Conservapedia:World History Lecture Four
Fourth Lecture – Ancient History
Instructor, Andy Schlafly
- 1 Introduction
- 2 The Roman Empire
- 3 The Roman Empire and Christianity
- 4 Military Reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire (in the West)
- 5 Other Reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire (in the West)
- 6 The Byzantine Empire (in the East)
|The last great ancient civilization was the Roman empire, which many consider to be the greatest of all. We will spend our entire class on it.||
IN CONCORDIAT VARIETATE
"Quod est demonstratum!!" "Nul Ad Hominem!!" "Contego fides est!!"
Well we're off to a great start with one of Legate Schlafly's trademark contradictions. He spent much of the previous three lectures hammering home his opinion that the Ancient Greeks were the greatest civilisation of all, and now he tells us that the Romans were. Considering that he doesn't actually say who these "many" people (who consider the Imperium to be the greatest) are, we can only assume he means himself. It's fine to change opinions as you come across new information. When I was a child, I thought the Egyptians were the greatest people ever. Then we learned about the Romans, and I changed my mind to think they were the greatest. And so on. Andy's doing much the same now. Difference is, I was a seven-year-old child learning history. He's a middle-aged man teaching history (or at least trying to). He really should have been able to make up his mind by now. Anyway, let's get on with this. Form the testudo, hurl your pilae, and grasp your gladiae. Together, fraterii!! Wreak the righteous vengeance of the City, the Imperium, and the Gods upon the stinking hordes of fundamentalist right-wing barbarians!!
The Roman Empire
|Around 2000 B.C., Indo-Europeans settled the Italian peninsula where Italy is now. “Indo-Europeans” is a very general classification that includes peoples stretching all the way from India to Europe, and who spoke any of dozens of Indo-European languages, including Sanskrit in India, Persian in the Middle East, Slavic in Eastern Europe and Germanic, Italic and Celtic languages in Europe.||All good geopolitical lectures in the Schlafly School of historical revisionism must begin with a rambling diatribe about language.|
The Beginnings of the Roman Republic
|The beginnings of the Roman empire, so called because its capital in the west was Rome, stretch back as early as the 8th century B.C. Dorians had invaded Greece around 1000 B.C. and forced it into a Dark Age; some Greeks fled to the Italian peninsula and named the region “Italy”. By legend, in 753 B.C. two brothers named Romulus and Remus founded the city of Rome on the Tiber River, 15 miles inland from the Tyrrhenian Sea of the Mediterranean Sea. According to legend, the boys were descendents of Aeneas, who was a refugee of the mythical Trojan War featured in the masterpiece of Greek literature, “The Illiad,” and their father was the god Mars. Abandoned as babies and thrown into the Tiber River by their jealous uncle, the boys were rescued and raised by a mother wolf who had lost her cubs. When Romulus and Remus were grown, they killed their uncle and founded a city. Each wanted the new city to be in a different location, and in the fight that ensued, Romulus killed his brother Remus and the city was named Rome. This story illustrates well the violence and cruelty that was to become an essential characteristic of the Roman people.||Andy could at least have distinguished between historical fact and historical fiction. Romulus and Remus were not real people (everyone knows they're actually the twin homeworlds of Star Trek's Romulan Star Empire), but Roman myths. Schlafly's genealogy of the twin brothers is simplified, but not incorrect. The legend claims that they had descent from Aeneas (correct, a refugee of the Trojan War) on their mother's side, and were fathered by Mars. That Remus was killed because he wanted to build the city elsewhere is disputable. Like all good myths there are different versions, most of which assert that Remus was killed either accidentally, or was killed by Romulus for overstepping the new city's boundaries. And as for the story illustrating violence - lots of myths do. Please don't make us point to the Bible as evidence of violent, genocidal stories which well-illustrate "the violence and cruelty that was to become an essential characteristic of the Christian people"...|
|But in 700 B.C. the Etruscans conquered Rome and King Etruscan ruled it like the city-states in Greece. The Etruscans had a huge influence on the Italian peninsula, as many of their hobbies (chariots), architectural forms (the arch), and beliefs (their main gods and goddesses Jupiter, Juno and Miverna—worshiped later by the Romans) remained influential for thousands of years. Some Greeks migrated to the Italian peninsula also. Rome was another small city-state then. Landowners revolted and established a republic over the entire region, without any city-states. In 509 B.C., the Roman Republic was formed. After overthrowing the Etruscan king, Roman soldiers conquered the Etruscan city-states one-by-one. By 250 B.C., Romans had taken over every previously Etruscan-ruled territory.||Andy fails to mention the Etruscan king's name, Tarquin. He also fails to point out that the Romans rebelled due, in part, to Tarquin's excessive taxation. Andy could have had a lot of fun with that.|
|Early Roman society had two classes of people: patricians (wealthy landowners) and plebeians (small farmers and shopkeepers). The patricians were only 10% of the society, but held most of the power through their 300-member Senate, where senators served for life and made decisions about war and peace and proposed laws to govern the country. Proposed laws required approval by the Assembly of Centuries, which was composed of all male soldiers, organized in units of 100 each, or centuries. At the head of the republic were two consuls, elected from the patrician class. The consuls ran the army and managed religious functions. They could veto each other and even turn their power over to a dictator for a maximum of six months. Citizenship was typically not offered to people in conquered lands.||"Classes" of people depend on whether we are speaking economically, legally, or metaphorically; and their definitions are vague. It's also ironic that Andy is looking for class systems in the past - a hallmark of Marxist methodology. In Roman law, there were indeed patricians and plebeians, but the latter class consisted of anyone who wasn't a noble. That's a pretty big class, with significant subdivisions within it.|
|Before long the plebes began to fight for more rights. They refused to serve in the army, however, and to appease them, the Senate granted plebians the right to elect representatives, or “tribunes”. The election of these tribunes occurred at a gathering of plebes called the Assembly of Tribes, which passed resolutions that the tribunes could present for ratification by the Senate. The Tribal Assembly could also veto some laws. The patrician monopoly on important positions was also lessened when intermarriage between plebes and patricians was legalized for the first time in 445 B.C. The republic recovered a setback when Rome was sacked by Gaul (modern France) in 390 B.C. Beginning in 376 B.C. plebes could serve in the consuls, and by 287 B.C. patricians could participate in the Assembly of Tribes. Class differences began to disappear and things became more democratic.||Careful Andy; this sounds dangerously close to praising a working-class revolution. As for the rest of this segment, it is rather accurate. Andy can do research sometimes. Just a shame he doesn't do it all the time. However, he should note that Roman military "centuries" were composed of eighty-one men (eighty troops and one centurion); not one hundred.|
|The Roman system was destined to become a great empire, perhaps the greatest the world would ever see. Two ingredients were crucial to its success: Roman law and Roman legions.||You mean greater than the United States of America, Andy? Tsk tsk. What would Mr Reagan say...|
|Roman Law developed in a rational and flexible manner, though obviously it failed Jesus, who was not a Roman citizen, during His trial. It began with a code of laws embodied in the Twelve Tables around 450 B.C. “Twelve” is an easy number to remember: it’s the same number of ancient tribes in Israel, though there is no obvious connection.||Brilliant, Andy. Although he could have referenced the Twelve Apostles, who are somewhat better-known than the Twelve Tribes. Additionally, Andy seems to be inferring that Roman law at the time of the creation of the Republic was the same some five hundred year later at the time of Jesus. It did change, Andy.|
|Judges (elected “praetors”) interpreted and applied the Twelve Tables in various locations, using local customs and precedents. This was the origin of the concept of “civil law”, expressed in Latin as “jus civile.” Roman law thereby became flexible and powerful in a way never seen before. The concept of “justice” developed whereby laws, not whim, governed society. Judgments were only to be entered based on evidence presented pursuant to established procedures, and people learned to respected the law through use of a symbol representing notions of justice (Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice, who wore a blindfold and held scales in one hand and a sword in the other). Rights were established for citizens and also for women and slaves. Foreign law was addressed through “jus gentium,” or “law of nations,” which handled conflicts between Rome and distant locations. Often judges would invoke the concept of universal law, or “jus naturale,” to decide controversies. Roman law valued private property and the central role played by families, and helped hold together the vast empire. Influence of Roman law is seen in many instances in America today, from the concept that all citizens are equal under the law to the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” A great body of law that helped protect the underprivileged was codified as “Justinian’s Code” in A.D. 500s. Along with the benefits of a single currency (coins) for commercial transactions, a common legal system was a major reason why the Roman empire was so successful.||Considering that Andy actually referenced the barbaric "justice" of the Old Testament, the Code of Hammurabi, Egyptian laws, and legalism in Ancient China, it's curious why he now claims that the concept of justice only emerged in Rome. Is he implying that the laws of the Old Testament are unjust? Maybe there's hope for Andy yet. All societies are governed by laws - they're not the same, but the concept of law is pretty much universal, from the biggest nuclear hyperpower to the smallest family of hunter-gatherers. Romans didn't invent justice, they simply came up with their own version like all societies do. Furthermore, it isn't necessary to shoehorn in the clmusy reference to "the central role played by families". Every society that has ever existed, has had as its basic unit the family. We don't live in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World; we live in reality. Note how Andy's description of legal symbolism neglects to mention the fasces - a bundle of sticks (for corporal punishment) tied around an axe (for capital punishment) which represented Roman judges, and was the origin of the word "fascism". Points off for jumping some seven centuries to the Code of Justinian, enshrined in law after the Roman Empire in the West had ceased to exist. Finally, Andy seems to be rather starry-eyed about Europe having a single currency and a common legal system. How Europhilic! Feel free to start humming the anthem of the European Union.|
|As good as Roman law was, the Roman military holds an even higher place in World history. Every Roman male who could serve in the army was required to serve. For whatever reason, the Roman soldiers were excellent. Companies of about 120 men formed Roman “legions” of 3000 to 6000 men, well-equipped with armor that included shields, helmets, swords and even javelins. They were considered nearly invincible and could easily defeat the Greeks. In 272 B.C., the Roman army crushed the army of Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus, who attempted to defend Greek cities in southern Italy. By 265 B.C., the Romans controlled all of Italy except for the Po Valley.||Simply not true. The Romans only implemented conscription in desperate circumstances, such as the wars with the Gauls and Hannibal's invasion of Italy. It's really quite simple. In a society where the bulk of the population are farmers, you can't afford to conscript all the men. Who will grown the crops and collect the harvests? The common method of waging war in the ancient world was indeed to simply levy a load of badly-trained peasants to supplement your personal palace guard, fight a campaign that wasn't in the sowing or harvest months, and then disperse the armies to go back to their crops. Indeed, one of the main reasons that the Romans had so many conquests is that they had the complete opposite of conscription - a small professional army of lifelong, full-time soldiers. These men spent all day, every day, training. When they went to war, their enemies could throw any number of untrained peasants at the disciplined, highly-trained Roman professionals to no avail, even when the enemy had the same military technology as Rome. Note Andy's shift from Roman centuries having 100 men to now having 120 men (they had 81, in reality). Inconsistency, thy name is Andrew Schlafly.|
The Punic Wars
|Rome fought and won a series of important wars known as the Punic (PYOO-nik) Wars between 264 and 146 B.C. against the Phoenician North African city of Carthage on the Mediterranean Sea. This enabled the Roman republic to gain control of the Mediterranean Sea and exclusive control over trade of wine, olive oil, food and many other goods. There were three Punic Wars in all, named “Punic” after the Roman term for Phoenician. In the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.), Rome conquered Sicily and acquired grain-producing territory. Rome developed a navy as a result of this war. With no previous knowledge of shipbuilding, the Roman ships were no match for the powerful Carthaginian navy. However, the invention of the “corvus” (a hook-like device by which the Romans could attach their ships to Carthaginian ships) allowed the Romans to board enemy ships, displaying their superior hand-to-hand combat and effectively winning the war.||The Romans did have a navy prior to the Punic Wars, but it was admittedly quite small. The Carthaginian fleet, as Andy gets right, was far superior. In response, the Romans initiated a crash-building programme of ships based upon a Carthaginian vessel which ran aground in southern Italy. However the Romans were not very good sailors, and lacked the seamanship skills to ram enemy vessels - which the Carthaginians were good at. In response, knowing that their marines (in fact, just the regular army pressed into naval service) were far better, the Romans indeed developed a device known as the corvus - essentially a gangplank with a big spike in one end, stored upright on the deck. When a Roman ship came alongside a Carthaginian ship, the corvus would be smashed down onto the enemy deck, allowing the Roman marines to pour across and kill the Carthaginian crew. Andy doesn't mention, though, that a lot of Roman ships capsized and sank due to the corvus pushing the ships' centre of gravity too high.|
|In the Second Punic War (218-202 B.C.), Rome fought against Hannibal, the leader of Carthage who took his entire army through Spain and then, in a preemptive move, crossed the Italian Alps in merely 15 days to the great surprise of the Romans. Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with 30,000 men and some elephants is considered one of the greatest military feats of the ancient world. He then beat the Romans in a series of battles for 16 years but could not conquer Rome itself. Hannibal had to retreat to Africa when the Roman general attacked Carthage. Rome acquired Spain as a result of the Second Punic War.||Hannibal's crossing of the Alps was a major event in military history - although sadly, his elephants all died in the snow. Andy doesn't mention the pivotal Battle of Cannae (216 BC) in which the Roman army was utterly destroyed by Hannibal, provoking a political crisis in Rome and encouraging several Italian allies and protectorates of Rome, to throw in their lot with Carthage. The Romans did eventually push Hannibal back, and their revenge on the defecting protectorates involved a lot of unpleasantness. Andy doesn't seem to know this, and also does not know that Rome did not "acquire" Spain - it tooke the Romans two hundred years to conquer Spain, and some areas were still holding out when the Republic ended.|
|In the Third Punic War, the Romans destroyed Carthage (146 B.C.), killed its inhabitants or took them as slaves, and salted its farms to make it impossible to grow crops. The Romans then went into Macedonia and Greece to defeat it in revenge for having helped Hannibal. By the end, Rome controlled all around the Mediterranean Sea, which was the entire western civilized world. The Roman senator Cato the Elder encouraged this revenge by ending every speech with the conclusion, Carthago delenda est: “Carthage must be destroyed.” The Roman soldiers returned home with their winnings, and with Greek knowledge. Rome itself became Hellenistic, fascinated by the culture of the Greeks, including their architecture, their language, and their system of justice. The Roman empire helped spread Greek knowledge further than the Greeks themselves could.||Some of the Greek city-states had indeed tacitly supported Carthage, but most had remained prudently neutral. The Roman conquest of Greece is here reduced to a mere sentence, and makes no mention of the long, drawn-out wars of attrition between Rome, Athens, Sparta, Macedon, and smaller states. Rome did not become Hellenistic - it's not as though everyone in the Forum suddenly started speaking Greek. Cultural influences slowly filtered over to Rome, but for centuries (indeed, right up to the end of the Empire), the Romans inevitably viewed themselves as tough, macho warriors always engaged in fighting and power, compared to the effeminate, play-watching, lazy Greeks. That sort of crass generalisation would have been right up Andy's alley.|
Leading up to an Empire
|In the eastern Mediterranean, Rome fought wars in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) and Macedonia between 215 and 148 B.C. to gain control over those territories. By 148 B.C., Rome controlled everything from Spain to Anatolia.||The pace of Roman conquests indeed picked up following the Punic Wars, as Rome ended the wars with a large, battle-hardened army and a fleet to shuttle the troops anywhere along the Mediterranean coast. Andy doesn't mention, surprisingly, the motives for expansion. This was more than mere plundering. The Romans believed that they were the superior civilisation and genuinely believed that it was their duty to spread Roman laws, morals, and ambitions to the rest of the world. They were remarkably like modern-day American Republicans. Andy could have waxed lyrical about the USA having inherited both the mission civilatrice and White Man's Burden, of Rome. But this is what happens when you don't do research...|
|Afterwards a period of struggle ensued between the Roman military, fresh from its conquests, and the Senate that ruled in a republican form of government. Some corruption followed, and historians blame wealthy senators for blocking some economic proposals.||Isn't Andy, a classical economic liberal (delicious), opposed to any form of economic regulation whatsoever? So why is he sniping at these Senators?|
|The Gracchi brothers, Tiberius and Gaius, served as tribunes in 133 and 123, respectively. They passed laws to help the poor by redistributing land from the wealthy estates known as “latifundia” to the poor. Gaius tried to end the practice of wheat speculation, by which wealthy citizens bought all the grain and then, during times of shortage, resold it to the poor at greatly inflated prices. However, the angry Senate instigated a riot that clubbed Tiberius to death in 133 B.C. and Gaius committed suicide before he could be assassinated for trying to resell grain to the poor at low prices in 121 B.C.||It's astonishing that Andy recounts this information in such a casual manner. It all sounds like good conservative capitalism. Shouldn't he have wandered off onto a discussion of how land redistribution caused social chaos, or how attempts to end grain speculation were the projects of atheist lib'ruls trying to push the homosexual agenda? At the very least, he could have made up some crap about how Gaius and Tiberius Gracchi were obese and lacked Conservapedian machismo.|
|Finally, near the beginning of the first century B.C., a general named Gaius Marius was elected consul. He came up with the idea of Rome’s first professional army, and substituted it for the prior system by which only landholding citizens could serve in the military. Marius hired landless citizens for long terms and quickly gained support from his well-paid army. Soon, a civil war broke out between the Senate (which supported Marius) and the General Assembly (which supported a general named Cornelius Sulla.) Finally, Sulla, took power, executed Marius’s followers and pretended to reestablish the power of the Senate in 83 B.C. But in effect Sulla ruled as another dictator until Spartacus, a Greek slave, led a bloody slave revolt.||Well, at least he didn't wander off into a discussion of Kirk Douglas. The Marian Reforms were indeed a significant reshuffling of the Roman army in terms of equipment, logistics, administration, and command structure. But it wasn't the creation of a professional army, just the reform of one. Andy could have inserted a linguistic tangent here - Roman soldiers received, as part of their pay, a salarium - a measure of salt (an expensive substance) for cooking their rations. It's the origin of our word "salary". Missed a factoid opportunity there, Andy.|
|Order was not established until one of the greatest leaders and military minds emerged from the chaos. Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.) was a brilliant general who laid the groundwork for the future Roman empire. In 60 B.C. Julius Caesar joined with the wealthy Marcus Crassus and the powerful Roman general and statesman Pompey the Great to rule Rome as the first triumvirate. In 59 B.C. Julius Caesar became consular and used his position to gain favor with the public, such as by distributing grain to the poor.||"Julius Caesar became consular"? Andy apparently means "Consul". It'll be interesting to see if in this section, we'll be informed that caesarian sections and Caesar Salads are named after the man. That's the sort of level Andy seems to be operating at. And why does he have this preoccupation with Order and Chaos? The world is a little more complex than such a false dichotomy, Mr Schlafly.|
|Julius Caesar then made himself the provincial ruler (proconsul) of Gaul (modern-day France). He conquered vast amounts of territory for Rome and, while fighting abroad, send written reports back to Rome of the victories he was winning to sustain his popularity and to ensure that the people did not forget him. Back in Rome, Julius Caesar’s plan was working, and Pompey became increasingly jealous (by this time, Crassus had died in battle). Pompey, with the support of the Senate, objected to Julius Caesar’s actions and ordered him to disband his army and return to Rome. He refused, and in an act of direct defiance to the Senate, led his loyal troops across the Rubicon River to Rome and conquered it in 49 B.C. The expression, “crossing the Rubicon” is used today to describe an act from which there is no turning back. Julius Caesar went on to defeat Pompey at the battle of Pharsalus in 48 B.C. This left Julius Caesar firming in control of Rome, and he then took his unbeatable army on campaigns in Egypt (where he installed ally Cleopatra as queen), Asia Minor, Africa and Spain before returning to Rome again in 45 B.C. Rome ruled much of the civilized world as result of these military campaigns. The Roman Senate appointed Julius Caesar as dictator for life in 46 B.C.||Ohh Andy. Why didn't you mention that Julius Caesar was an accomplished teenager? Your homeschoolers would have loved that! As a teenager Julius was captured by pirates. Once the ransom had been paid, Caesar himself led a co-ordinated naval and military assault on the pirates' ships and bases, effectively ending piracy in the western Mediterranean for centuries. Also no discussion of how the Gallic Wars (in which Caesar boasted he had "killed a million, and taken the other million as slaves") made him a lot of powerful enemies in Rome. By the way, "invincible" is a better word than "unbeatable", Andy.|
|Julius Caesar instituted the 12-month, 365-day “Julian Calendar,” which provided the foundation for the “Gregorian Calendar” adopted later by a pope and used to this day. Julius Caesar also granted religious rights to the Jews in Palestine, so that the Jewish religion could be practice outside the requirements of Roman religious law. An uneasy practice of the Jewish faith thus continued in the Roman empire up to and through the time of Christ. Julius Caesar was good to veterans (former soldiers) and the poor.||Yes, but he wasn't good to his soldiers out of some noble Conservapedian code of respecting veterans. It was because if he hadn't showered them with largesse, they would have abandoned him to his political enemies. Andy really should be careful about praising people who care for the poor and tolerate other religions. It's dangerously close to promoting a multicultural welfare state.|
|The Roman Senate was less than pleased with how Julius Caesar acted like a dictator. In a conspiracy famously recounted in Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” Cassius and Brutus and up to 60 others agreed to stab and kill Julius Caesar when he entered the Senate on the “Ides of March” (March 15, 44 B.C.). After he died, Rome fell into chaos for 13 years as rivals strived for power. Julius Caesar wanted his 18-year-old grandnephew, Gaius Octavius, to be his heir and become emperor. Others wanted Mark Antony. Cassius and Brutus also had armies of their own. First a triumvirate of Octavian, Antony and Lepidus defeated the armies of Cassius and Brutus, and that ended the republican rule by the Senate.||Right, right. Don't read contemporary Roman records of the event. Don't even glance at the immense literature written by professional historians. Get all of your facts from William Shakespeare's play! Also Julius never wanted Octavian to become "emperor", because that concept didn't exist. Not then, and not later. Nothing ended Republican rule by the Senate. Even under the Emperors, Rome remained officially a Republic, and Roman armies fought for the Senatus et Populesque Romanus (SPQR) until the very end. Admittedly, democratic rule was nothing more than a legal fiction under the Emperors, but it's worth mentioning.|
|Then the triumvirate fought with each other. First, Lepidus retired. Then Antony fell in love with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt and went to be with her there, ruling the eastern part of the empire. To turn public opinion against the popular Antony, Octavian read aloud a paper to the Senate that was supposedly Antony’s will. In it, Antony expressed his intent for Cleopatra and her children to rule the eastern part of the Empire after his death. At the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., Antony and Octavian clashed and Octavian won. Antony and Cleopatra fled back to Egypt, but Octavian’s army hunted them down. Rather than be captured or killed, they took their own lives. Their affair was chronicled over a thousand years later by Shakespeare in his tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra. After their deaths, Octavian was the sole ruler.||Shakespeare didn't chronicle anything. He wrote fiction based on historical events. That's like saying that William Wallace's rebellion, and the American Revolution, were later chronicled by Mel Gibson. Who, may it be said, did an absolutely piss-poor job of representing history. Almost as bad as Andrew Schlafly.|
|Roman culture flourished under Julius Caesar and the struggle afterwards. Most notably, Marcus Cicero (106-43 B.C.) became the leading writer, orator and statesman. His works are read to this day in Latin courses, as he established a high standard for Latin prose. The language enabled powerful concepts to be expressed succinctly, and often Latin phrases are used today in the legal system and elsewhere. But there was no freedom of speech in ancient Rome, and when Cicero’s work the Philippics criticized Mark Antony in 43 B.C., he responded by putting Cicero to death.||
Ah, Cicero. The biggest figure in my PhD thesis. How saddening it is, therefore, to see his name appear on the same page as that of Andrew Schlafly. Of course there was freedom of speech in Rome - Andy even referenced it earlier in the Twelve Tables!! He really should abandon this tactic of finding one isolated incident, and using it as evidence that the entire system was like that. Cicero made his name through very controversial courtroom dramas in which he dared to criticise some of the most corrupt - and most powerful - men in the last days of the Republic. Had there been no free speech, Cicero would never made his famous Contra Verres speeches which lambasted the hugely influential Prefect of Sicily, nor his De Republica and De Legibus in which he had the temerity to accuse some very, VERY powerful men of abusing their power. It was free speech which protected Cicero and allowed him to say what he did. His execution occured because, as Andy rightly recognises (surprisngly), he made one enemy too many in the form of Marc Antony - and by this point, there was no Senate left to protect him. As for "the language enabled powerful concepts to be expressed succinctly", this is absolute bullshit.Our word "empire" comes from the Latin "imperium". This word could mean: military power, domestic power, legal power, state, government, governance, sovereignty, authority, command, order (as in social order), order (as in a demand, and both the verb and noun), and dignity. By the later Roman empire, it had even acquired a meaning roughly analogous to "nostalgia". The word frequently meant several of these all at the same time. That is why our word "empire" is so frustrating, and why translating Latin is so difficult - because while the Romans themselves may have been able to tell which meaning was being invoked, we can't do the same with anywhere near the same degree of certainty. And "imperium" is just one example of a Latin word which was extraordinarily subtle and complex. So much for Andy's "language determines power" pet project.
Birth of the Roman Empire
|In 27 B.C. Octavian struck a deal to share power with the Roman Senate, with the Senate bestowing on Octavian the name “Augustus” (a term usually used in reference to the gods), and the Roman empire was born. The power shared with the Roman Senate was mostly an illusion, however, as Augustus became the dictator, chief priest, and “imperator”, a title which meant he had complete control of the army. Augustus then ruled from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14, including the time of the birth of Jesus Christ.||It's actually impressive that Andy knows this. The position that we refer to as "Roman Emperor" was not a single office. As he (remarkably) gets right, it was a collection of various top jobs in the government and religious apparatuses (apparati?). The word "emperor" also comes from "imperium", and was indeed a title referring to control of military forces. The holders of this office used various titles, and it is simply the caprice of history and the etymological evolution of "imperator" which causes us to refer to "emperor", ignoring the other titles the man held. Legally, the Emperor was simply Princeps (from whence we derive "prince" and "principal"), the leader of the Senate. Octavian (Augustus) did act simply as leader of the Senate, attending debates and frequently refusing to use his executive veto power to push through laws which he wanted, but which the Senate didn't. The power of the Emperor vis-a-vis the Senate depended upon the Emperor himself. Some Emperors, like Augustus, Trajan, and Marcus Aurelius limited their own power while others, notably Caligula, Nero, and just about all the Emperors from the 270s AD onwards, ignored or actively persecuted the Senate. Caligula, in fact, had members of the Senate tortured on the rack. We probably shouldn't say this, as it might be giving Andy ideas on how to treat the sysops at Conservapedia. Actually, considering that they're a bunch of jerks: go right ahead, Imperator Schlaflius.|
|Augustus essentially established a constitutional monarchy rather than a true republic, as the Senate’s role was only advisory. Yet under this system of government the Roman empire thrived for 200 years, with the population of Rome growing to more than one million persons by about A.D. 100, a huge number for the ancient world. The Roman empire included far more than 100 cities, which had their own local governments, and which engaged in trade with each other. Eventually, plague and economic disaster began to cause decreases in the populations of cities by about 200 A.D., and barbarian invasions caused more to flee to the countryside. By the 6th century A.D. the population of Rome was probably less than 50,000 people. The broadest dates assigned to the Roman empire are from 509 B.C. to A.D. 476, when the last emperor was deposed (removed from power). The greatest time period for the Roman empire was from 27 B.C. to A.D. 180 (known as “Pax Romana,” as described later).||In fairness to Andy, he does admittedly say "essentially established" a constitutional monarchy. As outlined above, the Emperor was legally only the leader of the Senate. He was not a monarch, and could not legally pass the office on to his son. On the few occasions this did happen, it was because the Senate and army wanted the son to take the office. By the time of the Crisis of the Third Century (which Andy is obliquely referring to here), Emperors had become absolute monarchs in all but name. But legally, the Roman "Empire" remained a Republic - the Res Publica governed by the Senatus et Populesque Romanus - right until the very end.|
|The Roman empire is known for its organization and practical benefits for its citizens: great roads, drinking water, currency, laws, powerful military, useful sewers and the orderly administration of justice. Massive in geography, the Empire extended all along the Mediterranean Sea and brought civilization to vast tracts of land and many peoples. The “Silk Road” connected the Roman empire to Parthia (Persia or modern Iran), China and India, thereby facilitating trade. The Roman empire also established a language and alphabet that is the basis for Western European countries and the United States to this day. After initially persecuting Christians, the Roman empire enabled Christianity to expand and flourish. Summed up in one word, the Roman empire was “organized”.||Andy praising government projects again. That'll earn you a slap on the wrist at the Republican National Convention. Doesn't this man hate anything to do with government spending? Unless, of course, it's money being spent on closing down abortion clinics, throwing gays in prison, and bombing other countries. He'd be right at home in Imperial Rome. And for Christ's sake, enough with the alphabets. At least this time he didn't start waxing lyrical on his linguistic hobby horse.|
|The Roman empire flourished during “Pax Romana,” which is Latin for “the Roman peace.” This is the period from 27 B.C. (when Augustus Caesar declared an end to the civil war) to A.D. 180 (when the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius died). During this period the Roman empire generally enjoyed peace, leadership by the “Five Good Emperors,” and substantial prosperity. Several of the emperors during this period were chosen for their talent rather than their family connections, such Nerva, who was elected by the Roman Senate. Nerva was then followed by four other talented emperors: Trajan (who ruled over more land than anyone), Hadrian (who built defensive walls), Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. The last of the Good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius, was a philosopher who wrote a book about spirituality called “Meditations”, which emphasized one’s duty. But he should have given more thought to his successor, because his death in A.D. 180 marked the end of Pax Romana. Chaos followed and the military then fought over who would be the next emperor.||Like all such purported phenomena (the Pax Britannica, the Pax Sovietica, the Pax Americana), the Pax Romana is something which didn't happen. Yes, the Romans did bring peace to parts of the known world, at times. But this was peace in the aftermath of devastating wars. Remember the famous words of Calgacus to the Romans, recorded in Tacitus - "You make a wasteland, and you call it 'peace'." The Roman Empire was characterised by perpetual war; conflict always happening somewhere on the Empire's frontiers. Just because things were relatively peaceful within the Empire (ignoring, of course, the rampant abuses committed against the Empire's vast slave population), doesn't mean that there was peace.|
|During Pax Romana, the Roman empire governed a vast region extending throughout Western Europe and all the lands around the Mediterranean Sea, including Asia Minor, the Middle East (including Jerusalem) and Northern Africa. Emperor Claudius, who was in power from A.D. 41 to 54, even conquered what is now England, and added it to the Roman empire. The Pax Romana was not entirely peaceful, as there were some wars and conflicts, such as wars against the Germanic tribes and Persians, and turmoil in Jerusalem around the time of Christ. But there were no major civil wars, as there had been for much of the first century B.C., and no major invasions by foreigners into the Roman empire.||BRITAIN, Andy, BRITAIN! "England" is a component country in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Welsh, the Scots, the Northern Irish - and a lot of English, too - get very annoyed when people refer to our country as "England". It's like us referring to the United States of America as "Wisconsin". And this is the easiest context in which to remember this distinction, because the Roman name for the province was "Britannia". There's no excuse for getting it wrong. There's also no excuse for failing to mention that Julius Caesar invaded the south coast of Britain twice in 55 BC - a century before Claudius - but was forced to withdraw due to poor planning and civil unrest in recently-conquered Gaul (modern France). It's true that Caesar's invasions were confined to what is now England, but the conquest under Caligula absorbed the whole of what is now England, the whole of Wales, and later the bottom half of Scotland (for a while - the Romans later withdrew to roughly where the modern border between England and Scotland lies). As for Ireland ("Hibernia" to the Romans: the Land of the Sleeping People), there is evidence that Emperor Claudius considered an invasion, and there is an implication in Plutarch that the Prefect of Britannia established a trading colony near what is now Wexford. However, Ireland was never absorbed into the Empire. Modern historians generally agree with the explanation provided by Edward Gibbon in 1776 - like Scotland, Ireland was so sparsely populated, and had so few settlements, that it simply wasn't worth conquering. The cost of invading and occupying the island would have been far more than the profits to be made from occupation, and military conquest would have been remarkably difficult as there were no strategic towns to capture. So while the Ancient Irish traded with the Romans, they were spared conquest. Note that Andy doesn't define a "major" invasion, as opposed to a "minor". Of which, of course, there were lots.|
|The Roman economy thrived during this time. The cities (such as Rome) had good sewage systems and theaters. Water was brought in from mountains by cleverly designed aqueducts. Roads were improved and were quite good, even by today’s standards. There was a common currency (coins) accepted throughout the empire. Wealthy Romans even had central heating systems in their houses. There was one set of laws for the entire empire. The great Roman poet Virgil wrote The Aeneid, which was a fictional story about how Rome was founded and the Roman counterpart to the Greek classics of The Illiad and The Odyssey. Historical accounts were written by Tacitus (“Annals” concerned public virtue and “Germania” concerned the Germanic tribes on the border of the Roman empire), by Livy (who wrote a history of Rome) and by Plutarch (biographies). Poetry was written by Ovid (“Metamorphoses”). Satires were written by Horace. Philosophy was written by Seneca on morals. Latin was the language used by teachers, writers, lawmakers, and the Catholic Church in its liturgy.||Roman civil engineering was remarkably efficient, and their public health measures were not matched in Europe until the late nineteenth century. See what Big Government does for us, Andy? Roman roads are famous for being excellent, and enabled the movement of troops, food, commerce, and communications without which the Empire could not have been created, never mind maintained.Andy could have mentioned the hypocaust systems which functioned as internal heating - floors were built on pillars and the walls were hollow. A fire in the cellar (maintained, of course, by slave children) allowed hot gases to circulate under the floor and up the walls. A miracle of engineering, especially for rich Romans in the distinctly chilly provinces of northwest Europe and Asia Minor. Andy is wrong about "one set of laws for the entire empire": each province and municipal sub-district had its own laws tailor-made to fit with local customs (even the Romans were aware of cultural sensitivity), and the Imperial laws were not standardised until the late 300s; by which time people had bigger things to worry about than the law. Note that Andy gives us a list of Roman intellectual accomplishments, but later tells us that Rome had no intellectual accomplishments. Great work.|
|The Roman provinces, such as Gaul and Spain, did well during this period also. The Roman government built roads and cities for them and constructed aqueducts and sewers. Schools were built. A citizen in these provinces enjoyed the right to appeal to the emperor a decision by a provincial governor installed by Rome.||Yet again, Andy launches into fawning praise for the Empire's government-financed public projects. We have to - grudgingly - applaud him for resisting the temptation to call Virgil, Tacitus, Livy, Plutarch, Ovid, Horace, and Seneca as "homeschooled". Still, it's a sign of the lecture's quality when praise comes not for getting something right, but for getting something less wrong than usual.|
|The uniform law was quite fair, even by modern standards. Women could own property, for example. The accused were supposedly guaranteed legal protection, and an accused was innocent until proven guilty. Obviously this did not occur in the trial of Jesus, however, so there was no safeguard against abuse. But in theory, all citizens were equal in the eyes of the law, though not everyone (and not Jesus) was a citizen.||It was reasonably fair if you were a Roman Citizen. Not quite so if you were one of the provincials or - god forbid - a slave. Cicero had strongly campaigned for the inclusion of all people in the Roman sphere of influence to be granted citizenship, a move which made him a lot of enemies in spite of its humanity. Being a slave to the Romans was not fun at all. There was some legal protection for slaves - political trials of out-of-favour nobles frequently invoked laws requiring owners to treat their slaves reasonably well - but these laws were never observed and only trotted out at the aforementioned show trials. Slaves were dirt-cheap in the Empire, so rich landowners could afford to work their slaves to death on their vast agricultural estates, and then buy fresh ones, at a lower price than employing wage workers. Slaves were completely at their owners' mercy in terms of violence, rape, execution, and torture. As mentioned in an earlier lecture, the testimony of slaves in court cases was only admissible if the slave had first been tortured close to death, on the assumption that slaves were inherent liars. It was little wonder that slave revolts were so common. I didn't intend to prosletyse on slavery in Ancient Rome, but it does the job at demonstrating, again, that Schlafly's rosy-eyed view that "the uniform was quite fair, even by modern standards", is total rubbish. Rome was a great civilisation, but it was built on the backs of whipped slaves and starving peasants. Remember this for later, when Andy will attempt to explain reasons for the fall of the Empire in the West.|
|There were multiple ways to obtain citizenship. Latins living along the Tiber River were automatically given citizenship. Others had to enlist in the Roman army for 25 years to earn it. Paul of Taurus obtained his Roman citizenship by birth to parents who were Roman citizens. He used his citizenship to invoke his right to appeal to Caesar in Acts 23:31-26:32.||Soldiers and sailors (neither the Romans nor Greeks used galley slaves - they used free men) were indeed granted citizenship after 25 years' good service, along with a grant of land, a pension, and a nice brass certificate from the Emperor himself. Considering that after 25 years most military personnel at that time would be close to death, it was rather generous of the government that the newly-granted Roman citizenship was inheritable, and passed on to the mens' sons. Hence citizenship was passed on to Paul of Tarsus (not "Taurus", which is a zodiac constellation and hence a heathen pagan New-Age anti-Christian concept. Points off there, Andy).|
|Historians criticize huge differences between how the rich and poor lived in Rome, however. Wealthy Roman citizens enjoyed luxurious homes with private gardens, baths and even country estates. Banquets and entertainment was frequently for the wealthy, and they enjoyed watching brutal boxing matches to the death between gladiators and even chariot racing in the Colosseum. Criminals, Christians and slaves were forced to fight vicious animals and be killed by them. Meanwhile, the poor lived in cramped wood apartment houses, often in small rooms above shops, and often perished in fires.||Andy is right in pointing out the immense class disparity in Roman society. By the time of the Pax Romana, the decadence of the upper classes was so severe that not only were Roman satirists making fun of the grotesque spending of the rich (as in the satirical piece Trimalchio), but commentators such as Livy (I think it was Livy) were actually making public speeches decrying this lavish excess. Rome, he argued, had become great by Romans going to bed early, eating simple food, and working hard - not by dressing up in silk and gold and prancing off to drunken, gluttonous orgies. Although I'm sure the latter were quite fun. This moral decline was picked up on by the eighteenth-century historian Edward Gibbon, who blamed this as one of the chief factors in the Empire's decline - which Andy is going to move on to. As for the rest, chariot races were held in the Hippodrome, not the Colosseum (although according to Plutarch, on very rare occassions the floor of the Colosseum would be flooded in order to fight mock naval battles!). Also, to shoehorn in a factoid in Schlafly Style; gladiators were not the ripped, musclebound warriors of the silver screen. They were fat, and they were all vegans. Given how much Conservapedia likes to talk about obesity, I thought this nugget of information would have made it into the discussion. Also, I'm very disappointed that Andy hasn't mentioned the Roman economy. He could have had a field day talking about how slavery impeded the formation of a middle class with purchasing power; how cheap slavery also retarded the development of technology; how the tax system (from which the rich were exempt) crippled the shrinking class of smallholder farmers; and how the complex legal apparatus was a factor in impeding the growth of entrepreunerialism. Surprising that he didn't include this potential goldmine of right-wing rhetoric.|
|Augustus, known until 27 B.C. as Octavian, was the first Roman Emperor. He was in charge when Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, which historians say was around 4 B.C. Augustus ruled until his death in A.D. 14, whereupon the Roman Senate appointed Augustus’s adopted son Tiberius as the next emperor, the first in a line of Augustus’ successors known as the “Julio-Claudian” emperors.||"Augustus" was a title, roughly meaning "Revered One". He was the first Princeps of the Senate, but compared to later Emperors he had very little power. Usually because he restrained his own executive power in favour of the legislature.|
|When Augustus became emperor, he established the praetorians to protect the Roman general (“praetor”) and the emperor. These elite, well-trained and privileged troops served as a kind of secret police, having more power than the Secret Service does today in protecting the president of the United States. It became essential to gain the support of the praetorians in order to hold high office in government. Constantine abolished the praetorians in the early A.D. 300s.||Andy is right that the Praetorians were a rather shadowy and nefarious group, and it is true that they were instrumental in assassinating several Emperors in the later period. His claim that they "[had] more power than the Secret Service does today in protecting the president of the United States" is a strange claim to make. One that would be appropriate for casual conversation, but not for what is trying to be a scholarly lecture. How does Andy quantify the amount, and even the type, of power wielded by each organisation? Remember that the Roman state was not like a modern government, with a highly compartmentalised structure of bureaucracies, organisations, and professional bodies, each with strictly defined limits and responsibilities. What are to us separate organisations or powers, very frequently overlapped in the pre-Modern world. Roman chroniclers reference similar shadowy organisations such as the Vigilantes of the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Arcani or Areani of Gaul and Britannia, chartered with rooting out political enemies of the Emperor. Considering that we know virtually nothing about them other than these one-off references, we cannot know whether the Praetorians held as much power as Andy gives them credit for, or whether they had to share with rival groups.|
|Tiberius ruled from A.D. 14-37, and thus was the emperor when Jesus was scourged (whipped) and crucified, barbaric treatment that was prohibited against Roman citizens. Tiberius had previously served a distinguished military career, and at first was a competent ruler extending the earlier policies of his stepfather Augustus. But increasingly Tiberius became paranoid, and ruled more and more like a tyrant. He oversaw many trials for treason and executions, and then left Rome itself in A.D. 26 to retire in Capri, where he was when Jesus was crucified.||
Yes, Roman corporal and capital punishment was very barbaric, even for the standards of the Ancient World. But bear in mind that the Old Testament specifically Leviticus and Deuteronomy, proscribe all sorts of unpleasant punishments - usually being stoned to death - for ridiculous crimes. Cue Reverend Lovejoy from The Simpsons:
Rev. Lovejoy: "Get a divorce."
Marge: "But isn't that a sin?"
Rev. Lovejoy: "Marge, just about everything is a sin." (Picks up a Bible). "Have you ever actually sat down and read this thing? Technically, we're not even allowed to go to the bathroom."
And he's right! Leviticus 15:16-33 frowns upon ejaculation (specifically) and sexual intercourse (generally) (See here); and makes it all but impossible to go to the toilet, as we are required to sacrifice white doves and pray every time we have a piss. I'm no doctor, but I know that males are incapable of retaining semen indefinitely, and I don't really want to imagine what would happen if we stopped going to the toilet. So thanks, Judeao-Christian deity, for giving us bodies which require the expulsion of various fluids, calling it a sin, and then blaming us. Other fun things which are prohibited by the Bible include:
On a related note, the Bible gives the thumbs-up to:
Charming.Conservapedia, moreover, has an article on corporal punishment which is written in the manner of a lament that we can't beat people with sticks anymore. So compared to the Roman Empire, Andy doesn't exactly hold the moral high ground.
|The trial of Jesus revealed that while the Roman empire was tremendous in its military, there was much that it lacked in terms of understanding. Pontius Pilate, like most Romans, had no understanding or appreciation of the concept of objective truth. “Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:37-38 (NAS)). Pilate then left without giving Jesus the opportunity to teach him about truth. In the Roman empire, “truth” did not exist; it was merely whatever the emperor or Roman army said it was. Intellectual progress in the Roman empire was far less than the achievements of Ancient Greece.||
Oh come ON. This is a ridiculous statement which has no place whatsoever in a so-called "history lecture", at any level. Not only is it hopelessly wrong, it's dangerously heretical. Andy is not giving the full account provided in the Bible itself. So instead of trusting to Andy's ghastly misrepresentation - which earns him another black mark next to his name on God's celestial surveillance database - let's take a look at the context based only on the Bible (the best resource with which to hit back at Fundamentalists - the harder the better. It's a big book, and can cause equally big bruises).
Scene I. Enter, from stage left, Caiphas and Annas: the High Priests of the Jewish Sanhedrin. They don't like Jesus because he is telling people that the High Priests are pompous, power-hungry hypocrites. He's also claiming to be the Jewish Messiah and the Son of Almighty God, which is just a teensy bit controversial. So, the High Priests don't like him. They arrest Jesus and, after slapping him around a bit, obediently take him to the local Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate. They say to Pilate, "This man calls himself the King of the Jews!" Pilate, who is a very harrassed man and has got a thousand worse things to worry about, doesn't give a rat's ass. So he sends them on their way. Caiphas and Annas think for a bit, and take Jesus back to Pilate saying "This man is telling people not to pay their taxes to the Emperor, and to riot against the Roman troops!". Now, this is a whole different matter. This is treason. Never mind that Jesus has told his followers to Render unto Caesar: Caiphas and Annas don't tell Pilate this. So, Pilate questions Jesus and is surprised at his intelligent yet evasive answers. Jesus won't admit to claiming to be King of the Jews, yet neither will he deny it. This places Pilate in a real dilemma.
Pilate now has two choices. The first is to decide what crime Jesus is guilty of - the petty crime of claiming to be King of the Jews, or the very serious crime of inciting riot in an extremely volatile provice. The second choice is - whether or not Jesus is guilty of anything, the local (and powerful) priesthood clearly wants him dead. Pilate must choose between ordering the torture and painful execution of an innocent man in order to win the favour of the local elite, or let him go and risk the local elite making life for the Roman occupation forces very, very hard. This is a VERY uncomfortable position for Pilate to be in, and our dear Andy has grossly misinterpreted his own Bible by drawing the simplistic and erroneous conclusion that the entire Roman population lacked the concept of objective truth.
So, back to poor Pontius. Instead of condemning Pilate and the whole Empire in one go, like Andy, we reasonable people who actually look at the story in the Bible, can sympathise with Pilate in this tale. Here he is, faced with these awful choices, so Pilate tries to convince Jesus to confess to the lesser crime (claiming to be King of the Jews). This can be punished with a simple whipping, Jesus can go free, the Sanhedrin will have been foiled, and everyone can get on with their lives. But Jesus refuses to go along with it. He won't lie. Pilate throws up his hands in and asks in depressed, frustrated exasperation "What is truth?". This man is refusing to lie, and it's going to get him killed. Pilate is morosely depressed because now, an innocent man will have to die a very gruesome death in order to satisfy the locals. But he's a decent man, and Pilate even goes so far as telling the crowds outside that he will release a prisoner. The murderer Barrabas, or the rather harmless Jesus. Their choice. The crowd, to Pilate's dismay, demands the release of Barrabas and when Pilate sticks his neck out again by asking the crowd what he should do with Jesus, they demand his death. Pilate has pulled every trick he can think of to save Jesus from a horrible death, but to no avail. So he calls for a bowl of water, and in front of Caiphas and Annas, Pilate washes his hands saying that his hands are clean, and Jesus' blood is on theirs. Enter the Roman soldiers with whips to take Jesus off at Stage Right, and exit Pilate, a very sad man, at Stage Left. Fin.
An alternative (and theologically much better) explanation is provided by St Thomas Aquinas in Book II:8 of Summa Theologiae (c.1274). Aquinas reasons that Pilate was indeed trying to persuade Jesus to lie. By confessing to the lesser (corporal) crime of claiming to being King of the Jews, he would only receive a flogging, while if he continued evading the "truth", he would be found guilty of the more serious (indeed, capital) crime of inciting riot against the Roman authorities. So according to Aquinas, Pilate was urging Jesus to lie in order to save his skin. Aquinas concludes that Jesus refused Pilate's invitation to lie - not only because Jesus was destined to die as part of the Grand Plan, but because he had to die without committing a single sin. So even had he wanted to, Jesus couldn't lie and confess to the lesser crime. This forced Jesus to endure a terrible death but hey, that's what God wanted, and he was able to shuffle off the mortal coil without a single stain on his soul. Of course, it is entirely possible that none of this ever happened, in which case Schlafly is condemning the entire Roman population based on a myth. If anything, this particular passage makes Pontius Pilate seem a very decent man - he's sticking his neck out so far in order to save the life of some random, dirty, non-Roman man - but an innocent man, and one deserving of real justice. Or, Pilate is just frustrated and depressed at the situation he's been put in. Or, this is all some pre-ordained farce so that Jesus can die to save our sins, and Pilate can drink himself to an early grave in guilt.
Of course, we could point out that "truth" is inherently subjective. In the natural sciences there are truths relating to the non-human world, which remains in the confines of its laws no matter what we do. But in the humanities, "truth" is a relative and contradictory term. Conservapedia itself bears witness to this, wherein multiple "truths" on conservatism are pointed out to Schlafly and his minions, yet they refuse to accept it. The "truth" is what people want it to be, and the "truth" can be several things at once. It is "true" that the Roman Empire was cruel beyond belief. Yet it is also "true" that the Roman Empire was a great civilisation. It is not the job of historians to establish what is, and what is not, "truth". That's up to the philosophers and theologians. And even if we were to assert that there is a single "truth", we would struggle to justify how the rhetoric of one man, at one point in time, represents that truth.Andy's character assassination of Pilate as a closed-minded fool is entirely unwarranted. And to be quite frank, what sort of authority is Andrew Schlafly next to Thomas Aquinas? None whatsoever. When you briefly pause at the Pearly Gates to collect your Marching Orders to the Pit of Damnation, Andy, please take a moment to apologise to Pontius Pilate. I think you owe him it.
|Roman leadership weakened immediately following Tiberius. He was followed by Caligula (A.D. 37-41), who was a crazy and highly immoral tyrant whose reign ended in assassination by his own guards, a fate that would greet many despotic Roman emperors. His corrupt rule, which was one of the worst in all of history, can be best remembered as the first emperor to be installed after the crucifixion of Christ. At one point Caligula made his favorite horse a consul. In A.D. 39 he removed the consuls without even consulting with the Senate, because the Senate had not gone along with something he wanted to do. Then he publicly humiliated senators by forcing several of them to trot beside his chariot in public while wearing their full robes. Caligula even planned to impose and install a statute of himself as Zeus in the holiest part of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, which would have been the worst insult imaginable to the Jewish faith. His reign of terror came to an end when he was assassinated by one of his own guards, fulfilling Jesus’ teaching that “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.” When news of Caligula’s death reached the public, they were afraid to show their joy lest it only be a rumor invented by Caligula himself that he might punish anyone who dared celebrate upon his death.||Caligula is one of those Romans whose legacy has largely been determined by propaganda following his death. He is traditionally painted as being - as Andy says - a despotic, insane, and frankly evil man. Yet his policies were largely political maneuvres. Yes, he did make his horse a Consul, and did make Senators run alongside his chariot. But this was not out of madness. Caligula had a long-running feud with the Senate, which had grown apathetic and slightly cocky under the reign of the early Emperors (or, alternatively, had oscillated between despair at losing power, and legal attempts to re-assert their rightful power). his anti-Senate acts were to humiliate them and put them in (what he thought should be) their proper place. By making his horse a Consul, he was effectively insulting the Senators by saying that a horse could do a better job than them. It is true he also tortured members of the Senate, largely because Caligula was (justifiably) paranoid and suspected (rightly) that there was a Senate plot to assassinate him in favour of an imperial puppet controlled by the Senate. Other anti-Senate acts included summoning Senators to the imperial palace in the middle of the night. The Senators would be seated in a room, fearing they were about to be condemned to some unpleasant death, and Caligula would come out and do a slapstick song-and-dance routine, before sending them back home. Perhaps he was slightly mad, or perhaps he just had a sadistic sense of humour and enjoyed reminding the Senate that it was he, not they, who ruled. He was a bit power-crazy; he once claimed he could ride his horse across the sea at the Bay of Naples and turn night into day. His navy lashed hundreds of ships together and laid a walkway over them so Caligula could indeed ride his horse across the sea, and that night he had tens of thousands of soldiers line the streets of Naples, each holding a candelabra, thus turning night into day. It is true that when he was killed, people refrained from celebrating in case it was another of his sadistic practical jokes. At least Andy got it half-right.|
|Caligula’s successor was his uncle Claudius, chosen by the guards who had killed Caligula. Some believe the only way Claudius lived through Caligula’s rule was by feigning insanity. Much to everyone’s surprise, Claudius proved to be a wise and able ruler, and under his rule, Britain became part of the Roman Empire. Shortly after becoming emperor, however, Claudius died from poisoned mushrooms given to him by his wife so that her son Nero could be king.||Again - fair play to Andy - this is right. As nephew to the unpredictable, power-drunk, and homicidally paranoid Caligula, Claudius does seem to have feigned a simpleton's mind in his teenage years, in order to escape his uncle's attention. Whatever really happened, by the time of his uncle's death, Claudius was an extremely awkward man who trembled, stammered, and whose hands shook when talking to other people. When Emperor, he also seems to have gone off the rails a bit - and really, really hated his own nephew Nero. Claudius' invasion of Britannia (Andy finally gets the name right) was largely for political purposes. Julius Caesar had deemed the island unworthy of conquest, but Claudius needed a foreign policy diversion. Hence the invasion (note that when Claudius made a first "attempt" to invade, his soldiers almost mutinied because they were frightened of the barbaric Britons and their foggy, evil-looking land, and Romans in general were frightened of sea voyages lest they be attacked on the water by hideous monsters. So instead, Claudius ordered his soldiers to take off their helmets, fill them with seashells from the French beach, then marched back to Rome in triumph with the shells as a prize of war). He did die from eating poisoned mushrooms, another nugget which Andy gets right. When the man does his research, he can actually put together a pretty decent account of history. It's just a shame that these are faint glimmers. Andy's style of writing history is like looking at the night sky - we see points of light, but what is mostly visible is the darkness.|
|Nero was one of the most despised rulers of all time, and was an even more merciless persecutor of the growing numbers of Christians than Caligula. Nero became emperor at age sixteen, and despite being taught by the great philosopher Seneca, he quickly became a ruthless and irresponsible leader, ordering the murders of his wife and mother and instructing his teacher Seneca and the poet Lucan to commit suicide. When Rome experienced a ravaging fire in A.D. 64, Nero supposedly sat carelessly playing his fiddle and sang about the fall of Troy. Nero was initially blamed for the fire; however, another rumor quickly began circulating: the Christians had started the fire. Nero responded by embarking on one the most terrible executions of Christians the world has ever seen. He had men, women and children put into the arena and eaten alive by wild animals. Christians were tarred, tied to tall bundles of sticks and burned alive—human torches to provide light. Peter and Paul were probably killed during Nero’s reign. Nero finally killed himself in A.D. 69, much to the relief of Christians and Romans alike.||Hmm, not true. Again, more myth than history. Contemporary records (I think written by Vitrubius, but I might be wrong) account that when the Great Fire broke out in Rome, Nero was in his summer holiday palace in the south of Italy. And indeed, when he rushed back to Rome, Nero led the firefighting and organised shipments of relief supplies into the city. He did order the executions of his mother Agrippina, his tutor Seneca, and the poet Lucan. He didn't, however, start the persecution of Christians. That had been going on for a while. Up until this point, the Christians had been little more than a very small group of Judeans who harangued people on the street corners of Rome, without anyone paying much attention. But they did make good scapegoats for everyday problems, particularly as they were so scathing of Roman religion and Roman customs (the Book of Acts is a great indicator of just how condescendingly holier-than-thou the early Christians were). So nobody complained when Nero picked on people who spent all day telling the Romans how sinful they were and that they were going to burn forever if they did not follow the teachings of some obscure and dead man from a faraway, flyblown, non-Roman province. He did indeed use Christians as human torches to illuminate his garden at night, yet it's surprising that Andy neglects to detail the much, much more gruesome deaths that some Christians met under his reign. While relating to Jews rather than Christians, read up on the torture of the Maccabees. Nero had read of this, and decided to test out some of the techniques on Christians in the arena to see if they really were as painful as he imagined. Go on, look it up. But be warned - it ain't pretty. Oh, and there is a very persuasive argument that the Beast of the Book of Revelation is a reference to Emperor Nero. So all those premillenial dispensationalists (the ones who think the events of Revelation are yet to happen) might be disappointed to learn that the wackiest book of the Bible is not a prediction of dire things to come, but a persecuted sect's hope for the destruction of Emperor Nero.|
|After Nero’s death, the first plebian emperor in Rome’s history rose to power: the wise and practical Vespasian, the first in the line of the “Flavian” emperors. His son Titus ruled after him, and it was during Titus’ reign that Rome experienced three disasters: destructive fires, a terrible plague, and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which completely destroyed the cities Herculaneum and Pompeii. Vespasian’s other son, Domitian, ruled next and was the last of the Flavian emperors. Next, the “Five Good Emperors” ruled: Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antonious Pius, and lastly, Marcus Aurelius.||Andy doesn't even bother to give imperial snapshots of "the Five Good Emperors". Nerva - who had been part of the political conspiracy which forced Nero to commit suicide - was an old man when he became Emperor, and reigned for less than two years. Still, he managed to pass some economic reforms and instituted an ancient version of "austerity measures" - reining in the most lavish state spending on ceremonies and games. Trajan was arguably the last great imperial expander - his conquest of Romania provided the empire with so much booty, and so many slaves, that it actually precipitated an economic crisis due to the sudden devaluement of gold and the sudden glut in the slave markets. Combined with the countless slaves routinely pillaged from Central Europe, this made slaves so cheap that a growing number of free Romans found themselves unemployed and forced to subsist on state handouts, as it was cheaper for landowners to buy slaves than pay workers. It also resulted in land speculation, with big landowners buying up smallholdings and forcing even more peasants onto state handouts, while wealth became concentrated in a shrinking group of hyper-rich, tax-exempt nobles. This trend just got worse over time, and is cited as one of the major reasons the Empire declined (more on that later). It was under Trajan that the Empire reached its largest geographical extent, even reaching to modern Kuwait; although this area was impossible to defend and was soon abandoned. Hadrian's rule marks a turning-point in imperial foreign policy, as it was under Hadrian that expansion officially ceased. There were various reasons for this - in the West there was nowhere worth conquering (Ireland and Scotland were considered too poor to bother with); in the South was the Sahara, and while the Romans sent several expeditions to conquer Ethiopia, the Ethiopians drove the Romans back each time; in the North were the barbarians acting as a useful buffer against other barbarians, and Hadrian didn't dare risk a repeat of Octavian's attempted conquest of Germany, when a huge Roman army was annhilated at the Teutoberg Forest; and in the East was the powerful Parthian/Persian Empire, with which Rome was locked in an almost perpetual stalemate war. So there wasn't really anywhere left to conquer, and Hadrian wanted to reduce the military as the Roman state was haemmorhaging money into the army at an unsupportable rate. Hence expansion ceased. Yet this had a serious economic impact. Marxist historians argue that the Roman Empire didn't produce wealth; its wealth all came in the form of captured booty. When that booty stopped flowing in, the Empire's high spending remained even though the imperial income plummeted. And given the fact that the mega-rich were exempt from taxes, this placed an unbearable tax burden on the peasants and provinces - who began to resent the Empire. More on that later. By the way, Hadrian was famously bisexual, and unique in that he was the only Emperor who toured the entire Empire, taking five years to do a grand tour of every province and every major city. Finally, Antoninus Pius (the opposite of Hadrian in that throughout his reign, he never left Rome) is remembered as a great builder, and his only military campaigns were half-hearted and short-lived attempts to conquer southern Scotland and what is now Holland. Other than that, he left little legacy aside from the growing economic crisis - but given that the Romans had no budget, a shockingly small and overstretched civil service, and no concept of "economy" in our sense of the word, nobody noticed this until it had already reached a critical mass in the Third Century.|
|Known as the “philosopher king,” Marcus Aurelius wrote Meditations, a Stoical work expressing compassion for the weak and less fortunate and resignation to one’s fate. During his reign, he led his powerful army against the Germanic tribes in the north, which had become a threat to the Roman empire. Before the job was finished, however, he fell ill and died in A.D. 180, leaving the job to his son Commodus. Lazy and much less capable than his father, Commodus preferred to stay in Rome, and made peace with the Germanic tribes, a decision that would eventually contribute to the destruction of the Roman empire.||
Marcus Aurelius is, as Andy points out, remembered as a philosopher-emperor. It is also possible - but by no means certain - that he wished to abolish the position of Emperor and return Rome to the control of the Senate (as portrayed in the film Gladiator, one of the rare occasions when Hollywood's version of history was merely "wrong" rather than "hopelessly wrong"). His military campaigns along the border with the Germanic barbarians were a further drain on the economy, but were a sideshow to the Empire's crushing victories over the Persians to the East; temporarily stabilising Roman control in that area. Aurelius, who co-reigned with Lucius Verrus, also initiated much-needed reforms of the Roman legal system, which had remained corrupt since the end of the Republic. Following his death, Commodus became Emperor; but as Commodus had no interest in administrating his Empire and was essentially a childish, spoiled brat, his legacy is less than flattering.It's not possible here to do justice to the reams of history which have been written on the Roman Emperors - or indeed, on any of the topics which Schlafly tosses into his cauldron of pseudo-historical crap. The point is: Andy could at least try for consistency. Had he given a brief, sketchy biography of each of the Emperors, fine. had he just given a list of names, fine. But giving detailed accouints for some, only giving the names of others, and completely ignoring some (like Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Lucius Verrus) is inconsistent and a hallmark of shoddy work. He's also missing out on genuinely golden opportunities to bitch about economic regulation, the failures of pre-capitalist plunder-based societies, and what happens to leaders who don't follow his narrow misinterpretation of the Bible. Remarkably surprising.
|Diocletian, who ruled from A.D. 284 to 305, attempted to save the Roman empire by dividing it into eastern and western regions, with Byzantium as the capital of the East and Rome as the capital of the West. He established the “tetrarchy”, or division of power among four rulers in 293 B.C. The “tetrarchy” included two primary rulers, each with the title “Augustus”, who ruled over the eastern and western empires, and two “Caesars” who served under the Augustuses. He imposed economic regulations, some of which seem silly today. For example, Diocletian required farmers to stay with their land and workers to stay on the job for the rest of their lives. He did this to prevent people from leaving their work to avoid taxation. For an empire that embraced slavery, this probably seemed like normal regulations. Diocletian also imposed wage and price controls to halt inflation. That economic regulation, which almost always fails, is still attempted by modern rulers, such as the United States President during World War II and even President Nixon in the early 1970s.||
And now, Andy skips about a hundred years with no explanation. He's missed out some interesting Emperors and events. Like Elagabulus, the Emperor who thought he was the Sun incarnate and pandrogynous, and who died when he ordered his surgeons to cut him a vagina. Septimius Severus, the only African Emperor (although his ethnicity is debated). Valerian, who was captured in battle against the Persians and spent the rest of his life in captivity, being used as a footstool by the Persian Shah. That's not to mention the two dozen or so men who claimed the title of Emperor in only 25 years: including AD 193, in which there were no less than five Roman Emperors in a single year.
Most importantly, Andy has completely ignored the "Crisis of the Third Century", when a combination of internal political instability, foreign incursions, and the aforementioned looming economic crisis all coincided. This period saw the Roman Empire faced with economic collapse and hyperinflation, foreign invasions, ecological disasters, and truly apocalyptic civil wars between the military forces of rival men claiming the position of Emperor. Indeed the Crisis was so bad that it's astonishing the Roman Empire didn't collapse in the mid-200s. Possibly the only thing that kept it together was that the legions in the East somehow managed to keep the Persians at bay, while the barbarians in Germania were unaware of just how bad the situation in Rome was and hence missed a golden opportunity to move en masse into the Empire. Indeed the wars were so severe that during this period, one Emperor (Valens) was actually killed in battle while another (Valerian) was captured by the Persians and never returned. Skipping all of this and moving straight on to Diocletian is an abysmal oversight. Also, crowbarring in references to the economic policies of "the United States President during World War II" (which one? Roosevelt or Truman? And why can't Andy actually give a name?) and Tricky Dicky (and wasn't Nixon a Blessed Republican?) is perhaps Andy's worst analogy yet, as it is wrong, vague, and totally unwarranted. He might as well attempt an analogy based on the economic policies of Nixon's head-in-a-jar from Futurama. It couldn't be any worse than this terrible effort.So, back to Rome. By the time Diocletian finally established himself as the sole Emperor, the empire was badly crippled both economically and militarily, and a noticeable split had developed between the richer, more populated, Greek-speaking East and the poorer, sparsely-populated, Latin-speaking West. The establishment of the Tetrarchy was partly to prevent rivals from trying to form breakaway empires, partly to try and lessen the gap between East and West, and partly to try and better organise the empire. The political situation was so dire that the four rulers left Rome and established capitals at Milan (Western Augustus/senior Emperor of the West) and Carthage (Western Caesar/junior Emperor of the West), and Antioch (Eastern Augustus/senior Emperor of the East) and Alexandria (Eastern Caesar/junior Emperor of the East). Andy is wrong is stating that Byzantium was one of the capitals. It wasn't, not at this point in history. Henceforth, Rome became a ceremonially important but politically ignored city with a shrinking population and decaying city centre. Economically, reforms were desperately needed. The Empire's civil service was remarkably small - perhaps less than 10,000 "bureaucrats" for the whole third-century Empire, according to Christopher Kelly - hopelessly mismanaged, and with no budget. The overwhelming majority of the imperial economy went straight to the army. The tax system was abysmally mismanaged. Most land was owned by a few super-rich aristocrats who were exempt from tax, while the small farmers were crushed by the truly crippling taxes necessary to pay the hundreds of thousands of soldiers necessary to defend the Empire. Hence, Diocletian passed various economic regulations. But they were not, as Andy claims, "silly". They were attempts to reinvigorate the desperate state of the imperial economy. During the civil wars, inflation had skyrocketed and the currency had been devalued - to the point where bronze coins were plated with silver, thus making people inherently suspicious of currency and causing trade to decline significantly. The legislation to make people stay on their farms was due to so many rural farmers abandoning their homesteads because of the civil wars, or because the farms yielded crops below subsistence levels, or because the farmers were so heavily taxed many decided to simply up and move to the towns - which were becoming overcrowded, disease-ridden, underfed, and politically unstable. Diocletian divided up the biggest estates, the latifundae (many of which had collapsed financially as the vast slave workforces necessary to produce crops, had taken their chance to escape during the civil wars) and redistributed the land to smallholders while making the super-rich pay more substantial taxes. He additionally fixed prices for goods and services, in an attempt to regulate the profiteering and hoarding that had marked the civil wars. Unsurprising that Schlafly would find fault with these reforms. So while Andy performs a crude hatchet-job on Diocletian as a lib'rul tax-raiser and economic regulator who weakened the Empire, real historians remind us that Diocletian's reforms were the only thing that kept the Empire from fizzling out in the late third century. Indeed his reforms of the economy and civil service remained largely unchanged until the end of the Western Empire in the late fifth century. So no, Andy, Diocletian was not "silly". The only person coming across as silly in all of this, is you. And that's being terribly polite.
|Diocletian also attempted to suppress Christianity by ordering Christians to worship him and brutally persecuting them when they did not. He was the last emperor to do this. Diocletian abdicated (resigned) in A.D. 305.||By this point, the Christians had become more than an annoying sideshow or strange sectarians to be creatively and painfully executed in the arenas. The sect had gained enormous popularity among slaves and the peasants, due to its emphasis on a better life waiting for us - and given the terrible conditions in which people on the bottom rung of society lived, it's not surprising they were attracted to the promise of something better in the next world. Yet it was precisely this emphasis on the next life which unsettled the Roman authorities, who (perhaps rightly) suspected that the Christians were not pulling their weight to get the Empire back on its feet. Indeed, they sometimes appeared to be working against the Empire's survival by preaching lives of prayer instead of working hard or joining the army. Additionally, they were politically suspect as they refused to worship the Emperor, and the Roman authorities (again, perhaps rightly) worried that the Christians would refuse to fight for the Emperor or indeed actively rebel against the state. Finally, Diocletian needed a useful scapegoat. Diocletian seems a reasonable man, but his persecution of the Christians was as bad as Nero's. He did step down in AD 305 - much to the concern of the Senate - and the other three Tetrarchs began another civil war. It's odd that Schlafly's account ends here. There's another two hundred years of Roman history to go in the West alone, and his discussion so far has been an odd mixture of factually correct information with chronic omissions and crass condemnations based on cheap contemporary political rhetoric. This section had real potential, and if Andy had spent some time on it it actually could have been a useful resource to his students. As it is, it's a disappointing failure.|
|The Roman civilization began as part of Hellenism but developed its own major contributions in engineering (roads and aqueducts), law, the military, and the spread of Christianity. Roman architecture developed the use of cement and the large arches, domes and vaults, as implemented in the Pantheon (not to be confused with the Parthenon, which was Greek) and the Arch of Constantine. Roman art used mosaics. Latin, the great language of the Roman empire, formed the basis for the “romance” languages of Europe still in use today: French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and is also the primary language of some churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church. But the Romans valued education only for its practical benefits and contributed little intellectually. On a practical level the Romans accomplished much with their roads, orderly society, and system of justice. Roman law held together its vast empire just as Greek culture held together the Hellenistic world. Christianity grew in the Roman empire.||Earlier on, Andy told us that the Roman civilisation was based on the Etruscans. Now all of a sudden it's the Hellenes. Make up your mind, Andy. The former is mostly right, while the latter is less so. He's right that the Romans did invent cement, and even had cement that would set underwater thanks to the use of puteoli, a substance made from volcanic ash. This wasn't replicated until the nineteenth century. Note that earlier on we were treated to a grocery-list of Roman chroniclers, poets, satirists, playwrights, and philosophers; yet now Andy is telling us that the Romans' intellectual achievements were negligible. On a side note, we also have the Romans to thank for the concept of the cookery book. Saying the Romans had an "orderly society" is a half-truth: yes, there was social order, but it was maintained through harsh laws and punishments. It also says nothing of the Empire's bloated, swollen population of slaves who lived wretched lives of pain and sheer misery. But then, we're used to Andy cherry-picking from the Tree of Knowledge.|
The Roman Empire and Christianity
|Peter and Paul brought Christianity to many parts of the Roman Empire, and Peter is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church (“catholic” is from a Greek word meaning “universal”) as the first and longest-serving “bishop of Rome,” or “pope” of the Church. The works of Peter, Paul and others in spreading Christianity are described in their own letters that follow the Gospels in the New Testament. In the early fifth century, Augustine of Hippo (known to many as “Saint Augustine”) wrote books entitled Confessions and City of God that influenced Christian doctrine for future theologians. Born in North Africa to a pagan father and a Christian mother, Augustine went through personal spiritual crises before converting entirely to Christianity and advocating the concept of justification by grace alone. He criticized all the heresies of his time and supported the sacraments of the church. He also supported the concept of “predestination”, which would later be emphasized by the Frenchman John Calvin during the Protestant Reformation in the 1530s (Calvin fled to Switzerland to promote his ideas). Above all, Augustine merged classical and Christian viewpoints, and in particular reconciled the classical (Greco-Roman) view about knowledge and virtue with Christian views of sin. A contemporary of Augustine was Jerome (“Saint Jerome”), who translated the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into Latin. This became known as the Vulgate, and remained the authoritative Bible for over 1000 years.||
A quick overview of the later Empire is necessary here, as Andy neglects to say what happened after the Tetrarchy. Following Diocletian's resignation, a brief civil war occured at the same time as population pressures from Central Europe pushed barbarian tribes towards the Roman frontier. With the Roman legions busy fighting each other, societies crossed into the sparsely-populated West. Some were invited by Emperors desirous of increasing the West's population, or of gaining barbarian allies to boost the declining Roman military forces in Europe. Initially, the Roman state granted land and rights to these people and rudimentary alliances were formed between the Roman authorities and their barbarian allies, or foederati. Yet this policy was inconsistent, and as more Germanic peoples began to settle in the Empire, realtions grew increasingly frosty as the Romans stopped granting land and rights. The pressure increased due to the rise of the Huns far away on the Eurasian steppe - their conquests of other peoples caused whole populations to flee, resulting in a domino effect whereby peoples on the frontier with the Empire were being pushed by refugees behind them. The Romans increasingly saw these incursions as invasions, leading to wars of attrition between the Romans and their already-settled barbarian allies (like the Visigoths and Alemanni) , and invading confederacies of barbarians trying to seek refuge in the Empire. This would have a been a great place for Andy to bitch about asylum seekers. Alliances were made and broken throughout the fourth century, and with the Romans still fighting civil wars to determine who should be Emperor, and the rich Eastern Empire too busy fighting the Persians to lend financial or military support to their beleagured Western brethren, barbarian incursions increased. Andy could at least have mentioned the Battle of Adrianople in 378, when the Western Roman army was virtually annihilated by the Goths, and the increasingly chaotic political situation in the late fourth century as legions across the West proclaimed various rival Emperors, resulting in an essentially endless sequence of civil wars. This is the context which his students really need to know.So, to Andy's paragraph. St Augustine's City of God is a major religious work, and it's surprising that Andy only gives it a fleeting reference. It was written in AD 410, following the sack of Rome by the Visigoths. This is jumping ahead a bit, but by 410 the Western Empire was falling apart. Barbarians had migrated through Gaul (France) into Hispania (Spain), and invaded North Africa. Rome's foederati allies had assumed complete control of the remnants of the Roman army, and although Germanic commanders like Stilicho drove back other barbarians in major Roman-Germanic victories, such men lacked major political support from the Emperors and were frequently assassinated or executed. By 410, the Roman garrison of Britannia had been withdrawn to fight in Europe (there is a tale that the Romano-British leaders sent a desperate letter to the Emperor begging for the legions to come back and save them; but its existence is disputed as it is unclear to what extent the Romano-British wanted to actually remain in the Empire) and in 410 Rome itself was sacked by mutinous foederati allies under Alaric the Goth. This is the context of Augustine's City of God. He could see the writing on the wall - he knew the Empire's days were numbered, and City of God is a polemic urging people to spend their short lives on Earth preparing for the afterlife, rather than frittering their lives away in defence of a doomed regime. St Jerome was not the first man to translate the Graeco-Hebrew Bible into Latin - the Vetus Latina were a collection of ad-hoc Latin translations which first appeared shortly after Jesus' purported lifetime. Remember that by the time Jerome disseminated his Latin Vulgate Bible in the late 380s, Christianity had existed for over three centuries and had already been the religion of all the Emperors themselves (with the sole exception of Julian the Apostate) for nearly sixty years. It's hard to preach a state religion if the holy texts aren't in the language of the people.
|As Christianity grew, it began to organize itself along the lines of local parishes managed by priests, who in turn were selected by bishops. A group of local churches forms a diocese. Christianity is primarily an evangelical faith, and spreading its truths is considered a fundamental aspect of its doctrine. By seeking conversion of others to the Good News, Christianity differs from other religions that lack an evangelical component, such as Judaism. Popes were established in both Rome (a line of succession from Peter) and Alexandria, Egypt (a line of succession from Mark), and the Roman Catholic Church began to develop its own system of law known as “canon law.”||[The response from Ironclad is lacking for this section] ScepticWombat (talk) 14:08, 25 March 2018 (UTC)|
|While Christianity was and is primarily peaceful in its evangelism, Roman emperors were brutal in attempting to suppress the religion. Roman emperors Nero and Diocletian would actively persecute Christians, thereby creating many martyrs, but the religion continued to grow. Christians would hold worship services in secret places, making use of pre-existing catacombs or tunnels underlying Rome. There were numerous early Christian martyrs, such as Lawrence, who openly expressed their faith in Rome. In A.D. 258, the Roman emperor abruptly issued an edict that all bishops, priests and deacons be immediately killed (“episcopi et presbyteriet diacones incontinenti animadvertantur”). The bishop of Rome (the pope) was found in a catacomb and immediately executed. Lawrence, accordingly to verbal tradition, was roasted to death by a red-hot grid.||Oh, this is rich. "Christianity was and is primarily peaceful in its evangelism". As this is a discussion of the Roman Empire, let's avoid a Schlafly Slip by mentioning all the bad things that Christians have done through history, and stick to the period in question. Christians burned the Library of Alexandria in 391 (although in fairness, some fires had been started before by the Romans, and continued to be made afterwards by the Arabs). Christians passed an Imperial Edict in 356 making paganism punishable by death. Hypatia, a pagan Greek and brilliant female mathematician, was skinned alive and burned by a Christian mob in 415. These are just a few isolated examples. Let's also not forget that rich early Christians owned slaves, and were just as corrupt as the pagan rich. So Andy doesn't exactl hold the moral high ground here. Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries AD was just as brutal and violent as competing religions. As for martyrs, historian Christopher Kelly draws attention to the fact that many Christians actively sought martyrdom: surviving documents testify that by the 300s, Roman courts were bombarded with Christians demanding that they be put to death in the arena - often in slow and excruciatingly painful ways - in order to become martyrs, fulfill their spiritual obligations of physical sacrifice, and enter into heaven. Roman judges often had to turn Christians away, because they became such a nuisance in clogging up the courts system. Saint Lawrence had it pretty easy - the Romans had much, much more painful ways of sending someone to meet their maker, and in the fourth century the carnal creativity of the Roman authorities reached new and nauseating heights. The point is, this wasn't simply a case of evil pagan Romans rounding up poor, innocent Christians and torturing them to death for fun. That did of course happen, but it happened within the context of Christian and pagan mobs burning, torturing, and slaughtering each other, and Christians practically queueing up to have themselves put through ghastly physical violence because they believed it was necessary in order to demonstrate their faith.|
|The persecutions of Christians continued until the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313, issued by the emperor Constantine. This edict established Christianity as an acceptable religion to be practice in Rome, and in A.D. 391, emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire and the worship of Roman gods was outlawed. The only legal religions in the Roman Empire were then Christianity and Judaism. All the Roman emperors after Constantine were Christian, with one exception (Julian “the Apostate”).||It was also at this time that a fresh wave of violence was unleashed by the Christians at all non-Christian religions in the EMpire, including Judaism. Temples were burned and demolished, pagan books burned, and pagan priests executed with just as much sadistic cruelty as the Romans had committed against Christians. The Ancient Egyptian religion, which had clung on in the south of Egypt for thousands of years, was finally snuffed out, its scrolls burned and priests executed, and knowledge of hieroglyphs was lost until the nineteenth century. Nice work, Christians.|
|Constantine built a new Christian capital in the East for the Roman empire that would be safe from the German invaders, and he called its Constantinople. The city was located to benefit from the expanding trade with the East. He built a beautiful Church of Holy Wisdom there, now known as the Cathedral of the Hagia Sophia. This city survived and thrived for another 1000 years, as the eastern portion of the Roman Empire did not decline and fall as the western portion did. The architecture of this city, now known as Istanbul, Turkey, is a mixture of Christianity and Hellenistic classicism. It is on the Bosporus Strait at the point where Europe meets Asia, and was the wealthiest city in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Half the city is in Europe and the other half is in Asia. It was sometimes called the “Queen of Cities.”||No he didn't. Byzantium already existed - it had been founded centuries before by Greek traders - and Constantine simply renamed it. Andy actually referenced this in an earlier, incorrect, statement. The current Hagia Sophia dates from the sixth century, some two hundred years after Constantine died - so he didn't build it. The thumbnail sketch of Constantinople is pointless here as it should go in Andy's later section on the Byzantines, and it's also wrong. Until its conquest by the Turks in 1453, Constantinople was only on one side of the Bosphorus Straits, and not half-and-half as Schlafly claims. Another failure.|
|Meanwhile, Christianity was hindered by internal conflicts over doctrine, otherwise known has heresies. The biggest heresy was “Arianism”, based on teachings of a Libyan priest in Alexandria, Egypt, who declared that Jesus was merely an exceptional man and that he was not divine. To address this heresy, Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325 in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), and he presided over it. This was the first of several important ecumenical councils held by Christians, typically one being held every 50 or 100 years. The 300 Christian leaders declared that Jesus was a human who was also fully and eternally divine, and they excommunicated and banished Arian (i.e., the emperor Constantine forced him into exile). This issue did not generate as much of a division amongst the bishops as some modern authors suggest, and only two of over 300 bishops dissented when the nature of Jesus’ divinity was voted upon. The Christian leaders issued the Nicene Creed, which confirms the divine Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Virtually all Christians of almost any denomination today adhere to the Nicene Creed, and many Christians recite it daily or weekly. As to Arianism, it was simpler than Christianity and gained popularity among Germanic invaders of the Roman Empire, but lost influence after the 8th century.||There's little point unpicking Andy's version of "heresy", seeing as he considers anyone who disagrees with his interpretation to be wrong, and as he has already committed so many of his own heresies by misrepresenting the trial of Jesus, misquoting the Bible, and rewriting the Bible. A few hundred years ago, all of those heresies would have earned him a holiday in an underground dungeon and plenty of free first-hand demonstrations of the Spanish Inquisition's latest gadgets, followed by a nice warm evening tied to a stake in the marketplace. He should thank the society he hates so much, that we have all advanced from that level of fundamentalist right-wing nuttery.|
|Another Christian heresy was “Gnosticism”, based on the Greek work for knowledge (“gnosis”). The Gnostics claimed to rely entirely on knowledge or reason, and later the word “agnostic” was coined to describe people who claim that recognition of God is impossible because it is somehow beyond human reasoning. There are implied criticisms of the Gnostics in the letters included in the New Testament (see, e.g., 1Timothy 1:4), so this dispute goes back to the very early days of Christianity. The Gnostics promoted works as scriptures that were doubted or rejected by other Christians, such as the “Gospels” of Thomas and Judas, with the latter obtaining much publicity just this year. Gnostics would also edit out passages from accepted Gospels if they felt it could not be proven, such the reference in Luke to an angel coming to strengthen Jesus during his agony prior to the Crucifixion (Luke 22:43-44). Gnosticism had its roots in pre-Christian philosophy, and it persists to this day in attempts to pick and choose from the New Testament, and supplement it with Apocrypha (non-authentic works) as in the Da Vinci Code book and movie.||This is just delicious - Andy criticising the Gnostics for "edit[ing] out passages from accepted Gospels" and their tendency to "pick and choose from the New Testament". Evidently irony is totally lost on this man. I wonder if he can spell "hypocrite"? Because of all the things Jesus frowns upon, hypocrisy is at the top of the list.|
|The Roman Empire was brutal not only to the Christians. In A.D. 66, Jewish “Zealots” from Judea rebelled against the Romans and a bitter struggle followed. Titus’s Roman army was far more powerful, however, and killed many of the Zealots and then senselessly destroyed the sacred temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, leaving only the Wailing Wall that remains to this day for Jewish believers to pray before. Then, in A.D. 73, Jewish holdouts in a fortress near Masada finally succumbed after years of courageous fighting against the more powerful Roman army. Herod the Great had built a fortified palace there in a rocky hill on the southwest shore of the Dead Sea, between 37 and 31 B.C. Herod built it for his own protection in case there were a Jewish revolt against him, but the Zealots later captured it for the purposes of their own revolt. After two years of a courageous defense against the Romans, the Romans finally prevailed with a battering ram in breeching the defenses. The oral tradition is that the Romans used Jewish slaves who the Zealots were reluctant to kill. Instead, the Zealots all committed suicide rather than submit to Roman authority, though another oral tradition is that the Zealots killed each other (except for the last one) out of respect for the Jewish prohibition on suicide.||Why the sudden flashback to the Siege of Masada? Couldn't he have included this in an earlier segment?|
|Another Jewish rebellion against the Romans occurred in A.D. 132, and this time the Romans completely destroyed the Jewish state and dispersed the Jewish people to faraway lands. This is known as the “Second Diaspora” (“diaspora” is Greek for dispersion). The “First Diaspora” was the Babylonian captivity. There would not be another Jewish homeland until 1948. After the Second Diaspora some Jewish people converted to Christianity, while others formed Jewish communities in faraway places. By A.D. 1000, Spain became a center for Jewish scholarship, but the Spanish Inquisition in A.D. 1492 is blamed for expelling Jews from that country. Eastern Europe welcomed displaced Jewish settlers, and by the 17th century it became the center of the Diaspora. In the late 1800s many Jewish people migrated to Germany and Britain, but the Holocaust in Germany during World War II destroyed Jewish communities there. The center of the Diaspora today is the United States, which has a Jewish population of nearly 6 million, more than the 5 million Jewish population of Israel, founded in 1948. Great Jewish centers such as Egypt and Babylon (now Iraq), which thrived in the first century, now have fewer than 1000 Jewish residents.||Another random Schlafly slide from Ancient Rome to the twentieth century. And what better way to end a section on the Romans and Christianity than this historical hotch-potch? Extra points for mentioning the Spanish Inquisition - they would have LOVED to get their hands on this man. And quite frankly, I can't imagine anyone would be too concerned what they might do to him.|
Military Reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire (in the West)
|A barbaric, nomadic tribe known as the Asiatic Huns began moving into Europe from Asia in two independent tribes of nomadic barbarians, the Germanic Goths and Asiatic Huns. They launched fierce attacks on the Roman empire in the West in the late 300s (A.D.). The western Goths were known as “Visigoths”.||It's hard to keep track of Andy's train of thought, because rather than organising this lecture by chronology or themes, he's gone for a mish-mash of both, with a lot of backtracking and fast-forwarding thrown in. This segment seems to pick up from the penultimate one, but after that confusing rhetorical diatribe on Christianity, I don't know where I am now. Neither do his students, probably. Let's see if we can fathom out what's going on. He still hasn't mentioned the Crisis of the Third Century, and if I were a student of this course I would never have heard of it, and would think that by the late 300s, which Schlafly is now wittering on about, the Roman Empire was still strong. In reality, it was badly weakened and had changed so significantly that the Empire of the fourth century was unrecognisable compared to that of Octavian. The military had been completely reformed, the economy had fragmented and localised, the old Roman gods had been largely abandoned in favour of either Christianity or various cults worshipping the Sun, Rome was politically unimportant, and the Emperor had been transformed from the Head of the Senate into a prototype of a medieval king. This is the very, very basic context necessary for understanding the decline of the Western Empire from the fourth century onwards, but Schlafly has not provided his students with even the most remote indication of that. Anyway, let's ignore Emperor Schlafly and like so many fourth-century Romans, press on with our own independent project.|
|The key date was A.D. 375, when the Huns invaded Europe from Asia. The Huns then settled in present-day Hungary, forcing the Goths to flee their homeland on the northern shore of the Black Sea. The Huns displaced the Ostrogoths, who in turn displaced the Visigoths. The Visigoths initially requested and received permission from the Romans to cross the Danube River and settle in the Roman empire. However, before long the Roman authorities were fighting with the Visigoths, and at the Battle of Adrianople in A.D. 378 the Visigoths defeated the Romans and killed the emperor Valens. Meanwhile, other ethnic groups migrated around Europe in what is called the “Migration of the Peoples.” Times were changing and the Roman empire was not likely to survive. In A.D. 410, the Visigoths, led by their king Alaric, invaded and looted Rome.||Andy is more or less right in this, and at least obliquel references the domino-effect of population pressures which prompted "barbarians" to spill over the frontier into the Empire. And he finally references the Battle of Adrianople, although in the space between the paragraphs he's skipped a good seven decades. No mention of the fact that the Gothic Sack of Rome was not some nightmarish plunder-fest perpetuated by bearded, beer-swilling barbarians. In fact, it was conducted by Rome's allies, the Visigoth foederati, whose treaty of alliance the Romans had reneged upon, refusing to pay their allies. In anger, the allies mutinied and sacked Rome. But even then, "Sack" is a strong word. There was pillage, of course, but remarkably little bloodshed. It wasn't until much later in the fifth century that Rome really went through the grinder.|
|Meanwhile the nomadic Huns were defeating everything in their path from A.D. 370 to 455 in southeastern Europe, creating widespread panic throughout the Roman empire. The fear they inspired in their enemies was worse than anything in history. The Huns had tremendous skills of horsemanship that enabled them to strike with lightning speed. They were also extraordinarily accurate archers from atop the horses, and made ferocious charges on their enemies. Ultimately two brothers, Attila and Breda, rose to power over the Huns, and then Attila took power for himself by killing his brother.||Attila's brother was called Bleda, not Breda. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Hunnic activity in Eastern Europe "creat[ed] widespread panic throughout the Roman empire". The Romans were quite happy to see the barbarians fighting amongst themselves instead of trying to break into the Empire, and treaties were signed between the Empire and the Huns. Indeed, one of the show-of-good-will "hostages" that the Romans sent as part of a diplomatic exchange was the young Flavius Aetius, son of an extremely powerful family and the man who later defeated Attila the Hun. The Romans and Huns even traded with one another quite amicably. It wasn't until the Romans started throwing their weight around that the Huns turned towards the Empire.|
|Attila became King of the Huns from A.D. 434 to 453, and he was perhaps the most vicious and barbaric military leader in history. Known as “Attila the Hun,” everyone was completely terrified of him and called him the “Scourge of God.” One rumor was that Attila was a cannibal. He married seven women in his lifetime. The Huns were so barbaric that they did not use fire, and would simply eat raw or semi-raw meat that they found in dead animals. They were extremely fierce in battle. Superb horsemen, the Huns could shoot a bow accurately while riding a horse, benefiting from stirrups that their opponents did not have. The Huns would scream in battle and not follow any system of organized warfare, instead preferring complete chaos on the battlefield. They would fight to the death without any regard for their own safety.||This reads like something out of an early Victorian school textbook. Historians used to emphasise the ferocity and barbarity of the Huns, who overran those poor, civilised, noble Romans in an orgy of bloodshed and horror. The reality, as supported by contemporary documentary evidence and archaelogical evidence, is quite different. Indeed, the revised version of Attila is that he was in fact quite an incompetent and easily-swayed leader, and is a major figure in history not because of his inherent traits but because, like so many famous figures, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Certainly, his diplomacy was terrible (the Huns made enemies of everyone, not just the Romans) and even his military strategy was shockingly crude, allowing the badly-depleted Roman infantry to inflict a crushing defeat on him at Chalons. More on that later. As for the rest of this paragraph, it's a typical mixture of fact and fantasy. Attila did have many wives - including a Roman princess - but that was typical of the time and is irrelevant here. They did use stirrups unlike the Romans, and some historians have even concluded that it was the use of stirrups and rapid horseback travel which allowed the Germanic peoples to render the Empire impotent. They were fierce in battle, but then so were all warriors past, present and future. Their archery skills were famed, and of course they screamed in battle. Everyone screams in battle. Sometimes it's to rally your troops and boost morale (especially in pre-Gunpowder Age battles, which were essentially big infantry brawls), and sometimes it's because, to tell Andy a home truth, battles are bloody frightening. Take it from one who knows. His claim that the Huns did not use fire is simply ridiculous. Of course they used fire. How else would they forge the metal for their stirrups and arrowheads? His snippet about raw meat (and by the way, what's "semi-raw meat"? It's either blood-raw, or it's cooked to some degree) concerns the Mongols a thousand years later, not the Huns - the Mongols tenderised raw meat by putting it under their saddles while riding all day. It's where we get Steak Tartare from (Tartar being an archaic word for anyone beyond Eastern Europe). And as for "fighting to the death without any regard for their own safety", that's just plain wrong. One reason the Romans found fighting the Huns so hard, is that while the Romans excelled at close-quarters combat and expected everyone else to follow their example of throwing a lot of armoured infantrymen into a big brawl, and slugging it out until the better-trained Romans won, the Huns had the supremely annoying tactic of galloping up to the Romans, shooting their arrows, then galloping off again to reload, before the Romans had the chance to do anything. Also, while Roman ideas of virtue and honour demanded that doomed troops stand and fight to the last man (as at Adrianople), the Huns had the cowardly (in the eyes of the Romans), but intelligent, strategy of retreating from fights they were likely to lose, so they could live to fight another day. So, Andy's portrait of the Huns would be great if this was a lecture in the year 1811. Unfortunately, like the barbarians versus the Romans, we in the real world have moved on and outstripped the Conservapedian Imperium, while Emperor Schlafly is still bumbling around in his antiquated conservative traditions.|
|Attila the Hun himself lived a simple life, wearing plain clothes consisting of layered animal skin. An envoy from the Eastern Roman empire who met with Attila once at dinner described it as follows: “By mixing up the languages of the Italians with those of the Huns and Goths, [an entertainer] fascinated everyone and made them break out into uncontrollable laughter, all that is except Attila. He remained impassive, without any change of expression, and neither by word or gesture did he seem to share in the merriment ….” The impression left was that Attila lacked a sense of humor and cared about nothing but power.||If Andy could deign to provide us with a name for this envoy, that would help a lot. But as usual, it's more likely he's just pulled this out of his arse. (If anyone is interested in an actual historical envoy to Attila, the most noted one was Priscus, whom Andy may have taken this from)|
|As a young warrior, Attila had been captured and released by the Romans, and he vowed to return to Rome victorious as king. Relying on seers and “gods”, Attila nearly did conquer the Roman empire. For five years from A.D. 445 to 450 he devastated the eastern Roman empire, destroying anything in his path between the Rhine and the Caspian Sea. In 451 he amassed perhaps the largest army in the history of the world until that time, a total of a half-million men, and began marching towards Rome. He quickly conquered Gaul (present-day France) and devastated any European city in his path. He was not stopped until an alliance of the Visigoths and Romans surprised the Huns and forced them to retreat by about a hundred miles. One of the most bloody battles in all of history, the Battle of Chalons, ensued. The Visigoths and Romans defeated the Huns there.||
Attila had not been "captured and released". As part of diplomatic exchanges, the Hunnic royal family sent princes to Rome as "hostages" in exchange for equally important Roman boys - including Flavius Aetius, who later fought Attila at the armaggeddon of Chalons. Exchanging such important hostages was a way of the Roman and Hunnic leaders assuring each other that they would not attack each other, and was a standard technique of diplomacy until the Middle Ages. Such "hostages", by the way, were treated very well. Attila fled to the Hunnic delegation in Ravenna (the new Western Imperial capital) to avoid being murdered during a Hunnic power struggle. It's true that before he had anything to do with the West, Attila had invaded the Eastern Empire. Points off, though, for bad geography - the Romans didn't control anything between the Rhine and the Caspian Sea. There are these wonderful things, Andy, called "maps". Look at one. Now, back to the East. The Eastern Emperor had been paying a lot of tribute to Attila; basically paying him off so the Huns wouldn't attack. But the Empire couldn't afford this drain and cut off payments, prompting Attila to invade in retaliation. And, as relations between Ravenna and Constantinople by this point were downright hostile, the West refused to send aid to the East. The Eastern Empire beat the Huns off anyway, and Attila withdrew to deal with factional wars among his own people. His attack on the West was for very different motives than Andy suggests - in fact, he doesn't seem to suggest any motives, other than that Attila was a bloodthirsty maniac. Well, that wasn't true.Attila's motive for attacking the Western Empire had nothing to do with territorial greed. After returning from the Eastern Empire, he received a secret offer of marriage from Honoria, the sister of Western Emperor Valentinian II - partly so she could weasel her way out of an arranged marriage, and partly as a foundation for a possible alliance between the Romans and the Huns against the Goths and Burgundinae. Attila took her up on this offer, thus becoming heir to half of the Western Empire. But - understandably - it was never approved by the Emperor, who didn't really fancy the idea of the Huns setting up shop inside the Empire, and when he found out, Valentinian refused to recognise the marriage. Subsequent attempts at reaching a diplomatic settlement failed, and when a power struggle broke out in the neighbouring Frankish territories, Attila used this as a pretext to invade the Empire and claim what was rightfully his by marriage. The Eastern Emperor refused to send financial or military assistance (which the West had refused him a couple of years before) and the Huns advanced, but they did not, as Andy claims, come close to conquering the West. They wandered around Gaul, torched a few towns, and waited for the Roman field army to come and meet them. It all came to a head at the apocalyptic Battle of Chalons in 453, where a Roman-Gothic alliance under Flavius Aetius and Theodoric the Goth eventually managed to defeat the Huns. But in the process, the bulk of the Roman army was destroyed and the Goths broke their alliance with Rome after suspecting (perhaps rightly) that Aetius had secretly ordered the murder of Theodoric the Goth during the battle and blamed it on the Huns. As usual, Andy gets it half-right, but misses the important ramifications.
|But Attila was clever, and redirected his Huns towards Rome by invading Italy. He was headed towards the heart of the Roman empire: Rome itself. He destroyed everything in his path in the Roman countryside. Unable to stop Attila the Hun by force, a peaceful mission led by Pope Leo I traveled out to meet Attila in 452 and try to persuade him to spare Rome. Moral persuasion worked where violence had not, and Attila did not invade Rome.||Yes, Attila came back the next year - and by now, there was no army and no Aetius (who had been executed by an Emperor fearful of a military coup d'etat) to stop him. Andy goes too far in his smug conclusion that "moral persuasion" (whatever the hell that even means) prevailed. Nobody knows what Pope Leo said to Attila. He might indeed have used ethical arguments on Attila, but equally he might have entered into negotiations. Whatever he did say, Leo never told anyone else nor wrote it down, so it is pure speculation to claim that Christian temperance won the day. Further, recent scholarship points towards practical reasons for Attila not seizing Rome. It is known that he had a superstition of entering Rome, after Alaric had died shortly after his sacking of the city in 410, and Attila did not have the supplies he needed to march on the city. The Italian harvest had been abysmally low, and Attila could not even sustain his armies where they were, never mind attack Rome. Rome was also heavily fortified, and Attila knew his troops could not conduct real siege warfare. It is much more likely that Attila and Pope Leo met simply as a formal ritual, allowing the Romans to maintain an illusion of power and allowing Attila to withdraw back to his supply base before winter left him and his army, trapped in enemy country and with Roman-foederati troops closing in, with nothing to eat.|
|A year later, at only age 47, Attila died apparently from a mere nosebleed. It was an ironic cause of death for one of the most feared warriors in the history of the world.||Ironic? There's a strong possibility that he was in fact poisoned by his latest wife, who was secretly a Roman agent. Although it's true that the traditional historical view, is that Attila the Hun died from a haemmorhage (possibly induced by poison, or just very heavy drinking) while having sex. Which isn't a bad way to go, really.|
|Attila was gone, but the Germanic tribes remained to wreak havoc on the Roman empire and ultimately ensure its complete fall. These Germanic tribes included the Saxons in northern Germany; the Angles and Saxons in England; the Visigoths in Spain; the Ostrogoths in Italy; the Vandals in North Africa; and the Franks in France.||Having expended most of their remaining military resources on the Hunnic threat, it's true that the Empire found itself weakened compared to the other barbarians. But this was simply the culmination of much deeper trends, which Andy will try and explain later. By the 450s the Romans still had a lot of men, a lot of weapons, and a lot of allies. The problem was, they didn't have a lot of money to pay the soldiers, and by this point the economic situation, the constant plagues, and the total mismanagement of the Empire by the politically-torn imperial government meant that most Western Prefects ignored orders from the Emperor, and just looked after their local affairs.|
|The Germans to the north of the Roman empire began to show signs of their might that would resurface in the two world wars of the 20th century. In the ancient world the Germans had three dialects: Nordic (which later became Scandinavian languages), the western dialect (which later became modern German), and the eastern dialect (also known as Gothic).||WHAT?? Andy thinks that the events of the late fifth century presaged the events of the early twentieth century? Jesus Christ, is this really how this man thinks? IN NO WAY were the Germanic tribes of the late Roman Empire a template for the Kaiser or the Fuhrer. This is crass, crappy writing at its very worst.|
|To the Romans and Greeks, the Germans were an uncivilized people incapable of farming, as they lived in clans of 10-20 families, directed by tribal kings in war. They had no territorial allegiance, operating under fierce personal loyalty instead.||Bullshit. When historians talk about "the Germans" in this timeframe, it's just a catch-all expression for the infinitely diverse myriad of people who inhabited non-Roman central Europe. If Andy thinks that all of these peoples had the same social structure, he's a moron. Well, we knew that anyway. And bear in mind that there were a lot of barbarians - Andy himself has just been prattling on about it. If they had no agriculture, how did these large societies feed themselves? By eating bark and leaves?|
|The German tribes would raid the Roman civilizations on the frontier along the Rhine, Danube and the north shore of the Black Sea, capturing women and slaves in the raids to send back to do domestic work. The Roman empire under Caesar was strong enough to repel these attacks, capturing the blond invaders and turning them into slaves of Rome. But over time the Germans learned to organize themselves and the Roman empire on the frontier became less civilized: the line between civilization and barbarism became blurry. By the third century AD, it was not always clear which side was the civilized one.||Again, Victorian history at its best. It's hard to tell whether Andy is sniping at the Germans, sympathetic to the Germans, or is just terrible at writing. Remember the "Migrations Hypothesis" from a previous lecture? Well, this is one of the few cases in history where it is actually correct. The Germanics ("barbarians" is such a judgemental word) were not these big, bearded men painted in woad and wearing helmets with horns on, emerging screaming from the forests to slaughter the Romans and take their daughters away as sex-slaves. That's history for pig-headed nineteenth-century nationalists, or at least Conservapedians. The "barbarians" were organised Iron-Age societies with social hierarchies, agriculture, religion, towns, diplomatic relations, culture and art, and trade links with faraway peoples. The reasons for large-scale migration into the Empire are varied, but largely focus on population pressures caused by Hunnic expansion far away in Eurasia, and because of a genuine desire to live in the Empire. Especially after the Edict of AD 212 granted Roman citizenship to all non-slaves in the Empire. The barbarians didn't cross the frontiers because they wanted to destroy Rome, but because they wanted to be part of it. The Empire had hot water, regular food supplies, roads and bridges and legal protection and all the paraphernalia of an advanced society. And the Romans often invited the Germanics to come and settle inside the Western Empire and cultivate virgin land, so the authorities had new people to tax. In the next section there will be more on why this didn't work - partly because the pompous Roman authorities and the new-fangled Germanics were not the best of neighbours - but suffice it to say that Andy's explanation is utter rubbish. The only blurred line is the one in his head, wherein fact and fantasy become hopelessly entangled.|
|The Germanic nomads caused rural peasants to flee into the cities, which weakened them. In A.D. 410 the Visigoths, a wandering nation of Germanic people from the northeast led by King Alaric, sacked Rome itself. Another German chieftain named Odoacer finished the job off in A.D. 476, when he dethroned the last Roman emperor of the West: Romulus Augustulus.||
No, no, no. This has already been mentioned, but we'll say it again. The towns were becoming overcrowded (and therefore riddled with disease, poverty, and social unrest) because the rural peasantry had to shoulder the enormous burden of taxes. Even after all of the reforms, the super-rich paid negligible taxes (it seems to be mournful constant of history, that rich reactionaries can always find a way to weasel their way out of chipping in) and it was just untenable for the peasants - those who survived the constant plagues, and the malnutrition caused by bad harvests and the end of organised state-sponsored agriculture - to pay the astronomical taxes demanded of them by the government. So, a lot of people just upped and moved to the towns where they could get handouts from the authorities. Seems sensible, except it left the people still in the countryside with even heavier taxes to pay. It's little wonder that the "barbarians" swept across Western Europe so quickly. For a lot of people, getting rid of the Roman Empire made their lives a hell of a lot easier.Andy, you've already mentioned the Sack of Rome in 410, and you did a half-arsed job. Please refrain from doing it again. For his information, there was no Sack in 476 (which he seems to imply). In reality, by 476 the Empire had long ceased to exist. The government apparatus had disappeared, the soldiers had trudged off to their families and farms rather than pointlessly throwing their lives away for the arrogant fools in a decaying city, and a lot of the Prefects in the West, angry at tax demands and the sheer incompetency of central government, had split away from the Empire. The Emperor himself had been a useless figurehead for decades - real power was held by the magister militum, the supreme commander of the armies, who was inevitably a Germanic ally. But even his power was largely confined to central Italy, as the provinces were too busy looking after themselves to send troops. All that the magister militum, Odoacer, did in 476 was depose a child who nobody paid any attention to. He packed up the imperial regalia in a box and shipped it off to the Eastern Emperor in Constantinople, and that was that. The Roman Empire in the West, was gone. Oh, the Senate still sat and taxes were still gathered; there were still chariot races in the Hippodrome and there was still trade in the West between the various independent new fiefdoms. For a while, anyway. But the Empire had been fading away for a long, long time and in 476, it was simply made official. Like repealing an old law that everyone's forgotten about. No fiery infernos on the Capitoline Hill, no berserk barbarians shrieking through the streets as the marble pillars crashed down, no purple-robed Emperor dying, sword in hand, in the glorious last stand of the legions in the Forum. Just a child shipped off to his family in Croatia, a few trinkets packed in a box, and the Empire was gone. Like so many events in history, the Western Roman Empire went not with a bang, but with a whimper.
|Another powerful enemy was poised to attack from east of the Roman empire. The Persians had been weakened by internal conflict until Ardashir, grandson of Sassan, killed the last Parthian king in 224. That heralded the beginning of the Sassanian dynasty, which ruled for hundreds of years until the Arabs arrived in 637-51.||[The response from Ironclad is lacking for this section] ScepticWombat (talk) 14:10, 25 March 2018 (UTC)|
|The Sassanians pulled together their crown and the provinces, strengthened their cities and improved their organization. Ardashir then proceeded to take north Mesopotamia back from the Roman empire. His son Shapur I (A.D. 240-72) invaded as far west as Antioch and even took the Roman Emperor Valerian prisoner in A.D. 260. Shapur I even took control of Afghanistan and Turkestan, and his Shapur II (A.D. 309-79) annexed them.||"Sassanids", Andy. Not Sassanians. And "pulled together their crown"; what does that mean? I have this image of the Sassanid Shah dropping his crown on the floor and then trying to glue it back together. It's too late to mention Valerian now, Andy. You should have done it a long time ago. In a way, this whole lecture is like the Roman Empire. It's slapdash, ad hoc, and when the Supreme Authority tries to reform it, it's a case of too little, too late. And like the peasants of the Western Empire, I won't be sad to see it go.|
|Shapur I improved the culture of Persia, commissioning translations of Greek and Indian works on philosophy, medicine and astronomy. He protected religious figures like Mani, who attempted to adapt Christian concepts to ancient Iranian principles of good and evil and thereby create a religion to suit the entire world at the time. A state church was created, but ultimately Mani was crucified and his followers, the Manicheans, were persecuted.||How does one "improve" a culture? I hope Andy isn't implying that a culture is primitive if it doesn't have outside influences. That sounds dangerously Anti-American. Even, dare I say it, "liberal".|
|But the Persians had the same problem plaguing the Romans: raids by uncivilized peoples on their frontiers. The decline of the ancient world was not so much due to one civilized group defeating another, but rather the calamity of barbarians destroying civilization.||These lectures should come with a disclaimer. "Warning: product contains crap. Do not use if you are pregnant, as exposure may result in political extremism and future imbecility. In case of accidental absorbtion, consult a librarian".|
Other Reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire (in the West)
|Historians date the end of the ancient world at A.D. 500 or 600, or perhaps as early as 375 when the Huns invaded Europe from Asia. The last Roman Emperor was the nine-year-old Romulus Augustus, and he was deposed (removed from power) in A.D. 476. This is the date most often used by historians to denote the “fall” of the Roman empire. Keep in mind, however, that the eastern half of the Roman empire based in Constantinople that split from the west in A.D. 264 never “fell”, and thrived for another thousand years.||
No historian who expects to continue drawing a salary, would assign a single year as the cutoff point between the Ancient and Medieval worlds. These categories are themselves a bit arbitrary, and only exist so that we can divide up the huge span of human history into more manageable chunks, based on themes, geography, chronology, or whatever other styles might be useful. The transition between eras is vague and blurry, and none more so than the transition from ancient to medieval in Europe. Single events - like the Hunnic invasion or the deposition of Romulus Augustulus (not "Augustus", Andy) are useful markers, but are not cutoff points in and of themselves. Ironically, in saying that the Eastern Empire never "fell", Andy is performing the reverse of what real historians see. The Eastern Empire did "fall" in 1453, during a big fiery siege of Constantinople. The Western Empire simply fizzled out a millennium before.The question that Andy ought to be asking here - and perhaps is, beneath his hammy writing - is "why did the Western Empire end?" Now, there are two answers to this, either of which is equally right. The first one is; "For many reasons". The second one is; "We're not sure" (note that there is a difference between "We don't know" and "We're not sure". The former implies a total lack of knowledge, the latter implies that we have theories, we just haven't decided which one fits the evidence best). A third, and controversial, answer is; "It didn't". We'll examine these in turn based on what Andy has to say.
|There was not a single event that ended the Ancient World, or even a series of events. But by A.D. 600, there was very little left of ancient civilizations, and the marvelous intellectual and cultural progress had ceased. The culture, the militaries, the upkeep of roads, the sense of justice, and the governments were finished.||This is partly true, and in all fairness to Andy he acknowledges that single events don't signify epochal changes. Yet his second claim is somewhat contradictory. I can understand it if it means "there wasn't a sequence of single events" which led to Roman collapse, but then history is a sequence of events. There's the seed of a philosophical argument in here, but Andy can't quite get it to work. He's right, though, that by the seventh century the apparatus of the Roman Empire had disappeared in Europe. The vast Roman army had ceased to exist, as had the government which had levied, paid, and organised the army. Instead, a patchwork of kingdoms and fiefdoms had emerged, with non-professional warrior bands. The roads had indeed fallen into disrepair, as there was no government to maintain them. Roman culture had survived - Romanesque architecture, art, and of course Christianity all survived well into the Late Middle Ages an beyond - but the important thing here, as Andy recognises, is the absence of government. Without a central government, all that Roman civilisation was famous for - its military, its infrastructures, its slave economy - evaporated. So why did the Roman government disappear? Bear in mind that the reasons given often say more about the people who write history, rather than the actual events themselves. Let's see what Andy says.|
|The Roman empire was the last of the great ancient civilizations, and countless papers, books and Ph.D. theses have been written trying to explain why the Roman empire collapsed. In the 1700s, British historian Edward Gibbon wrote a six-volume classic entitled The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This became the most celebrated work of English historical literature. Gibbon attributed the decline of the Roman empire primarily to the rise of Christianity. Roman citizens began to care more about heaven than earth, and supposedly stopped caring so much about work and government. However, this argument is not very persuasive, as nations with overwhelmingly Christian populations have thrived throughout history. Also, Gibbons’ theory does not explain why the western half of the Roman empire fell but the eastern half did not. Both were Christian.||
Yes, there's so much material that we could probably spend the rest of our lives reading all the theories on why what happened, happened. Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall (published in 1776, the same year as the American Declaration of Independence - I'm surprised Andy didn't bother to do the research on that, it would have given him some propaganda to play with) was a monumental work and the first project of what we define as scholarly history. Gibbons didn't just write down myths and unverified rumours (an ancient tradition nobly maintained by Conservapedians), he actually looked at primary sources, cross-referenced, and reached conclusions based on the objective weight of evidence. It is true that Gibbons' basic explanation was two-pronged: he famously condemned decadence from within, and barbarians from without. In Gibbons' interpretation, Roman values of hard work, thrift, and martial spirit were corrupted by decadence in the upper classes (just as Livy had proclaimed at the time) and Christianity among the plebs. The Romans became lazy and corrupt, couldn't be bothered to actually defend or administer their sprawling realm, and simply paid Germanic foederati mercenaries to do it for them. When the money began to run out, these mercenaries upped and left, leaving the Romans to face the hordes of slavering barbarians pouring across the frontiers. We now have a different image of Rome - and especially the barbarians - but this is what Gibbons concluded. Andy is actually right in pointing out that Christianity is a strange factor to blame, as the Eastern Empire went merrily along for another few centuries - and even reconquered much of the West - before encountering their own problems in the form of Arabic expansion; yet the Eastern Empire was just as Christian as the West. This is a problem for the Gibbons thesis. However, Andy neglects to mention other factors that Gibbons saw as important - namely the concentration of power in the hands of the Emperor, many of whom couldn't care less about running the Empire, or frittered away enormous sums of badly-needed money on gaudy ceremonies, or spent more time fighting their rivals than actually dealing with the day-to-day problems of the regime.Interestingly, Andy could have strengthened his argument had he bothered to do more than five minutes' research. Historiography is the term describing the actual process of writing history. And historiographic theory reminds us that historians are people like you and me, who come with their own preconceptions and prejudices and thoughts, which consciously or subconsciously influence the history books (or Conservapedia lectures) that they write. Gibbons was a child of the Enlightenment, and was rather infamous in his own time as a staunch opponent of the established Anglican church - and of Christianity itself - which he perceived as archaic and detrimental to the progress of human knowledge and society. So, using historiography, we can say with a high degree of confidence that Gibbons' own scathing view that Christianity is bad for society, was influential on his conclusion that Christianity was bad for Roman society. See, Andy? Do some real research, and you will find good history that actually ties in with your own opinions.
|The military invasions by barbarians described above were an obvious problem. These were a constant distraction to the Roman emperors and ultimately the Roman army could not continue to defeat the attacks. The army itself was vulnerable to disloyalty, as it enlisted barbarians who cared little about Rome. Enormous political instability resulted in 28 different generals (the “barracks emperors”) in less than 100 years.||Not a very well-explained paragraph, but it's vaguely in the right area. We've already examined the near-constant civil wars which badly weakened the Roman army, and were far more of a distraction than the migrations by Germanic peoples. It is argued by some historians that the Germanic migrations/invasions only occured when they did precisely because the Roman army was busy fighting itself, instead of keeping an eye on the frontiers. Had there been internal peace, it is questionable whether these population movements could have occured. Certainly, the Romans were capable of inflicting crushing defeats on the undisciplined, untrained barbarians when the legions weren't at each others' throats. Related to this, some schools of thought point to the top as the source of the problem - the Emperor. There was never a clear system for installing an Emperor. Legally he was elected by the Senate, but by the third century the Senate was utterly powerless and the Emperor was a king in all but name. Yet succession was difficult due to the need for military loyalty - unpopular Emperors were frequently assassinated by the Praetorian Guard (until Diocletian abolished them, precisely for this reason), and legions in the provinces who didn't like the man in Rome, would simply proclaim a popular commander as the rightful Emperor, leading to more civil wars. Andy at least points to this. It is dubious whether these barbarian recruits were, as Schlafly claims, not interested in Rome. Certainly, many were mercenaries simply fighting for the highest bidder; but many (perhaps many more) were fighting out of loyalty to their King (who would be an ally of Rome) or because they wanted to be Romans themselves. It is an irony of history that by the fifth century, the barbarians were in many ways more Roman than the Romans. Their leaders dressed in togas, learned rhetoric, and gave fancy dinner parties, while the actual Italian nobility had picked up "barbarian" or Eastern traits. They wanted to be part of the Empire, but they didn't like it when the Empire withheld wages or tried to stab them in the back.|
|Economists often say that all of history can be explained by economic trends, and the decline of the Roman empire is an example of this. Diocletian’s economic policies were dreadful, imposing price controls and ordering people to stay in their current jobs. Emperors spent lavishly on themselves and other friends and the currency suffered from inflation that accompanies overspending by government. Like modern governments, the Roman emperors produced cheap coins when they needed money, thereby causing inflation. Economic problems resulted, and small farmers sold their family land to large estates, and an early form of feudalism called “Patrocinium” developed whereby farmers worked on land owned by others. Eventually many farmers gave up and migrated to cities. But slave labor was popular in the cities, so the former farmers could not obtain jobs and large unemployment resulted. Having nothing to do, crowds began to look for entertainment.||
Andy means "Marxists", but can't quite bring himself to say it. Economists don't comment on history, but Marxist historians - using Marx, of course - argue that the driving force of history is wealth, value, and class. For example, Marxist historians (as already mentioned) might argue that the Roman Empire didn't have a production-based economy and got all of their income from plunder - and when that pluinder stopped coming in, the Empire faced a rapid economic crisis. They point to low levels of trade in the Empire, the absence of entrepreuners, and the existence of a huge slave class which drove the free peasants deeper and deeper into crushing poverty. They point to the immense agricultural estates (worked by slaves) whose tax-exempt owners bought up land and forced farmers onto state handouts, which just made the problem worse. Particularly as, during political crises, all of the slaves necessary to produce food would just leave. This had the double effect of creating large gangs of brigands in the countryside who made trade extremely difficult, and also effectively ending the large-scale food production so desperately needed by the West's shrinking population of malnourished, plague-ridden citizens and soldiers. Diocletian's edicts, far from being "dreadful", are the only thing that kept the Roman economy from imploding in the late third century. Remember, Andy, that consumer capitalism is a product of recent centuries and did not exist in Rome. You can't just point at Diocletian and shout "socialist". The Romans' slapdash and mismanaged economy meant that the Roman currency was prone to terrible hyperinflation followed by hyperdeflation, making trade even more difficult. I nearly choked when I saw the use of the word "patrocinium", a word almost unknown outside of Cicero. Without going into detail, though, it does not relate to an early form of feudalism (which itself may never have actually existed, but is just a category we impose), instead referring to imperial governance.Historiographically, Marxist explanations for Rome's decline were most popular back in the 1970s, when Marxist history was all the rage. These theories are still important, yet as with Gibbon, they remind us that historians are influenced by contemporary events, ideas, and concerns, and use these as glasses through which to see the past. What is most delightful in all of this is that Andy himself is clearly a Marxist - he seems to believe that economic conservatism is second only to Jesus, and the economy is in his mind a prime mover in social affairs - and that really, really tickles me.
|The aphorism “idle time is the work of the devil” applied to the people of Rome. For entertainment, people would go to the Colosseum and watch people (at one time, Christians) be fed to lions, or see two gladiators fight each other until one died. The morality of the Roman people was in complete decline. It was like everyone now spending hours each day watching murder on television, except it was real then. Nothing gets done, and what the people are watching becomes increasingly immoral.||Apparantly Andy doesn't like CSI:Miami. Bravo for the obligatory reference to something in the modern world that you don't like. It's been a while since you shoehorned once of those in. It also seems that Christians only died "at one time" - maybe just one afternoon while the gladiators and lions were taking a half-day - so it's not all bad news. And really, who is Andy to pass his condescendingly holier-than-thou moral bullshit on the Romans? Yes, their entertainment was a lot more violent than ours, but that's not to say that we live in a happy, flowery, bunnies-skipping-through-the-meadows culture. How popular are boxing, wrestling, and various other forms of fighting in the West? Very. How popular are thrill-seeking pursuits like car racing and extreme sports, whose appeal is that the participants are so close to danger and death? Again, very. Aside from the death, the thrill of violence is the same as the Romans felt, and it's still very much a part of our collective culture no matter how much Conservapedians like to kid themselves that they're all nice and prim and civilised. I'm not saying it's right, but you can't bury your head in the cultural sand and pretend that the latent lust for violence which still simmers beneath the thin veneer of twenty-first century society, isn't there. Also bear in mind that all games apart from chariot racing, were banned in 313. A good century and a half before the Empire officially ended. So it's a bit of a stretch to say that the games caused the Empire to collapse.|
|The imposition of heavy taxes also had a demoralizing effect. Failed harvests compounded the economic problem. Moreover, the reliance by the Roman economy on slavery caught up with them, as the wealthy became accustomed to doing nothing and having free labor to work for them. Social decay accompanied the idle time and abusive use of free labor. Furthermore, the peaceful time known as Pax Romana has been blamed for not bringing in revenue from foreign wars, as Rome was no longer looting foreign territory. The end of the expansion of the Roman empire led to an end of the new revenue, and collapse from within. It appears that the economic model for success of the Roman empire required continual expansion to succeed. Illness did not help either: a plague reduced the population of Rome.||Oh! He's actually mentioned these factors! He doesn't outline the theories behind why these were important, though. Points off for tacking on illness at the end, and for getting it so badly wrong. The Antonine Plague, beginning in AD 165, was the first of a series of pandemics which, by the fourth century, had reduced the population of the Empire by perhaps as much as 50%. This had a very, very severe impact upo tax revenue and available troops - especially in the West. The East had a larger population and while the Eastern Empire suffered, it could absorb that sort of a population loss slightly less badly than the West. Indeed, the "plague thesis" is an independent school of thought, with epidemiological historians blaming the fall of the empire exclusively on disease. It deserves a lot more than a one-line offhand mention.|
|Other historians cite a lack of leadership. Under the theory that leaders, not ideas, define history, the Roman empire can be described as thriving when it had strong leaders (emperors), and failing when it did not. Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.) was a strong emperor, and he is credited with establishing the Roman empire in the place of the Republic, which did not have a strong leader. During Pax Romana, there was a series of strong emperors. But beginning with the end of Pax Romana in A.D. 180, there were a series of weak, incompetent or simply crazy emperors, many of whom served only a brief period before being assassinated. The end came with a nine-year-old emperor being removed from power by a foreign invader. That could hardly be a surprise to anyone.||Julius Caesar was never Emperor. He was assassinated while holding the office of Dictator for Life. Andy has mentioned several times now, that Augustus was the first Emperor. The Republic had a LOT of strong leaders, some of whom he has also mentioned. His discussion of post-AD 180 emperors would be legitimate, had he actually bothered to mention them instead of skipping ahead a hundred years to Diocletian. Get it right.|
|Perhaps the Roman empire was too big and too diverse to maintain indefinitely. No other empire has been able to control that much territory, with all its diversity, for hundreds of years. There were future attempts to lay claim to the Roman empire. Charlemagne insisted that he had reestablished the Roman empire in A.D. 800. But its full power was gone forever.||
Ouch. Ending with geographical determinism; a theory exploded over a hundred years ago. The logic here is terrible. Let's try and unravel what he means. So, large empires can't be maintained indefinitely? Well, by what standards do we define this? In his previous lecture, Andy waxed lyrical about how long the Chinese empire lasted. If we selectively interpret "diversity", that refutes his argmument. The British Empire lasted even longer than the Roman, if we selectively interpret the dates. And the Mongol Khanate, if we selectively interpret size, lasted even longer than the British. Define your variables, and we can try a comparative analysis.
And in all of this, Andy has missed a key school of thought - the Pirenne Thesis. This theory, which appeared in the 1920s and has been adopted and adapted since, basically answers the question "Why did Rome fall?" with the answer "It didn't". Henri Pirenne began with the premise that the purported Fall, was a change. Very logical. History is the story of change, and change is inevitable - except from a vending machine. Taking this as a foundational basis, Pirenne looked the Roman Empire at various stages and concluded that rather than the Empire entering a period of decline, it simply morphed, or evolved, from ancient, slave-based Republic to medieval serfdom. Consider the Empire under Augustus (1 AD); still very much a Republic, with the legions and the temples and all the trappings of Rome we see in films. Now, consider the Empire in 200 AD; very different. Its economic structure, its social hierarchy, its religions, had all changed significantly. By the time Diocletian became Emperor, Rome already resembled more of a medieval kingdom, than an ancient republic. Now, consider the Empire in 400 AD; it still existed, but was very different again. The fashions, the faiths, the economy and the social order - even the dominant cities - had changed even further. The Rome of the Late Empire was almost unrecognisable next to the Rome of the Late Republic. Now, forget the concept of a "Fall", and look at Europe in 600 AD. Pirenne saw this evolution continuing to happen beyond the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, and pointed to the continuations - Roman religion, language, culture, architecture, and even institutions continued. The Europe of 400 AD was very different to the evolved Europe of 600 AD, which was very different to the evolved Europe of 800 AD when Charlemagne was crowned the new Roman Emperor. What is crucial in this, is that the changes were not random and unpredictable; Pirenne saw them as the continuation and evolution of traits stretching back to Republican Rome. We could look at Medieval Europe, he argued, and trace its evolutionary ancestry back to Republican Rome, with no real disruptions - regardless of who claimed to be Emperor or what laws were being passed, the fundamental elements of society only changed slowly. Other versions of the Thesis argue that Europe continued in this slow socio-political evolution relatively calmly, until the Arab expansion of the seventh century cut trade in the Mediterranean and reduced Europe to an economic backwater. Other variations point to other factors. The Pirenne Thesis is controversial among historians, and it's astonishing that Andy left it out - imagine the field day he could have had with "historical Darwinists"! But, this is what happens when you do shoddy, shabby research. You miss your golden opportunities.Oh and on a final note, Charlemagne never claimed to have reestablished the Roman Empire - the Pope popped this on Charlemagne by surprise. This is a pretty poor note to go out on, Andy. Logically inconsistent, and factually wrong. But hey, at least it's in-keeping with your style so far.
The Byzantine Empire (in the East)
|Constantine I (“Constantine the Great”) became emperor of the western half of the Roman empire after the death of his father (in battle) and a period of uncertainty.||Seeing as Andy didn't bother to provide a date, Constantine became Augustus (senior Emperor) of the West in 306.|
|Emperor Constantine promised to himself that he would convert to Christianity (as his mother had) if God would make him victorious in a key battle in A.D. 306. Constantine won and then converted, and by the time of his death in A.D. 333 he had declared Christianity as an official religion of the Roman empire. In A.D. 312 Constantine began using Christian symbols for his military after seeing a vision of the sign of the cross in the rays of sunlight. In 326, Constantine declared Sunday to be a religious holiday. The Eastern Orthodox Church adores Constantine as a saint.||
The circumstances of Constantine's conversion are still debated. Tradition holds that the morning before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD and not 306 as Andy claims, and part of the civil wars following the end of the Tetrarchy), Constantine looked up and saw a cross in the sky with Greek letters proclaiming "By this, win", or along those lines. Constantine ordered his troops to paint the chi-ro (the large "P" with an "X" through it, an early Christian symbol) on their shields and, following his victory in the battle, he claimed that the Christian god had granted him victory. He subsequently converted to Christianity.Unfortunately, like a lot of historical stories, this one appears to be apocryphal. Constantine tolerated Christianity even under the staunchly anti-Christian atmosphere of the Tetrarchy, and seems to have dabbled in it long before the Milvian Bridge. Certainly, when he passed the Edict of Milan the next year, Constantine demonstrated a remarkably profound awareness of which parts he liked, and which he didn't like, of the various versions of the Bible circulating secretly round the Empire. For the remainder of his rule he continued to issue coins stamped with the traditional Roman gods, not the chi-ro, and the monuments he built to commemorate the Milvian Bridge are completely devoid of any reference to Christianity. And while the Edict of Milan effectively ended the persecution of Christians, Constantine continued to act as patron to the traditional Roman gods and Sol Invictus (a sun cult which had emerged during the third century). It is far more plausible that Constantine gradually absorbed Christianity over the years rather than having a sudden epiphany.
|While establishing Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire is what made Constantine so important, he was also brilliant in recognizing the significance of the eastern half of the Roman empire. Constantine fought the ruler of the eastern half beginning in A.D. 314. In 323, Constantine ultimately conquered the East and killed its emperor, Licinius, thereby uniting West and East into one mighty Roman empire. Constantine founded a second capital in the East at Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople in his own honor (which is now Istanbul, Turkey).||Yes, he did become sole ruler. But it's a stretch to say that Constantine's realm was "one mighty Roman empire". It was still economically, politically, socially, demographically, and religiously unstable. It's not as though Constantine converted to Christianity, clicked his fingers, and everything was suddenly fine. Reality doesn't work that way.|
|The eastern half was always richer and stronger and survived as the Byzantine Empire through the Middle Age. Constantine had placed his name on a city that would play an instrumental role in trade and military conflicts. While the western half of the empire declined and Rome fell in A.D. 476, the eastern half split from the west in A.D. 395 and grew in power and wealth, surviving for nearly a thousand years after the fall of Rome.||The Eastern Roman Empire never referred to itself as "the Byzantines". That's the word we use. Until it was finally snuffed out in 1453, the Eastern Roman Empire continued to call itself "The Roman Empire", headed by the Emperor. Charlemagne's coronation as "Roman Emperor" in 800 really annoyed the Byzantines, as did Otto I's coronation in 962 as "Holy Roman Emperor" (both of these moves, by the way, were political maneouvres by the papacy to re-establish Western religious power versus the East, as the Western and Eastern churches were gradually growing apart and eventually split in 1054). The Eastern Empire did not, as Andy claims, split away from the West in 395. Diocletian had officially divided the empire into two halves in 285 in order to improve administration. It was, as Andy recognises, more populous and wealthier than the Western Empire.|
|In A.D. 527, Justinian became a powerful emperor of this Byzantine empire and he recovered North Africa from the Vandals in 533, and Rome from the Ostrogoths in 535. Ultimately he recaptured all of Italy and even parts of Spain in his attempt to reestablish the Roman empire. Initially the primary language was Latin, as it had been in Rome, but eventually the Greek influence on the eastern half made it the primary language.||Justinian's campaigns in the West did more damage to Italy than the Germanic invasions had. After the end of the Empire in the West in 476, the Senate had still sat and the Hippodrome had still held races - until Justinian's invasion of Italy and the subsequent back-and-forth wars meant that by the mid-sixth century, Rome was a ghost town. And by this time, the language of the Eastern Empire was unequivocally Greek. Even as far back as the late fourth century, officials from the Western Empire found it difficult to get by in the East because so few people knew Latin, and the Emperors of East and West had to rely on translators. That didn't exactly work wonders for a sense of cohesion in the face of all the crises in the West.|
|Justinian is remembered best for revising and updating the Roman laws and establishing a new Justinian Code for laws and treaties. This was so successful that it was used for the next 900 years. He also rebuilt Constantinople, which had been destroyed by riots against high taxes. He rebuilt the fabulous Hagia Sophia church, which features the Byzantine architecture of high domes. His wife’s name was Theodora, who advocated for modern women’s rights at a time when most Byzantine women stayed in the home.||The Nika Riots, or Nika Revolt, of 532 had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with high taxes. Andry is pulling this completely out of his arse, and has NO excuse. These disastrous riots were - believe it or not - caused by rival sports fans. Chariot-racing was hugely popular in the East and nowhere more so than Constantinople. In the capital, rival charioteers (distinguished by different-coloured tunics) came to be associated with different ethnic, religious, and political factions, in much the same way as in modern Glasgow, the football teams Celtic and Rangers attract rival Protestants and Catholics. All of this exploded one day when a simple punch-up at the Hippodrome escalated into a citywide riot, and Justinian had to send in the army. Some 30,000 people were killed and the political repercussions enabled Justinian to consolidate even more power around the office of Emperor as opposed to the Eastern Senate. Taxes, as already said, had absolutely nothing to do with it. Oh, and on the issue of women staying in the home; that was covered in an earlier lecture. Women didn't stay in the home to raise children because of some pissy Conservapedian fantasy, but because if they hadn't, the human race would have become extinct. Equally, the men didn't toil all day in the fields out of Conservapedian machismo, but because if they hadn't, the human race would have become extinct. I'm getting really, really sick of Andy's pathetic crowbarring.|
|The Byzantine empire survived from Justinian’s death in 565 to 1453, when the Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered it. There are several causes of the decline prior to 1453. A plague weakened the Byzantine empire in 700. In 1071, the Seljuk Turks defeated Byzantium at the Battle of Manzikert, and these Turks thereby acquired control of most of Asia Minor. Later Byzantium was weakened by an overly complex system of government, which led rise to the term “Byzantine” that is used today to describe a very complex and difficult-to-understand system of rules.||
Trust Andy to blame the Byzantine fall on "Big Government". It was nothing of the sort - the Byzantine system of government was in fact the only thing that allowed it to endure so long. You can't collect taxes, raise armies, and fight off the barbarians without a government, after all. And the word "Byzantine" does not refer to "a very complex and difficult-to-understand system of rules". It refers to cunning, convoluted, and devious political arrangments, for which the Byzantines are (perhaps wrongly) accredited.
The reasons for the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire are just as complex, unclear, and varied as the reasons for the decline of the Western Roman Empire. The Byzantines lost Egypt, and eastern North Africa, to the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries. This deprived the Empire of its richest, most populous, and most important food-producing province. "These Turks" gradually pushed into Asia Minor but were unable to follow up on their victory at the Battle of manzikert, as the Turks were also fighting the Arabs and the Mameluke Egyptians. When Europe began to recover from its demographic crises around the turn of the first millennium, economic and demographic power increasingly shifted westwards from the Byzantines to the emergent states of France and the Holy Roman Empire; trade between East and West increasingly took the Mediterranean route, thus bypassing Byzantium and lessening its tax revenues. In addition, the Byzantines received no help in their perpetual war against the Turks because the Western Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church squabbled on their petty interpretations of the Bible; so while the Turks went from strength to strength, the Byzantines weakened. Like their Western cousins a thousand years earlier, the Byzantines increasingly found themselves having to pay tribute to keep enemies away, and having to pay for Venetian and Genoese mercenaries, all from a shrinking and overtaxed peasantry. Constantinople itself was sacked by Christians during the Fourth Crusade, and once the Turks had pushed the European Crusaders out of the Holy Land, they were free to bring all their pressure to bear on the Byzantines. There was a brief glimmer of hope as the Byzantines made alliances in the early fifteenth century with the emerging power of Muscovy (Moscow), but by the mid-fifteenth century the Byzantines were isolated, ignored, and under siege from the Turks. Constaninople itself fell in 1453, with the final Emperor, Constantine XI, dying with his troops on the ramparts. Although it didn't end there, as the Holy Roman Empire in the West continued until 1806 and the Russian Empire, "the Third Rome" which had made alliances with Byzantium and considered itself the New Rome, until 1917. And if like me, you see even just a faint glimmer of Rome in the modern European Union, then perhaps the Empire is still alive. In some form. They don't call Rome "The Eternal City" for nothing, you know...Well, so ends Andy's god-awful hatchet job on the Romans. This was his best yet, as it crammed in more half-truths, Republican propaganda, Conservapedian crap, Biblical misquotes, heresies, deliberate misinterpretations, and bald-faced lies than any of his "lectures" so far. What makes it sad is that he clearly has the ability to actually do proper research, and even get things right. But for some reason, he chooses not to and instead horribly mangles history in pursuit of his political agenda. I can only hope that he Opens His Mind. Godspeed, Andy.