Posted by: ken98 | September 30, 2011

Seafood Soup Chapters, The First Female Historian, Very Strong Females, and More Female-Hating

Day 749 – Ken here (F)(9-30-2011)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.48, pp.60-70)(pages read: 2100)

THIS IS A METAPHOR for what we will be doing for the next 1000 pages

THIS IS A METAPHOR for what we will be doing for the next 1000 pages - A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING ALL THROWN TOGETHER IN AN ENGAGING STYLE - interesting, but probably not very historical anymorea photo of a nice bouillabaisse - if you go for that sort of thing

All right, I apologize for my extreme grouchiness lately – partly due to just plaon feeling lousy, but mostly due to an irritating whirlwind review of Byzantine history – 650 – 1204. We gave another 1-1/2 days, then we move on to chapter 49 – a strange mixture of Christian, Papal, Italian, and early Germanic Kingdoms, all kind of lumped together. I get the feeling more and more this last volume, the last 2 books are a kind of bouillabaisse – a soup with a little bit of everything in it – you can FEEL Gibbon getting tired of writing this stuff – he wants desperately to be RID of it.

So I guess it’s natural we would sense a little of his lack of interest too – I don’t know – he seems more and more to be indulging in kind of elaborate salon-talk – witty, anecdotal asides roughly based (now in the 3rd volume) in the middle 600 years or so of the empire. We’ll probably do the last 500 years in 10 pages. Probably. And I’ll still be grouchy. We’ll see.


Gibbon starts misnumbering the Constantines (well, there ARE a number of them) somewhere around the 6th one, I’d have to go back and check – I remember suddenly realizing that we were off, then promptly forgot about it. HOWEVER, looking at Constantine VIII and IX (8 and 9) it was clear from one of their nicknames (MONOMACHOS – I FIGHT ALONE, the ALONE-FIGHTER) that something was odd. Then I saw it – we’d skipped one – that is, he was ONE CONSTANTINE AHEADS. So now, in this chapter (and the rest?) whenever he’s mentioning a Constantine, we have to adjust the number DOWN by 1 to get the right one in OUR HISTORY BOOKS. Fun, No?

Oh, and there’s a small problem with the Romanus’s also

LOOK HOW LONG JUST THIS 10 PAGES of Gibbon-Reading ARE – LIKE 15 REIGNS – this is a little ridiculous!

Well, on we go for another 200 years of emperors…

The Story
Basil II Bulgar-Killer (976-1025), Constantine VIII(976-1028)
  • NOTE: ONGOING CONSTANTINE FAIL – Gibbon starts misnumbering the Constantine’s somewhere around the 6 – thus, here, his 9 is our 8
  • Under John Tzimiskes, 2 bros Basil and Const – sons of ROMANUS (still Macedonian Dynasty) grow to majority
  • Then they did not assume command for another 12 years
  • Basil takes command against 2 rival generals Sclerus, Phocas
  • GIBBON MENTIONS A TINY BIT OF THIS – Basil Takes BULGARIA – 1018 – the TRIUMPH in Athens, Rome gains Danube as frontier for 1st time in 400 years
  • After bro Basil II dies, Const VII reigns alone for 3 years

    Romanus III Argyrus (1028-1034)
  • No male succession, Const IX leaves 3 daughters – Eudocia, Zoe, Theodora. Eud=monastery Zoe,Theo RULE TOGETHER. then ZOE agrees to marry and bear children – Romanus is forced to divorce his wife and marry ZOE
  • ZOE intrigues with a chamberlain – Michael, supp a former money-changer, and as his lover he assumes purple, Romanus is poisoned

    Michael IV the Paphlogonian (1034-1041)
  • Has epilepsy
  • He starts to lose his health, promotes his nephew – Michael Calaphates “the boat calker”
  • nephew is adopted by ZOE as her son, on father’s death, nephew ascends

    Michael V Calaphates (the Boat Calker) (1041-1042)
  • 3 month emperor
  • Turns on Zoe, eunuchs -exiles ZOE
  • The crowds, wild with anger, recall ZOE and THEODORA to palace

    Zoe, Theodora (1042)
  • Reign jointly

    Constantine IX Monomachos (1042-1054)
  • NOTE: ONGOING CONSTANTINE FAIL – Gibbon starts misnumbering the Constantine’s somewhere around the 6 – thus, here, his 10 is our 9
  • Married to ZOE, gain legitimacy, reigns with her, but she is elderly so he takes a mistress, SCLERENA whom he shows publicly as his wife, Sclerena is made an Augusta – a big big deal – Zoe doesn’t care –
  • Const dies, Theodora takes over, reigns alone

    Theodora (1054-1056)
  • Rules until her death, promotes Micheal VI

    Michael VI Stratioticus (General) (1056-1057)
  • Overthrown by rebellion of overlooked generals, he becomes a monk rather than die

    Isaac I Comneni
  • Isaac in bad health – tries to leave empire to bro John, but J. refuses
  • so goes to Constantine Ducas on Isaac’s death

    Constantine X Ducas (1059-1067)
  • NOTE: ONGOING CONSTANTINE FAIL – Gibbon starts misnumbering the Constantine’s somewhere around the 6 – thus, here, his 11 is our 10
  • Eudocia rules after Const X death
  • Const invests his 3 sons with Augustus – Michael, Andronicus, Constantine
  • GIBBON Does not Mention the Ducas/Comneni FAMILY FEUDS over gaining the emperorship – the 2 families FEUDING are an imp part of understanding this period

    Eudocia (1067-1067)
  • 7 months

    Romanus IV Diogenes (1067-1071) (
  • NOTE ROMANUS NUMBERING FAIL – this is actually Romanus 4, not Romanus 3 as Gibbon has it – there has to be a reason for all these Constantine/Romanus mix ups
  • Eudocia marries him
  • Caught in a battle with the Turks, so is deposed
  • This is ACTUALLY THE VERY HUGE battle of MANZIKERT 1071 – a huge loss for Rome, and a HUGE WIN for the Turks – the way was open for the beginning of their empire in Asia Minor – Gibbon does not mention it here tho… strange

    Micheal VII Ducas Parapinaces, Andronicus, COnstantine (1071-1078)
  • NOTE: ONGOING CONSTANTINE FAIL – Gibbon starts misnumbering the Constantine’s somewhere around the 6 – thus, here, his 12 is our 11
  • sons of Constantine X Ducas
  • 2 generals (Asia, Europe) Nicephorus Bryennius, Nicephorus Botaniates REVOLT
  • Bryennius gets to Constantinople 1st, but pillages, citizens turn against him
  • BOtaniates appears with an army of TURKS, and gets invited

    Nicephorus III Botaniates (1078-1081)
  • Fights rebels his whole reign
  • uses Alexis, Alexis eventually rebels, marches on Constantinople, takes it

    Alexis I Comnenus (1081-1118)
  • Father of historian Princess Anna Comnena
  • Experienced the 1st Crusade (1099->) – Crusaders appear as LAST BARBARIAN INVASION OF ROME
  • 97 years reigned


    one of my favorite emperors - Alexis I Comnenus

    A manuscript portrait of one of my favorite emperors - Alexis I Comnenus - or more properly his name in Greek-English - Alexios A Komnenos - (Greeks numbered with letters - ie ABG, 1st 3 letters of alphabet - 1,2,3)

    Strong Women – Byzantium was the GOLDEN AGE of Strong Political Women

    We have SO MANY strong women now, they are coming on so FAST AND FURIOUS, I can’t keep up (in my defense, we are, after all, doing about 100 years every 10 pages now – quite the Gibbonian clip)

    So, for now, I’ll just have to list a few them:

  • Irene, husband of Leo IV, sole empress later
  • Theodora wife of Theophilus
  • Helena, wife of Romanus
  • Sclerena, mistress of Const
  • Zoe, daughter of Const VIII, sole empress later
  • Theodora, daughter of COnst VIII, sole empress later
  • Eudocia, wife of Const X, sole empress later
  • Princess Anna Comnena – daughter of Alexis I

    Last Word…


    Constantine IX had quite the eventful life, yet Gibbon sums it all up as OBSCURE

    Constantine IX had quite the eventful life, yet Gibbon sums it all up as OBSCURE - I hate to say it, but he's getting on my nerves a little in this, his chapter 48 - A beautiful mosaic of Constantine IX Monomachos in the Hagia Sophia

    Quotable Gibbon


    On Constantine VIII and Gibbon’s Dislike of the Obscurest of the Obscure

    I Guess this is why this last volume of Gibbon is SO DIFFICULT TO READ – because GIBBON IS SO MISINFORMED – not his fault entirely as this WAS the 1780’s and the very beginning of organized history, but still, there’s so much MORE you could say about Constantine IX MonomachosConstantine VIII

    After his decease, his brother Constantine enjoyed, about three years, the power, or rather the pleasures, of royalty; and his only care was the settlement of the succession. He had enjoyed sixty-six years the title of Augustus; and the reign of the two brothers is the longest, and most obscure, of the Byzantine history.

    (DEF III, vol.5, ch.48, p.61)

    Gibbon Hating Women Yet Again – This Time the Princess Anna Comneni – Who Commits the Fearful Sin of Female Authorship

    GibbontTrashes the Princess Anna – daughter of Emp. Alexis I Comnenus (ca.1100) and author of the Alexiad. I HAVE read Anna and I have to say she’s fabulous. You NEVER get a woman’s point of view of historical events, Anna adds crazy details, like how handsome certain courtiers (male) were (ex. “You really couldn’t keep your eyes off of him”) and SUDDENLY YOU REALIZE for the last 6000 years of recorded history, when you were reading about all those women’s faces that launched a thousand ships, there were just as many men’s faces making women weak. It’s just they didn’t blab it all to a million people by writing it down for posterity – but it HAPPENED. A whole other way of looking at history – and reading ANNA opens your eyes up to it. Also her INSANELY xenophobic, romanophilic prejudices – she’s amazed that non-romans don’t eat their young (well, almost).

    And what does Gibbon derive from a joyous 8 or 10 hours of reading Princess Anna?

    The life of the emperor Alexius has been delineated by a favourite daughter, who was inspired by a tender regard for his person and a laudable zeal to perpetuate his virtues. Conscious of the just suspicions of her readers, the princess Anna Comnena repeatedly protests, that, besides her personal knowledge, she had searched the discourses and writings of the most respectable veterans: and after an interval of thirty years, forgotten by, and forgetful of, the world, her mournful solitude was inaccessible to hope and fear; and that truth, the naked perfect truth, was more dear and sacred than the memory of her parent. Yet, instead of the simplicity of style and narrative which wins our belief, an elaborate affectation of rhetoric and science betrays in every page the vanity of a female author. The genuine character of Alexius is lost in a vague constellation of virtues; and the perpetual strain of panegyric and apology awakens our jealousy, to question the veracity of the historian and the merit of the hero. We cannot, however, refuse her judicious and important remark, that the disorders of the times were the misfortune and the glory of Alexius; and that every calamity which can afflict a declining empire was accumulated on his reign by the justice of Heaven and the vices of his predecessors

    (DEF III, vol.5, ch.48, p.69)

    And MORE women hating – the HORRORS of IMPOTENT FEMALES – the Empire Treated Like a Livestock Venture

    Gibbon – on the period of the empire when ZOE and THEODORA were active:

    Whilst he (Micheal VI) ascended the throne, Theodora sunk into the grave; the last of the Macedonian or Basilian dynasty. I have hastily reviewed, and gladly dismiss, this shameful and destructive period of twenty-eight years, in which the Greeks, degraded below the common level of servitude, were transferred like a herd of cattle by the choice or caprice of two impotent females.

    (DEF III, vol.5, ch.48, p.64)

    The empress ZOE - a formidable woman

    The empress ZOE - a formidable woman and one of my favorite empresses

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