Posted by: ken98 | April 15, 2010

The White Man’s Burden, How the West (well…Roman Africa) Was Won, and the Incredible Power of Chance and Stupidity in Human History

Day 216 – Ken here (Th)(4-15-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.33 pp.280-290)(pages read: 1380)

More interesting stuff – feeling better today – and I better feel better – lotsa material here to cover – in fact I’m going to have to save the Gay stuff for tomorrow’s Last Word.

We continue with chapter 33 and the loss of Roman Africa (for the first time) – Africa had been Roman for 500 years – longer than British colonists and their descendants have lived in North America by a century. A long, long time. Like Britain (400 years Roman) this was a HUGE transition (if you could call it that). Everyone lost their Roman property, and their Roman rights and now lived in a Germanic kingdom (parts of which were probably not a bad thing – much lower taxes, and a more equitable court system). We also see the loss of the last 2 Western Roman Generals and a weird DUEL between them to decide the fate of the Western Empire. Surprisingly they both lose and the West loses most of all. A semi-brief rant on The White Man’s Burden ensues in the Last Word Section (sorry I couldn’t help myself).

The Story
 
Donatists, Genseric, and Saint Augustine
 
  • Donatists (the more Catholic than the Catholics North African “heretics” – who thought persons who had once recanted their Christianity (during Roman persecutions 150 years earlier) could never return to the church, therefor had their own “pure” line of clergy, and “pure” congregations – also a sort of regional struggle between native North Africans and Imperial administrative control of the Church) are firmly entrenched in North Africa
  • Augustine vigorously persecutes them. He asks the Empire to outlaw Donatists, their Churches, Councils, and even the citizenship rights of practicing Donatists. Honorius agrees. Great civil persecution of Donatists and North Africa is divided by geurilla warfare and imperial reprisals.
  • The Vandal Genseric (an Arian) but an opponent to Imperial Catholic rule easily gets Donatist support
  •  

    Genseric the Barbarian Vandal Chieftain lands in Africa – How He Won
     
  • Boniface invites Genseric over to help him bolster his armies in armed conflict with the empire (the conflict was apparently a fabrication by his arch-rival Aetius to force him to destroy himself in such a manner) (429)
  • Boniface is shown the error of his ways by Darius – heading the Roman embassy attempting to patch up the quarrel (sent out by Placidia) (430)
  • Too late, Boniface attacks the Vandals, but although inflicting heavy losses is defeated and retreats to Hippo Regius which he holds against Genseric for an impressive 14 months – and watches Augustine of Hippo die (8-28-430) of natural causes at age 76.
  • Armed bands of Donatists flock to Genseric’s banner
  • The Moors of North Africa (naturally) flock to Genseric’s banner (but probably NOT because they were “swarthy” and the Vandals were “fair-haired” and “blue-eyed” (see below – White Man’s Burden) – more probably because the enemy of your enemy is at times your friend
  • Boniface fights one more series of battles with the help of Placidia’s invited Eastern Empire forces (under Aspar). They are defeated. Boniface retreats to Italy and is “rewarded” by Placidia with titles and victories
  • 8 years (431-439) of bloody consolidation – mostly within his OWN NATION, Genseric gets the Vandals to Carthage (the Rome of the Africa and the granary of all of Europe) and takes all of Africa
  • Genseric forces all moveable wealth to be given over to the Vandals, then re-allocates all the land to Vandal lords. So much for all the last 5 centuries of land accumulation by obscenely rich Roman Senators (North Africa, and Spain and Sicily were famous (or infamous) for the vast factory states-within-the-state landholdings/villas of the hyper-rich Roman elite – run pretty much as private fiefs or kingdoms by the Senatorial families in charge – all gone now
  •  

    General Boniface, his Defeats, Disgrace, Duels and Death, Aetius Driven to Huns and Banishment
     
  • the Generals Boniface and Aetius are the last of the strong Roman Generals – they hate each other
  • Boniface is tricked by Aetius his arch-rival into revolting through forgeries
  • Boniface invites Vandals into North Africa to aid him in his civil war
  • Boniface finds out too late he was mistaken – fights but loses to the Vandals
  • Vandals overrun Boniface’s Africa
  • Placidia (Boniface’s friend now) gets help from the East – Aspar and a fleet come in to fight
  • They lose
  • Boniface goes back to Italy – leaves Africa to the ravages, pillaging, raping etc of the joyful Vandals – takes 8 years for the Vandals to attain a full victory
  • Boniface rewarded by Placidia with titles and victories. Aetius leaves Gaul quickly to do battle with Boniface and re-gain his ascendancy
  • They have a PERSONAL DUEL (can this be real? – how MEDIEVAL CAN YOU GET? – or ARCHAIC HEROIC? ) to decide who will govern the West. Boniface wins, but is wounded mortally. The West loses one of its two great generals</li>
  • Boniface gives his wife to Aetius to wed – Gibbon thinks it Christian – could it be a move to save his family? – wheels within wheels within wheels – we’ll never know truly what was going through those Late Roman heads of theirs
  • Placidia has an implacable hatred of Aetius – drives him out of the empire
  •  

    Disgrace of Aetius – Rome is Without competent Generals and Overrun by Barbarians (Again)
     
  • Aetius loses Gaul, Hispania by coming to Italy to “duel” Boniface to see who will rule the Western Empire
  • He loses his duel, but mortally wounds Boniface, earning him the unending hatred of Boniface’s patroness – Placidia
  • Placidia hounds Aetius out of the West – he runs to Pannonia and the Huns. The Romans lose their only other capable general in one year’s time (432) – BAD NEWS FOR THE EMPIRE IN THE WEST
  •  

     

    Aetius - coin of Aetius - general/ruler in Gaul under Valentinian III and one of the last great Roman Generals - one of the last two Rome had as the barbarians were systematically dismembering province after province from the body-politic.  Unfortunately for the West, the Generals Boniface and Aetius hated each other - had a personal duel to decide the fate of the Western Empire and ended up killing and exiling each other.  Rome was now officially S.O.L, under a cloud, up a creek.

    Aetius - coin of Aetius - general/ruler in Gaul under Valentinian III and one of the last great Roman Generals - one of the last two Rome had as the barbarians were systematically dismembering province after province from the Roman body-politic. Unfortunately for the West, the Generals Boniface and Aetius hated each other - had a personal duel to decide the fate of the Western Empire and ended up killing and exiling each other. Rome was now officially under a cloud, up a creek, S.O.L.

    Dueling Romans Fight In Personal Combat For the Rule of the West – The Generals Boniface and Aetius – Can This Be True? Sounds Medieval or Archaic Heroic
     

    Gibbon relates briefly the “duel” Boniface and Aetius had to decide the (virtual male) rule of the Western Empire. At this point in the West, Valentinian III ruled (but he was under 10 years old), his mother Placidia was the real government, but the generals who defended the empire were the rulers of the empire. It is strange to think how much reverence is given to the forms of empire in this time (later 300’s, first 1/2 of the 400’s) and how little it matters where the real power actually puddles.

    Even more surprising is the idea that a duel between two parties (Boniface and Aetius) would decide such important public choices. In some ways we are truly back to the last days of the Republic when it was with the Great Men (Sulla, Caesar, Octavian, etc) and not the formal, age-old government of the Republic where growth, dynamic action, and responsibility and authority focussed into intense areas of incredible political power. So maybe we have come full circle in the last 500 years. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

    Still, it is interesting that the concept of personal combat by two individuals would be accepted by the general public as a valid political decision. It has obvious parallels with Early Medieval Justice – trial by combat, and allowing God to aid and make victorious the righteous party. Perhaps this was the reasoning in part. An early form of Christian divination by dueling javelin to determine God’s will. But I think it also sprang from the charisma and the tried and true very-Roman auctoritas (From Wiki here – “In ancient Rome, Auctoritas referred to the general level of prestige a person had in Roman society, and, as a consequence, his clout, influence, and ability to rally support around his will”) still alive and well in the increasingly rareified and Antique atmosphere of the very small and uber-rich world of the Late Roman Senatorial class.

    This (from Gibbon) is a description of the whys, wheres, hows, and whats of the Aetius/Boniface duel in 431:

    By the skill of Boniface, and perhaps by the ignorance of the Vandals, the siege of Hippo was protracted above fourteen months: the sea was continually open; and when the adjacent country had been exhausted by irregular rapine, the besiegers themselves were compelled by famine to relinquish their enterprise.

    The importance and danger of Africa were deeply felt by the regent of the West. Placidia implored the assistance of her Eastern ally and the Italian fleet and army were reinforced by Aspar, who sailed from Constantinople with a powerful armament. As soon as the force of the two empires was united under the command of Boniface, he boldly marched against the Vandals; and the loss of a second battle irretrievably decided the fate of Africa. He embarked with the precipitation of despair, and the people of Hippo were permitted, with their families and effects, to occupy the vacant place of the soldiers, the greatest part of whom were either slain or made prisoners by the Vandals.

    The count, whose fatal credulity had wounded the vitals of the republic, might enter the palace of Ravenna with some anxiety, which was soon removed by the smiles of Placidia. Boniface accepted with gratitude the rank of patrician and the dignity of master-general of the Roman armies; but he must have blushed at the sight of those medals in which he was represented with the name and attributes of victory. (31)

    The Duel

    The discovery of his fraud, the displeasure of the empress, and the distinguished favour of his rival, exasperated the haughty and perfidious soul of Aetius. He hastily returned from Gaul to Italy, with a retinue, or rather With an army, of barbarian followers; and such was the weakness of the government, that the two generals decided their private quarrel in a bloody battle. Boniface was successful; His death, A.D. 432 but he received in the conflict a mortal wound from the spear of his adversary, of which he expired within a few days, in such Christian and charitable sentiments that he exhorted his wife, a rich heiress of Spain, to accept Aetius for her second husband.

    But Aetius could not derive any immediate advantage from the generosity of his dying enemy: he was proclaimed a rebel by the justice of Placidia; and though he attempted to defend some strong fortresses, erected on his patrimonial estate, the Imperial power soon compelled him to retire into Pannonia, to the tents of his faithful Huns. The republic was deprived by their mutual discord of the service of her two most illustrious champions.

    Gibbon footnote on the duel – or duels as Gibbon hypothesizes:
    Note 032
    Procopius (de Bell. Vandal. 1. i. c. 3, p. 185 [tom. i. p. 325, ed. Bonn]) continues the history of Boniface no farther than his return to Italy. His death is mentioned by Prosper [Ann. 432] and Marcellinus; the expression of the latter, that Aetius the day before had provided himself with a longer spear, implies something like a regular duel.

    (a regular duel meaning a regular 18th century duel apparently)

    And this from the footnote – noting Gibbon’s incredulity in the Empire issuing a medallion celebrating an emperor on one side and a general (Boniface) on the other (the medal was the medal given him as a “victory” medal by Placidia when he was totally defeated in Africa and had pretty much entirely given over the 7 provinces to the rampages of the invading Vandals:

    Note 031
    Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 67. On one side, the head of Valentinian; on the reverse, Boniface with a scourge in one hand and a palm in the other, standing in a triumphal car, which is drawn by four horses, or, in another medal, by four stags; an unlucky emblem ! I should doubt whether another example can be found of the head of a subject on the reverse of an Imperial medal. See Science des Medailles, by the Pere Jobert, tom. i. p. 132-1 50, edit. of 1739, by the Baron de la Bastie.

    (DEF, II, v.3, ch.32, p.287, fn. 31.32)

     
     
     

    Cover of Jack London novel - The Valley of the Moon.  In it, London often mentions the declining fortunes of the  - native -  Anglo-Saxon citizens of the U.S. in comparison to upstart immigration groups from other parts of Europe - ex. Southern Europe, etc.  He is symptomatic of his age, but difficult to read now with any seriousness.  Gibbon, likewise has the  - normal (to his time) -  cultural prejudices of a British (read: Anglo-Saxon) citizen confronted with races having darker colored skin

    Cover of Jack London novel - The Valley of the Moon. In it, London often mentions the declining fortunes of the - native - Anglo-Saxon citizens of the U.S. in comparison to upstart immigration groups from other parts of Europe - ex. Southern Europe, etc. He is symptomatic of his age, but difficult to read now with any seriousness. Gibbon, likewise has the - normal - (for his time) cultural prejudices of a British (read: Anglo-Saxon) citizen confronted with races having darker colored skin

    Last Word…
    White Man’s Burden – Edward Gibbon, Upton Sinclair, Rudyard Kipling
     

    For anyone who has ever read the surprising and malignantly violent racism in the brief 3-4 page description of African Americans in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or for anyone who has read with disbelief the more narrow U.S. Anglo-Saxon prejudices taken for granted in Jack London’s The Valley of the Moon (where Anglo-Saxon farmers are directed to emulate the “inferior” Southern-European races’ agricultural practices), the attitude that Northern Europeans (read: Anglo-Saxon, Aryan) are inherently superior physically and mentally to all other races on the planet has a long history.

    Rudyard Kipling - Poem - White Mans Burden  - Originally published in the February 1899 edition of McClure's magazine (January 1901 edition pictured above).  Gibbon (120 years earlier) voices similar views in his description of the blue-eyed Germanic tribes (Vandals) confronting the swarthy Moors in North Africa in 429-430

    Rudyard Kipling - Poem - White Mans Burden - Originally published in the February 1899 edition of McClure's magazine (January 1901 edition pictured above). Gibbon (120 years earlier) voices similar views in his description of the blue-eyed Germanic tribes (Vandals) confronting the swarthy Moors in North Africa in 429-430

    White Man’s Burden is a concept that has become a political football but is still very expressive of the fin-de-siecle (end of the 19th century) obvious (to the people of the time in the West) cultural value that Northern Europeans were a superior people. It was expressed in this form by Kipling in the short poem White Man’s Burden (text here – Fordham University) – here is a middle stanza –

    Take up the White Man’s burden–
    The savage wars of peace–
    Fill full the mouth of Famine
    And bid the sickness cease;
    And when your goal is nearest
    The end for others sought,
    Watch sloth and heathen Folly
    Bring all your hopes to nought.

    Rudyard Kipling, Poem – White Man’s Burden (source here – Fordham University)

    This from Gibbon on the meeting of the Germanic Vandals and the African Moors (remember the Vandals as barbarians were not so long ago reviled by Gibbon for their lack of discipline and civilized habits – its interesting that now they are disciplined and “wondrous” in comparison to the swarthy, untractable, Moors – I guess there’s different levels of un-civilization, depending on your melanin-challenged status):

    But his own dexterity and the discontents of Africa soon fortified the Vandal powers by the accession of numerous and active allies. The parts of Mauritania which border on the great desert and the Atlantic ocean, The Moors were filled with a fierce and untractable race of men, whose savage temper had been exasperated rather than reclaimed by their dread of the Roman arms.

    The wandering Moors, as they gradually ventured to approach the seashore and the camp of the Vandals, must have viewed with terror and astonishment the dress, the armour, the martial pride and discipline of the unknown strangers who had landed on their coast; and the fair complexions of the blue-eyed warriors of Germany formed a very singular contrast with the swarthy or olive hue which is derived from the neighbourhood of the torrid zone, After the first difficulties had in some measure been removed which arose from the mutual ignorance of their respective language, the Moors, regardless of any future consequence, embraced the alliance of the enemies of Rome, and a crowd of naked savages rushed from the woods and valleys of Mount Atlas, to satiate their revenge on the polished tyrants who had injuriously expelled them from the native sovereignty of the land.

    (DEF II, v.3, p.287)

    Upton Sinclair's The Jungle - cover of one of the first editions.  Upton Sinclair advocates socialism forcefully and by extension tolerance and equality for the masses of Eastern/Southern/Middle Europeans flooding the incredibly corrupt meat-packing town of Chicago in the last decades of the 19th century.  It is therefor all the more repugnant when Sinclair indulges in an orgy of racism (against African Americans) 3/4 of the way through the book.  Gibbon has similar (but much more elegantly worded) prejudices against other races.  Both are examples of learned, well-meaning men who espouse popular, repellent opinions of their times - foreign and domestic myths of the White Man's Burden.

    Upton Sinclair's The Jungle - cover of one of the first editions. Upton Sinclair advocates socialism forcefully and by extension tolerance and equality for the masses of Eastern/Southern/Middle Europeans flooding the incredibly corrupt meat-packing town of Chicago in the last decades of the 19th century. It is therefor all the more repugnant when Sinclair indulges in an orgy of racism (against African Americans) 3/4 of the way through the book. Gibbon has similar (but much more elegantly worded) prejudices against other races. Both are examples of learned, well-meaning men who espouse popular, repellent opinions of their times - foreign and domestic myths of the White Man's Burden.

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