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Rome Turning Into a Sewer

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  • Bertil Haggman
    For introduction of law and order of the Vandals at the sack of Rome see Salvianus VII, 20-2 and Dill, _Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 3, 2002
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      For introduction of law and order of the Vandals
      at the sack of Rome see Salvianus VII, 20-2 and
      Dill, _Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western
      Empire_, p. 305.

      A contemporary of Salvianus, Sidonius, born in Lyons
      around 430 AD and later Bishop of Clermont has provided
      a description of his visit to the court of Theodoric II, a Visi-
      gothic ruler 453 - 466 AD.

      Theoderic, so Sidonius, attended religious service
      daily befor dawn, the dinner was that of an ordinary
      private household, and food was good but neither
      ostentatious nor costly. The goblets were refilled infrequently.
      Roman entertainers and lavish luxuries did not exist at
      the court of Theoderic II but the king enjoyed string
      music which comforted the soul with virtue just as it
      soothed the ear with melody.

      There were indeed Romans, according to Salvianus,
      who preferred life among the Goths to the unremitting
      greed and avarice that characterized the civilization of
      Rome.

      The military commentator Vegetius also disclosed
      the lack of fortitude of Roman citizens. Roman infantry
      refused to wear helmets or breastplates, because they
      were too heavy

      "when, because of negligence and laziness, parade
      ground drills were abandoned, the customary armor began
      to seem heavy, since the soldiers rarely ever wore it. There-
      fore they first asked the emperor to set aside the brestplates and
      mail, and then the helmets. So our soldiers fought the Goths
      without any protection for chest and head, and were often
      beaten by archers. Although there were many disasters,
      which led to the loss of great cities, noone tried to restore
      breastplates and helmets to the infantry. Thus it happens
      that troops in battle, exposed to wounds because they
      have no armour, think about running and not about
      fighting."

      There was of course also the advantage of not having
      breastplates, mail and helmet when running away from the
      Goths.

      Bertil Haggman
    • faltin2001
      ... If I remember correctly Salvianus s describtion of the Vandals introduction of law and order refered to Carthage rather than Rome. More importantly his
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 3, 2002
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        --- In gothic-l@y..., "Bertil Haggman" <mvk575b@t...> wrote:
        > For introduction of law and order of the Vandals
        > at the sack of Rome see Salvianus VII, 20-2 and
        > Dill, _Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western
        > Empire_, p. 305.



        If I remember correctly Salvianus's describtion of the Vandals
        introduction of law and order refered to Carthage rather than Rome.
        More importantly his writings must be interpreted with great care and
        in the context of the current theological debate. Using the epitome
        of the 'pure and simple barbarian' to emphasise the wrongs in Roman
        society had a long tradition as can be seen from Tacitus. The view of
        major catholic theologians of the time that Rome could be
        reinvigorated through the influence of barbarians is of course of
        great significance for Roms policy at the time.







        >
        > A contemporary of Salvianus, Sidonius, born in Lyons
        > around 430 AD and later Bishop of Clermont has provided
        > a description of his visit to the court of Theodoric II, a Visi-
        > gothic ruler 453 - 466 AD.



        I think it was also Sidonius who complained in another piece that
        Burgundians are always drunk and un-clean (I think he said they stink
        unbearably). Once again picking and choosing from these authors does
        not help in the enlightenment of the circumstances of the time.




        >
        > Theoderic, so Sidonius, attended religious service
        > daily befor dawn, the dinner was that of an ordinary
        > private household, and food was good but neither
        > ostentatious nor costly. The goblets were refilled infrequently.
        > Roman entertainers and lavish luxuries did not exist at
        > the court of Theoderic II but the king enjoyed string
        > music which comforted the soul with virtue just as it
        > soothed the ear with melody.
        >
        > There were indeed Romans, according to Salvianus,
        > who preferred life among the Goths to the unremitting
        > greed and avarice that characterized the civilization of
        > Rome.
        >
        > The military commentator Vegetius also disclosed
        > the lack of fortitude of Roman citizens. Roman infantry
        > refused to wear helmets or breastplates, because they
        > were too heavy
        >
        > "when, because of negligence and laziness, parade
        > ground drills were abandoned, the customary armor began
        > to seem heavy, since the soldiers rarely ever wore it. There-
        > fore they first asked the emperor to set aside the brestplates and
        > mail, and then the helmets. So our soldiers fought the Goths
        > without any protection for chest and head, and were often
        > beaten by archers. Although there were many disasters,
        > which led to the loss of great cities, noone tried to restore
        > breastplates and helmets to the infantry. Thus it happens
        > that troops in battle, exposed to wounds because they
        > have no armour, think about running and not about
        > fighting."
        >
        > There was of course also the advantage of not having
        > breastplates, mail and helmet when running away from the
        > Goths.


        Funny thing is only that by the 4th and 5th century many, perhaps
        even most of these soldiers in the Roman army would have been Goths,
        Franks, Vandals, Burgundians and Alamanns. More often than not it was
        German fighting against German. Even during Alaric's march on Rome,
        the Visigoths were opposed by Vandals who stood in Roman service and
        Wolfram suggested that Alaric, at one stage may have tried to buy
        himself the status of a Roman senator.


        Dirk
      • Bertil Haggman
        My recent contributions on the downfall of the West Roman empire mainly at the hands of the Goths has emphasized the cowardness of the Roman soldiers more
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 3, 2002
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          My recent contributions on the downfall of the
          West Roman empire mainly at the hands of the Goths
          has emphasized the cowardness of the Roman soldiers
          more interested in running away than fighting.

          There were indeed Roman citizens that were soldiers,
          but few as the decades rolled on. The Germanics was
          quite another matter. These federates
          certainly helped Stilicho and Odoacer to win a number
          of crucial battles against the invading Goths.

          Arthur Ferrill in _The Fall of the Roman Empire: The
          Military Explanation_ underlines that the Romans
          (not the Federates) lacked discipline. In general the
          Romans as fighting force were eliminated. Especially
          typical: "Romans could be expected to huddle behind
          their screen of shields; Visigoths and Alans would do
          the fighting." This pretty well describes the situation of
          the Roman army in relation to the Federates. The Roman
          army was thus no problem for Attila at Chalons in 451 AD.
          Attila told his troops to ignore the huddling Romans and concentrate
          on the real danger facing them from the associated Visigoth
          and Alan troops.

          The truth was that the Roman army (of Romans) was now totally
          dependent on foreign mercenaries. The difficulty of raising
          Roman (not Federate) troops was acute and even the
          minimum height for recruitment had to be lowered from
          five foot ten inches to five foot seven inches. Interesting
          is the period work _De Rebus Bellicis_ which desribes the
          reliance of foreign troops. The urban population of the empire
          was also often in reserved occupations debarred from military
          service. They sought a professional army that would look
          after them. The Goths and other Germanic peoples were in
          reality masters of the empire long before it fell.

          Sidonius catalogued with pride the different groups that fought
          as Federates:

          "Bastarnian, Rugian, Burgundian, Visigoth, Ostrogoth have ranged
          themselves behind the eagles" (I left out the tribes not migrating
          from Scandinavia). It sounds as at the height of the British empire
          when the royal broadcast on Christmas Day sounded off:

          "Come in, St. Kitts and Nevis".

          But long before Sidonius' list above the Germanics had began to
          swamp the imperial border. Dill numbered them at a million. Ferrill
          mentions 250,000. They pleaded and were allowed asylum.

          The historian Ammianus Marcellinus, who was a soldier of the eastern
          emperor, has described 376 AD when the Visigoths poured
          across the Danube using boats, rafts, hollowed-out tree trunks and some
          swimming, drowning in the process. Ammanius really is sardonic:

          "Diligent care was taken that no future destroyer of the Roman
          state should be left behind, even if he were smitten with fatal disease. With
          such stormy eagerness on the part of insistent men was the ruin of the
          Roman world brought on." It couldn't be said in a more accurate way.

          But when the refugees had arrived they were exploited by petty Roman
          officials, their women assaulted, food made available only in return
          for children sold into slavery. In despair the refugees went rampaging,
          pillaging the country estates in the vicinity. Forces of law and order
          managed to stop them for a time but not subduing them.

          Zosimus saw the swamping of the empire as a punishment by the gods for
          their abandonment by the Christian emperors (Zosimus was a pagan).

          Bertil Haggman
        • faltin2001
          ... Categories like cowardness have no explanatory value in serious research and add nothing to the understanding of the events. Also, a war is not over
          Message 4 of 5 , Jan 4, 2002
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            --- In gothic-l@y..., "Bertil Haggman" <mvk575b@t...> wrote:
            > My recent contributions on the downfall of the
            > West Roman empire mainly at the hands of the Goths
            > has emphasized the cowardness of the Roman soldiers
            > more interested in running away than fighting.



            Categories like 'cowardness' have no explanatory value in serious
            research and add nothing to the understanding of the events. Also, a
            war is not over until one side does not get up to fight another day.
            If I remember correctly, it was the Goths and Vandals who suffered
            final defeat at the hands of the excellent Roman generals like
            Belisar and Narses and - as usual- its Germanic auxiliary troops.

            Applying your own categories we must conclude that at the end it was
            the Goths and Vandals who were the cowards. This is of course just as
            non-sensical as your labelling of the Roman army as suffereing from
            cowardice.


            >
            > There were indeed Roman citizens that were soldiers,
            > but few as the decades rolled on. The Germanics was
            > quite another matter. These federates
            > certainly helped Stilicho and Odoacer to win a number
            > of crucial battles against the invading Goths.
            >
            > Arthur Ferrill in _The Fall of the Roman Empire: The
            > Military Explanation_ underlines that the Romans
            > (not the Federates) lacked discipline. In general the
            > Romans as fighting force were eliminated. Especially
            > typical: "Romans could be expected to huddle behind
            > their screen of shields; Visigoths and Alans would do
            > the fighting."
            > This pretty well describes the situation of
            > the Roman army in relation to the Federates. The Roman
            > army was thus no problem for Attila at Chalons in 451 AD.



            Unfortunately, the Gothic army was seemingly also no problem for the
            Huns in the late 4th century. In fact, the Goths did a good deal of
            running then. In fact, measured by distance covered, the Goths must
            be the masters of all runners ;-).






            > Attila told his troops to ignore the huddling Romans and concentrate
            > on the real danger facing them from the associated Visigoth
            > and Alan troops.
            >
            > The truth was that the Roman army (of Romans) was now totally
            > dependent on foreign mercenaries. The difficulty of raising
            > Roman (not Federate) troops was acute and even the
            > minimum height for recruitment had to be lowered from
            > five foot ten inches to five foot seven inches. Interesting
            > is the period work _De Rebus Bellicis_ which desribes the
            > reliance of foreign troops. The urban population of the empire
            > was also often in reserved occupations debarred from military
            > service. They sought a professional army that would look
            > after them. The Goths and other Germanic peoples were in
            > reality masters of the empire long before it fell.
            >
            > Sidonius catalogued with pride the different groups that fought
            > as Federates:
            >
            > "Bastarnian, Rugian, Burgundian, Visigoth, Ostrogoth have ranged
            > themselves behind the eagles" (I left out the tribes not migrating
            > from Scandinavia).


            Then you should not have mentioned any of these tribes. Sorry, but in
            my view your overall argumentation reveals that your views are shaped
            by national pride and patriotism (to put it mildly), which is poison
            to any real understanding of these events.

            Dirk
          • Bertil Haggman
            Interesting twist on the question of the chaos, uncivility and decadence of the late western Roman empire. Jerome in 409 spoke of Rome as fighting within her
            Message 5 of 5 , Jan 4, 2002
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              Interesting twist on the question of the chaos,
              uncivility and decadence of the late western
              Roman empire. Jerome in 409 spoke of Rome
              as "fighting within her own boundaries not for
              fame but for existence, nay, not even fighting
              but buying her life with money and goods." Taxes
              had doubled during the fourth century AD. The
              senatorial landlord avoided paying taxes
              either by passing the costs on to their tenants
              or by corrupting the local justice system, but for
              the middle classes there was no escape. Not even
              death provided escape-the heirs inherited the taxes
              to the state. If there was no child 3/4 of the estate
              was forfeit to the state.

              Many Romans in this desperate situation preferred
              the Goths. It was Salvanius, I think, that commented:
              all the Romans (on Gothic territory) have but one
              desire, that they may never have to return to Roman
              jurisdiction. There is even, if I recollect correctly, one
              case of a Greek who even preferred to live under
              the Huns to the ruthless taxation and unprincipled
              conduct of his superiors with the crumbling empire.

              Theoderic the Great rebuilt the collapsed Rome and
              at one time gave over one hundred measures of grain
              annually of the Roman people and the poor in the city.
              Theoderic financed the rebuilding of the city walls,
              he restored the old palace, repaired Trajan's aqueduct.
              He built a new palace, amphiteatre and baths in Pavia and had
              Pompey's ancient theatre in Rome restored.

              Romans hoped for Pax Gothica.

              Bertil Haggman

              > Categories like 'cowardness' have no explanatory value in serious
              > research and add nothing to the understanding of the events. Also, a
              > war is not over until one side does not get up to fight another day.
              > If I remember correctly, it was the Goths and Vandals who suffered
              > final defeat at the hands of the excellent Roman generals like
              > Belisar and Narses and - as usual- its Germanic auxiliary troops.
              >
              > Applying your own categories we must conclude that at the end it was
              > the Goths and Vandals who were the cowards. This is of course just as
              > non-sensical as your labelling of the Roman army as suffereing from
              > cowardice.
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