Posted by: ken98 | April 29, 2010

Nude Dancing City Officials Discouraged, Miniature Empires, and Lucky Vandals

Day 230 – Ken here (Th)(4-29-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.36 pp.380-390)(pages read: 1480)

Still pretty tired – but a lot of work to do.

We continue chapter 36 with two new independent Roman (not barbarbian – surprise, surprise) “emperors” with independent “empires” (sounds like the 200’s all over again doesn’t it?) – Marcellinus (Dalmatia) and Aegidius (Gaul). Then go on to review the century of raids on all parts of the western Mediterranean by the Vandals (the Muslims, then the Vikings will inherit this “business” in the coming centuries), then a brief history of the Eastern emperor Leo (called the Great), then the ascension of Anthemius to the West as emperor and a typical Gibbonian tangent on the ancient Roman feast of the Lupercalia (in February).

We finish with an overview of the (massive) preparations of the East to invade Africa and take back North African Rome from the Vandals. All in all an action-packed 10 pages. I hadn’t realized how many times the empire (both East and West) had tried to conquer back Vandal North Africa. It wasn’t just Justinian in the middle 500’s – this is the second time in 10 years (since the Sack of Rome – that really must have made the empire angry) – 1st was Majorian’s fleet (destroyed 461), now its Leo and the East making a stab at it (468).

The Story
 
The two Empire-lets – Aegidius in Gaul, and Marcellinus in Dalmatia (with a Navy) – Its the Time of Crises of the 200’s All Over Again
 
  • Two Miniature Empires – in Dalmatia and Gaul – I guess if the “official” Roman Empire isn’t interested in running a province, an entrepreneurial Roman Governor/General will
  • Marcellinus (a Roman – for once), governor of Sicily, takes a band of followers and takes the Roman province of Dalmatia for himself – basically the coast of albania, croatia that faces Italy)
  • Dalmatia is the home of whatever sea-faring peoples are left in the Western Roman empire – it also was famous for piracy – Marcellinus is therefor setting himself up as a pirate lord
  • Marcellinus calls himself the Patrician of the West – kind of a proto-Doge
  • Its interesting that such an essential province – in the middle of the 2 empires – broke away and stayed away so easily – the empire (like the Confederacy) is becoming and “empire of the mind”
  • Aegidius rules in Gaul – briefly, the Franks even elect them as their king – when their hereditary king displeases them (kind of like the hereditary kingdom of Poland – although usually the King of Poland wasn’t a Pole)
  • Again – the province of the Gauls is a fiction now – although Gaul has a long history of raising “usurpers” – some of whom become “legitimate” emperors – so I guess to the people of the time – why would this seem any different?
  •  

    Vandal Pirates of North Africa – 1st In a Long Tradition of North African Piracy
     
  • Of course, one man’s piracy is another man’s patriotic seasonal campaigns (ex. Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth, and the raids on the Spanish Treasure Fleets – see here)
  • Gibbon gives a long – and surprising list of places the Vandals attacked – NOTE – no places in the Eastern Empire – they’d negotiated a cease-fire (remember, Illyria, and Greece had been given to the West a couple of decades before). Vandals ravaged the coasts of: Spain, Liguria, Tuscany, Campania, Lucania, Bruttium, Apulia, Calabria, Venetia Dalmatia, Epirus, Greece, and Sicily:
  • Its also interesting to note that within a generation, the Vandals in Africa were having to use OTHER BARBARIANS to fight their wars – INCLUDING the Roman slaves they’d taken. So Romans CAN fight. I guess its much more a socio-economic problem of the 400’s than a racial/national problem – this problem of not being able to fight for your own land once you’ve tasted the civilized life. The culture of Rome had definitely changed.
  •  

    Introduction to Eastern Emperor Leo the Great
     
  • After death of the empress Pulcheria (who became a saint) and her monk-husband Marcian (the Eastern Roman Emperor), Aspar (the General who was the power behind the throne) knowing he probably wasn’t going to be able to rule because of his religious beliefs (he was Arian), proposed what he thought was a safe, malleable choice – an unknown man named Leo of Thrace – to be known as Leo the Great – Aspar made a big mistake
  • Since Aspar and Leo were indebted to the Vandals, Leo could do nothing in Africa before he first managed to separate himself from Aspar’s grip
  • Leo starts training a private army for himself and gradually distances himself from General Aspar
  •  

    Ascension of Anthemius (Leo’s Pick) for Western Emperor
     
  • Leo proposes the rich, famous, and very-well connected Anthemius for the emperorship of the West after Severus – the non-entity dies.
  • Anthemius is accepted and immediately marries the daughter of Count Ricimer – thus cementing his connection with Ricimer (1-1-468)
  • Anthemius is suspected of secret sympathies with the pagans
  •  

    Brief Tangent into the Nude Dancing of the Lupercalia (Roman Holiday in February)
     
  • There are many holdovers from pagan times – one is the feast of Purification of February – the Lupercalia – see below
  •  

    Preparations for the Invasion of a Generation – Leo (West) Invades Vandal North Africa to Take it Once and For All (468)
     
  • Leo spends 1.3 Billion dollars of his own money, and 6.5 Billion of the taxpayers money to equip a 1,100 ship fleet and 100,000 men to attack Vandal Carthage – this is a lot for the shrunken, depopulated empire (468)
  • He entrusts the entire fleet to his brother-in-law (Basiliscus, married to Leo’s sister Vorina) – in what turns out to be a big mistake
  • Lucky Vandals – Genseric’s luck – Sacking Rome, destroying the Western fleet in Spain, and now lucking out with Basiliscus as the General – seems extraordinary – the Vandals will not lose Africa this generation
  •  

     
     
     

    Painting of the Lupercalia - a festival of Pan and of Purifcation and a celebration of Rome's Success.  Note the leather thongs (for whipping women and promoting fertility) - and note the men - citizens and officials - not priests (who ought to be naked) performing the ritual.  The Lupercalia survived almost into the 500's in Rome, centuries after the empire had become Christian

    Painting of the Lupercalia - a festival of Pan and of Purifcation and a celebration of Rome's Success. Note the leather thongs (for whipping women and promoting fertility) - and note the men - citizens and officials - not priests performing the ritual (the men ought to be naked to be historically accurate - I'm all for historical accuracy). The Lupercalia survived almost into the 500's in Rome, centuries after the empire had become Christian

    Last Word…
    Dancing Naked City Officials In February – It Must Have Been Cold
     

    File this under “Different Views of the Human Body Department”. During the Lupercalia (the festival to honor Pan, Fertility, and tangentially Rome – Lupercalis comes from Lupus = wolf = the she-wolf that suckled the infants Romulus and Remus who founded Rome = worship of the city itself and its luck) it was superstitiously believed, even well into Christian times, that the celebration of the festival guaranteed the prosperity of the City of Rome, and also helped out with a person’s individual prosperity. It was a part of city life (in February) for a 1000 years or so, until it was finally abolished by a Pope (Gelasius) in the 490’s.

    Gelasius finally suppressed the ancient Roman festival of the Lupercalia after a long contest. Gelasius’ letter to Andromachus, the senator, covers the main lines of the controversy and incidentally offers some details of this festival combining fertility and purification that might have been lost otherwise. Significantly, this festival of purification, which had given its name— dies februatus, from februare, “to purify”— to the month of February, was replaced with a Christian festival celebrating the purification of the Virgin Mary instead: Candlemas, observed forty days after Christmas, on February 2.

    from Wiki – Pope Gelasius (here))

    Attitudes towards the human body, towards relationships, and what constitutes appropriate behavior had obviously changed. Even in Rome, the Lupercalia was still being practiced in some form at the end of the 400’s. That Gelasius had to “suppress” it shows it was still going strong.

    But onto the particulars…

    Gibbon dryly notes that a nude city official running through the streets would NOT get the same reaction in 18th century London as it did in pagan Rome (ie – no reaction at all in pagan Rome). I’m a little disappointed with Gibbon at this point – any time you get a huge dissonance between what you (as a historian) would expect as a reaction, and what you actually get (in the historical record from the people involved) – you’ve hit pay dirt. You have a real change in human understanding/behavior/culture – and its something to examine and ponder (not brush aside). But, perhaps its great he even notes it – a big accomplishment for historians of the 1700’s – and a step towards Comparative Sociology and Anthropology. Gibbon even notes this seems to be a holdover from some distant hunter/gatherer period of the Romansa faint echo of the Latin Indo-European migrations of the 1200’s BCE. This from Gibbon:

    Yet the vestiges of superstition were not absolutely obliterated, and the festival of the Lupercalia, whose origin had preceded the foundation of Rome, was still celebrated under the reign of Anthemius. The savage and simple rites were expressive of an early state of society before the invention of arts and agriculture. The rustic deities who presided over the toils and pleasures of the pastoral life, Pan, Faunus, and their train of satyrs, were such as the fancy of shepherds might create, sportive, petulant, and lascivious; whose power was limited, and whose malice was inoffensive.

    A goat was the offering the best adapted to their character and attributes; the flesh of the victim was roasted on willow spits; and the riotous youths, who crowded to the feast, ran naked about the fields, with leather thongs in their hands, communicating, as it was supposed, the blessing of fecundity to the women whom they touched.

    The altar of Pan was erected, perhaps by Evander the Arcadian, in a dark recess in the side of the Palatine hill, watered by a perpetual fountain, and shaded by a hanging grove. A tradition that, in the same place, Romulus and Remus were suckled by the wolf, rendered it still more sacred and venerable in the eyes of the Romans; and this sylvan spot was gradually surrounded by the stately edifices of the Forum.

    After the conversion of the Imperial city, the Christians still continued, in the month of February, the annual celebration of the Lupercalia; to which they ascribed a secret and mysterious influence on the genial powers of the animal and vegetable world. The bishops of Rome were solicitous to abolish a profane custom so repugnant to the spirit of Christianity; but their zeal was not supported by the authority of the civil magistrate: the inveterate abuse subsisted till the end of the fifth century, and pope Gelasius, who purified the capital from the last stain of idolatry, appeased, by a formal apology, the murmurs of the senate and people.(82)

    and this from the footnote:

    Note 082
    Baronius published, from the MSS. of the Vatican, this epistle of Pope Gelasius (A.D. 496, No. 28-45), which is entitled Adversus Andromachum Senatorem, caeterosque Romanos, qui Lupercalia secundum morem pristinum colenda constituebant. Gelasius always supposes that his adversaries are nominal Christians, and, that he may not yield to them in absurd prejudice, he imputes to this harmless festival all the calamities of the age.

    (DEF II, v.3, ch.36, p.387 fn.80)

    we’ll look more at the Indo-European migrations later – doing an overview of Steppes-Peoples Migrations and their effect on the European peninsula.

    Map of Indo-European Migrations - BC and CE.  Note the Roman/Latin migrations of 1200 BCE.  The Lupercalia could be a vestige of that long-lost history, representing a pastoral, hunter/gatherer life that disappeared once the Latin tribes had moved through Italy and settled down to an agricultural life.  The name of our month February - from Purify in Latin - is a vestige of the Lupercalia, and of the ancient migration of Latins in the 1200's

    Map of Indo-European Migrations - BC and CE. Note the Roman/Latin migrations of 1200 BCE. The Lupercalia could be a vestige of that long-lost history, representing a pastoral, hunter/gatherer life that disappeared once the Latin tribes had moved through Italy and settled down to an agricultural life. The name of our month February - from Purify in Latin - is a vestige of the Lupercalia, and of the ancient migration of Latins in the 1200's

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