Posted by: ken98 | May 27, 2011

Roman Cold Wars, Twilight Kingdoms, and Accidental Conquests

Day 623 – Ken here (F)(5-27-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.39 pp.530-540)(pages read: 1590)

Man! Yesterday I just rambled and babbled and wrote for hours – I’m trying to be a little more concise – we’ll see how much success I have

Today we do Theodoric, Theodoric, Theodoric – much-beloved of Gibbon. We see: why he invaded Italy (by accident and invitation), how quickly he took the whole thing (1 year pretty much), how he divided land/military obligations (pretty much like all Germans did), his foreign policy and positioning himself as “Policeman of the World” in a kind of Cold War Barbarian against Rome, Barbarian against Barbarian.

The Story
 
Theodoric – Why He Conquered Italy – Accident (489)
 
  • As usual, Byzantines pay off barbarians, making them mater generals over large areas of land – which the barbs live on and the Romans didn’t control anyway – 5000 lbs gold a year and the “Magister Militum”
  • Not enough to live on, Theodoric also master of only one section of Goths (the Amali) – then ACCIDENT
  • The other section loses its king, Theodoric now master of all Ostrogoths, must find new territory to live on or starve, suggests Theod take back Italy from the federation of Germans controlling it under Odoacer
  •  

    Theodoric – March into Italy (489)
     
  • Marches 700 miles in winter into Italy (in Northern Greece to start) by way of Venice, towards Aquileia (once biggest town in N Italy, destroyd in wars of last 50 years) – desp for food (winter 489)
  • whole population migrates into Italy – entire nation – poss hundreds of thousands of people
  •  

    Theodoric – Battles with Odoacer, Siege of Ravenna, Success
     
  • 8-28-489 – battle of Aquileia – Odoacer with his alliance of Germans beaten
  • 9-27-489 – battle of the river Adige near Verons – Odoacer beaten
  • Took all of Italy in one year – took back Siciliy from the Vandals in 1st year also
  • 490 – Odoacer flees to Ravenna (no one takes Ravenna, its safe behind a vast encircling swamp – also fortified, former Italian Imp capital for last 40 years or so
  • Siege of Ravenna – 490-493
  • Odoacer taken by a trick – he allows Theodoric in, is promised equal position with him to reign, then killed during a feast 3 days later. Allied German troops declare for Theodoric (what else could they do? they were a misc bundle of German mercenaries left high and dry in Italy w/o a leader)
  •  

    Theodoric – Reign – Division of Land, Military
     
  • Theod redistributes land – 1/3 to him and his people – (he had migrated his whole people into Italy) – pres. redistr Odaocer’s German portions back into Ostrogoth hands – a great deal of disruption here
  • This is the reign documented by the famous historian/aristocrat/founder of monasteries Cassiodorus – Theodoric is well known for trying to COMBINE AND PEACEABLY MINGLE ROMAN and GERMAN ITALY
  • and by Boethius of “Consolation of Philosophy fame – Theodoric ends up imprisoning and executing Boethius – who writes his famous Consolation while in prison
  • Land is held by benefice for military service – a BENEFICE – land held at the pleasure of the king for services rendered (past and future) – basically the whole country is one great army – typical of German kingdoms – the Frankish kings quickly stop doing this in Gaul, and as a result lose control of the country to nobles who began to hold land PERM, not at PLEAS of KING (Power of NOBLES VS KING is actually one of the great THEMES OF FRENCH HIST STRUGGLES from 400’s thru the REV (1789))
  • Of course, Theodoric and the Ostrogoths didn’t have that problem eventually – they were all wiped out by the emperor Justinian in 35-40 years or so, so the new Ostrog. kngdm never GOT A CHANCE TO DECLINE really
  • Absolute SEPARATION of GOTH and ROMAN – different laws, military svce only to the Goth, actually they had diff religions – both Christian, but OSTROGOTH=Arian Christianity, ROMAN=Nicene Christianity (the old Barb/Roman division – Franks and Visigoths in Spain eventually converted to Nicene (Catholic) Christianity – which helped them greatly assimilate the old Roman population eventually
  •  

    Theodoric – Reign – Foreign Policy, Wars
     
  • Theodoric – like the United States of the 1950’s became the WORLD POLICEMAN
  • Thoedoric, as the inheritor of Italy’s and Rome’s Reputation for World Power – became also by accident and design – mostly design – the CENTER of the BARBARIAN WORLD (something that Odoacer had never done)
  • By marriage, Theodoric is linked to Franks(France), Burgundians(France), Visigoths(Spain, Fr), Vandals(N. Africa), Thuringians (Germ) – pretty much all the major Barbarian Kingdoms of his day in Europe
  • By conquest, Rhaetia, Noricum, Dalmatia, Pannonia – N. Balkan peninsula, southern Germany, Hungary, etc – securing his Eastern borders with alliances, tribute, overlordship – (ex. the Alemanni)
  • Defeated Anastasius in Balkans – Romans attack (as would expect) as barbs get closer to Const. but lose – so confirm Theod in his imp title as Mag Mil – he acts as a kind of viceroy on paper to Romans – but actually King of Italy
  • works hard to maintain an almost COLD WAR BALANCE OF POWER among European powers – and succeeds admirably until the Franks take most of Gaul and drive out the Visigoths – still, Theod STOPS THE FRANKS from taking the S. coast of France – and leaves it to the Visigoths, and leaves Sp. to the Visigoths too
  •  
     

    Note on Sources

  • Jordanes – a GOTH! who writes in late Latin (550’s) about his own people (work= The Getica) – to defend them against the unreasoning prejudice of Greek types like Procopius – EXCELLENT source for MINORITY VIEW of HISTORY of Rome
  • Procopius – he of the POISONOUS PEN – who HATED/LOVED Justinian – you’d expect a lot of Barbarian-Hating from a Greek and you get it
  • Theophanes – lost works but cited by ancient authorities – 1st desc’d the famous Discovery of the Silk Worm Story
  • CassiodorusFamous Bureaucrat, Roman, Administrator under Theodoric
  •  

     

     
     
     

    Illustration of how the Burgess Shales flora and fauna might have appeared in life billions and billions of years ago.  All kinds of strange forms of animals and plants STARTED OUT at the beginning of evolution on earth - only a certain kind - a small minority actually ended up surviving, and we are the result - no 2-headed, spiky-legged, fin-clawed animals now.  In the same way, the might-have-been German-Roman societies that were growing in the 400's disappeared and only the ones that eventually became modern Europe survived.  SO much lost THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

    Illustration of how the Burgess Shales flora and fauna might have appeared in life billions and billions of years ago. All kinds of strange forms of animals and plants STARTED OUT at the beginning of evolution on earth - only a certain kind - a small minority actually ended up surviving, and we are the result - no 2-headed, spiky-legged, fin-clawed animals now. In the same way, the might-have-been German-Roman societies that were growing in the 400's disappeared and only the ones that eventually became modern Europe survived. SO much lost THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

    Last Word…
    The Lost World of Theodoric
    Lost Chances, Never Regained
     

    As you’ve probably figured out by now – I love the edges of things. It’s the edges of two somethings, where one touches the other, where all the interesting interactions are – think of beaches and the shallow water off coasts (the Littoral Zone). Change, development, important beginnings, final endings, all these things happen NOT in the stable(r) middles of things, but at the edges. Theodoric’s Italy is no different.

    I think the late 400’s hold the key to all of Europe’s later development – and also (like the Cambrian Era in Earth’s history – just look at the Burgess Shales) – represent a time of malleability and change and experimentation in social and political forms. Europe didn’t have to turn out the way it did – it is just one of many possibilities that were a-borning during the end of Roman rule and the gradual Germanization of the Mediterranean. It all could have turned out very different, and we would have lived in a very different world.

    The twilight kingdom (or dawn kingdom from the perspective of the Germans and the Ostrogoths in Italy) was a start in mixing and merging Roman and Germans together – it could have worked if given a chance – and maybe something like a Romano-German empire might have resulted. The barbarians didn’t have to destroy pretty much everything that was there before – they could have been folded into the greater society and become more Roman than the Romans (like invaders in China – who disappeared again and again into the dominant culture, or the Norsemen in Normandy who invaded France and in a couple of generations became more French than the French).

    All kinds of different hybrid societies were blooming in the 400’s – the frontier had been hybrid German/Roman for hundreds of years already. The empire could have stumbled and then regained its footing – like it did in the fifty years of the 200’s (remember the Crisis of the 3rd Century – the 200’s) – but it didn’t. It didn’t get the chance. For Italy, German power was never allowed to transfer to the next generation, Justinian (the Eastern Roman Emperor) intervened in the succession – and ended up by invading and LEVELING the social/economic/political landscape of Italy forever – it was a wasteland of abandoned cities and farms filled with Roman tax collectors when he was done with his 20 years of a war of reconquest. At least that’s the way it seems to me.

    Possible worlds were lost – new avenues of political exploration closed – and a kind of post-apocalyptic wiping-the-slate-clean transpired, leaving the Roman Empire as a myth and a kind of political bogey-man for thousands of years to come. Ah well. Such is history.

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