Posted by: ken98 | May 30, 2011

Laissez Les Bons Temps Gothiques Rouler or Life Is Good In Gothic Italy

Day 626 – Ken here (M)(5-30-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.39 pp.540-550)(pages read: 1600)

Feeling very tired and very slow-in-the-head-and-even-slower-on-the-uptake – so pardon the blathering and the rambling.

And…another slow Gibbon day. Much hinting of Theodoric. Much mention of Theodoric. Much praise of Theodoric. Basically, a lot on Ostrogothic Italy – mainly on how good times were, how cheap and plentiful stuff was, and how LITTLE the Catholics were persecuted by their new Arian Ostrogothic masters.

The Story
 
Theodoric – Running Italy Like a Roman
 
  • Thoedoric outwardly subservient to Eastern Roman Emp – actually completely indep – exs – BOTH nominate one of the consuls for the year – Anastasius (East Rom Emp) apparently has to be consulted on imp issues
  • All the old magistracies still in effect – in Late Antique Form – Praetorian Prefect, Prefect Rome, Quaestor, Master of Offices, the 5 Presidents who govern the 15 regions of Italy (once 18, but 3+ regions lost)
  • Whole Roman machinery of govt still in place – FOR THE ROMANS – the Goths live under their own law and answer dir to the king and their families
  • Cassiodorus and Boethius – 2 famous Romans among many who served at Theodoric’s court in Ravenna and made his govt almost the same as a continuation of the old empire – except this time it was WELL-DEFENDED by the Ostrogothic Army under Theodoric – and not helpless w/o troops like under the Imperials
  •  

    Thoedoric – Prosperity of Rome – He Visits (500)
     
  • Theod. lives at Ravenna, like all Rom. Emperors have done since Honorius moved the capital from Milan in 402
  • Even now the population is declining – during the wars with Justinian in 50 years there will be times when the city will be broken-into, open and absolutely empty
  •  

    Thoedoric – Italy Flourishes
     
  • Italy is safe, well-fed and secure
  • Food is cheap, well, relative to Gibbon’s time – Gibbon says a gallon of wine cost 3 farthings (1788 British – US$=$4.99), 11 bushels of wheat costs about 5 shillings 6 pence (about $439), or about $40/bushel – today it costs about $10 – so while wine was def cheap, the obvious efficiencies of 21st cent wheat production make our food amazingly cheap
  • Remembering that Ostrogothic Italy is Italy’s last period of prosperity for centuries to come
  •  

    Theodoric – His Arian Christianity versus Rome’s Nicene Christianity – Not a Problem
     
  • Theodoric is an Arian Christian like all Germans
  • Italy is Nicene (Catholic) – Ostrogothic Theodoric (unlike the Vandals in Africa and the Visigoths of Spain) DOES NOT prohibit Catholicism, or persecute Catholics
  •  

    Theodoric – Eventual Start of Persecution of Catholics
     
  • Why? A good reason – Gibbon relates persecution of Jews in Ravenna and Rome by Catholics – burning and looting of Jewish property
  • Theodoric forces the Catholic church to pay for damages
  • Italian population/clergy feels he is persecuting them because of his Arianism
  • Also Gibbon theorizes Theodoric is just getting old and crotchety – which you can hardly blame him – Italians are notoriously difficult to govern – or rather, they are very active politically (not a bad thing) – modern Italy itself had 61 governments in 62 years (1945-2007)
  •  

     

     
     
     

    A Goth - or gothette - and no this isn't an ancient reproduction of authentic Ostrogothic costume - a photo from an article - How to be the coolest Goth

    A Goth - or gothette - and no this isn't an ancient reproduction of authentic Ostrogothic costume - a photo from an article - How to be the coolest Goth


     

    Last Word…
    How Goths got Gothic
     

    Gibbon’s time, the Enlightenment delighted in denigrating all things medieval with one overarching adjective – Gothic. That the Goths, be they Ostrogoths, Visigoths, or any other Goths had nothing to do with the Middle Ages didn’t stop them from mis-using the name of the Gothic nation and making it into a kind of 18th century cuss word.

    Now does THIS look GOTHIC? Theodoric's Palace in San Appolinare Nuovo in Ravenna - I've been there and this photo gives you the feeling of light playing across the mosaic tiles - INCREDIBLE

    Now does THIS look GOTHIC? Theodorics Palace depicted in mosaic in Theodorics palace chapel (still standing in Ravenna, now called the Basilica of Sant Apollinare Nuovo - Ive been there and I have to say this photo gives you only the merest hint of the feeling of light playing across the brilliant gold and colored tiles - INCREDIBLE). But I dont really see a Gothic Architecture here at all (no pointy arches, no flying buttresses anywhere to be seen). Maybe he just meant --ugly--, but it seems anything but ugly (to me at least). Unless Gibbon is using the word in its strictest, most literal sense - ie built by a Goth, THEN, yes the mosaics AND the actual palace depicted were by definition Gothic - but somehow I don't think that was his intention... I'm not really sure what his intentions were... This is just a very slow Gibbonian day - as YOU are plainly BEGINNING TO UNDERSTAND


     

    All that made about as much sense as the word “gay” meaning “bad”. It was all just a fad (I’ll stop rhyming the end of my sentences now.) That all was going to change in the near future as the Enlightenment was shredded by the 19th century and wildly out-of-control Romanticism – – – and then the general idea of “Gothic”, although somewhat dark and sinister, was manifestly attractive and also took on more sentimental overtones of knights-in-shining-armor-castles-and-damsels-in-distress.

    In the 20th century there was a kind of popular “renaissance” (if you can use that word to refer to the Middle Ages) of interest in all things Medieval (one odd ex. the wildly successful Simon and Garfunkel song “Scarborough Fair”) and the idea of Gothic being a word you used to denote absolute disdain disappeared – relegated to the same place the English subjunctive went and all those Jacobean thee’s and thou’s – i.e. the trash-bin of linguistic history. There the phrase slept in peaceful dis-use.

    Until, that is, the late 20th century, when Gothic became associated with overly heavy use of mascara and white powder on the face, and a general attitude of rebellion and a kind of simmering malevolence and oddly active depression – where it has stayed ever since – so much so, that persons surfing the web, and looking for new ways to apply black makeup to various parts of their faces often find themselves NOT LOOKING at photos of young, pale, and disenchanted people, but reading (or NOT READING) my pages on Theodoric the Ostrogoth’s Italy. Such are the vagaries of the human condition and popular culture.

    Not any of which has much to do, if anything actually, with Gibbon’s treatment of Theodoric and the nation of Goths he led.

    Just thought I’d mention that.

    Even Gibbon gets it all mixed up when he mentions one face of one of Theodoric’s coins showing his imperial palace and representing the first “Gothic” architecture.

    As often as the peace of his kingdom was threatened (for it was never invaded) by the Barbarians, he removed his court to Verona (70) on the northern frontier, and the image of his palace, still extant on a coin, represents the oldest and most authentic model of Gothic architecture.

    (DEF ii, vol.4, ch.39.p. 544)
     

    Wine, Wheat, and a Note on Conversion – 1780 lb sterling to 2008 $1 US
    Currency/Measure Conversion – from 1780’s Pound Sterling to 2008 $1 US, and translating ancient Roman Dry Weight Measures to US Measures
     

    The wine came out to about $1 a bottle (1 bottle being a quarter gallon)

    The wheat came out to about $40 a bushel.

    A farthing is worth approx 1/960 of a British Pound – a British Pound of the 1780’s could be translated into current purchasing power as $1,600 (See Currency Conversion Page – link in the header above). So, 1/960 x 1,600 = $1.66 1 farthing x 3 = $4.99 for a gallon of wine or about one dollar a bottle (if it were bottled). Not Bad.

    A shilling is 1/20 of a British Pound – – a British Pound of the 1780’s could be translated into current purchasing power as $1,600 (See Currency Conversion Page – link in the header above). So, 1/20 x 1,600 = $80.00 (also, 1 pence = 4 farthings = $6.64. 5 shilling 6 pence = 5 x 80 + 6 X 6.64 = $439 for 60 modii of wheat which comes out to about 11 bushels – or about $40 a bushel – a very high price for today.

    However, nowadays a bushel of wheat costs about $10 – so even the cheap prices that Gibbon talks about can’t stand up to 21st century Modern-Wheat-Growing-And-Marketing-Efficiencies.

    Which means we’re doing better than the late 400’s in Barbarian Conquered Italy – altogether a GOOD THING

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