Posted by: ken98 | June 22, 2011

The Famous Triumph and Consulship of Belisarius, Eunuchs Rule in Africa, and Justinian Picks a Fight with Italy

Day 648 – Ken here (T)(6-21-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.41 pp.640-650)(pages read: 1700)

THE FALL OF ROME - all in capital letters - I think this is a John Martin - the Victorian painter of apocalypses - but I'm not sure - well, today we get yet another date for the end of the Roman Empire - the LAST TRIUMPH and ONE OF THE LAST, GREATEST CONSULS - Belisarius's return to Constantinople and the honors Justinian showered on him - oh, and the date? 534-535 if you want to impress your friends with recondite antiquarian theories on the Real Timing of the Fall Of Rome

THE FALL OF ROME - all in capital letters - I think this is a John Martin - the Victorian painter of apocalypses - but I'm not sure - well, today we get yet another date for the end of the Roman Empire - the LAST TRIUMPH and ONE OF THE LAST, GREATEST CONSULS - we speak of course of Belisarius's return to Constantinople and the honors Justinian showered on him - oh, and the date? 534-535 if you want to impress your friends with recondite antiquarian theories on the Real Timing of the Fall Of Rome


 
We come to the high points of Belisarius’s life – his Triumph (Oct 534)– the 1st in Constantinople, and the 1st for a private (non-emperor) in 500 years. And we come to Belisarius’s Consulship (535)– his SOLE consulship. A signal set of distinctions which honored both the giver (Justinian) and the reciever (Belisarius) equally. Quite the year.

We then let Solomon the Eunuch mop up the Northern part of Africa and romanize it out to the Atlantic again, and see Justinian intervening in a royal family quarrel in Ostrogothic Italy – that beautifully functional twilight world of barbarian/roman cooperation – giving him the chance to intervene directly in Italy and bring the wars of reconquest to Western Europe.

And this, the years 534 and 535 could be yet another date for the end of the Roman Empire the way Cicero would have understood it – the last Triumph and private Consul. Justinian will do away with the Consulship within 10 years anyway, we are well on the way to the Roman Middle Ages.

The Story
 
Belisarius – Triumph and Consulship
 
  • Belisarius after victory in middle of plots – given choice to remain in N. Africa, he chooses to return (wisely)
  • Just. said to be susp. of Bel. success – YET, on return Bel. is given 1st private Triumph since before Augustus 500 yrs earlier (10-534) (
  • What’s more – Just. gives Bel. the SOLE Consulship for 535 – so yr named after Bel.
  • Just. also executes Bel. Treaty with Gelimer last king of the Vandals exactly as Bel. negotiated it – a telling compliment
  •  

    The Rest of the Story – the Vandals
     
  • Per Gibbon – in his day there were blond, blue-eyed members of Moors – nation in N. Africa – supp. desc. of the Vandals
  • Vandal army distr’d into 5 squadrons of Cavalry – called the Justiniani – sent to Persia
  •  

    The Rest of the Story – Solomon the Eunuch and the Subj. of the Moors
     
  • Bel. left, Solomon the Eunuch takes over to mop up N. Africa – surpisingly Gibbon (despite hatred of all eunuchs) is somewhat positive
  • Moors are guerrilla fighters – took several years to re-est province – altho they were never really conq’d
  • Rome once more on the Atlantic in Africa
  •  

    The Rest of the Story – the Romans and Spain and the Visigoths (530-620)
     
  • Visigoths in Spain stay neutral in the absolute destruction of the society of their fellow Germans – the Vandals
  • Many cities ceded to Roman troops in Spain, after one of the contenders in a Visigothic civil war asked for Just. help – the cities were not returned
  •  

    World War II – Belisarius Begins Reconquest of Italy
     
  • Background: Ostrogoths in Italy threatened by Bel. – an Ostrog. woman Amalfrida was queen of Vandals, but killed by the prev. Vandal king, part of her dowry – city of Lilybaeum in Sicily
  • Ostrogoths help Just. to avenge Amalfrida, but after Vandal collapse, Romans (Bel.) KEEP Lilybaeum and dare the Ostrogoths to attack – Ostrogoths ruled by queen (Amalasuntha) (reluctantly allowed by Ostrog. nobility) as regent for her son Athalric (522-534)
  • Athalric orig. educ by Amal. (in the Roman way) but Ostrog. nobles take him over and he is given over to drink etc and dies at 16
  • Amal. appeals to Just. to protect her from the nobles (who hate her and her Roman-loving ways)
  • Amalasuntha attempts to flee with 40,000 lbs of gold to Constantinople (hopefully to live the Beverly Hills lifestyle of other former German kings/queens like the former Vandal king Germanric and his family)
  • Amalasuntha marries a cousin of hers Ostrog. noble – Theodatus
  • 40,000 lbs of gold is like 1.25 BILLION dollars
  • She is caught by the guy who now leads the Ostrogoths – Theodoric
  • Noble Goths intercept/kill Amalasuntha in flight – w/Theodatus’s help?
  • Just. declares war as Amalasuntha was under his protection
  •  

     

    Quotable Gibbon – More Misogyny – Hating Theodora – More Eunuch-Hating
     

    Misogyny

    Gibbon has a gift for the quick and unexpected insertion of extremely venemous asides in the body of his historical narrative – commenting on the glorious Triumphal procession given to Belisarius on his return to the capital – an occasion which complimented BOTH Belisarius AND Justinian:

    1) Belisarius becauase he was given the sole center of attention (the 1st time a non-emperor had celebrated a Triumph in 500 years) and all the credit for bringing down the Vandals in a matter of a couple of months (a task that had proved impossible for the empire to accomplish in the previous 100+ years), and

    2) Justinian and Theodora – because they both allowed Belisarius to have the Triumph, did NOT listen to the poisonous talk of courtiers and sycophants preying on the reputations of great men (like Belisarius) and their deeds – in fact being able to honor a great man as a subject of yours does nothing but enhance your own prestige.

    But Gibbon sees it in a different light – his typical women-hating spills all over himself and ruins an otherwise noble paragraph (and imputes to Belisarius a kind of miserable pride that runs counter to (what we know of) as the historical facts of Belisarius’s life):

    The glorious procession entered the gate of the hippodrome; was saluted by the acclamations of the senate and people; and halted before the throne where Justinian and Theodora were seated to receive homage of the captive monarch and the victorious hero.

    They both performed the customary adoration; and falling prostrate on the ground, respectfully touched the footstool of a prince who had not unsheathed his sword, and of a prostitute who had danced on the theatre; some gentle violence was used to bend the stubborn spirit of the grandson of Genseric; and however trained to servitude, the genius of Belisarius must have secretly rebelled.

    (DEF ii, vol.4, ch.41, p.641)

    You actually can begin to see some of the helpless spitefulness, bitterness, and acrimony that were overwhelming Gibbon as his health continued to deteriorate in these, the last 10 years of his life.

    Eunuch-Hating

    Although Solomon the Eunuch spent the next few years cleaning up the province in a very professional and efficient way, subjugating the Moors, re-establishing Roman institutions, etc, Gibbon still manages to insert a backslap to Solomon’s face as he leaves his narrative of his work – ascribing Solomon’s years of success to Belisarius’s months of original conquest:

    About what you’d expect from Gibbon:

    The Moorish war continued several years after the departure of Belisarius; but the laurels which he resigned to a faithful lieutenant may be justly ascribed to his own triumph.

    (DEF ii, vol.4, ch.41, p.645)

    Photo of Robert Koch (circa 1890s?) - German microbiologist who 1st discovered the bacterial agents causing Anthrax, Tuberculosis, and Cholera - he conclusively showed practical application of the Germ Theory of Disease and opened the way for modern medicine to dispense with vague causes like Intemperance causing disease and death

    Photo of Robert Koch (circa 1890s?) - German microbiologist who 1st discovered the bacterial agents causing Anthrax, Tuberculosis, and Cholera - he conclusively showed practical application of the Germ Theory of Disease and opened the way for modern medicine to dispense with vague causes like Intemperance causing disease and death


     
     
     

    Last Word…
    The Strange Medical World of the Late 18th Century
     

    It is a given in historical narratives that there is such a thing as INTEMPERANCE and it can lead to DEATH. It was all as rational as you would expect an Enlightenment Mind to imagine it – the 4 humors of the Body, needing to “balance” the humors – sometimes with bleeding (leeches, etc) and that discomfort and dis-ease (bad health) were caused by a lack of harmony in the “parts” of a man or woman.

    It makes sense, it just isn’t true – or very helpful in combating cancer or bacterial infections or plague or congenital defects or lead poisoning or scurvy – any number of medical conditions in fact.

    But still the myth of Intemperance, Luxury, Wealth, and Vice itself as a causative agent of sickness and death lives on in popular sayings and as a kind of common-sense view of the world (like getting a “cold” is a result of temperature change and not a viral infection).

    Gibbon (and to be fair – Procopius – whom Gibbon is quoting) is no different; even more, his CONSTANT view of disease and the decline of society is that the physical has a direct connection with the moral – i.e. a bad “intemperate” lifestyle leads to death and destruction.

    This makes writing history a great deal easier – find a decline and you have only to look at a moral failure – the 19th century was to be the Renaissance of the physical and moral man being one and the same. I have to say, I’m very, very glad to be living a safe 100+ years away from such theories of hygiene – its not until the late 19th century that we get to the Germ Theory of Disease (and Robert Koch) and begin to disentangle spiritual, moral, and physical states of being in humans with any kind of accuracy.

    Anyways… here is the passage from Gibbon (one of hundreds) where death and destruction are ascribed to the general symptom of intemperance – Amalafrida (the Ostrogothic queen) is lamenting the death of her teenage son Athalric:

    What the heck is “premature intemperance”? I guess it would have been OK if he’d been older – although I have to say it’s probably harder to kill a 16 year old (by drinking himself to death) than it would be to kill a 30 or 40 year old – so the premature part doesn’t make a lot of sense. Again, it must be founded in the idea of a MORAL failing in a weak YOUNG person causing death where an older man would have had the moral “chops” to negotiate the “shoals” of intemperance (to mix as many metaphors as I can into a single sentence):

    But if she had lamented the disorders of her son, she soon wept his irreparable loss; and the death of Athalaric, who, at the age of sixteen, was consumed by premature intemperance, left her destitute of any firm support or legal authority.

    (DEF ii, vol.4, ch.41, p.650)

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