Posted by: ken98 | April 12, 2010

Golden Mouths, Forgotten Navies, Scorned Women

Day 213 – Ken here (M)(4-12-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.32 pp.250-260)(pages read: 1350)

Well, I’m back at it – a little worse for the wear, but still reading and writing (feeling a little tired though).

We continue in the first decade of the 400’s with the General Gainas (nominally Roman, but a leader of an independent Goth band of warriors) pretending to hunt his rival Goth Tribigild, but secretly allying himself with Tribigild to sack the Eastern empire. Gibbon spends a lot of time praising John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople, and we briefly look at a forgotten and lost naval kingdom on the Baltic side of the Adriatic below Venice – the Liburnians – and thier distinctive ships – the Liburnas.

The Story
Fall of Gainas (the barbarian Usurper-General) Imperial Musical Chairs a la the Year 400
  • Gainas is Arian (a heretic by Catholic standards) – (as are most Goths) – so the empire is hostile against him
  • Gainas was sent to take care of the Goth Tribigild’s rebellion – he pursues Tribigild, but does not battle his horde, while sending excuses back to Constantinople why he fails to engage the enemy pillaging the Syria
  • Gainias unites with Tribigild’s forces, marches on Constantinople, forces the death of opposing ministers (Aurelian and Saturninus) (this is so odd – why these two? like Rosencrantz and Gildenstern in Shakespeare – these 2 make their brief appearance in history only to be killed almost immediately)
  • Gainas enters and takes Constantinople as Master General of the Imperial Armies – riot and pillaging in Const.
  • He has his forces transported across the Hellespont into Europe (BIG MISTAKE – now he’s trapped in Europe)
  • Due to religions bigotry (Const. hated Arians) troops and people rise in revolt and kill the Goths – 4th (5th?) massacre of the Goths (7-2-400)
  • Gainas attempts to go back to Asia, his lieutenant Fravitta (also a Goth), now in power in Const. destroys a great part of the Goths trying to get passage back sailing across the striats away from Const. back to Asia Minor (12-23-400)
  • Gainas decides to retreat north – moves north with army – Fravitta has a consulship, and does not pursue him
  • Gainas’s army destroyed by the Huns who have taken over the Danube, his head is sent back to Const. (1-3-401)

    Election of John (Golden-mouthed) Chrysostom to Bishop of Constantinople
  • Death of Gregory of Nanianzen as bish. of Const. (this is the same Gregory that Julian the Apostate hated so much when Gregory at age 30 wrote pamphlets against Julian – what a very long time ago!) the eunuch Eutroprius nominates John of Antioch John Chrysostom (Chrys. = golden, stom = mouth) or Golden-Mouthed (3-26-398)
  • Grew up in Antioch – studied under the great pagan orator Libanius of Antioch
  • known for charitable works, est of hospitals and for 1000 sermons preserved, hated wealth, simony (purch of church offices) in the church
  • Gibbon loves Chrysostom

    John’s Character – His Administration
  • John hates Jews, hates females, hates monks, hates Egyptians (the last of which is poss understandable – an ancient Roman-Egyptian was perhaps one of the most devious, litigious, passionate, and violent of imperial citizens) (Gibbon of course, loves Chrysostom for hating monks and Egyptians – and Gibbon is a little bit of a misogynist himself, and has more than a touch of endemic, cultural, British 18th cent. anti-semitism as well)
  • lives simply, gives his very ample income to the poor
  • gives a great deal of trust to his close friends unreservedly – ex. Deacon Serapion – maybe in error

    John’s Persecution by the empress Eudoxia – Riots in Constantinople – Scorned Women
  • John gives sermons with very-thinly-veiled references to the sins of women – esp high-ranking women (read: empress Eudoxia) – some might call this bold – others might call it foolish grand-standing (I think he probably had more imp things to do as bishop of the most imp city in the West than pester royal spouses – but thats my opinion)
  • Eudoxia convenes (through Theophilus, Archbish. of Alexandria, Egypt (surprise, surprise) a synod convened in a suburb of Chalcedon called the OAK – which promptly deposes Chrysostom as bish. of Const. and recommends his exile as a traitor for calling the empress a “Jezebel” – Chrys. is arrested and exiled across the straits(403)
  • Riots in Const. at the news of Chrysostom’s being deposed. Chrys is returned to the capital. He preaches loud sermons against Herodias (who danced for the head of John the Baptist – read: Eudoxia – What a Stupid Thing To Do!) – more riots – and he is exiled a 2nd time

    John’s Exile, Death, and Sainthood
  • John exiled to remote village of Cucusus on the slopes of Mount Tarsus in Lower Armenia (6-20-404)
  • John dies there 3 years later, but while in exile is in constant contact with the outside world through letters and sermons – he recommends the destr. of temples in Phoenicia, takes care (as a bish.) of the congregations in Persia and Mesopotamia, battles heresy in Cyprus, negotiates with the bish. of Rome, still battles the emperor from afar
  • He is ordered removed even further to the deserts of Pityus, but dies en route at age of 60 at Pontus on the Euxine (9-14-407)
  • His relics are transported to Const. by order of the son of Arcadius and Eudoxia (emp. Theodosius II) who falls on John’s coffin and begs for forgiveness – he is later made a saint (1-27-438)


    Liburnians - ships of Liburnia - Reliefs from the Column of Trajan (Conrad Cichorius Plates LVIII).  These biremes were all that was left of the great Mediterranean fleets of the Ancient World.  Ancient naval architecture knowledge floundered and was lost in the Pax Romana.  Most of the rest of Roman knowledge would disappear anyways in the Dark Ages to come.

    Liburnas - ships of Liburnia - Reliefs from the Column of Trajan (Conrad Cichorius Plates LVIII). These biremes were all that was left of the great Mediterranean fleets of the Ancient World. Ancient naval architecture knowledge floundered and was lost in the Pax Romana. Most of the rest of Roman engineering knowledge would disappear in the Dark Ages to come - until inevitably, it was all reduced to myth and legend.


    A Casual Mention of the Loss of Entire Bodies of Knowledge and a Lost Nation of Seafaring City-States – Liburnia

    Gibbon notes in an aside in a footnote that seafaring capabilities in the Mediterranean – esp. of large ships had probably ceased centuries before when the Mediterranean had become a Roman lake, and the need for huge naval warships and a continual naval presence (except for piracy, and the inevitable civil wars) became unnecessary.

    It is telling that the name used by Late Roman navies were the bireme (two-tiered, oared warships) called Liburnians for the peoples of the seacoast of Bosnia/Herzogovina – Liburnia (in the province of Illyricum, Diocese of Dalmatia). Illyricum was famous for its pirates, its naval prowess, and was one reason for the establishment of the central Roman naval base of Ravenna on the Adriatic.

    Larger ships and more effective navies were known only through ancient (600 year old plus) passages (ex. Polybius) in very old reference/historical works. As the different classes of navy ships disappeared (6-banked, 5-banked, 4-banked, 3-banked, 2-banked (Liburnas)), all naval ships were called by the lowest rank – Liburnas – and this type became the only known war-ship plowing the Mediterranean sea.

    This from Gibbon:

    Note 037
    Zosimus (1. v. [c. 20] p. 319) mentions these galleys by the name of ‘Liburnians’, and observes that they were as swift (without explaining the difference between them) as the vessels with fifty oars; but that they were far inferior in speed to the ‘triremes’, which had been long disused. Yet he reasonably concludes, from the testimony of Polybius, that galleys of a still larger size had been constructed in the Punic wars. Since the establishment of the Roman empire over the Mediterranean, the useless art of building large ships of war had probably been neglected, and at length forgotten.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.251, fn.37)

    The Very Speedy Liburna (Perfect for a Pirate)

    And this from Wiki on the type of ship called the Liburna (from here)

    The most known Liburnian ship was their warship, known as a libyrnis to the Greeks and a liburna to the Romans, propelled by oars.
    According to some thoughts, liburna was shown in the scene of naval battle, curved on a stone tablet (Stele di Novilara) found near Antique Pisaurum (Pesaro), outlined to 5th or 6th century BC, the most possibly showing imaginary battle between Liburnian and Picenian fleets.

    Liburna was presented as light type of the ship with one row or the oars, one mast, one sail and prow twisted outwards. Under the prow there was a rostrum made for striking the enemy ships under the sea.

    By its original form, the liburna was the most similar to the Greek penteconter. It had one bench with 25 oars on each side, while in the late ages of the Roman Republic, it became a smaller version of a trireme, but with two banks of oars (a bireme), faster, lighter, and more agile than biremes and triremes. The liburnian design was adopted by the Romans and became a key part of Ancient Rome’s navy, most possibly by mediation of Macedonian navy in the 2nd half of the 1st century BC.

    Liburna ships played a key role in naval battle of Actium in Greece, which lasted from August 31 to September 2 of 31 BC. Because of the its naval and maneuver features and bravery of its Liburnian crews, these ships completely defeated much bigger and heavier eastern ships, quadriremes and penterames. Liburna was different to the battle triremes, quadriremes and quinqueremes not because of rowing but rather because of its specific constructional features. It was 109 ft (33 m) long and 16 ft (5 m) wide with a 3 ft (0.91 m) draft. Two rows of oarsmen pulled 18 oars per side. The ship could make up to 14 knots under sail and more than 7 under oars. Such a vessel, used as a merchantman, might take on a passenger, as Lycinus relates in the second-century dialogue, traditionally attributed to Lucian of Samosata: “I had a speedy vessel readied, the kind of bireme used above all by the Liburnians of the Ionian Gulf.”

    Once the Romans had adopted the liburnian, they proceeded to make a few adaptations to improve the ships’ use within the navy. The benefits gained from the addition of rams and protection from missiles more than made-up for the slight loss of speed. Besides the construction, the ships required that the regular Roman military unit be simplified in order to function more smoothly. Each ship operated as an individual entity, so the more complicated organization normally used was not necessary.

    Within the navy, there were probably liburnian of several varying sizes, all put to specific tasks such as scouting and patrolling Roman waters against piracy. The Romans made use of the liburnian particularly within the provinces of the empire, where the ships formed the bulk of the fleets, while it was included by small numbers in fleets of Ravenna and Micenum, where a large number of the Illyrians were serving, especially Dalmatae, Liburnians and Pannonians.

    Gradually liburna became general name for the different types of the Roman ships, attached also to the cargo ships in the Late Antique. Tacitus and Suetonius were using it as a synonym for the battle ship. In inscriptions it was mentioned as the last in class of the battle ships: hexeres, penteres, quadrieres, trieres, liburna.

    In the Medieval sources the “liburna” ships were often recorded in use by the Medieval Croatian and Dalmatian pirates and sailors, but probably not always referring to the ships of the same form.

    Map of Roman provinces of Illyricum, Macedonia, Moesia, Pannonia and Thracia.  Note Dalmatia - the site of the cities of Liburnia - the seafaring pirates and traders of the Late Roman Empire

    Map of Roman provinces of Illyricum, Macedonia, Moesia, Pannonia and Thracia. Note Dalmatia - the site of the cities of Liburnia - the seafaring pirates and traders of the Late Roman Empire


    Painting of Salome's (Herodias's) reward for dancing - the head of John the Baptist (Caravaggio).  John Chrysostom compared himself to John the Baptist, and insinuated that the empress of Rome (Eudoxia) was a Salome (aka Herodias) - dancing promiscuously in front of the empire for the head of John Chrysostom.  The empress Eudoxia was NOT amused.

    Painting of Salome's (Herodias's) reward for dancing - the head of John the Baptist (Caravaggio). John Chrysostom compared himself to John the Baptist, and insinuated that the empress of Rome (Eudoxia) was a Salome (aka Herodias) - dancing promiscuously in front of the empire for the head of John Chrysostom. The empress Eudoxia was NOT amused.


    Last Word…
    Gibbon Hating Females – On John’s Fiery Sermons – and the Gentle Art of Naming Names and Calling Ugly Women Ugly

    John Chrysostom is famous for his woman-hating, luxury-hating sermons. He provoked both his first and second exiles by attacking the empress herself from the imperial pulpit in Santa Sophia in Constantinople around the turn of the century (400). When he was in exile the first time, and re-instated by a mob (John was beloved by the poor of the capital city), he preached (unsurprisingly, but imprudently) about Herodias dancing once more for the head of John (the Baptist). He was exiled again – this time permanently, and very far away. He was to die in exile, 3 years later.

    This from Gibbon:

    The pastoral labours of the archbishop of Constantinople provoked and gradually united against him two sorts of enemies; the aspiring clergy, who envied his success, and the obstinate sinners, who were offended by his reproofs. When Chrysostom thundered from the pulpit of St. Sophia against the degeneracy of the Christians, his shafts were spent among the crowd, without wounding or even marking the character of any individual.

    When he declaimed against the peculiar vices of the rich, poverty might obtain a transient consolation from his invectives: but the guilty were still sheltered by their numbers; and the reproach itself was dignified by some ideas of superiority and enjoyment. But as the pyramid rose towards the summit, it insensibly diminished to a point; and the magistrates, the ministers, the favourite eunuchs, the ladies of the court, (43) the empress Eudoxia herself, had a much larger share of guilt to divide among a smaller proportion of criminals.

    (Naming Names)

    The personal applications of the audience were anticipated or confirmed by the testimony of their own conscience; and the intrepid preacher assumed the dangerous right of exposing both the offence and the offender to the public abhorrence. The secret resentment of the court encouraged the discontent of the clergy and monks of Constantinople, who were too hastily reformed by the fervent zeal of their archbishop.

    He had condemned from the pulpit the domestic females of the clergy of Constantinople, who, under the name of servants or sisters, afforded a perpetual occasion either of sin or of scandal. The silent and solitary ascetics, who had secluded themselves from the world, were entitled to the warmest approbation of Chrysostom; but he despised and stigmatised, as the disgrace of their holy profession, the crowd of degenerate monks, who, from some unworthy motives of pleasure or profit, so frequently infested the streets of the capital.

    To the voice of persuasion the archbishop was obliged to add the terrors of authority; and his ardour in the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction was not always exempt from passion; nor was it always guided by prudence. Chrysostom was naturally of a choleric disposition.

    Although he struggled, according to the precepts of the Gospel, to love his private enemies, he indulged himself in the privilege of hating the enemies of God and of the church; and his sentiments were sometimes delivered with too much energy of countenance and expression.

    and this from the footnote (in more revealing prose):

    Note 043
    The females of Constantinople distinguished themselves by their enmity or their attachment to Chrysostom. Three noble and opulent widows – Marsa, Castricia, and Eugraphia – were the leaders of the persecution (Pallad. Dialog. tom. xiii. p. 14 [c. 4, p. 35, ed. Paris, 1680]). It was impossible that they should forgive a preacher who reproached their affectation to conceal, by the ornaments of dress, their age and ugliness (Pallad. p. 27). Olympias, by equal zeal, displayed in a more pious cause, has obtained the title of saint. See Tillemont, Mem. Eccles. tom. xi. p. 416-440.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.254, fn.43)

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