Monday, 26 September 2011

Julian the Rebel - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 22 Part 1

Julian raised up on shield and hailed Augustus

In an absolute monarchy much hangs on the personality of the man on top, and the events covered in this podcast are pretty much the result of the emperor's management style.  Constantius seems to have been the kind of boss that corridor warriors thrive under.  He was far from ineffective as an emperor and I'll be looking at his balance sheet a bit later, but he does seem to have had a bit of a weakness in delegation skills.  Time and again we see him letting highly unsuitable people get into positions where they follow their own agendas rather than the empire's best interests.  The way things played out with Julian illustrates this.  The two men could well have formed a great team that could have done great things.  But somehow the intrigues in the court of Constantius always stopped this happening.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Heretics - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 21

Athanasius - thanks to Wikipedia for the image

Imagine a large chunk of the population suddenly adopted a strange set of beliefs that you couldn't understand, and that they themselves couldn't explain.  Then imagine that they started arguing with each other over seemingly insignificant details.  And they are very serious about it all.  Deadly serious.  They are prepared to die for their beliefs. And to kill for them. Then they get control of the state, and start fighting each other. Armies are deployed and full scale pitched battles fought over minor points of doctrine.  This was the nightmare the pagans of the late Roman Empire had to face with the rise of Christianity.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Conversion of Constantine - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 20

Considering that the establishment of Christianity was the most lasting effect of his reign, it is a bit surprising that we don't know exactly when Constantine became a Christian.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Julian in Gaul - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 19 Part 2

Julian set off to Gaul with a guard of 300 men and without any idea of military matters. The plan was simply to give an air of concern to a neglected theatre. The Alemanni were well established and imperial forces were disorganised.  The actual running of the campaign was in the hands of Sallust, an experienced general. Sallust and Julian, despite coming from totally different backgrounds, hit it off personally.  Throughout his life Julian was to show himself capable of charming people, but this particular friendship was to be crucial because it got Julian into an active role in the army.   I have a feeling that this was the exact opposite of what Constantius intended, and there must have been plenty of subtle barriers erected to prevent it happening.