Posted by: ken98 | August 19, 2011

Empty Revolving Doors, A New Year Zero, and the Empire Strikes Back (and Fails)

Day 707 – Ken here (F)(8-19-2011)
(DEF II, v.4 Ch.41 pp.740-750)(pages read: 1800)

Rome in the late 540's

Rome in the late 540's

Well, I am back in the saddle again, to use cavalry terms which is perhaps appropriate because this is a day of seige and counter-siege – failed rescues and dramatic setbacks, executive betrayals and ignominious recalls. In other words, just another day in the Late Antique Roman world.

and…

I’m a little under the weather, but willing to try and get back into the swing of things here, if you’re willing to follow me back into Gibbon’s long, drawn-out denouement of the emperor Justinian’s reign and Justinian’s understandable, but intermittent obsession with Italy.

This section is one of my favorite slices of time for the Roman empire – the nadir, the lowest point of post-imperial Rome (the city). After being taken and retaken 4 times in as many years, the population repeatedly starved and abused by Romans and Goths alike, finally everyone just got fed up with the whole thing AND LEFT.

Far from being the bank vault of centuries of accumulated wealth and prestige which it had always supposed itself to be, Rome was now nothing but a revolving door, and an empty revolving door at that.

So on we go, back to the Roman General Belisarius battling the German Goth King Totila for ownership of the Italian peninsula, yet again…

The Story
 
2nd Siege of Rome – Goths outside, Romans inside
 
  • Totila (Gothic King) had re-taken Italy from the Romans, Justinian, and Belisarius (544-548)
  • Belisarius sent for a 2nd time (544-548), tries to relieve Bessas (his lieutenant who holds Rome and is beseiged by Totila)
  • Bessas takes advantage of siege and sells foodstuffs dearly, greatly enriching himself (a typical late Roman attitude towards cities/peoples they are defending)
  • Totila fortifies the Tiber, downriver from Rome, Belisarius attempts to move up the Tiber from the port to relieve Bessas – fails because Totila attacks and defeats his young impetuous lieutenant (Isaac) left in charge of port – forced to return to defend his wife (Antonina) and his only safe landing on the West coast of Italy
  •  

    2nd Taking of Rome – Goths Take It (Dec 17, 546)
     
  • Supposedly Roman Isaurians (Isaurians=pirates of Central Turkey) betrayed and opened the Asinarian gate to Totila
  • Bessas and the patrician Roman Senators all make their escape from another gate – supp. only 500 people left in the city at this point
  • Totila takes Rome, demolishes 1/3 of the walls, so it cannot be defended again, pillages, kills, and leaves – ROME EMPTY DEC 546 through FEB 547
  •  

    3rd Taking of Rome – Romans Take It (Feb, 547)
     
  • Belisarius enters Rome, crudely reconstructs walls
  •  

    3rd Siege of Rome – Goths outside, Romans Inside
     
  • Totila returns and has 3 battles outside walls with Belisarius, fails
  • After a time, Justinian orders Belisarius to Lucania (near the toe of the boot of Italy) to fight for the Orthodox in an uprising against the Arian (heretic) Gothic church and Goths
  • Belisarius pursued and waylaid by Goths, he barely escapes to Sicily for the winter
  • Belisarius tries to help the Lucanians, but Totila keeps him bottled up in Sicily
  •  

    Justinian Recalls Belisarius (Sep 548)
     
  • After defeats, Bel. sends his wife Antonina to negotiate with the Empress Theodora to allow Bel. to return, as Bel. has neither troops nor money to make a difference in Italy
  • Bel returns (after Thoedora’s death) and is accorded honors, given command of Justinians bodyguard – practically the 2nd in command
  •  

    4th Taking of Rome (549) Goths Take It
     
  • Totila (in Belisarius’s absence) takes Rome, Sicily, Corsica, Raids Western Greece, takes the Boot of Italy
  •  
     

     

    Rome empty.  But not due to an invasion (like in winter 546-7).  This was another day (May 11, 2011) of empty streets in Rome due to the massive earthquake scare predicted for the 11th in 1915 by Italian Seismologist Raffaele Bendandi.

    Rome empty. But not due to an invasion (like in winter 546-7). This was another day (May 11, 2011) of empty streets in Rome due to the massive earthquake scare predicted for the 11th in 1915 by Italian Seismologist Raffaele Bendandi.

    The Empty Streets
     

    No, not another earthquake scare, but an artifact of Justinian’s obsession with recapturing Italy from the Germans.

    ROME WAS EMPTY for a couple of months (Dec 546-Feb 547), because its citizens were either forcibly removed, enslaved, killed, or voluntarily exiled themselves for the duration of the war to see who would win (Constantinople or the Germans).

    Rome’s options as a world player were reduced to a waiting game – the pathetic population of between 500 and a couple of thousand remaining Romans watching on the sidelines, and watching and start their lives over, yet again, with another set of masters. The long summer of Rome was over, and now the dream of Rome (as the eternal city) would begin.

     
     
     

    Calendar for the Year 547

    A big day - Tuesday Jan 1, 547 - A New Year Zero for the City of Rome - we present the year 547 in a computer-generated calendar - now obviously, this calendar is a question-raiser much more than a problem-solver - more than can be discussed in a short blurb - there is the question of what to do about the MISSING DAYS (changing from Roman -Julian- to Modern -Gregorian- calendars) - both Catholic (in the 1580's+) and Protestant (in the 1750's+), the question of WHEN the NEW YEAR STARTED - old first day of the year (often in March, changed to Jan in the in the 1500's+), and the fact that people had just begun using the AD year numbering system (in the 550's), the years in Roman Europe would have been numbered by the emperors name and indiction, or the consul's names, etc etc - but I digress

    Last Word…

     

    A New Year Zero for ROME, or What’s Important About New Year’s Day 547?
     

    New Years 547 – this is yet another date for the End of the Roman Empire in the West – the 40 day period when Rome WAS EMPTY of people – December 546 to February 547 – ruined, abandoned, utterly exhausted from the ceaseless taking, releasing and retaking, building and demolishing of walls, and pillaging and famine. From 1,000,000 people (approximately) in the 100’s C.E., to 0 in 547, to around 35,000 in the Middle Ages (Rome didn’t reach the million mark again in population until the 1930’s)

    So why is this important? – I ask again – because Rome, and Roman Italy had been the center of the empire for 1000 years before it began to lose out to Milan, Ravenna, and Constantinople. Rome and the Romans were a nation, a nation that grew unimaginably rich and strong through conquest and tribute from surrounding tribes/nations/kingdoms.

    It was, at its heart, a city-state grown to monstrous proportions, and during the Principate and Late Antiquity, individual Roman senators owned private property throughout the empire on a scale that only kings had attained in human history prior to Rome. All of the Mediterranean was Rome’s backyard.

    Darth-Belisarius - yes, to the Ostrogoths (and probably to the war and tax-weary former Roman populations), the carpet-bagger Imperial extortionists operating under the nominal command of General Belisarius probably WERE evil incarnate as they destroyed whatever was left of the Italian peninsula's economy and wealth - Empire Strikes Back movie poster (from Star Wars V - 1980)

    Darth-Belisarius - yes, to the Ostrogoths (and probably to the war and tax-weary former Roman populations), the carpet-bagger Imperial extortionists operating under the nominal command of General Belisarius probably WERE evil incarnate as they destroyed whatever was left of the Italian peninsula's economy and wealth - Empire Strikes Back movie poster (from Star Wars V - 1980)

    And in the year 546-547, the population was zero.

    Rome had been abandoned. The remaining pitiful remnant of uber-rich Senators were broken and scattered voluntarily, mainly in the boot of Italy, waiting to see WHO WOULD POSSESS ROME or what was left of the city. Rome was in something like its 10th pillaging since the early 400’s. There really wasn’t much left to take except the marble the buildings and the monuments were made of. The new devastation of the Lombards was only 30 years away in the 580’s.

    The cattle-pasture, medieval Rome of ruins and forgotten memories that Gibbon reclined in and mused upon in the 1760’s was already starting to manifest itself.
     

    Map of ancient Lucania.  Justinian sent Belisarius out from Rome and down to the boot of Italy (well the toe of the boot of Italy) to support the Lucanian nobility in their (Orthodox) uprising against the Arian (heretic) German Goths.  He barely escaped with his life.  A bad idea.  Belisarius was to spend a few years holed up in Sicily without additional help from Justinian until he was recalled (honorably) and the prosecution of the war given to the (capable) eunuch Narses

    Map of ancient Lucania. Justinian sent Belisarius out from Rome and down to the boot of Italy (well the toe of the boot of Italy) to support the Lucanian nobility in their (Orthodox) uprising against the Arian (heretic) German Goths. He barely escaped with his life. A bad idea. Belisarius was to spend a few years holed up in Sicily without additional help from Justinian until he was recalled (honorably) and the prosecution of the war given to the (capable) eunuch Narses


     

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