Posted by: ken98 | June 28, 2011

Bulgarian Beavers, Slavic Cowboys, Central Asian Colorado and Roman Arms Dealers

Day 655 – Ken here (T)(6-28-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.42 pp.690-700)(pages read: 1750)

Altai Mountain Chain (al-tai - mountains of gold)  - a photo of Mt. Belukha (14,783)(being from Colorado, I always look for fourteeners) - this is the fabled birthplace of the Turkic peoples - the name is the name for the proposed family of languages incl Turkic (Altaic Lang Group) - and it lies on the politically (very) sensitive borders of Russia, Kasakhstan, China, Mongolia - a very remote place even today

Altai Mountain Chain (al-tai - mountains of gold) - a photo of Mt. Belukha (14,783)(like any good Coloradan, I always look for fourteeners) - this is the fabled birthplace of the Turkic peoples - the mountain chain gives its name to a proposed family of languages that incls Turkic (Altaic Lang Group) - and the chain lies on the politically (very) sensitive borders of Russia, Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia - a very remote (but beautiful) place even today - looks kinda like the Rockies to me...


 
A barbaric day.
 
We quickly look over the barbarian threats in the near-term for Justinian and Eastern Rome: Bulgarians, Slavs, Turks, Avars (false Avars).

Mr. Gibbon, in accordance with our expectations of him, based upon past behavior, has little good to say of any of them, except in passing and only parenthetically. We learn a great deal about the mythic beginnings of the Turks and Central Asia.

I, on the other hand, am learning a lot about the Altai mountains – which look a lot to me like my native Colorado – and about the Sea of Azov (called by Gibbon by its antique name Lake Maeotis). The Sea of Azov is a fascinating place – 46 feet at its deepest, often only 3 feet deep, with hugely long sand spits poking out of its shores – it’s the kind of bulbous watery appendage on the north shore of the Black Sea – we hear about it briefly today when the Avars launch themselves into Europe.
 

 

The Story
 
CONSTANT CAVEAT
 
  • The hard part about Gibbon – I hope you realize – is that much of his scholarship is drastically out of date (obviously – since he was writing the 1780’s and was in effect a pioneer historian – one would expect our understanding to have changed somewhat in the last 2 centuries) – this section on barbarians is no different – the origins of the Bulgars,Slavs,Turks,Avars has expanded slightly from the (literal) armchair-English-historian-writing-in-Switzerland perspective
  •  

    Bulgarians
     
  • Gibbon divides all peoples living in Poland,Russia,Lithuania (remember Lithuania’s great day in history in the 1400’s saw it stretching from the Baltic to the Black Seas) as either BULGARIANS or SCLAVONIANS (Slavs)
  • The Bulgars are archers, nomads, horse-riders
  • Gibbon calls them either “rapacious wolves” or “domestic dogs” – their language is “rude and harsh”
  • Gibbon compares them to beavers – with the beavers on the winning side of that comparison – see below
  •  

    Slavs (in 18th cent. Gibbonian – Sclavonians)
     
  • Uniform, repetitious annual visits to Roman Empire for plundering
  • example -(538) year of surrender of Ravenna, Huns/Bulgarians (Gibbon mixes the two) devastate Balkans right up tot he suburbs of Constantinople
  • Another time 3000 Slavs plunder all Thrace and Illyricum (Albania, etc)
  • Supposedly Slavs flayed or beat with clubs while suspended between poles – all their captives (per Procopius) – but Gibbon doubts this – Proc says each year for 32 years 200,000 people killed – but that is larger (6 million) than the
  •  

    Turks – Their First Empire
     
  • Gibbon repeats founders myths of Turkic peoples – again, as we’re dealing with a nation’s beginnings, the whole idea of the ancient-ness of the turkic peoples and their ancient empires is a highly political question
  • Turks identified somewhat/sometimes with 200’s B.C. empire Xiongnu Gibbon has previously associated the Xiongnu with the later empire of the Mongols (1400’s)
  • Describes religion – shamanism and associates them with Eskimo peoples in Kamtchatka, n. coast of Russia, Siberia
  • Gibbon has the Khan “under Mt. Altai” issuing commands for invasion of China, Rome, Bochara, Samarkand – this is the Goturks Empire – First and Second Khaganates, East and West of the 500’s, 600’s (
  • Conquerors “enervated by luxury” – which in Gibbon’s time was a clinical phrase, not a metaphorical description – he literally thought physical comfort bred physical weakness – an irritating (and abs useless) theory to have for the “decline” of every empire – at least he blamed Christianity in part for Rome’s fall – and not just “enervating luxury”
  •  

    False Avars
     
  • A khan of the Ogors is slain with 300,000 men by Turks, the remaining nation flee westward and are mistaken for Avars (a nation noted for its ferociousness) and so take on the Avar name (per Gibbon)
  • They hit the Caucasus Mtns in 550’s, hear of Rome, offer themselves as allies as Avars in an embassy of 558
  • These False Avars are sent by Justinian into the forests of Poland, Germany and take out many tribes of Slavs and Bulgarians – in Justinian’s bid to counterbalance the power of the Lombards (who are about to overwhelm most of Italy and take back Justinian’s conquests)
  •  

     
     

    Arms Fairs - In this case it's Arabs in Abu Dhabi, but 1500 years earlier it was Avars in Constantinople - photo of Arms Fair in Abu Dhabi 2007

    Arms Fairs - In this case it's Arabs in Abu Dhabi, but 1500 years earlier it was Avars in Constantinople - photo of Arms Fair in Abu Dhabi 2007

    Rome as the Original Nuclear Arms Dealer
     

    I have to comment on what may be painfully obvious to others already, but Constantinople is the premier arms manufacturer in the world and Roman arms are eagerly sought after, and are bargaining chips, deal-breakers in making allies with various Turkic/Slavic/etc nations wanting to milk the imperial connection for all its worth.

    Gibbon describes his “false” Avars as demanding silk garments, beds, chains and collars of gold – but mostly interested in the right to purchase arms in the capital of the empire.

    Like the U.S., France, Russia, China, and all the other members of the nuclear club of the end of the 20th century, its the MARKET for arms, advanced arms, inexhaustible stockpiles of excellent armor and weapons FOR THE EXPORT MARKET that drives barbarians again and again to Constantinople.
     

    What Bulgarians AREN'T as good as

    What Bulgarians AREN'T as good as


     

    Quotable Gibbon – Bulgarians Aren’t Even Good Beavers
     
    Less Clean, Less Diligent, Less Social, Inferior Food Growers

     

    Once Gibbon starts he can’t stop himself – in a torrent of Slav-abuse, he praises the beaver and shows just what an late 18th cent. English historian thought of all those Eastern-Europe peoples that harried the Later Roman Empire (and Justinian) so mercilessly.

    Four thousand six hundred villages were scattered over the provinces of Russia and Poland, and their huts were hastily built of rough timber, in a country deficient both in stone and iron. Erected, or rather concealed, in the depth of forests, on the banks of rivers, or the edges of morasses, we may not perhaps, without flattery, compare them to the architecture of the beaver; which they resembled in a double issue, to the land and water, for the escape of the savage inhabitant, an animal less cleanly, less diligent, and less social, than that marvellous quadruped.

    {There, you thought he was going to say the Slavs were at least as good as beavers, but no, the beavers are the clear winners}

    The fertility of the soil, rather than the labor of the natives, supplied the rustic plenty of the Sclavonians. Their sheep and horned cattle were large and numerous, and the fields which they sowed with millet or panic afforded, in place of bread, a coarse and less nutritive food.

    {the Slavs can’t even get their food choices right}

    (DEF, II, vol.4, ch.42, p.691)

    Just remember – this is the same nation (Bulgars) that will seriously challenge Eastern Rome for the Balkan peninsula during the next 500 years (First Bulgarian Empire). They couldn’t have been all that primitive and incompetent as a nation – of course, that’s a few centuries off at this point.

    A Bulgarian house - per Gibbon - in the water, made of sticks, vaguely hemispherical, in fact - this is a beaver lodge - and Gibbon says the Bulgarians didn't even build as well as this

    A Bulgarian house - per Gibbon - in the water, made of sticks, vaguely hemispherical, in fact, as you've probably already guessed - this is a beaver lodge - and Gibbon says the typical Bulgarian/Slavic house, when compared with the above-mentioned lodges, came in clearly second place


     
     
     
     
    A photo of an ancient Slav riding down an enemy of his village on his horse, about to capture him with his slavic lasso - or a cowboy with a lasso - one of the two

    A photo of an ancient Slav riding down an enemy of his village on his horse, about to capture him with his slavic lasso - or a modern cowboy with a lasso - one of the two


     

    Last Word…
    Slavic Cowboys – Gibbon and Procopius and the Eastern European Lasso
     

    Gibbon (through socio-anthropoligical descriptions by 6yh cent. Procopius) describes the Slavs as somewhere between cowboy (or gaucho) and Rambo – Slavs use lassos to, well, lasso their enemies, and slip underwater, breathing through hollow reeds, to ambush their enemies. Regularly. Despite these prodigious talents, Gibbon reduces all their abilities to that of “inglorious” “spies and stragglers.”

    Rambo just having jumped up from his underwater hiding place, ambushing the unsuspecting - JUST LIKE THE ANCIENT SLAVS USED TO DO - Scene of Sylvester Stallone in the 1982 movie Rambo First Blood

    Rambo just having jumped up from his underwater hiding place, just having breathed through a hollow reed for hours, mowing down the unsuspecting in a classic ambush - JUST LIKE THE ANCIENT SLAVS USED TO DO (well, maybe without the machine gun) - Scene of Sylvester Stallone in the 1982 movie Rambo First Blood

    Again, about what you’d expect from 18th cent. England on the subject of Slavs. Gibbon’s reaction to different ethnicities is usually more interesting than the history he’s attempting to impart. If Gibbon were a food, he’d definitely be an oh-so-hot Indian curry, and not a season-less plate of beef and potatoes.

    Invective, thy name is Gibbon.

    Anyways… it makes for an entertaining 3000 page read – he’s always surprising you with another “politically” (and in many cases “historically”) incorrect statement.

    Some voluntary respect was yielded to age and valour; but each tribe or village existed as a separate republic, and all must be persuaded where none could be compelled. They fought on foot, almost naked, and except an unwieldy shield, without any defensive armour; their weapons of offence were a bow, a quiver of small poisoned arrows, and a long rope, which they dexterously threw from a distance, and entangled their enemy in a running noose.

    In the field, the Sclavonian infantry was dangerous by their speed, agility, and hardiness: they swam, they dived, they remained under water, drawing their breath through a hollow cane; and a river or lake was often the scene of their unsuspected ambuscade. But these were the achievements of spies or stragglers; the military art was unknown to the Sclavonians; their name was obscure, and their conquests were inglorious.

    (DEF II, Vol.4, Ch.42, p.692)

    Advertisements

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s

    Categories

    %d bloggers like this: