Posts from the ‘Roman Citizenship’ Category

Spot the Barbarian…A fundamental law “B” is for Barbarian

After doing a series of complex and quite, in Robs words “ethereal”, posts about the nature of history, Constantine and philosophy I thought I would do a light hearted look at Barbarians and Romans.

We have been looking at pictures of Trajans Column for a few weeks now and I feel the need to share with you a simple rule that might help you distinguish civilized Romans from everyone else.

So the first rule is that the Barbarians have not bothered to shave before the big battle whilst the Romans have got up nice and early, had a shower, shave and breakfast before making a decent effort on the battlefield.

Gallic cavalry take trophies from the battlefield

Compare and contrast their faces

So the important thing to note is that “B” is for Beards and “B” is for Barbarian.  So this is a general rule that should help you if you need to work out if the person in front of you is a barbarian or a proper person.

Next have a look at this battle field.

Got your hands full? Don't want to lose your trophy? Use your mouth...

In this picture are Barbarians fighting auxiliary   Auxiliary are barbarians who are recruited into the army and will gained citizenship on successful completion of service.  One of them has a Dacian head in his mouth.  So here we can see that all the barbarians are wearing trousers so that gives us a hint of another rule to help us.  Quickly compare this with the image below and you note that the Emperor is wearing a tunica.  In the picture below you can see a group of Roman legionaries, bona fide Roman Citizens and they too are wearing tunicas.  Now the latin word for trousers is braccae and here we see it again.  “B” is for barbarian “B” is for braccae.  Its a fundamental law.

Soldiers building a road

Reflecting on Constantine

In his last epistle Rob made some acute observations about Constantine.  I agree that Constantine the Great stands out as one of histories most fascinating, complex and confusing characters.   I remember learning about Roman history at primary school which was summed up in one sentence.

“…the emperors persecuted the Christians and then Constantine made Christianity legal and they stopped.”

Now before Robs head explodes this is an extremely simple summing up, to the point of childishness which of course is appropriate since I was a eight year old child at the time, and does not even approach the torment inflicted on Pagans by the Christian emperors but this is a well believed myth of history.  One get the feeling off oppression growing in intensity until it can no longer can be coped with until in the nick of time Constantine sweeps in and everyone can breath a sigh of relief.

In political histories vices and virtues can be exaggerated and diminished to fit a intellectual need, read a selection of Cecil Rhodes biographies to see this rule illustrated in neon lights,  it is only recently that Constantines faults have become apparent to me, let alone executing his sons and wife.  It is as if a person stops being a person when he becomes the property of history as completely as a person dies, is buried, dug up and exhibited in a museum.

Property is a powerful word intended to illustrate the movement of power from  a man to a historical character, a monster or saint reduced to a paper tiger to be pawed over by historians.  Constantine might have been Emperor, Hitler might have been a dictator and Rhodes an empire builder but for all their efforts they are now dependent on the most ghastly persons in society.

Historians do not work in a vacuum, since the 1960s the myth of scientific history has been exploded.  We do not see the past independantly but rather as a narative.  As a Christian myself I have a natural affection for Constantine, despite his faults.  Besides the fact who am I to judge another human creatures let alone imagine that I would do much better if I lived his life with the pressures and problems that he faced.

History is a construct making sense of the past according to the present metanaratives, the dreams and desires the present princes of mankind.  Yet this is the fate of the current princes, the tyrants of the present become pawns of the zeitgeist in the constructs of future historians.

Reflecting on Robs comments and Roman Citizenship: Warning Might not make much sense

Manumission from barbarian into citizen was the social innovation of Rome. The Greeks moved the other way from being tolerant of barbarians to mistrust of the otherness. Carthage similarly produced a two tier society of elite and plebs with no possible movement between the two. During Hannibal’s rampage around Italy states allied to Rome remained largely loyal because they were bound to Rome by the privilage of citizenship, in contrast the Carthaginian states were vulnerable to defection and treason because they did not share in the good fortunes of their imperial masters. I agree with Rob that it was probably out of reach for anyone outside of Italy but in Italy it was of incredible value to the Roman state. The Romans were quite right to be wary of extending citizenship, particularly to the Gauls and their kindred, citizenship was a line demarcation in the sand , which in the eyes of the ancients, divided the animal from the human. In law you could do awful things to barbarians and nobody would bat an eyelid, they could be taxed, their legal position was uncertain and the punishments were abominable. In contrast the citizen could join the army, was exempt from certain taxes and enjoyed a privileged position in law. St Paul is the prime example of citizen enforcing his rights. We often wonder how the Romans could put people to death in the arena in hideous ways, we forget that these people were not citizens and so we not, in Roman eyes, people. It is in our Human Rights era an absolute paradigm shift, now a foreign terrorist has the same rights as a British citizen an impossible situation in ancient Rome where a barbarian might be seen as on the same legal level as a pedestrian in Grand Theft Auto.
I suspect that Caesars actions in Gaul were criticized because he citizenised unreconstructed Gauls as a political move rather than a true manumission. By doing so he might have been perceived to devalue the system and devalue the status of the citizen. Something that he certainly did as Dictator when he ushered in the age of Empire.

With regards to the sausage clearly it is a ubiquitous foodstuff but the point is that it was associated with the Germans and in an unstable age the Emperor wanted the reset the empire to a Roman pattern and expel non-classical influences. Which begs the question why did he allow Christianity?

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