Posted by: ken98 | May 3, 2010

Attila Dies By Bed-Exertion, Valentinian Dies By a Jealous Husband, and Clockwatching Is Next To Godliness

Day 227 – Ken here (M)(4-26-2010)
(DEF II, v.3, ch.35,36 pp.350-360)(pages read: 1450)

(NOTE: For some reason, this didn’t publish on the day it should have – so, here is LAST monday’s post, we’ll be back to chapter 36 tomorrow)

Feeling OK, but a little tired, unfortunately this is a big day for the Roman empire.

WOW! Talk about a lot happening in one day! The next 10 pages read like a bad soap opera. At the end of it all the players have changed and we’re in a different world (we sure seem to be moving in spurts here in Gibbon-land – some days its hard to find a single, solid fact to write about, other days, there’s hardly room nor time to get it all down in the blogosphere here).

We continue chapter 35 with the Death of Attila, the Dissolution of his empire, the murder of Aetius by Valentinian III (personally), and the murder of Valentinian III by a cuckolded husband (who becomes the next emperor – Maximus). Whew! Then we launch into chapter 36 with a brief overview of the Vandal Navy, a brief overview of the reign of Maximus (all 3 months of it), and a suspicious invitation (again) (from a descendant of Justina (see Strong Women) ) for a foreign nation to invade Rome (this time, the Vandals were invited to invade to avenge Valentinian’s death and rid the empire of Maximus).

If you want the decade the old world really ended (a hazy dividing line between Late Antiquity and Early Dark-iquity – the Early Dark Ages) go for the 390’s. If you want a time of chaos, absolute all-balls-in-the-air, anything-can-happen, anything-goes, state-of-transition, well, then look at the 450’s. The decade of the 450’s was a wild and woolly time, and like all beginnings – very delicate. Things were happening here that would affect the peninsula of Europe for many centuries to come.

More on all that later…

On we go…

The Story
 
Death of Attile, Speedy Dissolution of Attila’s Empire
 
  • He moves back to Hungary (Dacia) and takes a new wife for his harem (while awaiting the delivery of the dowry of Honoria – 1/2 the Empire)
  • Has a large wedding feast, retires with his new wife, and dies of a coronary rupture which apparently filled his lungs and killed him – Gibbon is a little vague on exactly what happens here
  • He is buried with great ceremony – the famous 3 coffins – of gold/silver/iron – accompanied by grave gifts and human sacrifice – per Gibbon and Jornandes (a Roman-Goth historian)
  • Immediately all the subject peoples – Gepids, Ostrogoths, Suevi, ALani, Heruli, and the Huns break into contending camps – and they begin taking for themselves what Attila had claimed for his one empire
  • Eventually, the sons of Attila are defeated, Dengisich’s head is displayed in the Hippodrome, the youngest Irnac falls before the Avars
  • The Avars (the next mounted people to move down from the North) eventually destroy and absorb the remnants of the Huns into their own horde
  •  

    Valentinian III Murders Aetius, Maximus Murders Valentinian
     
  • Valentinian III (under the influence of the eunuch Harclius) kills Aetius with his own hands – due to (Gibbon hypothesis) Aetius’s arrogance and his insistence that his son marry Valentinian’s daughter. Boethius, and all the adherents of Aetius are killed within the next day (454)
  • Gibbon (and the Late Roman Historians) make it sound like an act of atypical passion for Valentinian III – and typically – it was the result of bad advice from the evil eunuchs. But to kill the whole family and all his supporters before news got out of what he had done sounds a little too premeditated to have been just a spontaneous act of Imperial justice
  • Gibbon quotes the famous quote about Valentinian III at this time – that he (Val) had cut off his right hand with his left
  • Gibbon also quotes the poem of Sidonius where he says Placidus (Valentinian) a half-man, madly cut down Aetius
  • At any rate – the empire lost its most capable personnel
  • Valentinian – (had he gone mad?) supposedly then openly rapes the wife of one of the Roman Senators, thus making Maximus (the Senator) his mortal enemy. Maximus openly murders the then un-mourned Valentinian III (3-16-455) in public and is acclaimed emperor – he well only reign the fickly Romans for 3 months – Gibbon LOVES Maximus. But his private life and private behavior were soon eclipsed by his public career – in 3 months the Vandals were camped out at the gates of Rome – and Rome blamed (strangely enough) Maximus for all their troubles, and Maximus will be killed also
  •  

    Vandal Navy and the Vandals Prepare For A Great Night-Out in Rome
     
  • The Vandals are safely ensconced in Africa – with Moorish allies – and are lusting after the rest of the empire.
  • Africa is a safe corner to be in – hard to get attacked again from the barbarian Asian Steppes peoples when the Mediterranean and the Roman empire are buffering you from invasion
  • Africa was the granary of Rome along with Sicily. The Vandals take Sicily and begin to menace all of the Western Mediterranean as the pirates of the West. Carthage has returned (in Gibbon’s memorable phrase) after 8 centuries of sleep to avenge herself on Rome – but this time with blond hair and blue eyes. Rome has lost its food source for the 1st time in almost 700 years. Things DO NOT look good at this point
  • The Vandals are not afraid of water – the Romans have begun to forget how to have a navy – at least the ones in the West – the West has even lost the Illyrian coast (Albania, Bosnia, etc) where the best sailors were
  •  

    Beginning, Middle and End of Maximus’ Reign
     
  • Begins in murder – of an unpopular emperor – Im thinking Valentinian may have inherited the genetic madness of his father Honorius
  • Middle is chaos – Maximus is a prisoner within his own palace – not the 1st emperor to experience that
  • Ends with murder with the invasion of the Vandals
  •  

    A Suspicious Invitation – Yet Another Princess Rains Death and Destruction on her People
     
  • Gibbon waxes eloquent on the invitation of Eudoxia – the widow of Valentinian III who was being forced to marry Maximus – she invited Genseric the Vandal to her rescue – to invade and help her (does that even make sense?)
  • Its obvious that without female intrusion the empire would have run as happily and regularly as a clock (in Gibbon’s views – and possibly the Late Roman Historians’ views)
  • It does not seem likely that this old story – hysterical female destroys empire at a single blow with wild invitations to whole barbarian nations – is the ONLY historical theory concerning how the Vandals arrived at the gates of Rome in 455
  • See below for more
  •  

     

    Painting of Sack of Rome by Vandals of 455 - Karl Briullov (1836) Moscow.  The Sack of Rome in 455 was the 3rd Great Sack of Rome (Gauls 387 BCE, Visigoths 409 CE, and Vandals 455), but was the one everyone remembered.  Supposedly, in a suspiciously Rome-centric historical tradition of invited catastrophes, the  - raped -  empress Eudoxia - invited - Genseric the Vandal to come to Rome and avenge her.  Why is it Roman history always makes barbarians behave like marionettes on Roman strings?  Its much more probable Genseric wouldve made his way there without the - permission - of Eudoxia

    Painting of Sack of Rome by Vandals of 455 - Karl Briullov (1836) Moscow. The Sack of Rome in 455 was the 3rd Great Sack of Rome (Gauls 387 BCE, Visigoths 409 CE, and Vandals 455), but was the one everyone remembered. Supposedly, in a suspiciously Rome-centric historical tradition of invited catastrophes, the - raped - empress Eudoxia - invited - Genseric the Vandal to come to Rome and avenge her. Why is it Roman history always makes barbarians behave like marionettes on Roman strings? Its much more probable Genseric wouldve made his way there without the - permission - of Eudoxia. Note Pope Leo the Great standing (what is he doing?) in the portico and the prevalence of Moors attacking very white Roman women. The German Vandals who actually DID the attack were whiter, blonder, and bluer-eyed than the Romans who were being attacked - truth be told

    Suspicious Invitations – or The Rome-Centric View of History
     

    Apparent Late Antique Historical Thesis: Invasions are not the result of barbarian/foreign skill, invasions are the result of (often female) imperial stupidy/treachery

    It is only natural that a national historian should view the world with his/her own national prejudices. Rome was no different. Like the U.S., Rome had a tendency to view all things Roman as best, to view Rome’s role in the world as the only civilizing role (which at this point in time (the 450’s) is not so off the mark), and to view Rome as the primary mover and shaker in the world. If something went wrong, it had to be that Rome messed up, if something was going great, well, praise Rome for her forward-thinking policies. The matter of catastrophic invasions in Late Roman history is a case in point.

    It seems (the further we get into Late Roman historians, the Chronicles, and the increasingly mythical, soap-opera-like, fabulous historical narratives we have to rely upon) that all invasions are NOT caused by historical forces, barbarian ingenuity, foreign prince’s ambitions/strategems, etc. All invasions are caused by princess’s/generals/etc INVITING the invasion.

    The reasoning seems to run as follows:

    None of this would’ve happened had we (the Romans) NOT stupidly asked for it to happen. We aren’t weak or under-manned, or lacking in willpower. We’ve just been betrayed by our own (and frequently the “our own” part is female – clearly some anti-feminine message going on here).

    Recent Examples:

    (1) Eudoxia. It is the empress Eudoxia (who was forced to marry the 3 month emperor Maximus in 455, the same Maximus who murdered her husband the previous emperor Valentinian III) who INVITES the Vandals to Rome (the Vandals absolutely SACK Rome in one of the famous Sacks of Rome in 455). Of course, deciding to go, preparing a fleet, getting a “horde” together, safeguarding home (Carthage) and setting sail had nothing to do with Valentinian III being murdered, an unpopular emperor being on the throne (Maximus), and the Western empire still in a state of chaos and the Eastern Empire still not willing to help out much in the West (we’re in Pulcheria/Marcian’s time in the East now). No, it was only Eudoxia who claimed Genseric’s attention and brought his ships within 3 months of Valentinian’s death to the port of Ostia and the pillaging of Rome.

    (2) Honoria. It is the princess Honoria (who was being forced to stay in a convent in Constantinople, and whom her brother, the Eastern Roman Emperor Valentinian III was wanting to marry an aging Roman Senator to quiet her down) who INVITED Attila (Spring 450) into the empire and got the idea in Attila’s head to ravage Italy, besiege Rome and demand 1/2 the Western Empire as Honoria’s dowry. Of course, Attila would never think of doing any of that on his own.

    (3) Boniface. It is the General Boniface (who was being framed by the opposing General Aetius, and needed troops to reinforce his position in North Africa if he were to go for the purple and battle both Valentinian III and Aetius for rule in the West) who INVITED (429-430) the Vandals to come to his aid in North Africa. What Boniface actually offered was the UNOBSTRUCTED EMIGRATION of the Vandal army out of Hispania (Spain) to Africa. Of course, the Vandals had never considered doing any of this on their own (actually they had been debating between Majorca, etc and Africa as their next bases of operation for raiding the Mediterranean Roman Lake of peaceful, rich cities – esp. of lower Italy, Sicily, Africa – which had been at peace for 600 years). Boniface didn’t count on a TOTAL MIGRATION of the entire Vandal people, but he got one, and the German Vandals were to stay in power in North Africa until Justinian’s Reconquest a century later, the Vandal people were still there when the Muslims arrived in the late 600’s.

    Invasions don’t happen just because degenerate or power-hungry, consequence-blind Romans make them happen. There are other reasons. I don’t know exactly why it is that this isn’t pointed out by Gibbon. In fact, Gibbon denigrates those who propose that some of these “invitations” don’t make much historical sense.

    This from Gibbon – on the empress Eudoxia inviting Genseric the Vandal to Rome to avenge her

    The reign of Maximus continued about three months. His hours, of which he had lost the command, were disturbed by remorse, or guilt, or terror; and his throne was shaken by the seditions of the soldiers, the people, and the confederate barbarians.

    The marriage of his son Palladius with the eldest daughter of the late emperor might tend to establish the hereditary succession of his family; but the violence which he offered to the empress Eudoxia could proceed only from the blind impulse of lust or revenge. His own wife, the cause of these tragic events, had been seasonably removed by death; and the widow of Valentinian was compelled to violate her decent mourning, perhaps her real grief, and to submit to the embraces of a presumptuous usurper, whom she suspected as the assassin of her deceased husband. These suspicions were soon justified by the indiscreet confession of Maximus himself; and he wantonly provoked the hatred of his reluctant bride, who was still conscious that she descended from a line of emperors.

    From the East, however, Eudoxia could not hope to obtain any effectual assistance: her father and her aunt Pulcheria were dead; her mother languished at Jerusalem in disgrace and exile; and the sceptre of Constantinople was in the hands of a stranger. She directed her eyes towards Carthage; secretly implored the aid of the king of the Vandals; and persuaded Genseric to improve the fair opportunity of disguising his rapacious designs by the specious names of honour, justice, and compassion.

    And this from the footnote:

    Note 004
    Notwithstanding the evidence of Procopius, Evagrius, Idatius, Marcellinus, etc., the learned Muratori (Annali d’ltalia, tom. vi. p. 249) doubts the reality of this invitation, and observes, with great truth, “Non si puo dii quanto sia facile il popolo a sognare e spacciar voci false.” But his argument, from the interval of time and place, is extremely feeble. The figs which grew near Carthage were produced to the senate of Rome on the third day.

    (DEF II, v.3, ch.36, pp.359-360, fn.4)

     
     
     

    Copy of 1780 Grand Orrery - an elaborate clock of Gibbon's time and the exact same period as our third volume of Gibbon's Decline and Fall.  This is the kind of clock Gibbon and the rest of the Enlightenment would think of in their - clockwork - universe and Deist clockwork god.  There was no greater compliment to give a man than to say he  - regulated - his life and his time by the use of a clockwork mechanism.  This is the essence of rationality and of the vaunted man-of-the-Enlightenment.  Gibbon compliments the 3-month emperor Maximus with this greatest of compliments - a man who ran his life by his clock

    Copy of 1780 Grand Orrery - an elaborate clock of Gibbon's time and the exact same period as our third volume of Gibbon's Decline and Fall. This is the kind of clock Gibbon and the rest of the Enlightenment would think of in their - clockwork - universe and Deist clockwork god. There was no greater compliment to give a man than to say he - regulated - his life and his time by the use of a clockwork mechanism. This is the essence of rationality and of the vaunted man-of-the-Enlightenment. Gibbon compliments the 3-month emperor Maximus with this greatest of compliments - a man who ran his life by his clock

     

    Last Word…
    The Image of a Clock – The Late Eighteenth Century’s Metaphor for the Enlightened Man – OR the Highest Compliment Gibbon Could Give
     

    Simple water clocks (or a clepsydra (water thief)) regulated time in the Graeco-Roman world by allowing a fixed amount of water to fall out of one tank into another. Gibbon, as a man of the Enlightenment, and a man of Reason could find no higher compliment to pay a man than to say he ruled his life and passions with his willpower and rationality. And there was no greater sign of this, than to regulate your days by dividing your time into pieces, which, naturally presumed the use of some external form of time-keeping, which naturally led to a reliance on clocks.

    Clocks were one of the favorite pieces of mechanical marvels of the Age of the Enlightenment. Not only did it measure out what had been previously unmeasurable and therefor un-reasonable (that is to say – time). But a clock was also the perfect metaphor for the new Newtonian world – a land where heaven and earth obeyed the same easily-understood laws, where cause and effect were absolute and easily distinguished, where men should rule their lives by the dictates of their pure, clockwork-like reason, rather than by the capricious impulses of their material, emotional, chemical natures. A clock was the symbol of man’s dominion (through pure mental reasoning) over the universe and over himself.

    To say a man lived by his timepiece was a high compliment indeed. Gibbon pays this to the emperor Maximus when he repeatedly states Maximus lived his life by his clocks (at least before he became emperor and all hell broke loose for Maximus).

    This from Gibbon:

    …his hours, according to the demands of pleasure or reason, were accurately, distributed by a water-clock; and this avarice of time may be allowed to prove the sense which Maximus entertained of his own happiness.

    (DEF II, v.3, ch. 36 p.358)

    Photo of modern reconstruction of a simple water clock (clepsydra - or water thief) of the Graeco-Roman world.  You measured time by filling the upper pot with a fixed amount of water, you're time was up when the lower was filled to a certain point, or you ran out of water.  More a timer than a clock.  But the emperor Maximus regulated his time by his water clocks (probably more elaborate than this one) - and Gibbon loved him for it

    Photo of modern reconstruction of a simple water clock (clepsydra - or water thief) of the Graeco-Roman world. You measured time by filling the upper pot with a fixed amount of water, you're time was up when the lower was filled to a certain point, or you ran out of water. More a timer than a clock. But the emperor Maximus regulated his time by his water clocks (probably more elaborate than this one) - and Gibbon loved him for it

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