Posted by: ken98 | June 26, 2011

A General, His Wife, and His Eunuch, and Roman Realpolitik

Day 651 – Ken here (F)(6-24-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.41 pp.670-680)(pages read: 1730)

Narses the Eunuch - again from the mosaics in San Vitale Ravenna - one of the men (the immed to the left) standing at the side of Justinian - apparently, if this is his portrait, he was castrated after puberty and so had a beard

Narses the Eunuch - again from the mosaics in San Vitale Ravenna - one of the men (the immed to the left) standing at the side of Justinian (that's Justinian's halo to the left)(which makes Narses the inconspicuous guy BEHIND THE THRONE that you always have to watch out for) - apparently, if this is his portrait, he was castrated after puberty and so had a beard - this man, like Belisarius was fanatically devoted to Justinian and a formidable player in the imperial court and a surprising military threat to the barbarian successor nations as General Narses


 

A big day today – the biggest and best of the Later Roman Empire – Belisarius is recalled to Constantinople after regaining for the empire about 1/2 the Roman provinces lost in the West during the last century or so. What a finish!

Today is the end of the Italian campaigns and a little on Belisarius’s wife Antonina, a little on Belisarius’s eunuch General Narses (an Armenian) (well, actually Narses really WASN’T HIS – Belisarius’s – eunuch – he was definitely very much HIS OWN MAN and ABSOLUTELY DEDICATED to Justinian) and the conflicts (partially resulting from Justinian giving conflicting messages to each of his generals) in the Roman High Command of the Occupying Forces of Italy. Also a little on the realpolitik, gloves off, absolute war that Belisarius waged (esp. with the help of Bloody John) in Ostrogothic Italy.
 
 
On to the End of the Reconquest… or what they THOUGHT was the end of the reconquest…
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Story
 
Goths Raise Siege of Rome (3-538), Romans lose Rimini
 
  • Goths raise siege of Rome, lose a great deal of men to fevers in camping about Rome
  • Belisarius also lets loose John the Bloody to terrorize the Goth’s protected homeland on the East coast, convincing them to raise the seige
  • Witigis still has a huge army – sends 10,000 with nephew Uraias to Milan, and besieges the Romans in Rimini (on the road to the Gothic capital Ravenna)
  • Romans lose Rimini
  • The famous eunuch General Narses (a PersArmenian) lands with 7000 troops at the last minute saving the day like the cavalry coming over the hill – we’ll be hearing a lot about him and John – Narses had some part in getting Just. back on the throne in the Nika Rebellion (532)
  • Narses relieves Rimini
  •  

    Marses the Eunuch & Disputes Between Generals Belisarius and Narses, also Bel. gets railroaded
     
  • Just. gives highest command to Bel. but leaves a loophole in his instructions to Narses, Narses acts independently
  • An officer, a Roman soldier (Constantine), steals a pair of exp daggers from a fleeing roman citizen, Bel. forces him to give them back, and Const. tries to kill Bel., Bel. has him executed – 1/2 army sides w/Const., 1/2 w/Bel., some follow Narses, some follow Bel.
  • Bel. troops are spread throughout Italy, Narses stay together and attack the east coast of Italy s. of Ravenna – with disputes in Roman command, the Romans lose Milan and the Franks invade to get some good pillaging in
  •  

    Invasion of Franks, Utter Destruction of Milan (2nd city of Italy – like losing Chicago)(538-539)
     
  • Just. had tried to get Theodebert (Frank king) to side with him against the Goths – but the Goths collapsed too quickly – the Franks invade, but are invading ROMAN-held territory now – 10,000 burgundians (sensing a season of spoil), cross alps, join Witigis Goths sent to punish MILAN
  • Take, plunder, Milan, some say 300,000 people killed, enslaved, city walls levelled, everything of value taken – again, like Chicago disappearing beneath an invading army of Canadians (well, Franks weren’t really like Canadians, they just lived n. of Italy – that’s all)
  • Next spring, Theodebert arrives with 100,000 men – intent on moveable wealth and slaves, not on conquest – they were gone a-viking (i-viking) – to go viking – ie on raiding parties overseas – as other Germans (Scandinavians) would in THEIR OWN FRANKISH TERRITORIES in 300 years – so WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND after all
  • Franks pillage, rape, laid low by dysentery, retreats north – Gibbon supposes that Theodebert perhaps killed by an auroch (extinct enormous ice-age wild european cattle) while hunting it later
  •  

    Belisarius takes Ravenna, takes Witigis captive
     
  • Bel. takes Osimo, besieges Ravenna, after quelling the Italian and Roman Army problems he had
  • Such is Bel. reputation, the Goths offer to give Bel. rule of Italy, and repudiate their king Witigis (who is promised – and gets – a pension to live in a villa near Constantinople in retirement with his family – the hills around Const. must have been LITTERED with ex-German -Royals living on generous Roman Social Security
  • Bel. accepts without giving his word he would kingship of Italy – takes Witigis, then surprises the Gothic nobles by taking Italy in the name of Justinian – actually kind of a bad move – it would prolong the war for 30 years or so
  •  

    Belisarius returns to Constantinople (540)
     
  • Bel. recalled to Const. (of course) by an anxious Just. and a snake-pit of a court (12-539)
  • Bel. enters with Witigis as captive, all Italy obedient – but gets no Triumph this time, HEIGHT OF BEL. REPUTATION , but BEGINNING OF BEL. TROUBLES
  •  

    What the Ex-German Royals were getting for their retirement near Constantinople - you decide - either continue battling against an irrationally determined emperor in Constantinople (Justinian) who has an annual imperial budget 100,000 times larger than your own - or quit and get a villa on the Bosporus, a pension, and a title for you and your family for the rest of your life - I kind of think Germans were becoming kings just to TRADE AWAY their kingdoms to get the big JACKPOT of a quiet uber-rich civilized existence back East - of course this is a photo a mod. ITALIAN villa, but you get the idea

    What the Ex-German Royals were getting for their retirement near Constantinople - you decide - either continue battling against an irrationally determined emperor in Constantinople (Justinian) who has an annual imperial budget 100,000 times larger than your own - or quit and get a villa on the Bosporus, a pension, and a title for you and your family for the rest of your life - I kind of think Germans were becoming kings just to TRADE AWAY their kingdoms to get the big JACKPOT of a quiet uber-rich civilized existence back East - of course this is a photo a mod. ITALIAN villa, but you get the idea


     
    Sculpture of aurochs in Takvere, Estonia - this is what Gibbon supposes might have killed the King of the Franks Theodebert while he was hunting it - these are the enormous ice-age wild ox-cattle that you hear so much about in mythology (standing almost 7 feet at the shoulder), last know cos dying in a Royal Polish Game Preserve in 1627 - the Poles, among others - are attempting to recreate the auroch with DNA samples from museum bones etc

    Sculpture of aurochs in Takvere, Estonia - this is what Gibbon supposes might have killed the King of the Franks Theodebert (the guy who invaded Italy while Belisarius wasn't looking and levelled Milan like steamroller) while he was hunting it for pleasure - these are the enormous, ice-age, wild ox-cattle that you hear so much about in mythology (standing almost 7 feet at the shoulder) - the last know aurochs cow dying in a Royal Polish Game Preserve in 1627 - the Poles, among others - are attempting to recreate the auroch with DNA samples from museum bones etc


     

    A Roman Sherman, Belisarius’s General Bloody John
     

    Bloody John (Johannes Sanguinarius) of Procopius’s History of the Gothic Wars was one of General Belisarius’s officers. Belisarius sent him on a bring-the-war-home campaign in the 538 in Italy to bring the war to the heretofore peaceful eastern coast of Italy, where the Ostrogoths (the Germans in charge of Italy for the last 60 years or so) had been keeping their families and wealth (away from Tuscany and Romagna and the South and West where all the fighting was.

    Like Sherman’s March to the Sea John cut a swath through the Goths territory that ended the siege of Rome and dispersed the huge army the Ostrogoths had collected as a nation to drive the much smaller Roman invading force off the peninsula.

    Photo - Sherman's March to the Sea, destroying railroads in Atlanta - Bloody John (Johannes Sanguinarius) - a Roman officer - one of General Belisarius's - did his own March to the Sea - this time to the Eastern coast of Italy and the Hadriatic - bringing the war home in a Realpolitik kind of way to the thinking-they-were-safely-ensconced-from-the-war families of the Ostrogoths (the people the Romans were battling Italy for)

    Photo - Sherman's March to the Sea, destroying railroads in Atlanta - Bloody John (Johannes Sanguinarius) - a Roman officer - one of General Belisarius's - did his own March to the Sea - this time to the Eastern coast of Italy and the Hadriatic - bringing the war home in a Realpolitik kind of way to the thinking-they-were-safely-ensconced-from-the-war families of the Ostrogoths (the people the Romans were battling Italy for)


     

    I hate to say it – but the typical Byzantine opinion of “barbarians” (i.e. anyone not Roman) seems to hold true – barbarians were good at short term, immediate, and overwhelming attacks, but reacted badly to walls, surgically precise counter-attacks, long sieges, and any effort requiring long-term strategy, patience, and delayed gratification. They also couldn’t be trusted to be bound by treaties. In that sense, the Romans were still Romans and the Germans still Germans even after/in spite of the fact they (the germans) had taken over most of the provinces in the West.

    Anna Komnena in the Alexiad refers to most every European as “barbarian” 5 centuries later (she CONSTANTLY refers to barbarians – like they deserved to be caged and deloused before you could talk to them – in baby talk of course, since they weren’t very intelligent – she’s a Byzantine valley-girl, reading Anna is a little like reading what Paris Hilton’s diary would be if she were born in the from the late 1000’s) (I couldn’t find the juicier ones, so I made do with this – actually a pretty pedestrian quote from a usually quip-ier author-ess)

    For as a rule all barbarians are unstable, and the observance of treaties is not natural to them.

    From fordham.edu – online Anna (here)
     
     

    Antonina - yet another blind supposition - as this is from the famous mosaics in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna - she is the 1st of the Empress Theodora's ladies in waiting - and certainly looks rich and self-assured enough - a very powerful woman, together with her BBF Theodora - in the early 6th century Mediterranean world - and a very capable one

    Antonina, Belisarius's powerful wife - yet another blind supposition - as this possible portrait is an unnamed one from the famous mosaics in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna - she is the 1st of the Empress Theodora's ladies in waiting on the left - and certainly looks rich and self-assured enough - a very powerful woman, together with her BFF Theodora - in the early 6th century Mediterranean world - and a very capable one


     
     
     
     

    Last Word…
    Strong Women – Belisarius’s Wife, Antonina
     

    What can we say about Antonina? Procopius and Gibbon both have a field day with a powerful woman – women who wield power are always “unnatural” and wildly out of control (whereas men, doing the same actions, are hardly commented upon). Women holding power openly and acting with independence and determination are even worse. Of course, Antonina is a prostitute also, come from “charioteer families” and marries the rising guardsman Belisarius only to be unfaithful and practically demonic in her cuckoldry, scheming to bring about the downfall of popes and ministers, and “interfering” with the empire along with the very powerful empress Theodora.

    But even Procopius can’t blot out the partnership that existed between Belisarius and Antonina – as a team they are undefeatable, apparently. Today we would ask, who can judge a marriage or a relationship except the 2 people who are party to it – every relationship is unique and works by its own logic – only a fool requires the story of 2 people living their lives together to conform to some cookie-cutter morality – be it 6th cent. Byzantine imperial society or 21st cent. fundamentalism. What they had will forever be a secret to everyone but themselves – and probably the testimony of such a two-faced, spiteful, and unfortunately gifted secretary like Procopius (who is almost are whole source for Bel. and Ant.) doesn’t help matters. But more on that tomorrow… where almost the ENTIRE DAY (10 pages) will be devoted by Gibbon to Antonina

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