Posted by: ken98 | September 27, 2011

Unquenchable Fire and Roman Dark Ages, Slit Noses and Feces Names

Day 746 – Ken here (T)(9-27-2011)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.48, pp.30-40)(pages read: 2070)

The Dark Ages

The Dark Ages? The 700's were a tough time for the Roman Empire - although as I get older I'm having a more and more difficult time figuring out exactly what darkness constituted the Dark Ages - but thats just me - A figurine based upon the manga SPAWN - from the Series 24

I have to say – IT’S VERY IRRITATING, this tumble-down-the-historical-hill, pell-mell, plummeting through centuries of history in a few pages. Irritating and distracting.

Not only are we FLYING through some of the most interesting and important (important because we stand at the beginning of things, the beginning of the Middle Ages which are the foundations of modern Europe and us), BUT, to add insult to injury, Gibbon is forced (at this time, in the 1780’s) to use sources that are monastic, biased in an obviously juvenile way towards the church and certain noble families/nations, and horribly sketchy and incomplete.

Knowing that he HAS to write SOMETHING, Gibbon repeats strange stories diligently recorded by pious monks – they’re interesting as WINDOWS INTO THE PSYCHE of Early Medieval European Man, but less helpful in plunging through 600 years of history in 50 pages. So we end up ignoring most of what he’s written.

Although, as always, it IS written BEAUTIFULLY.

Onwards through the Byzantine Dark Ages…

The Story


Constantine IV (668)
  • 3 Sons of Constans II had gone to Sicily with Constans – remember the Arabs are taking over the entire empire, Constans had thought of relocating in N Africa or Siciliy and regrouping – which would in all probability have ended the Roman Empire
  • After Constans murdered in his bath by the Chamberlain, his eldest son elevated without a contest to emp – Const IV
  • Another pretender had arose in Syracuse, Sicily – Const IV goes there, puts down what Gibbon calls the “beauteous” usurper – his son, Germanus protests, he is castrated, enters the church, becomes Saint and Patriarch
  • Const IV called pogonatus – the bearded one – has problems with his 2 brothers Heraclius and Tiberius – Beg of assistance and problems with the Themes (districts) system of Eastern Rome – Anatolian theme defends Constantinople, but allows easy concentration of power and revolt – ex. Const IV bros – Her, Tib
  • Both are Augustuses – but after revolting a couple of times, have their noses slit and are de-titled
  • Const IV gives Justinian II elevation to throne, his other son Heraclius is given tot he church

  • Gibbon doesn’t like Just II – although he had to be doing something right – HE WAS one of the ONLY EMPS to be MUTILATED (nose slit) AND STILL CAME BACK TO REIGN – thus he is called Justinian Rhinotmetos – SlitNose – for some odd, probably personal reasonGibbon says he was “imperfectly” slit – apparently less-than-perfect men cannot rule – I wonder what he thought of the Latin leper-king of Jerusalem during the Crusades? We’ll see…
  • Gibbon repeats the bloodthirstiness of Just II – from the monkish records – again, highly suspect because they read like a kindergartner’s fairy tale story – but without even these extr poor resources WE HAVE NOTHING – so Gibbon quotes them
  • Leontius – a general Just II had imprisoned, brings Const to a riot, they riot against the emp, his nose is slit, and everyone thinks they’ve heard the last of Just – he is banished to the Greek N Coast of the Black Sea (the Chersonese) but no…

    Leontius and (Apsimar) Tiberius III (695 – 705)
  • Leontius is quickly mutilated and sent away by Apsimar
  • Tiberius has to deal with Just II – he escapes the Chersonese, goes to the Khazars along the Caspian Sea, and is given a daughter of the Khan to wed
  • As Just II is about to be assassinated by the Khan for money, he escapes to the Bulgars near the mouth of the Danube
  • He promises to wed a daughter of the Bulg Khan Terbelis, with 15000 Bulgars he marches on Constantinople

    Justinian II REDUX (705-711)
  • Supp very bloody reign
  • Supp Just II sends naval expedition against the Chersonese, the Chers.(n coast of Black Sea) gain help of Khazars, and under (Bardanes) Philippicus they persuade the navy to rebel, sail back to Constantinople, kill Just II and his son Tiberius

    3 Emperors in 7 Years, Philippicus Bardanes I, Anastasius II, Theodosius III (711-718)
  • (Bardanes) Philippicus (711-713) – soon overthrown, killed by Artemius – Philippicus forced tojoin the church
  • (Artemius) Anastasius II (713-716) little is known – Gibbon says “short and troubled reign displayed virtues of peace and war” – basically says nothing – Artemius forced to join the church, but later rebelled, and was killed
  • Theodosius III (716-718) – Gibbon merely mentions he inscribed the word HEALTH on his tomb – not much to go on there

  • an ICONOCLAST – strong in Asia Minor
  • Rose from the Anatolian THEME – again the military THEME govt provides rebels, usurpers
  • New Dynasty – the Isaurian – also a very diff dynasty to talk about as they were the fanatical ICONOCLAST emperors – emps that believed the worship of icons was blasphemous – as this opinion WAS MADE HERESY later, of course these emperors are all shown to be DEVILS in the monkish historical records
  • A son of a substantial owner/grazer of sheep
  • Supp a jewish fortune teller told him he would become emp if he stopped worship of idols – a typical monkish invention, actually uncomfortableness with icons was prevalent in Asia Minor (Isauria) – poss related to Arab/Muslim/Jewish injunctions against graven images
  • ICONOCLASM was very controversial – the West hated it, although images were not worshipped as they were in the East – bones and body parts of saints and martyrs were

  • Son of Leo, called copronymous (feces-named) because he supp defecated into his baptismal font – another typical monkish tale – they HATED later on the ICONOCLAST emps – an obviously juvenile slander – but an image hard to get out of your head, therefor all the more effective I suppose
  • Supp dissolute and cruel – the tales of Const V portray him as a DEVIL
  • Gibbon notes that he redeemed captives, repaired aqueducts, times were good, plentiful under his reign, colonies were introduced into Constantinople and Thrace
  • But the sources are pretty much unremittingly HOSTILE to him – as you can tell from his name

    Leo IV the Khazar (775-780)
  • Sickly emperor – main bus = settles succession
  • 1) gives succ to his son – to be Const VI, under regency of the FAMOUS EMPRESS IRENE
  • Const IV’s 5 brothers are allowed to live, end up rebelling 3 times, are mutilated, blinded, tongues cut out – eventually
  • Succession to Const VI – under STRONG EMPRESS IRENE


    The Nuclear Bomb of the Dark Ages - Greek Fire

    The Nuclear Bomb of the Dark Ages - The Incredibly Effective Secret Weapon of the Byzantines - UNQUENCHABLE FIRE - that was kept such a secret, that the secret was lost - forever - GREEK FIRE - Byzantine ship using Greek fire in the late 11th century. Madrid Skylitzes manuscript - Greek Fire was 1st used in the Siege of Constantinople by Leo III in 718


    A HUGE DAY – A day to remember – August 15, 718 – the Arabs Give Up the Famous Great Siege Of Constantinople


    The tide of Arab conquest was turned, for the time being, although all the participants didn’t realize it at the time. Leo III the Isaurian, founder of his dynasty managed to turn back the 13 month SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE – stopping, for the time being, Arab conquests in Eastern Europe and preserving the existence of the Roman Empire.

    This siege was the first recorded use of the famous GREEK FIRE – a liquid that was pumped and shot out of a cannon (from boats in this case) that could not be put out by water. Its formula, although conjectured at in modern times, was never divulged to non-Romans, and since the Roman empire ceased to be sometime before the Latins took Constantinople in 1204, apparently, the secret disappeared with the Roman military.

    this from Wiki about the Siege and the Isaurians:

    Leo III the Isaurian, 717–741

    Leo III, who would become the founder of the so-called Isaurian dynasty, was actually born in Germanikeia in northern Syria ca. 685; his alleged origin from Isauria derives from a reference in Theophanes the Confessor, which however may be a later addition. After being raised to spatharios by Justinian II, he fought the Arabs in Abasgia, and was appointed as strategos of the Anatolics by Anastasios II. Following the latter’s fall, in 716 Leo allied himself with Artabasdos, the general of the Armeniacs, and was proclaimed emperor while two Arab armies, one under the Caliph’s brother Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik, campaigned in Asia Minor. Leo averted an attack by Maslamah by clever negotiations, in which he promised to recognize the Caliph’s suzerainty, but on 25 March 717, he entered Constantinople and deposed Theodosios.

    Arab siege of Constantinople and its aftermath

    Within months, the new emperor faced his first great challenge, with a massive Muslim attack on the imperial capital: the Caliphate’s army and navy, led by Maslamah, numbered some 120,000 men and 1,800 ships according to the sources. Whatever the real number, it was a huge force, far larger than the imperial army. Thankfully for Leo and the Empire, Anastasios II had repaired and strengthened the capital’s sea walls. In addition, the emperor concluded an alliance with the Bulgar khan Tervel, who agreed to harass the invaders’ rear.

    From July 717 to August 718, the city was besieged by land and sea by the Muslims, who built an extensive double line of circumvallation and contravallation on the landward side, isolating the capital. Their attempt to complete the blockade by sea however failed when the Byzantine navy employed Greek fire against them; the Arab fleet kept well off the city walls, leaving Constantinople’s supply routes open. Forced to extend the siege into winter, the besieging army suffered horrendous casualties from the cold and the lack of provisions. In spring, new reinforcements were sent by the new caliph, Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (r. 717–720), by sea from Africa and Egypt and over land through Asia Minor. The crews of the new fleets were composed mostly of Christians, who began defecting in large numbers, while the land forces were ambushed and defeated in Bithynia. As famine and an epidemic continued to plague the Arab camp, the siege was abandoned on 15 August 718. On its return, the Arab fleet suffered further casualties to storms and an eruption of the volcano of Thera.

    Even during the siege, Leo had been able to stifle attempts at secession: his troops swiftly overthrew a revolt in Sicily, where a certain Basil Onomagoulos was declared emperor. In 719, he also weathered an attempt by the deposed Anastasios II to recover his throne with Bulgar help. Leo further strengthened his position by crowning his wife Maria as Augusta in 718 and his son Constantine as co-emperor in 720. Profiting from the weakened state of the Caliphate after the enormous losses they had suffered before Constantinople, Leo was able to launch a counter-offensive which achieved some success. The Arabs soon recovered however, and from 720 launched annual raids that devastated large parts of Asia Minor, despite a Byzantine alliance with the Khazars, who launched attacks on the Caliphate’s northern flank. Iconium and Caesarea were sacked, and Byzantine troops were again driven out of Armenia.

    (from Byzantium Under the Isaurians – Leo III

    The Empress Irene - one of many strong women empresses of Eastern Rome

    The Empress Irene - an example of the strong women of the Byzantine empire - she ruled alone as Basilissa from 797-802 - Image from "Pala d'Oro", Venice, c. 10th century.


    A Strong Woman, the First of Many, the Empress Irene


    Irene Sarantapechaina (Greek: Ειρήνη Σαρανταπήχαινα), known as Irene of Athens or Irene the Athenian (Greek: Ειρήνη η Αθηναία) (c. 752 – August 9, 803) was a Byzantine empress regnant from 797 to 802, having previously been empress consort from 775 to 780, and empress mother and regent from 780 to 797. It is often claimed she called herself “basileus” (βασιλεύς), ’emperor’. In fact, she normally referred to herself as “basilissa” (βασίλισσα), ’empress’, although there are three instances of the title “basileus” being used by her.

    Irene was born to a noble Greek family of Athens, the Sarantapechos family. Although she was an orphan, her uncle, Constantine Sarantapechos, was a patrician and possibly strategos of the theme of Hellas. She was brought to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine V on November 1, 769, and was married to his son Leo IV on December 17. Although she appears to have come from a noble family, there is no clear reason as to why she would have been chosen as Leo’s bride, leading some scholars to speculate that she was selected in a bride-show, in which eligible women were paraded before the bridegroom, until one was finally selected.

    On January 14, 771, Irene gave birth to a son, the future Constantine VI. When Constantine V died in September 775, Leo was to succeed to the throne at the age of twenty-five years. Leo, though an iconoclast (opposed theologically to the veneration of icons), pursued a policy of moderation towards iconodules (those who venerated icons), but his policies became much harsher in August 780, when a number of courtiers were punished for icon-veneration. According to tradition, he discovered icons concealed among Irene’s possessions and refused to share the marriage bed with her thereafter. Nevertheless, when Leo died on September 8, 780, Irene became regent for their nine-year old Constantine.

    Irene was almost immediately confronted with a conspiracy which she heard was to raise to the throne the Caesar Nikephoros, a half-brother of Leo IV. To overcome this challenge, she had Nikephoros and his co-conspirators ordained as priests, a status which disqualified them from ruling, and ordered them to administer Holy Communion on Christmas Day.

    As early as 781, Irene began to seek a closer relationship with the Carolingian dynasty and the Papacy. She negotiated a marriage between her son and Rotrude, a daughter of Charlemagne by his third wife Hildegard. Irene went as far as to send an official to instruct the Frankish princess in Greek; however, Irene herself broke off the engagement in 787, against her son’s wishes.
    Irene next had to subdue a rebellion led by Elpidius, the strategos of Sicily, whose family was tortured and imprisoned, while a fleet was sent, which succeeded in defeating the Sicilians. Elpidius fled to Africa, where he defected to the Arabs. After the success of Constantine V’s general, Michael Lachanodrakon, who foiled an Arab attack on the eastern frontiers, the strategos of the Bucellarian Theme, Tatzates, defected to the Arabs, but due to the failure of negotiations Irene had to agree to pay an annual tribute of 70 or 90,000 dinars to the Arabs for a three year truce, give them 10,000 silk garments and provide them with guides, provisions and access to markets during their withdrawal.

    (from Irene of Athens – WIKI

    Byzantine Empire 650

    Byzantine Empire 650 - THE AMAZING SHRINKING EMPIRE


    Byzantine Empire 717 - from Wiki

    Its Gotten A Little Smaller - Byzantine Empire in 717 A.D. Striped land shows areas constantly raided. There are 12 provinces, of which 7 are classed as Themes: 1. Exarchate of Ravenna 2. Venetia and Istria 3. Duchy of Rome 4. Duchy of Naples 5. Duchy of Calabria 6. Thema of Hellas 7. Thema of Thrace 8. Thema of Opsikion 9. Thema of Thrakesion 10. Thema of Anatolikon 11. Thema of Karabisianoi 12. Thema of Armeniakon - - From Wiki - This is a GREAT MAP


    Last Word…


    The Roman “Dark Ages”


    After Heraclius, and the total defeat of Persia, and then the Near-Total Defeat of Rome (to the Arabs), the empire collapsed, condensed, and re-grouped. When it emerged it was something different – a different kind of animal – one that was organized on military lines, based on a soldier-farmer, could react quickly to raids, was much less top-heavy in bureacracy, but was still recognizably a very Roman, organized, civil state.

    This wasn’t the 1st time Rome had re-invented herself – at the end of the Republic, when citizen-army civil wars were becoming an annual event, and Generals were ruling extra-legally, the Republic (under Augustus) became the empire, an overtly General-led, centrally organized, but very loosely held entity that lasted 300 years.

    Later, when the Crisis of the 200’s and more civil wars ripped the empire apart, Diocletian nailed down the fabric of the Mediterranean empire that was Rome by imposing a huge top-down organization and bureaucracy that gave it form and substance and a new life for 300 or so years more.

    Now we come to the post-Arab-Conquest, post-Slavic-Invasion Roman world. With much reduced income, taxes, etc the old pay-as-you-go mercenary armies wouldn’t work anymore, so during the 700’s a new citizen-army state emerged, gradually.

    Leave a Reply

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

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

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google 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 )

    Connecting to %s


    %d bloggers like this: