Pony Queen Jace

History Thread!

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For those discussing Byzantine Empire in general or Justinian in particular: has anyone read "Secret History" written by Justinian's contemporary Procopius? Quite a fun read, basically shows Justinian and Theodora as bloodthirsty monsters without a shred of humanity (ok, Procopius was obviously biased, but the essence of his argument doesn't seem false).

 

On 11/21/2017 at 9:18 AM, Yukle said:

I always find it interesting that there are heroes in any culture who, to everybody else, seem to be absolute monsters.

We've already discussed Genghis Khan, but here are some others I've found, where the translated local texts (if not in English) are always so different to the foreigner's view.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm eschewing nuance, but here's how it often goes:

Australia: Ned Kelly was a heroic Irishman standing up to the racist and oppressive police. Everyone else: He was a highway bandit who murdered several people and shot at police rather than face justice for his actions.

England: Oliver Cromwell was a noble and forward-thinking revolutionary who gave power to the people. Everyone else: Cromwell was a genocidal extremist who butchered Catholics in a fit of rage.

Russia: Josef Stalin was the ruthless but necessary strong leader the world needed to stare down, and defeat, Hitler. Everyone else: Congratulations on coming second in the "Who is the worst person ever?" award, you barbaric animal.

U.S.A.: Robert Lee was a man fighting for the rights of his people against tyranny. Everyone else: Robert Lee fought to preserve slavery, was a traitor to his country and spent his post-war life trying to overturn every aspect of racial equality that had been won.

China: Mao was the man who turned China from the nadir of its fortunes to the engine of the world that it is today. Everyone else: There are 50 million graves filled because of your abhorrence.

Mongolia: Genghis Khan was an efficient conqueror, who razed cities and smashed armies and people alike with impunity. Everyone else: Same thing, only seen in a negative light. :P

And so on. It's always funny how it can happen: we probably tend to idolise the wrong people.

This has baffled me over and over again. It seems to me that war is such an unifying, nationalistic and often archetypally "primal" event for a nation that its war leaders, generals and politicians will often have certain amount of adoration. If they happen to be war victors as well, aforementioned adoration breaks the ceiling. No matter how vicious, stupid, criminal, petty, vile or plainly incompetent some leader is, if his country won the war during his tenure (sometimes despite, not because of, his leadership), he'll be celebrated like a second coming of Jesus.

Stalin is a fine example here. Not only was he worst mass murderer in history (with the possible expectation of Mao Zedong), his leadership during WWII was filled with blunders, as well. He refused to believe his spies informing him of Hitler's impeding attack and good portion of his officers' cadre was imprisoned on made-up charges (hence, when Germany attacked, Stalin was quick to "pardon" their non-existent crimes). If USSR was lead by more competent leader, it's likely that it would have ended the war sooner and with less casualties; and yet despite this Stalin is still revered today by part of Russians. Gah.

Or another story: a few years ago I stumbled upon an article about a guy called Francisco Solano Lopez - as it turned out a serious candidate for a "dumbest person in a history of humankind award". A 19th century president who started war on three of his  neighbors and refused to surrender despite being constantly beaten in this obviously losing war (which ended only with his death). Thanks to his persistence, about half of Paraguayan population was killed (not half of soldiers, but entire population), while Paraguay itself had to face demographical and economical crisis for several generations. And yet, what does wikipedia say about Lopez's legacy today?

There is a debate within Paraguay as to whether he was a fearless leader who led his troops to the end, or whether he foolishly led Paraguay into a war which it could never possibly win, and which nearly eliminated the country from the map. (a debate ?? )... Conversely, he is considered by some Latin Americans as a champion for the rights of smaller nations against the imperialism of more powerful neighbors (people he championed are dead because of him)... March is a national holiday in Paraguay, called "Dia de los Heroes" (Heroes' Day), held in honor of López's memory. It is the most important holiday in the country next to the independence day. To date, López is considered to be the greatest Paraguayan national hero and his remains are located at the "Panteon de los Heroes" (National Pantheon of the Heroes) in Asunción. It is customary in Asunción that when something historically worth celebrating happens (such as the victory of the former President Lugo in the 2008 elections), people flock with their flags to the street in front of the Pantheon and celebrate the event. ( :bang:)

This remains unfathomable to me.

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3 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

For those discussing Byzantine Empire in general or Justinian in particular: has anyone read "Secret History" written by Justinian's contemporary Procopius? Quite a fun read, basically shows Justinian and Theodora as bloodthirsty monsters without a shred of humanity (ok, Procopius was obviously biased, but the essence of his argument doesn't seem false).

Mmmhh ...

''Wherefore to me,- and many others of us, these two seemed not to be human beings, but veritable demons, and what the poets call vampires: who laid their heads together to see how they could most easily and quickly destroy the race and deeds of men; and assuming human bodies, became man-demons, and so convulsed the world. And one could find evidence of this in many things, but especially in the superhuman power with which they worked their will.

For when one examines closely, there is a clear difference between what is human and what is supernatural. There have been many enough men, during the whole course of history, who by chance or by nature have inspired great fear, ruining cities or countries or whatever else fell into their power; but to destroy all men and bring calamity on the whole inhabited earth remained for these two to accomplish, whom Fate aided in their schemes of corrupting all mankind. For by earthquakes, pestilences, and floods of river waters at this time came further ruin, as I shall presently show. Thus not by human, but by some other kind of power they accomplished their dreadful designs.

And they say his mother said to some of her intimates once that not of Sabbatius her husband, nor of any man was Justinian a son. For when she was about to conceive, there visited a demon, invisible but giving evidence of his presence perceptibly where man consorts with woman, after which he vanished utterly as in a dream.

And some of those who have been with Justinian at the palace late at night, men who were pure of spirit, have thought they saw a strange demoniac form taking his place. One man said that the Emperor suddenly rose from his throne and walked about, and indeed he was never wont to remain sitting for long, and immediately Justinian's head vanished, while the rest of his body seemed to ebb and flow; whereat the beholder stood aghast and fearful, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. But presently he perceived the vanished head filling out and joining the body again as strangely as it had left it.

Another said he stood beside the Emperor as he sat, and of a sudden the face changed into a shapeless mass of flesh, with neither eyebrows nor eyes in their proper places, nor any other distinguishing feature; and after a time the natural appearance of his countenance returned. I write these instances not as one who saw them myself, but heard them from men who were positive they had seen these strange occurrences at the time.

They also say that a certain monk, very dear to God, at the instance of those who dwelt with him in the desert went to Constantinople to beg for mercy to his neighbors who had been outraged beyond endurance. And when he arrived there, he forthwith secured an audience with the Emperor; but just as he was about to enter his apartment, he stopped short as his feet were on the threshold, and suddenly stepped backward. Whereupon the eunuch escorting him, and others who were present, importuned him to go ahead. But he answered not a word; and like a man who has had a stroke staggered back to his lodging. And when some followed to ask why he acted thus, they say he distinctly declared he saw the King of the Devils sitting on the throne in the palace, and he did not care to meet or ask any favor of him.

Indeed, how was this man likely to be anything but an evil spirit, who never knew honest satiety of drink or food or sleep, but only tasting at random from the meals that were set before him, roamed the palace at unseemly hours of the night, and was possessed by the quenchless lust of a demon?

Furthermore some of Theodora's lovers, while she was on the stage, say that at night a demon would sometimes descend upon them and drive them from the room, so that it might spend the night with her.''

 

 

I don't know whether this insane hyperbole was an acceptable rhetorical device at the time his readers would have understood or if Procopius was just a nutcase. 

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On 11/22/2017 at 5:51 PM, mankytoes said:

 

I don't know enough about Ceaser to place him on this. I know he did some things that could be called genocide today, I don't know many details, or whether that was controversial at the time.

You should check out the 'Celtic Holocaust' episode of Dan Carlin's podcast.  He goes into great detail about Caesar's exploits in the Gallic Wars.  Certainly by today's standard's Caesar would have to be considered a monster.  A ruthless conqueror who often used the flimsiest of pretexts to justify his military adventures. I do think it's fair to note that a general fear of Gauls was baked into the Roman psyche since a band of Gauls sacked Rome in 390-ish BC, but that was hundreds of years before Caesar's time.  At the very least he was an exceedingly ambitious person by the standard of any era.  But he was also accomplished in many fields, personally brave, and an all around man of great ability. I love reading about the guy, he's definitely one of the most interesting figures in all of history, imo.  I also like that you can read Caesar's writings yourself, I've read both his Gallic Wars and Civil Wars.  You know going in that you aren't exactly getting an unadulterated view coming from Caesar's own hand, but it's still incredible to me to have a couple volumes of works from over 2000 years ago, directly from the guy who masterminded the operations.  

Edited by S John

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15 hours ago, Chaircat Meow said:

snip

Oh, the part how Justinian and Theodora are not humans, but actually demons in human form? One of my favourites - you have to give Procopius credit for vivid descriptions he provides.

Anyhow, perhaps Procopius was writing according to his zeitgeist? Perhaps people of early Christianity genuinely believed in existence of demons (I don't know whether that's the case or not, but I'm hypothesizing)? I doubt he would have written something his contemporaries would find outright ridiculous. Maybe Procopius thought demons are the only viable explanation for Justinian's and Theodora's wickedness?

Or maybe he followed the rich tradition of Roman historians - the one of exaggerating and making stuff up. It's possible he knew and Theodora weren't demons, just added the point to make them appear even more outrageous. It would not be the only time, either, for in other parts of Secret history Justinian was accused of causing earthquakes and floods, for example.

However, the essence of his argument (that Justinian and Theodora were jerks beyond measure) may very likely be true. I remember reading book by Philippe Gigantes where he notes that later sources [Eugarius, 7th century (though I couldn't find anything about him on Google) and John Zonaras, 12th century) do not contradict "Secret history". He even notes how SH's biggest critic, Edward Gibbon, basically trusts SH despite his reservations and quotes a lot from it.

 

I also find one other aspect of SH to be particularly interesting - namely the unreliability of lots of historical knowledge. If Procopius hadn't written it (let's assume that SH is at least partially true), nowdays we would have completely different perception of Justinian and Theodora. It reminds us how history written by one source can be incredibly skewered by the bias of said source - whether positive (author wants to flatter the ruler) or negative (author hates ruler). For all we know, e.g. Charlemagne could have been vicious jerk who casually killed people every day - but his contemporaries would have been to afraid to mention it in chronicles.

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3 hours ago, Knight Of Winter said:

Oh, the part how Justinian and Theodora are not humans, but actually demons in human form? One of my favourites - you have to give Procopius credit for vivid descriptions he provides.

Anyhow, perhaps Procopius was writing according to his zeitgeist? Perhaps people of early Christianity genuinely believed in existence of demons (I don't know whether that's the case or not, but I'm hypothesizing)? I doubt he would have written something his contemporaries would find outright ridiculous. Maybe Procopius thought demons are the only viable explanation for Justinian's and Theodora's wickedness?

Or maybe he followed the rich tradition of Roman historians - the one of exaggerating and making stuff up. It's possible he knew and Theodora weren't demons, just added the point to make them appear even more outrageous. It would not be the only time, either, for in other parts of Secret history Justinian was accused of causing earthquakes and floods, for example.

However, the essence of his argument (that Justinian and Theodora were jerks beyond measure) may very likely be true. I remember reading book by Philippe Gigantes where he notes that later sources [Eugarius, 7th century (though I couldn't find anything about him on Google) and John Zonaras, 12th century) do not contradict "Secret history". He even notes how SH's biggest critic, Edward Gibbon, basically trusts SH despite his reservations and quotes a lot from it.

 

I also find one other aspect of SH to be particularly interesting - namely the unreliability of lots of historical knowledge. If Procopius hadn't written it (let's assume that SH is at least partially true), nowdays we would have completely different perception of Justinian and Theodora. It reminds us how history written by one source can be incredibly skewered by the bias of said source - whether positive (author wants to flatter the ruler) or negative (author hates ruler). For all we know, e.g. Charlemagne could have been vicious jerk who casually killed people every day - but his contemporaries would have been to afraid to mention it in chronicles.

I think the Secret History is great too. But I also think that if Procopius were around today he might well have a slot on the Alex Jones show ... In terms of entertainment value I don't think there is a better hatchet job but it is so over the top you have to eventually question how serious it is. 

Even if you believe in demons, passage like the below just sound insane.

''Indeed, how was this man likely to be anything but an evil spirit, who never knew honest satiety of drink or food or sleep, but only tasting at random from the meals that were set before him, roamed the palace at unseemly hours of the night, and was possessed by the quenchless lust of a demon?''

I think pretty much every Roman Emperor would come across like a bloodthirsty tyrant if judged by the standards of most of present day Europe, so Justinian coming over as an inhuman monster to you isn't that surprising. You don't even need the Secret History to see this, Justinian's brutal suppression of the Nika revolt (egged on by Theodora) is recorded in Procopius's 'official history.'

Clearly Justinian's wars and rebuilding projects required vast amounts of money, hence his extortion from the nobility and the churches. Procopius is picking up on all the discontent being felt over what was almost certainly a corrupt and rapacious tax regime. Justinian's wars also left parts of the Empire's borders undermanned. One of his solutions was to pay certain barbarian tribes for peace, which Procopius inveighs against, saying Justinian liked nothing better than pouring all of Rome's wealth into the lap of foreigners, but there was clearly some sense to the policy.

The ability of the Persians to rampage over the Empire's holdings in modern day Syria/Iraq were also likely due to the needs of the Emperor's western wars. It should be said that the Persians failed to make any major strategic gains here, because the Romans stopped them gaining a foothold in the crucial region of Lazica which borders the Black Sea.

Procopius also blames the Emperor for all the natural disasters of the reign, the chief of which was the Great Plague of 540-41, from which the Emperor himself almost died. Obviously this is unfair ...

 

 

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Great thread, well done all.  My degree is History, and I continue to enjoy reading and studying all forms of it today.  When Marco Polo came out on Netflix a couple years ago, I became fascinated with the Mongols, Kublai and the other Khans, and listened to a lot of Carlin and read a lot.  I've been on a Roman Empire kick lately, from the late Roman Republic times of Julius Caesar until the fall of the empire some 4 centuries + later.  Adrian Goldsworthy has written some fantastic stuff in this regard, highly, highly recommend any of his books on Rome and the Roman army.  As stated, Carlin's info regarding the Galic wars under Caesar - fantastic, I could listen for days and never grow tired or disinterested.  Still, IMO Caesar and his legions showed their true steel backbones during the civil war, particularly at Pharsalus where they were so outnumbered and starving, yet still prevailed due to their experience, espirit de corps, and some timely decisions made by the Centurions.  Antony and the third line being deployed using their typically thrown javelin/Pilum weapons as hand held spears vs enemy cavalry as well.  Such an interesting battle, a shame we only have Caeser's account of it.

 

Secret History is on my to do list during Xmas, I'll post back after finishing it.

Just a quick tidbit, found this diorama of a complete Roman Legion, every century, cohort, and attached units present.  Great look at what a single legion looked like, any fan of Roman history could spend hours looking at these pi tures IMO.  I try to imagine what battles of the period must have looked like, particularly Phillipi, where there could have been as many as a quarter million men and dozens of legions on the field those days.  I've seen our RCMP musical ride do charges here, the thundering of just a few dozen horses is impressive, what it must have been like with tens of thousands of cavalry charging in such a small area...

http://mules-of-marius.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/leg1.gif

http://mules-of-marius.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/leg5.gif

http://mules-of-marius.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/leg3.gif

http://mules-of-marius.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/DIO-Legio-41.gif

Edited by SerHaHa

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22 hours ago, Chaircat Meow said:

Mmmhh ...

''Wherefore to me,- and many others of us, these two seemed not to be human beings, but veritable demons, and what the poets call vampires: who laid their heads together to see how they could most easily and quickly destroy the race and deeds of men; and assuming human bodies, became man-demons, and so convulsed the world. And one could find evidence of this in many things, but especially in the superhuman power with which they worked their will.

For when one examines closely, there is a clear difference between what is human and what is supernatural. There have been many enough men, during the whole course of history, who by chance or by nature have inspired great fear, ruining cities or countries or whatever else fell into their power; but to destroy all men and bring calamity on the whole inhabited earth remained for these two to accomplish, whom Fate aided in their schemes of corrupting all mankind. For by earthquakes, pestilences, and floods of river waters at this time came further ruin, as I shall presently show. Thus not by human, but by some other kind of power they accomplished their dreadful designs.

And they say his mother said to some of her intimates once that not of Sabbatius her husband, nor of any man was Justinian a son. For when she was about to conceive, there visited a demon, invisible but giving evidence of his presence perceptibly where man consorts with woman, after which he vanished utterly as in a dream.

And some of those who have been with Justinian at the palace late at night, men who were pure of spirit, have thought they saw a strange demoniac form taking his place. One man said that the Emperor suddenly rose from his throne and walked about, and indeed he was never wont to remain sitting for long, and immediately Justinian's head vanished, while the rest of his body seemed to ebb and flow; whereat the beholder stood aghast and fearful, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. But presently he perceived the vanished head filling out and joining the body again as strangely as it had left it.

Another said he stood beside the Emperor as he sat, and of a sudden the face changed into a shapeless mass of flesh, with neither eyebrows nor eyes in their proper places, nor any other distinguishing feature; and after a time the natural appearance of his countenance returned. I write these instances not as one who saw them myself, but heard them from men who were positive they had seen these strange occurrences at the time.

They also say that a certain monk, very dear to God, at the instance of those who dwelt with him in the desert went to Constantinople to beg for mercy to his neighbors who had been outraged beyond endurance. And when he arrived there, he forthwith secured an audience with the Emperor; but just as he was about to enter his apartment, he stopped short as his feet were on the threshold, and suddenly stepped backward. Whereupon the eunuch escorting him, and others who were present, importuned him to go ahead. But he answered not a word; and like a man who has had a stroke staggered back to his lodging. And when some followed to ask why he acted thus, they say he distinctly declared he saw the King of the Devils sitting on the throne in the palace, and he did not care to meet or ask any favor of him.

Indeed, how was this man likely to be anything but an evil spirit, who never knew honest satiety of drink or food or sleep, but only tasting at random from the meals that were set before him, roamed the palace at unseemly hours of the night, and was possessed by the quenchless lust of a demon?

Furthermore some of Theodora's lovers, while she was on the stage, say that at night a demon would sometimes descend upon them and drive them from the room, so that it might spend the night with her.''

 

 

I don't know whether this insane hyperbole was an acceptable rhetorical device at the time his readers would have understood or if Procopius was just a nutcase. 

Hahaha, now that is some good writing. Medieval Alex Jones seems like a very apt moniker, yeah. 

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On 12/10/2017 at 5:28 PM, Chaircat Meow said:

Mmmhh ...

''Wherefore to me,- and many others of us, these two seemed not to be human beings, but veritable demons, and what the poets call vampires: who laid their heads together to see how they could most easily and quickly destroy the race and deeds of men; and assuming human bodies, became man-demons, and so convulsed the world. And one could find evidence of this in many things, but especially in the superhuman power with which they worked their will.

For when one examines closely, there is a clear difference between what is human and what is supernatural. There have been many enough men, during the whole course of history, who by chance or by nature have inspired great fear, ruining cities or countries or whatever else fell into their power; but to destroy all men and bring calamity on the whole inhabited earth remained for these two to accomplish, whom Fate aided in their schemes of corrupting all mankind. For by earthquakes, pestilences, and floods of river waters at this time came further ruin, as I shall presently show. Thus not by human, but by some other kind of power they accomplished their dreadful designs.

And they say his mother said to some of her intimates once that not of Sabbatius her husband, nor of any man was Justinian a son. For when she was about to conceive, there visited a demon, invisible but giving evidence of his presence perceptibly where man consorts with woman, after which he vanished utterly as in a dream.

And some of those who have been with Justinian at the palace late at night, men who were pure of spirit, have thought they saw a strange demoniac form taking his place. One man said that the Emperor suddenly rose from his throne and walked about, and indeed he was never wont to remain sitting for long, and immediately Justinian's head vanished, while the rest of his body seemed to ebb and flow; whereat the beholder stood aghast and fearful, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. But presently he perceived the vanished head filling out and joining the body again as strangely as it had left it.

Another said he stood beside the Emperor as he sat, and of a sudden the face changed into a shapeless mass of flesh, with neither eyebrows nor eyes in their proper places, nor any other distinguishing feature; and after a time the natural appearance of his countenance returned. I write these instances not as one who saw them myself, but heard them from men who were positive they had seen these strange occurrences at the time.

They also say that a certain monk, very dear to God, at the instance of those who dwelt with him in the desert went to Constantinople to beg for mercy to his neighbors who had been outraged beyond endurance. And when he arrived there, he forthwith secured an audience with the Emperor; but just as he was about to enter his apartment, he stopped short as his feet were on the threshold, and suddenly stepped backward. Whereupon the eunuch escorting him, and others who were present, importuned him to go ahead. But he answered not a word; and like a man who has had a stroke staggered back to his lodging. And when some followed to ask why he acted thus, they say he distinctly declared he saw the King of the Devils sitting on the throne in the palace, and he did not care to meet or ask any favor of him.

Indeed, how was this man likely to be anything but an evil spirit, who never knew honest satiety of drink or food or sleep, but only tasting at random from the meals that were set before him, roamed the palace at unseemly hours of the night, and was possessed by the quenchless lust of a demon?

Furthermore some of Theodora's lovers, while she was on the stage, say that at night a demon would sometimes descend upon them and drive them from the room, so that it might spend the night with her.''

 

 

I don't know whether this insane hyperbole was an acceptable rhetorical device at the time his readers would have understood or if Procopius was just a nutcase. 

I wonder if Bakker read this prior to writing Prince of Nothing:P

It does kinda sound like the author might not be full of shit, but his witnesses could have simply been on drugs, in which case the worst case you could say about Justinian and his court, is that they were all a bunch of junkies.

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On 12/11/2017 at 8:35 PM, Chaircat Meow said:

I think the Secret History is great too. But I also think that if Procopius were around today he might well have a slot on the Alex Jones show ... In terms of entertainment value I don't think there is a better hatchet job but it is so over the top you have to eventually question how serious it is. 

Even if you believe in demons, passage like the below just sound insane.

''Indeed, how was this man likely to be anything but an evil spirit, who never knew honest satiety of drink or food or sleep, but only tasting at random from the meals that were set before him, roamed the palace at unseemly hours of the night, and was possessed by the quenchless lust of a demon?''

It may sound insane to you and me, but you must have known how gullible people were through history, and even nowdays. In Middle ages, and a few century afterwards, people believed Inquisition who preached that accused were possessed by the devil. In 12th century, European doctors thought that diagnosis for tuberculosis was devil possession, and the cure was cutting a cross-shaped hole in patient's skull and filling it with salt. In 18th century some countries still burned witches, while around the same time one women managed to convince doctors that she was pregnant with the rabbit. Overall, Procopius's passages don't seem anything out of the ordinary, considering then-standards.

 

On 12/11/2017 at 8:35 PM, Chaircat Meow said:

I think pretty much every Roman Emperor would come across like a bloodthirsty tyrant if judged by the standards of most of present day Europe, so Justinian coming over as an inhuman monster to you isn't that surprising. You don't even need the Secret History to see this, Justinian's brutal suppression of the Nika revolt (egged on by Theodora) is recorded in Procopius's 'official history.'

The thing is, Justinian was dubbed as a bloodthirsty tyrant not by my standard, but by Procopiius's. As a scholar, he was likely familiar with many past emperors and their methods, and still Justinian's brutality shocked him. It's true at least some parts of SH are grossly exaggerated or outright made up (as you note).

Though, I wonder, how would it look like it we resurrected Procopius nowdays, have him watch modern politics and develop hatred for politicians, and then have him write a book e.g. about Trump. I bet we would get first class piece of entertainment literature.

 

Anyhow, I found out about another source about Justinian - a fellow by the name of Evagrius (not Eugarius) who lived about a generation after Justinian and Procopius (he died in 594.). He was an aide to the patriarch, so he wrote mostly about religious stuff, but when discussing Justinian, he was more moderate and objective then blindly hateful Procopius. For example:
 

Quote

Justinian is said to have restored one hundred and fifty cities in Africa, some of which had been altogether, and others extensively ruined; and this he did with surpassing magnificence, in private and public works and embellishments, in fortifications, and other vast structures by which cities are adorned and the Deity propitiated: also in aqueducts for use and ornament, the supply of water having been in some cases conveyed to the cities for the first time, in others restored to its former state.

in stark contrast to Procopius who accuses Justinian of wanton destruction;

Quote

ABOUT the same time, as Procopius also writes, when the Heruli, who had already crossed the river Danube in the reign of Anastasius, had experienced generous treatment at the hands of Justinian, in large presents of money, the whole nation embraced Christianity and adopted a more civilised mode of life.

However, some parts seem to largely agree with Procopius' assessments:
 

Quote

Justinian was insatiable in the acquisition of wealth, and so excessively covetous of the property of others, that he sold for money the whole body of his subjects to those who were entrusted with offices or who were collectors of tributes, and to whatever persons were disposed to entrap others by groundless charges. He stripped of their entire property innumerable wealthy persons, under colour of the emptiest pretexts

or:

Quote

He appeared to favour one party, namely the Blues, to such an excess, that they slaughtered their opponents at mid-day and in the middle of the city, and, so far from dreading punishment, were even rewarded; so that many persons became murderers from this cause. They were allowed to assault houses, to plunder the valuables they contained, and to compel persons to purchase their own lives; and if any of the authorities endeavoured to check them, he was in danger of his very life



Btw, @Corvinus, @Khaleesi did nothing wrong, if you liked the passages above, allow me to contribute with this gem :) :
 

Quote

This Emperor, then, was deceitful, devious, false, hypocritical, two-faced, cruel, skilled in dissembling his thought, never moved to tears by either joy or pain, though he could summon them artfully at will when the occasion demanded, a liar always, not only offhand, but in writing, and when he swore sacred oaths to his subjects in their very hearing. Then he would immediately break his agreements and pledges, like the vilest of slaves, whom indeed only the fear of torture drives to confess their perjury. A faithless friend, he was a treacherous enemy, insane for murder and plunder, quarrelsome and revolutionary, easily led to anything, but never willing to listen to good counsel, quick to plan mischief and carry it out, but finding even the hearing of anything good distasteful to his ears.

 

Edited by Knight Of Winter
typos

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1 hour ago, Knight Of Winter said:

It may sound insane to you and me, but you must have known how gullible people were through history, and even nowdays. In Middle ages, and a few century afterwards, people believed Inquisition who preached that accused were possessed by the devil. In 12th century, European doctors thought that diagnosis for tuberculosis was devil possession, and the cure was cutting a cross-shaped hole in patient's skull and filling it with salt. In 18th century some countries still burned witches, while around the same time one women managed to convince doctors that she was pregnant with the rabbit. Overall, Procopius's passages don't seem anything out of the ordinary, considering then-standards.

 

The thing is, Justinian was dubbed as a bloodthirsty tyrant not by my standard, but by Procopiius's. As a scholar, he was likely familiar with many past emperors and their methods, and still Justinian's brutality shocked him. It's true at least some parts of SH are grossly exaggerated or outright made up (as you note).

Though, I wonder, how would it look like it we resurrected Procopius nowdays, have him watch modern politics and develop hatred for politicians, and then have him write a book e.g. about Trump. I bet we would get first class piece of entertainment literature.

 

Anyhow, I found out about another source about Justinian - a fellow by the name of Evagrius (not Eugarius) who lived about a generation after Justinian and Procopius (he died in 594.). He was an aide to the patriarch, so he wrote mostly about religious stuff, but when discussing Justinian, he was more moderate and objective then blindly hateful Procopius. For example:
 

in stark contrast to Procopius who accuses Justinian of wanton destruction;

However, some parts seem to largely agree with Procopius' assessments:
 

or:



Btw, @Corvinus, @Khaleesi did nothing wrong, if you liked the passages above, allow me to contribute with this gem :) :
 

 

FAKE NEWS!!! :P

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The Mayan  Civilization collapsed around the 9th Century.  

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On ‎12‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 8:21 PM, Knight Of Winter said:

For those discussing Byzantine Empire in general or Justinian in particular: has anyone read "Secret History" written by Justinian's contemporary Procopius? Quite a fun read, basically shows Justinian and Theodora as bloodthirsty monsters without a shred of humanity (ok, Procopius was obviously biased, but the essence of his argument doesn't seem false).

 

This has baffled me over and over again. It seems to me that war is such an unifying, nationalistic and often archetypally "primal" event for a nation that its war leaders, generals and politicians will often have certain amount of adoration. If they happen to be war victors as well, aforementioned adoration breaks the ceiling. No matter how vicious, stupid, criminal, petty, vile or plainly incompetent some leader is, if his country won the war during his tenure (sometimes despite, not because of, his leadership), he'll be celebrated like a second coming of Jesus.

Stalin is a fine example here. Not only was he worst mass murderer in history (with the possible expectation of Mao Zedong), his leadership during WWII was filled with blunders, as well. He refused to believe his spies informing him of Hitler's impeding attack and good portion of his officers' cadre was imprisoned on made-up charges (hence, when Germany attacked, Stalin was quick to "pardon" their non-existent crimes). If USSR was lead by more competent leader, it's likely that it would have ended the war sooner and with less casualties; and yet despite this Stalin is still revered today by part of Russians. Gah.

Or another story: a few years ago I stumbled upon an article about a guy called Francisco Solano Lopez - as it turned out a serious candidate for a "dumbest person in a history of humankind award". A 19th century president who started war on three of his  neighbors and refused to surrender despite being constantly beaten in this obviously losing war (which ended only with his death). Thanks to his persistence, about half of Paraguayan population was killed (not half of soldiers, but entire population), while Paraguay itself had to face demographical and economical crisis for several generations. And yet, what does wikipedia say about Lopez's legacy today?

There is a debate within Paraguay as to whether he was a fearless leader who led his troops to the end, or whether he foolishly led Paraguay into a war which it could never possibly win, and which nearly eliminated the country from the map. (a debate ?? )... Conversely, he is considered by some Latin Americans as a champion for the rights of smaller nations against the imperialism of more powerful neighbors (people he championed are dead because of him)... March is a national holiday in Paraguay, called "Dia de los Heroes" (Heroes' Day), held in honor of López's memory. It is the most important holiday in the country next to the independence day. To date, López is considered to be the greatest Paraguayan national hero and his remains are located at the "Panteon de los Heroes" (National Pantheon of the Heroes) in Asunción. It is customary in Asunción that when something historically worth celebrating happens (such as the victory of the former President Lugo in the 2008 elections), people flock with their flags to the street in front of the Pantheon and celebrate the event. ( :bang:)

This remains unfathomable to me.

From my reading, I've never thought that Justinian and Theodora were particularly bad rulers, rather the reverse in fact.

The Secret History has to be taken with a pinch of salt.  I really doubt whether Theodora's sex life was as interesting as Procopius claims.

 

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12 hours ago, SeanF said:

From my reading, I've never thought that Justinian and Theodora were particularly bad rulers, rather the reverse in fact.

The Secret History has to be taken with a pinch of salt.  I really doubt whether Theodora's sex life was as interesting as Procopius claims.

 

I've always found Justinian and (in particular) Theodora somewhat wanting.

The Romans had an opportunity to essentially ressurrect the west, and Justinian's weak personality undermined one of the greatest military commanders to ever draw breath.

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17 hours ago, Pony Queen Jace said:

I've always found Justinian and (in particular) Theodora somewhat wanting.

The Romans had an opportunity to essentially ressurrect the west, and Justinian's weak personality undermined one of the greatest military commanders to ever draw breath.

The opportunity to resurrect the Western half of the empire was a lost cause. I suspect climate change was the driving factor in the migration of the Goths and the Huns from central Asia. The Black Death that swept through Europe made  any military enterprise in the area doomed to failure as there would be no civilian population to support the endeavours. 

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Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, maarsen said:

The opportunity to resurrect the Western half of the empire was a lost cause. I suspect climate change was the driving factor in the migration of the Goths and the Huns from central Asia. The Black Death that swept through Europe made  any military enterprise in the area doomed to failure as there would be no civilian population to support the endeavours. 

 

What if the Black Death had not occurred? In that scenario it's  conceivable  that Justinian  might have been able to hold on to some off the Western territories. Possibly all of Italy?

Edited by GAROVORKIN

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13 hours ago, GAROVORKIN said:

 

What if the Black Death had not occurred? In that scenario it's  conceivable  that Justinian  might have been able to hold on to some off the Western territories. Possibly all of Italy?

Justinian himself held onto a substantial part of the West, including Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, North Africa, Dalmatia, the Balearic Islands, and Southern Spain.  Some of Italy was lost to the Lombards after his death, but the other territories were retained for much longer.

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To be fair to Justinian, he also dealt with a major famine caused by bad weather, the first outbreak of Bubonic plague which killed tens of millions in his empire, and the aftermath of two devastating earthquakes. He accomplished the maximum which was possible under the circumstances and with the available resources.

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The thing to keep in mind is that Procopius had also been the pretty much official historian of Justinian's reign, writing blushingly about his glorious conquests. The sycophantic nature of the job probably was too much for him and he eventually caved in and spilled his loathing for the guy on paper. After having licked his boots for so long, he clearly was bitter.

As for restoring the Empire, Justinian overstretched it. It was already obvious during the Gothic War, Belisarius and co were always undermanned and outnumbered. Conquest was only possible because the generals were awesome. The Justinian plague definitively buried any hope of reconquering the rest of the Empire, though. Had Justinian been less greedy, he could've strenghened the newly conquered provinces and the Empire might have had a more solid grip on Central Mediterranean, before a successor Basileus pushed West - or the next Emperors would've had an easier time resisting Sassanids and then the Arabs, because Byzantium's manpower wouldn't be so stretched and depleted.

 

On ‎11‎.‎12‎.‎2017 at 6:45 AM, S John said:

You should check out the 'Celtic Holocaust' episode of Dan Carlin's podcast.  He goes into great detail about Caesar's exploits in the Gallic Wars.  Certainly by today's standard's Caesar would have to be considered a monster.  A ruthless conqueror who often used the flimsiest of pretexts to justify his military adventures.

Well, ancient historians were quite clear on the nature of the conquest: out of 6 mio Gauls, 1 mio had been killed and 1 mio had been taken into slavery to Italy.

Actually, Cato the Younger - though also a political opponent boosted by their mutual hatred - was so appalled that Caesar basically exterminated a whole 300K tribe in Belgium that he proposed to the Senate to hand Caesar over to the survivors, so that they could deal with him :D

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