual intrigue with huge amounts of money being transacted,and power brokered left and right – it was wildly out of control – forms of law were respected, but the spirit of the law was dead – of which partially explains its fall). What about Timasius? Timasius is immensely wealthy, he promotes the wrong man, is arraigned and found guilty (of taking bribes? promoting incompetents?) and exiled – this is literature, not history.

    This from Gibbon:

    That great officer, the master-general of the armies of Theodosius, had signalised his valour by a decisive victory which he obtained over the Goths of Thessaly but he was too prone, after the example of his sovereign, to enjoy the luxury of peace and to abandon his confidence to wicked and designing flatterers.

    Timasius had despised the public clamour by promoting an infamous dependent to the command of a cohort; and he deserved to feel the ingratitude of Bargus, who was secretly instigated by the favourite to accuse his patron of a treasonable conspiracy. The general was arraigned before the tribunal of Arcadius himself; and the principal eunuch stood by the side of the throne to suggest the questions and answers of his sovereign. But as this form of trial might be deemed partial and arbitrary, the further inquiry into the crimes of Timasius was delegated to Saturnius and Procopius; the former of consular rank, the latter still respected as the father-in-law of the emperor Valens. The appearances of a fair and legal proceeding were maintained by the blunt honesty of Procopius; and he yielded with reluctance to the obsequious dexterity of his colleague, who pronounced a sentence of condemnation against the unfortunate Timasius.

    His immense riches were confiscated in the name of the emperor and for the benefit of the favourite; and he was doomed to perpetual exile at Oasis, a solitary spot in the midst of the sandy deserts of Libya. Secluded from all human converse, the master-general of the Roman armies was lost for ever to the world; but the circumstances of his fate have been related in a various and contradictory manner. It is insinuated that Eutropius despatched a private order for his secret execution. It was reported that in attempting to escape from Oasis he perished in the desert of thirst and hunger, and that his dead body was found on the sands of Libya. It has been asserted with more confidence that his son Syagrius, after successfully eluding the pursuit of the agents and emissaries of the court, collected a band of African robbers that he rescued Timasius from the place of his exile; and that both the father and the son disappeared from the knowledge of mankind.

    But the ungrateful Bargus, instead of being suffered to possess the reward of guilt, was soon afterwards circumvented and destroyed by the more powerful villainy of the minister himself, who retained sense and spirit enough to abhor the instrument of his own crimes.

    (DEF II. v.3, p.242-243)

    Map of Egpyt showing Siwa oasis in the middle of the desert (upper left hand corner).  Definitely an isolated place to live after a wealthy life in the empire's capital for the condemned General Timasius

    Map of Egpyt showing Siwa oasis in the middle of the desert (upper left hand corner). Definitely an isolated place to live after a wealthy life in the empire's capital for the condemned General Timasius

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