The Roman Empire: Revision - 2
Part IV of Dmitry Galkovsky's series of blog posts on the history of Rome and Christianity. An original translation.
There is a rich literature describing the Dominate as a period of degeneration in Antiquity. What the democratic dullards fail to see is that the entire history of newer Europe cries out to the contrary. The transition from unstable and demagogic semi-monarchy limited to city government and aristocratic parliaments to absolutism is a process of establishing law and progress. This was the case in France with Louis XIV, in Germany with the Habsburg rule, in Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, etc. It is a profoundly natural process of consolidation of power, observed during the transition from a system of autonomous city-states to unified centralized states.
When comparing the degenerate Dominate with the classical Principate, they will always point out that Diocletian replaced the democratic Roman salute with kneeling, began to wear a robe instead of a toga, and a golden diadem instead of a laurel wreath, and finally introduced addressing the Emperor as “Sir”. (In Rome, the equivalent of the word “Sir” was contemptuous; it was used in an ironic way to address slaves).
But, excuse me, how did the dialogue of the workers with the head of Florence develop, for example? First, there was the Republic of Florence with democratic elections, where the good doctor Medici crawled on all fours in front of the popolo minuto and handed out money. Then the democratically elected Medici became a usurper, then he was kicked hard and ran away on all fours, then the Republic of Florence was transformed into the Duchy of Florence, where the Medici ruled on a "legal" basis. And then their rank was raised and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany became an element of the pan-European system of monarchies. If you want, you can consider this degeneration and oriental despotism, but this is demagogy. It is an objective process and a deeply progressive one. Because the concentration of power is accompanied by an increase in the scale of the governed territory and a transition from customary law to a unified system of jurisprudence.
In fact, here the degree of EUROPEANIZATION increases. Because further the absolutist monarchy transformed the codified body of laws into an absolute force, not needing the personality of the monarch - so there was a transition to decorative constitutional monarchism and to the republics of modern times.
The phase of codification in Rome was reached under Justinian; next, there should have been a revolutionary struggle of "human rights activists," which was completely absent. Which turns the subsequent history of Byzantium into something illogical.
The history of the consolidation of power in newer states is visible to the naked eye. In comparison with it, the delayed nature of Antiquity is striking. It is extremely unlikely that the transition from a representative and contractual monarchy to an absolutist monarchy took an entire epoch and was never completed (the finished form is patrilineal primogeniture). And this despite the fact that Roman society itself was characterized by a brash, bouncy tone. This is where the term “progress” itself originated as "progredi" - "to go forward”. The Roman is a brazen expansionist, just like the European colonizers of the Early Modern Era. With such people, once the "process has begun," it goes all the way. "Non progredi est regredi" ("Not to go forward is to go backward"). A maneuvering and hypocritical semi-monarchy with half-observance of democratic procedures is a political arrangement for one or two or three generations. Then everything is replaced by a hereditary monarchy. In Roman history, this process was never completed, not even in Byzantium.
On the other hand, history is not mathematics, but biology. If an animal isn't viable, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Any biologist will tell you that around five percent of animals are alive despite the fact that they shouldn't be. A living organism somehow dodges and sprawls in the wind tunnel of selective death. BIOLOGY.
For example, Venice lasted for centuries as an archaic republic. This is a fact. What is not usually understood is that this is an incredible fact, completely perpendicular to history, and that it was achieved by methods SO phantasmagoric that it is hard to believe.
For example, elections in Venice went like this. Follow the movements:
1. A special commission of 30 men was appointed from a Grand Council of several thousand members and formed by confusing laws.
2. These 30 men chose nine candidates.
3. The nine candidates chose 40 people.
4. Of the 40 people, 12 were elected.
5. The 12 people elected 25 people.
6. Of the 25 people, 16 people dropped out.
7. The remaining 9 chose another 45.
8. Of the 45, 34 were eliminated.
9. The remaining 11 chose 41 voters.
10. The 41 electors chose the Doge.
It is not difficult to understand that we know far less about the inner political life of "democratic" Venice, even in the 17th and 18th centuries, than we do about the most severe monarchies of the time. The "Secrets of the Madrid Court" are nothing compared to Venice.
The Doge thus chosen was kept in chains and was absolutely forbidden to leave the territory of little Venice. So as not to make a move and ditch the boys. The Doge could not meet with foreign ambassadors alone, nor could he open official correspondence alone. He was also forbidden to appear alone before the common people.
It was as if the head of Venice were a poisonous alien-monster from Harrison's “Deathworld”. If you hesitated even for a second, he would poison one guy, strangle the next with a shoelace, and stab a third in the eye with a fork during the same movement.
It is no coincidence that all over Italy the Venetians were not known as democrats, but as "canailles" - cunning cheaters and murderers.
Only by creating a maze of mousetraps was Venice able to freeze society in the democratic phase. Democratic elections by themselves are absurd. A REAL democracy requires a system of secret societies to ensure homeostasis, and (in recent times) a system of codified laws with accumulated legal inertia.
Democracy in Russia in 1991 was a joke by the adults and an unwise prank by political infants. That the only thing that came out of it were Putin and Medvedev, who clearly do not qualify for the role of Harrison's alien monsters, means that the Russians were terribly lucky, plus they were taken care of by a kind uncle from overseas. Or rather, an auntie.
But let us return to the innocent account of Roman history.
The Venetian mechanisms of "checks and balances" in Rome are unknown, and since they are unknown, there is nothing to suggest them. Although it could hypothetically answer the question of stagnation and, after all, it is believed that elections in Venice were approved by Byzantine Emperors. That was stage 11 :)
The Diocletian Tetrarchy is thought to have ended in chaos and a new consolidation of power in the person of Constantine I, but if you break it down, there were multiple Emperors there almost constantly, and a single supreme government was never restored.
Thus, the Dominate is rather the domination of the provinces over Rome, relegated to the status of a special polis with a small contado and democratic self-government in the form of the old Senate.
Constantine I came to power in 312 after a military coup and civil war. All this is very doubtful already by the supposed place of the start of the action - Britain. The fact is that the English of the Early Modern age had a huge inferiority complex associated with a lack of monuments of Roman culture. Obviously, Britain was not part of the Roman Empire, although there were probably some Roman trading posts engaged in barter with the natives. Maybe there were 1-2 ports on the south coast of England to control the pirates (the strait between Britain and Gaul is a pirate's paradise). Being ultra-chauvinists and "if you can't, but you really want to, you can"-type people, the English made up a lot of nonsense about Roman Britain, partly using the resemblance to Gallic Brittany, and partly just out of chutzpah. Now it turns out that the Roman Emperors literally spent their days and nights in York, and had nothing better to do than to die and be proclaimed Emperors in this hellhole.
Constantine is said to have started a moral revolution and made Christianity the state religion of Rome, although he himself was more of a "sympathizer”. There is a heartwarming story about the replacement of the abbreviation SPQR with the monogram of Christ ("Christogram") on the Emperors' standard, which resulted in the Labarum. If the SPQR deciphering causes some doubts, then the deciphering of the Labarum sign as Christ's monogram is so absurd that even Protestants do not believe in it.
In addition, Constantine built a "New Rome", later called "Constantinople", on the site of the small polis of Byzantium. Why he did this is unclear, because Nicomedia (the capital until 330) was nearby, and next to Nicomedia another large polis - Nicaea. At the same time, dusty Byzantium, chosen by Constantine for the new capital, had a large hippodrome. (It is believed that the city was punished and destroyed by Septimius Severus for something, but the hippodrome survived).
No consolidation took place under Constantine, after his death in 337 the three parts of the Empire were ruled by three heirs, etc., etc.
When studying this period of Roman m̶y̶t̶h̶o̶l̶o̶g̶y̶ history, it is striking that there are no real facts confirming the existence of the so-called Western and Eastern Roman Empires. The Empire really consists of different parts and is ruled by different people from different centers, but there not two parts, but three or five, or even more. At the same time, old Rome sits on the sidelines, not even having the status of regional capital, while Constantinople is rapidly increasing in size, being rebuilt and constantly present in the center of events. "All paths" begin to lead to New Rome (as if on purpose, located on seven hills and with Constantine's Senate No. 2, having the same rights as the old Roman Senate No. 1).
This is all to say that the official end of the Roman Empire (and of the school year) is dated to 475, when Rome supposedly fell under the hordes of the Germanic barbarian Odoacer (Ottokar).
But if you rub your eyes, it turns out:
1. Rome was neither the capital of the united Roman Empire, nor even its Western part. At this time, the capital of the West was at Ravenna. So it is unclear what the supposedly last Roman Emperor "Romulus Augustulus" was doing there, for some reason a 15 year old teenager.
2. There were no great sackings of Rome in 475, but even if there had been, it would not have made much of an impression on contemporaries. Rome was first plundered in 410 by Alaric, and in 455 by the Vandals. Neither date is considered the end of Roman history. The next sacking of Rome by barbarians happens only in 536.
3. "Romulus Augustulus" was actually a usurper and wasn’t recognized by Constantinople. Unlike Ottokar, who, after capturing Rome, sent a letter of allegiance and was officially made a patrician and Roman viceroy. There was nothing extraordinary in his Germanic origin; the de facto ruler of the Western parts of the Empire, Ricimer (456-472), was a German.
4. Ottokar observed Roman laws and cooperated with the Senate, though he gave protection to the Germanic tribes everywhere. In this sense his reign was anti-Latin. But in 493 he was assassinated at the instigation of Constantinople by Theodoric, who restored Roman order. Theodoric integrated the Germans into the Roman legal system, organized lavish performances in the Roman coliseum, etc. Ravenna, however, was considered the capital of the region.
Eventually Italy and Illyria, as well as Africa and Southern Spain, came under the direct control of Constantinople. Justinian (rule from 527 to 556) controlled two thirds of the maximum territory of the Roman Empire. He was also responsible for the creation of Justinian's Code, the apogee of Roman legal thought. Thus, the final flowering of the famous Roman jurisprudence took place a century after the successful "demise" of the Roman Empire and Rome itself.
It is believed that the Byzantines shared their rule over the Italian peninsula with some kind of "bearded women", the German Langobards (Lombards), from the middle of the 6th to the end of the 8th century.
Then the Lombards as well as Rome and Ravenna are conquered by Charlemagne, but even this does not mean the end of even the Western part of the Empire. According to the official story, in 800, the Pope suddenly crowned Charlemagne with the imperial crown. Quietly he snuck in, holding the crown behind his back, Charles didn't have time to dodge and got the crown on his head. Well, at that point it was already impolite to refuse. As it is supposed, shortly after the death of Charles, the Western Roman Empire #2 split into three parts, which immediately began to fight with each other and in this state existed until 924. At the same time the title of Roman Emperor and Augustus was a passing prize of the permanent squabbling.
Charlemagne's state included all Western Roman territories except southern Italy, Africa, and southern and central Spain. To this "except" we might add Venice, and we might add Britain if it had actually been a Roman colony. In European historiography, this conglomerate is often referred to as the "State (Kingdom) of the Franks," but it is acknowledged that the name is largely a matter of later convention.
Southern Italy and Venice belonged to Byzantium, that is, were also parts of the Roman Empire, and Africa and most of Spain fell under the rule of the Moors. Thus, even during this period, there were no other states in Europe than the Roman Empire.
The relationship between Rome and Constantinople of this period is not clear, but for the narrators of the legend the question of legitimacy is extremely important. It seems to turn out that Charlemagne was embarrassed to call himself “Emperor” before the Byzantines, and Byzantium semi-recognized his legitimacy, but it is not clear in what status. (In general, as I said before, the whole legend of "two Emperors of two Romes" is little confirmed).
This period ended with the turmoil and the period of Western "empirelessness" 925-962, but if you look into it, both before and after that the Emperor usually had co-rulers, and the key action that allowed one of the rulers of barbarian kingdoms to become a Roman Emperor was to visit Rome and then to be crowned. The crown of Rome existed safely during the imperial period as well. It was worn by five people, and the last, "Berengar II of Ivrea" and his co-Emperor, received it in 950 from the hands of the future Emperor Otto I.
Ottone (i.e. Otto, or maybe Ottocar, and somewhere even Odoacer) became Emperor of the Roman Empire in 962 and it is believed that this Roman Empire (from 1254 on “Holy Roman Empire”, from 1512 on “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”, and from the second half of the 18th century on just the “German Empire”) existed until 1806. The Emperor was also automatically considered king of Italy until 1648. The successor of the "HRE" was the Habsburg Empire of Austria, and from 1871 also the "Second Reich" created by the Prussians.
The legitimacy of Otto by way of Constantinople was allegedly confirmed by the marriage of his son and heir to the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor (also the later ruler). It could speculatively be assumed that from this period onwards there was a division of the loose Roman Empire into two equally loose parts, the HRE and Byzantium. At the same time for the first time an inhabited part of Europe, namely France, was not included in the imperial area.
There were no other Emperors in Europe until the 18th century. Peter I was the first to declare himself Emperor, but it took a long time for foreign powers to recognize this title. In fact, the status of an Empire, not a kingdom, was secured for Russia only with the accession of Catherine the Great, in 1762. The term "Third Rome" is not some claim of the Russians to something incomprehensible, but a simple legal concept that exists officially. The next European Empire was that of Napoleon, then, in 1876, Britain came along.
Overall, the history of the HRE spans more than 840 years, which is absolutely incredible. For comparison, the entire history of the classical Roman Empire is 500 years. However, Byzantium is supposed to have existed for about 1000 years.
The dynamics of events described by the official (i.e. strictly religious) historiography of the HRE coincides with the general European one. It is an utterly chaotic and contentless account of numerous reigns, in some places crudely tinged with two or three half-facts, and then, in more recent times, more or less smeared into real history. The history of the HRE becomes coherent only from the time of the Peace of Westphalia, i.e. 1648. The first half of the 17th century has a lot of gaps and inconsistencies, the history of the 16th century is clearly distorted, although the material itself is clearly based on facts. The 15th century is a subject for "something might even be true" meditations. Anything earlier is nonsense.
The situation with Byzantium is somewhat different. The 600-1200 interval there is clearly meaningless, but then there is an incrustation of significant material, replete with religious and literary details.
It is believed that in the 7th century Byzantium there was a "hellenization" of the state apparatus, the army, and even the population. Everyone switched to Greek, completely forgetting Latin. Archaic Latin continued to be spoken only in the lower Danube region.
Venice was originally the base of Greek expansion in Europe, but it gradually gained independence and began to rival Constantinople. It is very likely that this independence was inflated and thanks to Venice, Constantinople was recruiting barbarians to establish its dominion in Asia Minor. Venice sent Western Europeans there, and they entered into vassal relations with Byzantium and conquered territories in Syria and Palestine. At least that's the picture that emerges from the Crusades era, if you put aside the religious rhetoric.
The era of the Crusades began in the late 11th century, but in 1182 in Constantinople there was a "massacre of the Franks" which destroyed the non-Greek speaking part of the population. Only the Venetians survived, who were imprisoned and then deported. Then crusader aggression fell directly on Constantinople, and it was captured in 1204 (the first time in history). Several Western states emerged on Byzantine territory, gradually being reclaimed by the Greeks. Greek power in Constantinople was restored in 1261, with the help of the Genoese, who feuded with Venice.
This story is obviously made up. If only because the life of Genoa and Venice in the 11th and 12th centuries is very little known. But finally the Roman Empire in this region fell only in 1453, that is, during the period of the beginning of the Historical Optics. So the latter period (as well as the initial period of the Ottoman "Istanbul") can be seen as a faint outline of the real events of the new age. In this contour the presence of the Italian city-states is clearly discernible.
The adventures of the "Roman Empire" in the optical range of history will be considered separately.
For now, let us ask a simple and straightforward question: do THEY know the true history of ancient Rome? I believe they do, and for a very simple reason. There is a visible disinterest in Antiquity in the West.
For example, in a villa in Herculaneum back in the mid-18th century, a library was found of 1,800 charred scrolls stuck together (still the only one, since the scrolls are, alas, not stone, and not even wood). To date, only half of them have been read. It has been suggested that the remainder may contain missing texts of Aristotle, Titus Livius, Sophocles. That's crazy! Modern tools do wonders, scanning them seems to be no problem. But they don't want to. Moreover, the villa itself for 250 years was excavated only for about 10-20% Why? THERE IS NO MONEY. In times of global tourism. Guys, some South Korean corporation would pay for everything three times over just for the advertising rights. But people are not in a hurry, they excavate a teaspoon a year, and at the same time hundreds of worthless excavations with obviously paltry or even zero results are richly financed.
But why South Korea, anyway? This is THEIR OWN history for Europeans. People don't spare any money to find out about THEMSELVES. "Find out and die." By the way, American billionaire Paul Getty built a copy of the Herculanean "papyrus villa" in America for enormous money. It is nowadays being presented as an excellent example of the reconstruction of an ancient monument. Building a replica for a billion dollars is interesting. But to raise funds for a thorough study of the real villa appears to be an insurmountable problem, and not just for one philanthropist, but for a whole CORPORATION of “Respected Reople”. “THERE IS NO MONEY”.
It's understandable. After all, you know how it is - Getty's beloved grandson was kidnapped in Rome, and they sent him an ear in an envelope. Like, sit down and think about it.
The level of independence of Western archaeology can be judged by the recent fiddling with the "remains of St. Paul”. In a lucky turn of events, they were found in 2006 under the floor of a long-suffering Roman Basilica. In 2009, archaeologists were allowed to peer through a hole at some kind of setup, and then graciously allowed to recognize the setup as authentic. And all the "scientists" lined up and "confirmed" the desired result. This is the kind of POWER that guards the mysteries of ancient archeology and history.
Let us be silent, too.
Original post by Dmitry Galkovsky, translation by RWA.