Posted by: ken98 | June 20, 2011

Roman Occupational Forces, Rommel, Sock Puppets, and Groundhog Day

Day 647 – Ken here (M)(6-20-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.41 pp.630-640)(pages read: 1690)

Poster from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day - Like Bill Murray I'm having a consistently unnerving feeling I've read/written/flogged-the-meaning out of this 10 pages of Gibbon before - or instead of a time loop I could be just tired and a little sick - but a time loop sounds much more interesting

Poster from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day - Like Bill Murray I'm having a consistently unnerving feeling I've read/written/flogged-the-meaning out of this 10 pages of Gibbon before - or instead of a time loop I could be just tired and a little sick - but a time loop sounds much more interesting

A very short day today on content – a little longer on trivial speculation on how I re-read the last 10 pages of Gibbon and didn’t realize it until JUST NOW.

Photo of General Erwin Rommel from the Bundesarchiv, the next German after Gelimer (1400 years before) to be famous for his actions in North Africa

Photo of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (the Desert Fox) from the Bundesarchiv, the next German after Gelimer (1400 years before) to be famous for his actions in North Africa

This is what comes of writing at 11:41 PM at night when you SHOULD BE teasing the knots out of those peskily tangled neurons and sinking into some strenuous vegetating. I feel like I’m thinking through gelatinous, rapidly condensing mud. We can only go downhill from here…

Today we look at the end of Vandal civilization and Belisarius’s (generally beneficient) role in ending it. His thoroughness in erasing the hundred-plus years of German Vandal rule is underlined by the fact that until Rommel, it takes 1,400 or so years for the general public to associate another German’s name with North Africa. Well, really no one thinks of Africa and Romans and Germans all at the same time, so maybe Rommel is the FIRST. Belisarius and his gigantic historical eraser (called an overwhelming invasion) apparently did the good job it was intended to do.

The other thing Belisarius was good at was having a sense of diplomatic and personal integrity (which weirdly foreshadows the best of kinghtly chivalrous behavior – to be redundant – in the Middle Ages), and having concrete, long-term goals that showed he was thinking beyond a thirty-minute horizon (something we’ve lost in the 21st century, where short-term gain ALWAYS wins out over long-term prosperity).

His treatment of the captured North African cities (all, sentimentally attached still to the Roman Empire after a century of Vandal rule) as freed citizens rather than traitorous enemies initially seemed to usher in a new golden age for Roman North Africa.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Story
 
Justinian-African War – Belisarius Takes Carthage 9-15-533
 
  • Aftermath of Battle of Ad Decimus – “at the tenth milestone” – complete rout – ends at gates of Carthage
  •  

    Justinian-African War – Gelimer Final Defeat (11-533)
     
  • Battle of Tricameron – Final Battle – Gelimer retreats to attempt a guerilla war based on native moor population (his former enemies)
  •  

    Justinian-African War – Conquest, Rest of Africa (534)
     
  • Belisaruius gains control of rest of empire mostly peaceably –
  •  

    Justinian-African War – Gelimer Hands Himself Over to Belisarius, Vandal Kingdom now a Roman Province
     
  • Gelimer trusts Belisarius’s personal word and negotiates a surrender – with a generous “golden parachute” for himself – a villa to retire on near the capital Constantinople and a pension
  • Vandal troops are packed off and form the famous Vandal legions that fought for the empire in Asia against the Persians
  •  

     

     
     
     

    First edition cover for John Hersey's 1944 novel A Bell For Adano, winner of the Pulitzer in 1945 - In this American novel, an Italian American arrives with the allied invasion of Italy to run an italian town as the chief officer of the Allied Military Government.  His name was Joppolo and his aim wasn't to keep order and make money, but to reset the city firmly on its feet for its own good.  Belisarius in the 530's took over North Africa for his overlord, the emperor Justinian, and rather than sacking and stripping it, attempted to fold the Roman populace back into the empire like a long-lost sheep after a century under German kings.

    First edition cover for John Hersey's 1944 novel A Bell For Adano, winner of the Pullitzer in 1945 - In this American novel, an Italian American arrives with the allied invasion of Italy to run an italian town as the chief officer of the Allied Military Government. His name was Joppolo and his aim wasn't to keep order and make money, but to reset the city firmly on its feet for its own good. Belisarius in the 530's took over North Africa for his overlord, the emperor Justinian, and rather than sacking and stripping it, attempted to fold the Roman populace back into the empire like a long-lost sheep after a century under German kings.


     

    Last Word…
    A Bell For Adano – How the U.S. In 1940’s Italy was like Belisarius’s Romans in 530’s North Africa
    OR
    How to Re-Erect a Civil Government in a Conquered Territory

     

    Romans, like Americans, have a preacher’s proselytizing enthusiasm to spread the good news of decent civil government – be it the Roman Empire or the United States – to whomever will listen – sometimes, even to captive audiences…

    John Hersey wrote a Pulitzer-winning novel in 1944 about the Allied Military Government in Italy – specifically about an Italian American (Joppolo – a NY Sanitation Department manager now officer in the U.S. Army) working as the American Occupation’s podesta of a largish town in northern Italy called Adano.

    The goal of the occupation is to preserve order in occupied territories, but Joppolo brings something else to it – in his case an American desire to show that a free government is possible without it degenerating into a tyranny of the few powerful over the many weak. He has a missionary’s zeal to bring the happiness of peace to a town that could easily degenerate into brute chaos and civil violence as scores are settled, former leaders are brought low, and unsettled conditions between regimes make rioting and false famines excellent opportunities for getting rich quick. Joppolo is determined to bring back the gentler ways of civil life after years of war.

    Belisarius likewise does NOT take the normal Roman way of spilling an army into newly-conquered territories, running roughshod over towns like a cloud of locusts stripping every house, farm, and city clean of any movable wealth. He treats the once-conquered citizens of Vandal North Africa as long-lost Roman citizens – long lost Roman sheep re-entering the imperial fold. He promises villas, pensions, and a dignified life to Gelimer (the Vandal king he has defeated) and his family, and promises paid positions for the Vandal army back on the Eastern front in far-off Persia. And what’s even stranger, he actually follows through on his word.

    Of course, we’re getting all this from Procopius, Belisarius’s secretary and friend, in Procopius’s Histories of Justinian’s wars – but his record isn’t contradicted, and the Vandal legions definitely show up in the century to come.

    Unfortunately, the marvelously efficient and top-heavy Late-Roman bureaucracy Justinian installed in Belisarius’s wake brought back all the old complaints of the empire, unequal, and often self-defeating taxation (of course, you never get anyone in the Roman historical record PRAISING taxes, even if it’s for the Roman equivalent of schools and roads – and that goes equally for 21st century America).

    The Lost Lamb Found - how Belisarius treated the newly re-romanized citizens of German North Africa and the Roman reconquest - treated as citizens not slaves

    The Lost Lamb Found - how Belisarius treated the newly re-romanized citizens of German North Africa and the Roman reconquest - treated as citizens not slaves


     
    How the Roman Tax Collector saw newly-re-romanized North Africa - no, not this - the Shari Lewis's T.V. character sock puppet from the late 50's

    How the Roman Tax Collector saw newly-re-romanized North Africa - no, not this - the Shari Lewis's T.V. character sock puppet from the late 50's


     
    ...but this, delicious lamb chops waiting to be cut up into bags of gold and transported back east to the enrich the Big City - Constantinople

    ...but this, delicious lamb chops waiting to be cut up into bags of gold and transported back east to the enrich the Big City - Constantinople -


     

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