Posted by: ken98 | September 23, 2011

An (Un)Surprising Bigotry, More National Churches, and A BIG END

Day 742 – Ken here (F)(9-23-2011)
(DEF II, v.4, Ch.47, pp.990-1002)(pages read: 2050)

Ethiopian Christianity - the Churches of Lalibela

The famous rock-cut churches of Northern Ethopia, thought to be from the late 1100's - you can't mention Christianity and Ethiopia without looking at these churches cut DOWN into LIVING ROCK - Bet Giyorgis Church in Lalibela Ethiopia

Tired, sick, and a little grumpy – so maybe a little short today – but more hopeful now that we are moving towards the end of miscellaneous essays on Religion and 18th Cent. English Enlightenment Thought, and back to Roman History (tomorrow). I’m sorry, although I’ve enjoyed parts of this long chapter, it still feels more like filler than actual Roman history. But maybe that’s just me…

A momentous day – well, in terms of numbers of pages, volumes, books read. Today is the end of the Fourth Book, the Second Volume. It took us 2000 pages to cover about 400 years (250-650), at this rate we would have 4000 pages left to get to 1453 and the end of the empire in the East. We’ll do it in about 1000 pages. Granted, the closer we get to the end, the smaller the country of the Romanioi is – at the very end its not much bigger than Rhode Island and the emperor is a minor vassal of the Turkish sultan – but still, we will be going very very fast from here on out – faster and faster as we reach the end.

Today we finish up the interminable Chapter 47 on Christianity – looking at the national churches that were the descendants/children of the Eastern Roman Churches. It’s fascinating that Gibbon leaves out the Greek, Russian, and all other Slavic Orthodox Churches – as these, like birds are to dinosaurs – are the true descendants of the Greek Roman Empire in the East. But I suppose we’ll be doing a lot more Eastern and Middle European history in the last 1000 pages. We’ll see…

Even at this point, for most people even today (200 years after Gibbon wrote the Decline and Fall) most historians would say that he was venturing out of Roman history into another kind of history. But Gibbon is persevering and so should we. The history of Rome in the East was a constant thorn in the side of Europe – Medieval Europe had a love-hate relationship with the Greek Empire. And as we are children of the European Middle Ages, and the Greeks aroused such passions, we probably can (and will) learn a lot about ourselves in looking at them.

But first we have to finish up 47: The Armenian, Copt, and Abyssinian Churches.

The Story
Armenian Church
  • One of the 1st kingdoms to convert to Christianity (200’s)
  • Champion of Eutyches, which makes them enemies of Chalcedon (and the empire)
  • The CATHOLIC or Patr. of Armenia is in a monastery near Erivan
  • Supp spread to Barbary and Poland (in the 1780’s) – “recently” acc to the lights of Gibbon

    Copt (Egyptian) Church
  • Ongoing EXTREME violence and partisanship of Alexandria – the hist of the Egyptian Church is said to be that of the hist of the Alex Church
  • Split between 2 Monophysite factions – the corruptibles and the incorruptibles – or those of Gaian and those of Theodosius
  • Gibbon quickly reviews the Partriarchates of Alexendria of Paul (538), Apollinaris (551),John and Eulogius (580)(
  • the battle is with the empire vs the people – the Patriarchs are often appointed by the emp, so = Chalc, NOT Monoph, and are supported by soldiers, who regularly massacre to uphold the empire and keep the peace of Alex – PERSECUTION under Heraclius – 530’s ON – poss part of the reason Egypt is lost is because of Heraclius, Imperial persec of Eqyptian Monophysites
  • UNDERGROUND Monophysites = Jacobites, and the Benjamin becomes Jacobite Patr 625-661 – INTO the Arab Conquest
  • by 1780’s – 1100 years later, Gibbon describes them as miserable – amounting to 25,000 families – a race of illiterate beggars

    Abyssinian (Ethiopian) Church
  • Famous Story of Conversion of the Nubians – both Emperor Justinian (Catholic) and his Empress Theodora (Monophysite) send missionaries, Theodora manages to delay Just’s missionaries and reaches Nubia 1st, thus converting them all to Monophys – an interesting and typically ROMAN story – conversion only because of ROMAN initiation – still possible – but it seems mythical to me
  • Church of Abyssinia (530) – then Gibbons has them “sleep” 1000 years – interesting – ie if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it fall? if a nation lives for a thousand years and no European sees it, does it exist at all?
  • Then rediscovered by Port, forced conversion to Catholicism, by Jesuits 1620’s
  • Rejection of Jesuits – (1630’s) and go back to Monophysitism
  • Its interesting to note – GIBBON KNOWS NOTHING Of the Churches of Lalibela



    Last Word…


    Guess Whos Coming To Dinner Movie Poster - 40 years ago interracial marriage was ILLEGAL in many states

    Gibbon has offhand racist remarks that must have been considered MILD by the standards of his day but seem wildly bizarre to us - the horrors of interracial dating and marriage seem much less earthshaking in 2011 than they did almost 50 years ago - hopefully someday soon gay issues and the sick hatred that unthinking bigots today vomit forth will seem as surprising and as irrelevant as Gibbon's PARROT REFERENCE to Blacks - Movie Poster from the 1967 film Guess Whos Coming to Dinner

    Quotable Gibbon (Unfortunately) A kind of Horrific Racism – But This IS 1790 After All


    If you’ve ever read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle – ALL THE WAY THROUGH – there is a section near the end where for a page and half (and this is around 1904) Sinclair indulges himself in one the most over-the-top racist passages against African Americans (outside of a Ku Klux Klan manual) I’ve ever read – fires, cannibals, eyes and teeth, the whole works – enough to make you question the sanity/reason of the author in that muckraking book exposing industrial corruption (literally). Its shocking in its casualness I guess – much in the same way anti-gay sentiments that seem (to some) self-evident will one day soon seem as bizarrely out of place as the plot to the 1967 movie Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. One can only hope.

    Here is Gibbon vomiting forth another elegant aside on the bestial nature of anyone with more melanin than he:

    But the Nubians at length executed their threats of returning to the worship of idols; the climate required the indulgence of polygamy, and they have finally preferred the triumph of the Koran to the abasement of the Cross. A metaphysical religion may appear too refined for the capacity of the negro race: yet a black or a parrot might be taught to repeat the words of the Chalcedonian or Monophysite creed.

    (DEF II, Book 4, Ch.47, pp.998)

    Upton Sinclair's 1904 book exposing the horrors of the meatpacking industry

    Upton Sinclair's 1904 book exposing the horrors of the meatpacking industry - for a page or two he lets loose a vicious stream of unappetizing racism - something that I have to say surprised me coming from such a strong Socialist

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