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How hot of a pickup line is "I'm descended from the Khan" these days?  

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5 hours ago, Zorral said:

ONLY because of the French, and to a lesser degree, the Spanish.  Never ever think the Liberty and Equality guys did it alone.  Not to mention the utterly necessary assistance of John Adams and Franklin abroad, in England, in France, in the Netherlands.

Absolutely, it was far from a one-man show. Records of Benjamin Franklin's involvement suggests that it was the hope that if America held out long enough, the French and Spanish would see it a likely bet to back them. Part of Benjamin Franklin's tireless negotiations centred on the fact that the French offered support in exchange to exclusive shipping rights - but that was a huge aspect of why they were rebelling against the British Crown in the first place.

1 hour ago, Fall Bass said:

I read Alan Taylor's American Revolution, and it totally changed up my view of it. It was a lot messier and more violent than I thought. Even before open war broke out, there was a ton of organized street violence to back up the boycotts. 

Also a ton of class conflict. Fun fact - the word "regulator" in the American context originally referred to groups of vigilantes and farmers forming up to defend themselves against crooked courts and law enforcement that was overly friendly to wealthy speculators trying to extract land and rent via dubious land claims. And land speculation was huge in the colonies and American afterwards. 

Also interesting to note is that at first the Americans weren't after independence. Their initial riots were against a Crown they saw wasn't giving them their due rights as British subjects.

And, as you'd expect from a British culture, there was an established class system. You're right to point out the role that class played in the revolution. It explains quirks such as the decision to limit the Senate to men over 35, and to have an Electoral College that can override the will of the popular vote (assuming, of course, that if such an eventuality arose, like, for instance, and this is just hypothetical, a colossally inept reality TV star spouting hardcore racism was elected, there would be an aristocratic failsafe designed to prevent him actually being inaugurated).

There was also a strong sense of patriotism to Britain and America held by common American citizens. One of the tragedies of the initial violence (and the subsequent war) was of course the fact that it pitted family members against each other. It's very hard to pick a side in a war when you identify with both causes without wanting either to actually "win" as such.

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55 minutes ago, Triskele said:

How hot of a pickup line is "I'm descended from the Khan" these days?  

It's almost another way of saying, "I'm Eurasian." :P  

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32 minutes ago, Yukle said:

And, as you'd expect from a British culture, there was an established class system.

I wouldn't say it was something specifically British. Liberal revolutionary movements in Europe tended to skew that way as well. They might be willing to extend equality before the law to all citizens of their countries, but they generally balked at providing universal suffrage because (as rich professionals and property-owners) they were afraid of letting the much poorer population have the dominant say in voting. 

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32 minutes ago, Fall Bass said:

I wouldn't say it was something specifically British. Liberal revolutionary movements in Europe tended to skew that way as well. They might be willing to extend equality before the law to all citizens of their countries, but they generally balked at providing universal suffrage because (as rich professionals and property-owners) they were afraid of letting the much poorer population have the dominant say in voting. 

Kind of. The difference is that the classes were formalised. People were due legal privileges due to their class, defined by having property, or being descended from peerage (which was abolished after the revolution) and from not being a slave.

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14 hours ago, Yukle said:

There was what was the mos maiorum, or the way of the ancestors. These were the conventions surrounding public affairs that were considered the original spirit of the law. All societies have these: laws that it didn't occur to write down because nobody would ever think to flout them. For instance: it's a convention in Australia that when a Senator dies or is promoted out of their office, the vacancy is filled by a member of their party. However, in 1975 the Premier of Queensland didn't do this, and therefore stopped a government from having stability.

In Rome, the Republic was a deliberate response to Greece's democracy, that was seen to address some of what Romans saw as democracy's flaws. For instance, they liked the idea of each geographic region being represented. They did not, however, like the idea of choosing victors at random from a pool of elected candidates. They liked the idea of public participation, but not the idea that the general public could have the same representation as the aristocracy.

They also didn't like the idea that power couldn't be hurriedly concentrated in times of emergency, which was the purpose of the dictator.

It's true that Sulla stepped down, but it's also true that what he did while in power was reprehensible. He committed genocide by wiping out the ethnic Samnites who opposed him, murdered all of his enemies in Rome and took their property from their families, expanded the Senate but only included his partisans and removed the power from all of the aspects of government open to the common person.

Similarly, Sulla wrote the terms of his dictatorship. Originally, the office had a six-month expiry and it had very limited scope. Anything a dictator did outside of his specific reason for being in office wasn't allowed, was subject to tribune veto and was liability to prosecution once his imperium expired. Sulla didn't have any of those clauses in his term, which set a dangerous precedent. It also showed flagrant disregard for the Republic's mos maiorum.

 It wasn't necessarily his dictatorship that ruined Rome, or the length of it. It was the fact that he came into power by taking his army to the city and forcing the Senate to make him dictator. And once in power, he was extremely violent. It was impossible to properly use the rule of law in Rome ever again because from now on, the message was that as long as you don't lose, you should use an army to get your way.

Hence, Pompey and then Caesar did the same thing. Neither were as evil as Sulla (and neither of them carried out a bloody reign), but it's also worth noting that both of them died violent deaths. So when Augustus came along, he didn't follow Caesar's model of clemency, but Sulla's model of tyranny: and within a few years of consolidating power, all of his opponents were dead.

I'd say that the consequences of losing politically became increasingly lethal.  That started with the murder of Tiberius Gracchus, and escalated thereafter.  The more lethal the consequences of losing, the more necessary it became to resort to violence.

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12 hours ago, Triskele said:

How hot of a pickup line is "I'm descended from the Khan" these days?  

Having a lineage that dates back to Genghis and family, or even one of the generals, is something in which Mongolians take pride.  Genghis is still veddy cool in that part of the world -- it was his sons who were EviLe, so goes the argument (which Jack Weatherford makes as well, and as he can read and write and speak Mongolian he's gone through minutely all the historical texts).

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11 hours ago, Yukle said:

 

Absolutely, it was far from a one-man show. Records of Benjamin Franklin's involvement suggests that it was the hope that if America held out long enough, the French and Spanish would see it a likely bet to back them. Part of Benjamin Franklin's tireless negotiations centred on the fact that the French offered support in exchange to exclusive shipping rights - but that was a huge aspect of why they were rebelling against the British Crown in the first place.

Also interesting to note is that at first the Americans weren't after independence. Their initial riots were against a Crown they saw wasn't giving them their due rights as British subjects.

And, as you'd expect from a British culture, there was an established class system. You're right to point out the role that class played in the revolution. It explains quirks such as the decision to limit the Senate to men over 35, and to have an Electoral College that can override the will of the popular vote (assuming, of course, that if such an eventuality arose, like, for instance, and this is just hypothetical, a colossally inept reality TV star spouting hardcore racism was elected, there would be an aristocratic failsafe designed to prevent him actually being inaugurated).

There was also a strong sense of patriotism to Britain and America held by common American citizens. One of the tragedies of the initial violence (and the subsequent war) was of course the fact that it pitted family members against each other. It's very hard to pick a side in a war when you identify with both causes without wanting either to actually "win" as such.

Other essential histories that one must know well to speak with authority of the roots and causes of the War of Independence are those of Marcus Rediker, particularly The Many-Headed Hydra: SAILORS, SLAVES, COMMONERS, AND THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ATLANTIC.

Also, one of the many reasons for the war for independence, as opposed to merely disliking taxes and attempts to block the already centuries' long right to smuggle, was the ruling Southern elite's fear that Britain would abolish slavery, and the ruling Northern elite's anger that the Brits were blocking their western land speculations as the Brits legally protected those lands against it, so they could continue the incredibly lucrative trade with the Native Americans in skins and hides.

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6 hours ago, Zorral said:

Also, one of the many reasons for the war for independence, as opposed to merely disliking taxes and attempts to block the already centuries' long right to smuggle, was the ruling Southern elite's fear that Britain would abolish slavery, and the ruling Northern elite's anger that the Brits were blocking their western land speculations as the Brits legally protected those lands against it, so they could continue the incredibly lucrative trade with the Native Americans in skins and hides.

This alone betrays that you know what you're talking about. :) 

It's a great tragedy of history that after such a revolutionary period, including a horrific war, founded in the principles of equality, there was a line in the founding document that dismissed "other persons" as "three-fifths" of a normal person. And while it doesn't explicitly say it... everyone knew who the other persons were.

This revolution sowed the seeds for what was to come. The slave-states had disproportionate power from here on in, especially following the Dred Scott case. After complaining about taxation without representation, the new Americans accidentally made a system of over-representation without population.

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22 hours ago, Yukle said:

This alone betrays that you know what you're talking about. :) 

It's a great tragedy of history that after such a revolutionary period, including a horrific war, founded in the principles of equality, there was a line in the founding document that dismissed "other persons" as "three-fifths" of a normal person. And while it doesn't explicitly say it... everyone knew who the other persons were.

This revolution sowed the seeds for what was to come. The slave-states had disproportionate power from here on in, especially following the Dred Scott case. After complaining about taxation without representation, the new Americans accidentally made a system of over-representation without population.

British attempts to block expansion into the west was also one of the causes of the War of 1812. I imagine that if John Graves Simcoe had been made governor of a southern colony, rather than of Upper Canada, the abolition of slavery may have happened sooner, as he did ban it in !793 in Upper Canada.

Edited by maarsen

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Being my usual Rome-loving self, and given it's what my students are studying now, I've finally got around to watching I, Claudius. I really want to read it now.

Firstly, Brian Blessed as Augustus is amazing. Secondly, there's nothing to suggest that Claudius was an idiot, although I nonetheless like the more sympathetic take on him.

It's so sad, though, how people with disabilities have always struggled in history.

It's impossible to diagnose anyone so long after the fact, but I have read speculative opinions suggesting that Claudius had symptoms consistent with cerebral palsy. This would account for his difficulty walking and speaking, but also the fact that he wrote histories and legal observations that were apparently to a fairly high standard. Whatever the cause, it's known that he couldn't speak clearly, he couldn't walk properly and yet his cognitive ability appeared fine.

The tragedy is how he was treated, during his life and after it. Claudius was the second emperor to be deified, but it accompanied a satire written with Nero's approval. Claudius went to the heavens and is asked what language he speaks (the "joke" being that his disability made it impossible to tell he was speaking Latin) and Hercules is summoned to slay the monster (with the "joke" here being that, since he couldn't walk properly, he must have been a monster posing as a man).

Yet Claudius did oversee a conquest of Britannia. Descriptions of him rousing the troops to battle are probably imperial propaganda, but a more modern and likely scenario is that he really did don armour and move into the swamps to fight the hard-to-pin Britons who kept evading capture. It's likely it was a combination of admiration at his bravery, that he entered despite clear peril with his lack of physical prowess (and was probably overweight), and shame that a man so lacking in gifts would enter danger when legionaries were despairing at their plight.

He was also bullied throughout his life. He was successor to Gaius (or Caligula as he is now known) due to being his uncle, and there were no other heirs. The Praetorian Guard who carried out the coup against Gaius assumed that Claudius would be a puppet to their interests and they would be the real power - much like Sejenus when Tiberius was in his self-imposed exile. Yet it turned out Claudius was no fool in many ways.

He expanded the civil service, but used freedman. He noted how well educated they were for their tasks, and saw it inefficient to dismiss them just because they'd bought their freedom. Years of being spurned by senators but being cosied up to by aspiring equestrians not important enough to have access to the old inner-circles meant that he promoted people of merit from outside of the usual aristocracy.

Of course, his lack of real friends haunted him for his entire life. I have sad images of a man being endlessly left alone to cry to himself as, one after another, those closest to him turned out to be betraying him. When they weren't teasing his disabilities, they flouted his supposed stupidity. He was accused of being dominated by his wives and there is evidence to support it being true. But it makes sense, given a lifetime of bullying, that he would cede to his wives' wishes when they showed him the kindness nobody else did. This explains his decision to adopt Nero (a bad idea, as it turns out) after marrying his own niece (which wasn't a good move from him, I'll be the first to admit).

His third (or fifth, depending on the source) wife Messalina even attempted a coup against him. He had no idea it was going on, due to her apparent affection for him in the home. She even re-married, while still married to Claudius, as a mocking sign of how stupid she saw him. He ordered her execution, as it turns out he wasn't so clueless as she thought. Then there were a few dozen senators over his time as emperor who he also had executed, all of whom used similar means to betray him: they'd befriend him, offer kindness and then attempt to get close enough to him to trick him into his own death (by poison or luring him into a position of vulnerability such as Gaius' death).

There are even credible reasons to believe that his last wife, Agrippina the younger, poisoned him. Whether or not it is true (and she didn't seem keen on the marriage due to its incestuous nature), it's worth pointing out that Claudius' only son was killed just in time for Nero's ascension. Of course, Claudius' son Britannicus was also possibly ineligible anyway given his mother's bigamy, but Claudius still named him and Nero joint-heirs (a kind of wishful bit of thinking given that almost always ended in one heir killing the other at the first chance).

More than anything, Claudius' life showed that no amount of skill or aptitude he showed could overcome the Roman discrimination against those with disabilities. He spent his life being bullied, ridiculed and fending off assassination attempts (and was possibly killed by one). And as you think of the tragedy of his life, it's worth asking yourself: is our society so different? When you see people with disabilities, what do you really expect of them? Have you limited their potential before ever knowing a thing about them?

It's uncomfortable to think about.

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An excellent post, Yukle.

I always considered the third century and the entire long mess between the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Diocletian to be the most depressing part of Roman history, even more so than its final decline in the fifth century. It is actually impressive that the empire managed to survive as long as it did, considering its internal instability and the sheer number of empire-wide civil wars during this period.

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8 hours ago, Gorn said:

An excellent post, Yukle.

I always considered the third century and the entire long mess between the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Diocletian to be the most depressing part of Roman history, even more so than its final decline in the fifth century. It is actually impressive that the empire managed to survive as long as it did, considering its internal instability and the sheer number of empire-wide civil wars during this period.

The deep state?

The bureauocracy was very well organized and enduring.  As pointed out above, Augustus did an excellent job and then Claudius improved on it.  At least that's a lot of the perceived historic wisdom about this endurance.

One does tend to agree with it, considering how deeply that kind of organization -- even to the same vocabulary and titles -- has endured into this day, due probably to the fortunes of the Roman Catholic Church taking over the administration in the heartland as well as the former colonies, and even using the vocabulary and titles not only of the bureaucracy, but of the religious bureaucracy of the former Roman state.  As by the 6th century pretty much the only trained administrators in the game were those of the Church -- and taxes and custom duties and accounting had to be done -- there ya go.  Not to mention that  Theodosius the Great (4th century) had been educated in Constantinople as a hostage.

It also really helped then, when it came to the administration of Gaul that the Merovingian Clovis I converted to the Roman church as well in the 6th century.

Of course there are those who point to this as the platform of their argument that Western Rome never really fell, but transmuted and transformed while retaining the administrative skeletal structure -- i.e. still Rome.

Whether or not one buys this depends on a lot of things.  I kinda do, but then I'm fascinated by the Goths, the Merovingians and the Carolingians, and those centuries.

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On 2/6/2018 at 10:00 PM, Triskele said:

How hot of a pickup line is "I'm descended from the Khan" these days?  

I saw this again while coming to the most recent page in the thread. Apparently there is some skepticism now that the believed huge number of descendants is accurate - the lineage might have just come from the overall Mongol population instead of Genghis Khan himself. 

12 hours ago, Zorral said:

Of course there are those who point to this as the platform of their argument that Western Rome never really fell, but transmuted and transformed while retaining the administrative skeletal structure -- i.e. still Rome.

I don't buy it. Sure, the eastern Empire didn't fall in the 5th and 6th centuries, but the western Empire absolutely did. Long-distance trade (especially in bulk commodities) almost completely collapsed, population plummeted, the tax and currency system almost totally disappeared, communication in general shrank, and cities all over the western Empire either shrank or disappeared. Britain had the worst of it (early to mid-5th century Britain was practically a post-apocalyptic society in terms of its collapse), but it was a thing over the entire former Empire. 

 

 

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Did population figures really plummet? I don't think we have any clue. The big cities like Rome definitely shrank but how large a faction of the total population lived there? I don't think it's far-fetched to assume that your average peasant didn't see much of a change to their live. The Western empire definitely lived on through the Roman Catholic church (which is still headquartered in Rome) and the Latin language and alphabet.

The "dark ages" are dark because there aren't many documents from that era. Neither is there much surviving construction work. But then those Gothic cathedrals from the late middle ages usually stand on Romanesque foundations, so the lack of surviving buildings doesn't mean they didn't have any.

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8 hours ago, Fall Bass said:

I saw this again while coming to the most recent page in the thread. Apparently there is some skepticism now that the believed huge number of descendants is accurate - the lineage might have just come from the overall Mongol population instead of Genghis Khan himself. 

I don't buy it. Sure, the eastern Empire didn't fall in the 5th and 6th centuries, but the western Empire absolutely did. Long-distance trade (especially in bulk commodities) almost completely collapsed, population plummeted, the tax and currency system almost totally disappeared, communication in general shrank, and cities all over the western Empire either shrank or disappeared. Britain had the worst of it (early to mid-5th century Britain was practically a post-apocalyptic society in terms of its collapse), but it was a thing over the entire former Empire. 

 

 

Actually, later scholarship refutes much of this, particularly the part about long distance trade.  This is based particularly from the work of archeology, which has been added to historical research only quite recently, beginning only late in the 1980's.

The sixth century was bad for population across the board due to a series of epidemics / plagues.  But new cities and centers were created, but not as long-lasting, archeological digs have shown, because they used other materials than stone and Roman concrete.

The more one looks into archeological studies that incorporate historical research and vice versa, the more difficult it is to dismiss their conclusions entirely and out-of-hand.

Too many, particularly those who aren't scholars, are still basing all their arguments on works and conclusions arrived at in the 1920's and 1930's, and even the nineteenth century.

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15 hours ago, Zorral said:

Actually, later scholarship refutes much of this, particularly the part about long distance trade.  This is based particularly from the work of archeology, which has been added to historical research only quite recently, beginning only late in the 1980's.

Archaeology has supported the idea that trade dropped off heavily in the 5th and 6th centuries in what was the western Empire, and what trade remained was focused primarily on high-value, low-volume goods. The trans-Mediterranean grain trade collapsed in the the former western Empire. Trade in ceramics - such as African red slip - dropped off heavily in the 5th and 6th centuries. 

I'm drawing off of Patrick Wyman's podcast and gizmodo article series on this, where he brought up the latest research (his own doctoral research was on the collapse of communication in the western Empire, such as letters). I'd strongly recommend listening to them.

15 hours ago, Zorral said:

The sixth century was bad for population across the board due to a series of epidemics / plagues.  But new cities and centers were created, but not as long-lasting, archeological digs have shown, because they used other materials than stone and Roman concrete.

"Bad" is an understatement. The new evidence on the effects of the Plague of Justinian suggest it was as devastating as the Black Death in terms of lethality. Kyle Harper wrote a very good book on this called Fate of Rome

What new cities, too? Not in Italy, surely, where the population was down by at least one-half by the end of the 6th century - and Rome was down to 30,000-40,000 people. 

 

Edited by Fall Bass

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On 2/9/2018 at 1:32 PM, Zorral said:

The deep state?

The bureauocracy was very well organized and enduring.  As pointed out above, Augustus did an excellent job and then Claudius improved on it.  At least that's a lot of the perceived historic wisdom about this endurance.

One does tend to agree with it, considering how deeply that kind of organization -- even to the same vocabulary and titles -- has endured into this day, due probably to the fortunes of the Roman Catholic Church taking over the administration in the heartland as well as the former colonies, and even using the vocabulary and titles not only of the bureaucracy, but of the religious bureaucracy of the former Roman state.  As by the 6th century pretty much the only trained administrators in the game were those of the Church -- and taxes and custom duties and accounting had to be done -- there ya go.  Not to mention that  Theodosius the Great (4th century) had been educated in Constantinople as a hostage.

It also really helped then, when it came to the administration of Gaul that the Merovingian Clovis I converted to the Roman church as well in the 6th century.

Of course there are those who point to this as the platform of their argument that Western Rome never really fell, but transmuted and transformed while retaining the administrative skeletal structure -- i.e. still Rome.

Whether or not one buys this depends on a lot of things.  I kinda do, but then I'm fascinated by the Goths, the Merovingians and the Carolingians, and those centuries.

You can go fuck yourself.

Rome endured until 1453, but in the East. :P

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Eastern Roman Empire was legit. It took a body blow from the Arabic conquests during the 7th century, but endured to the end to the 15th century. The only real post-5th century European rival it had in longevity was the Holy Roman Empire. 

 

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12 hours ago, Fall Bass said:

Archaeology has supported the idea that trade dropped off heavily in the 5th and 6th centuries in what was the western Empire, and what trade remained was focused primarily on high-value, low-volume goods. The trans-Mediterranean grain trade collapsed in the the former western Empire. Trade in ceramics - such as African red slip - dropped off heavily in the 5th and 6th centuries. 

I'm drawing off of Patrick Wyman's podcast and gizmodo article series on this, where he brought up the latest research (his own doctoral research was on the collapse of communication in the western Empire, such as letters). I'd strongly recommend listening to them.

"Bad" is an understatement. The new evidence on the effects of the Plague of Justinian suggest it was as devastating as the Black Death in terms of lethality. Kyle Harper wrote a very good book on this called Fate of Rome

What new cities, too? Not in Italy, surely, where the population was down by at least one-half by the end of the 6th century - and Rome was down to 30,000-40,000 people. 

 

Yes, new cities too: on the Danube and Rhine, the Baltic rims including Scandinavia, the various regions out of which came those who took over the regions of the western empire: particularly the Merovingians and Carolingians.  Also, don't forget, for example, Venice!

For instance -- 

"Imperial Mines and Quarries in the Roman World: Organizational Aspects 27 BC-AD 235" by Alfred Michael Hirt 

http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572878.001.0001/acprof-9780199572878

Look at maps of Austrasia of the Merovingian periods: One sees trade routes to the Black Sea that supply many goods to the Merovingian kingdoms and the Visisgoths and Ostrogoths. And thereby to from Constantinople and surrounding territories.

The Dark Ages. This is the era in which Venice was founded, 679 A.D., though of course, peoples of the north of Italy had been settling the lagoons for at least a century and trading as well as fishing. The wreck of the 400s on the peninsula started it -- Attila helped! It really got going during the Lombard invasions of the early 500's. But by then some people were already getting wealthy in the lagoons by trading the salt they extracted from around them for other things. Not to mention their fish. 

Merovingians!  How splendid, that our readings of these peoples once called the barbarian invasions who made the Dark Ages has finally revealed some answers to some nagging questions, if not even the questions everyone asks. Marriage, for instance. Of which the feudal French hierarchical political, legal, religious and administrative system based on land emerged.  So we can see why primogeniture emerges too -- one heir only to the whole shebang, no parceling out land, which re-created instability.  And primogeniture is a feature by intention then, of the feudal system.

I keep thinking of the triangle of history that is the Baltic, Venice and the Bosphorus -- all after the decline of western Rome's dominance. And how the Ottomans took them all down in one way or another, and Columbus's voyages finished the job. (Well, not on the Baltic and the North Sea, which was a boon to England all along -- even when Spain jumped in to the mix with all that loot out of the Western Hemisphere, which did throw all sorts of wrenches into the Near, Central and Eastern Asian mercantile and political networks.)

From what 'east' did Pirenne (from whom so many even today take their ideas of what the west was in these centuries) think the gold came? The eastern Roman empire? That's possible, at least until Justinian's assed invasion of Itlay and what followed -- i.e. Romans fighting Romans, not -- ta dah! barbarians in the 6th century after Theodoric's death was the real fall of Rome -- or so says O'Donnell in The Ruin of the Roman Empire. Though, of course, as so much of the forms of law, legislation, particularly taxation and so on continued, in the east and the west after that, one can also argue, when / if we wish that the real final knell of the Roman empire didn't arrive until the very rump of Austria's pretensions post WWI. In the meantime figure like Napoleon and even in the east Mehmet and Sulyeiman of the Ottomans resuscitated forms and ideas of the Roman Empire. And here, east and west means the Empire that Augustus put in place. So there were taxes and customs too.

And plunder and tribute. Chlothar I in 536 got paid 500 cows by the Saxons when he conquered Thuringia. Dagobert I in the 7th century got as part of his payment from Sisenand for helping him seize another Visigothic throne, a gold dish of 500 pounds. The other Goths objected to this precious national treasure being given to an outsider so instead Dagobert I received 200,000 solidi.

Where in the world did Sisenand get 200,000 solidi? Yah, evidently from the northern neighbors and those to the east, and they're getting theirs from further east, the emperors on the Bosphorus. -- which for these groups comes overland. And they surely obtained a lot of it by fighting / raiding / plundering those Baltic groups that the Constantinople emperor paid off. And they got it from each other too, in their incessant warfare. 

There are accounts of these fellows such as Chilperic I sailing back from Constantinople with shiploads of precious objects such as a setting of gold dishes, each of which weighed a pound, and a gold salver covered with gems weighting 50 pounds. And silk, so much silk!

So they possess bushels of gold and precious objects, though, we must never forget, the Roman (western) Church possessed d even more. And from where when they felt needs must the kings took it back, much to the disgust of Gregory of Tours, et al.  Never before or since did the Church own so much land and gold as in the 6th century.

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