07 October 2011

The real end of the Roman Empire in the West

Christopher Columbus discovered America.  The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the American South.  The Order of Knights Templar was exterminated in the early 14thcentury.  Japan initiated the war against the United States of America in 1941.  The War Between the States was not about slavery but about states’ rights.

These are but a few of the historical misconceptions and outright deceptions with which I and many like me grew up.  The truth of these four “facts” is more like this:

Columbus and crew were lost, on their way to what they believed were the East Indies.  Up to 145 million natives may have lived in the so-called New World in 1492; by 1600 that number had been reduced to 1.5 million, largely due to pandemics.

The Emancipation Proclamation was a propaganda exercise that actually freed no one, not the slaves in the Union states but only those in territory still in Confederate hands.  Like if the USA has announced during the Cold War that all those behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains were now free from Communist rule.

The Templars were never persecuted in Portugal and survive to this day as the Military Order of Christ. In fact, the afore-mentioned Columbus was a member of that order and therefore a Templar.  In the kingdom of Aragon, the Templars were converted into the Order of Montessa.  In Scotland, after the Order was dissolved in England, English and Scottish Templars merged with the Scottish Hospitallers to become the joint Order of St. John and the Temple that lasted until the Reformation.

The United States declared an oil embargo against the Empire of Japan in 1941 and set about enforcing it, the first blood drawn, so to speak.  Such an embargo is a very provocative act of war.

States’ rights were but one argument of many that the elite in the South used to justify continuation of human slavery.  Anyone who doubts that the secessions in 1860 and 1861 were to preserve slavery needs only to read the proclamations.

I’ll never forget my first day in Marvin Cousins’ American Government class my senior year in high school.  He began the course by listing several myths of American history one-by-one, after which he would rip it apart, beginning with the phrase, “YOU HAVE BEEN LIED TO!”

The Roman Empire, or Imperium Romanum, fell in 476 CE. 

Well, not exactly.  The empire continued to exist until 1453, with the fall of its seat, Constantinopolis.  Vestiges of the empire survived well into the modern era.  So, what fell in in 476 CE was merely the fall of the Western Roman Empire with its last emperor.  Only that’s not entirely true either.  Imperator Caesar Flavius Romulus Augustus did have a successor and Roman institutions were maintained for quite some time.  The Senate of Roma, in fact, lasted into the 7th century.

So here’s what really happened.

In 285 CE, Imperator Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus (Diocletian) divided the Imperium Romanum into Eastern and Western halves under himself at Nicodemia in the east and Imperator Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus Herculius Augustus, the lesser of two equals, in the west at Roma.

Emperors in the Late Roman Empire had Imperator (and later also Caesar) as their pronomen with Augustus as their cognomen.

In 293 Diocletianus divided the Imperium Romanum into four parts, known as the Tetrarchy, two of which fell under an Imperator Augustus, and two smaller under Caesars.  He further moved the capital of the West from Roma to Meliandum (Milan) and reduced the size of the empire’s provinces and groups them into twelve dioceses, each under a vicarius.

The Tetrarchy system fell apart in 313, though the system of smaller provinces grouped into twelve dioceses remained.  In 324 Imperator Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (Constantine) of the West defeated his opposite in the East, Imperator Caesar Gaius Valerius Licinianus Licinius Augustus, to become sole imperial ruler, choosing to rule from the East.

Constantine moved his seat from Nicodemia to Byzantium in 330, establishing Nova Roma, later called Constantinopolis, in its place, making it the capital of the whole Imperium Romanum. 

After his death in 337, the Imperium Romanum was divided into three praetorian prefectures: the western Prefecture of Galliae (including Britanniae, Hispaniae, Germaniae); the central Prefecture of Italiae (including the Balkans and Africa); and the eastern Prefecture of the Orient (Thracia, Anatolia, Syria-Palestina, Aegyptus, Libya).  The Imperium carved the Prefecture of Illyricum (Illyria, Dalmatia, Graecia, and Dacia) largely out of that of Italiae in 356.

The Praetorian Prefects of these units were subordinate to the Imperator Caesar Augustus and had authority only over their civil administration.  Each prefecture had its own Magister Militum, head of military, each of whom reported to the Magister Militum of the Imperium, who answered to the emperor.

In the mid-4th century, the military of the empire was reorganized.  In the Diocese of Britanniae, the military was divided into three commands, those of the Comes Litoris Saxonici, Dux Britanniarum, and Comes Britanniarum, who reported to the Magister Militum of the Prefecture of Galliae.  Across the Oceanus Britannica (the English Channel), the Dux Belgicae Segundae and the Dux Tractus Armoricani et Nervicani, along with the Classis Britannica at Bononia Gesoriacum (Boulogne-sur-Mer), fell under the overall command of the Comes Litoris Saxonici.

These commands on the outskirts of the empire are relevant to later events.

In 366, Damasus I, Bishop of Rome, convinced Imperator Caesar Flavius Valentianus Augustus in the West to give him the title Pontifex Maximus, previously held by the emperor, becoming the first Pope in the modern sense of the word.

Following the death of Imperator Caesar Flavius Theodosius Augustus in 395, the Imperium Romanum was once again split into Eastern and Western halves, only this time the division was permanent.

In 402, Flavius Stilcho, Magister Militum of the West, withdrew some legions from Britanniae to face the Gothi in Italiae.  Meanwhile, Imperator Caesar Flavius Honorius Augustus moved his seat from Meliandum to Ravenna purposes.

In 409, the Vandali, Buri, Suevi, and Alani ravaged the Diocese of Galliae until they being driven into Iberia by the Visigothi.  Cut off by the chaos, the people of Britanniae and of Armorica (Britanny) armed themselves and overthrew their civilian magistrates.  Imperator Caesar Flavius Honorius Augustus told them to attend their own affairs from thenceforth.

The following year, the Visigothi invaded Italiae and sacked Roma.

The revolts in Armorica and Britanniae were suppressed in 417, followed by the return of some level of imperial presence in both regions.  A year later, Imperator Caesar Flavius Honorius Augustus granted his Visigothi allies land in Aquitania to settle as foederati.

Flavius Aetius, sometimes referred to as the “last of the Romans” became Comes and Magister Militum of the Prefecture of Galliae in 425. He was to become the last of the great Roman generals in the West.

Four years later, largely due to Comes Aetius’ campaigns, the Vandali and their client Alani crossed from Hispaniae into North Africa, and within ten years conquered all of Roman Africa. 

The same year, Pope Celestine I dispatched Bishops Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes to Britanniae to combat the Pelagian heresy at the request of Palladius, a British deacon. While in Britanniae, Germanus, in his former life a Roman military officer, led the Britons to victory in battle against the Scotti (Irish) near the later Welsh border.

In 435, a local named Tibatto successfully led the Armorican movement for independence from the Diocese of Galliae.

After conquering Africa Proconsularis in 439, completing his conquest of Roman Africa, Genseric adopted the title King of the Vandals and Alans, making his seat at Cartago, the former seat of Roman government.

In 446, the Britons appealed to Comes Aetius for military assistance in their struggle against the Pictii and the Scotti who were raiding their lands from both land and sea, but he had his hands full with Attila the Hun. Instead, German of Auxerre returned the next year, accompanied by Severus, Bishop of Trier.  After expelling the Scotti from the mountain territory of the Cornovii, he established Paganes (Powys), with Catellius, son of Categirn (Cadell Ddernllwg), son of Vortigern, as Tribune, later succeeded by Bruttius, another grandson of Vortigern.

In 451, the armies of Comes Aetius, Magister Militum of Galliae, and of the Visigoth king Theodoric I, which include Alani, Francii, and Burgundones, turned back the army of Attila the Hun in the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains.
         
The Vandali sacked Roma again in 455.  Comes Aetius was not around to prevent this because he had been assassinated in Roma on orders of Imperator Caesar Flavius Placidius Valentinianus Augustus.

Aegidius, Magister Militum per Galliae, established the Ducatas Noviodunum over the same territory as the later Nuestria (Galliae north of the Loire River) the following year, 456, after being cut off from the rest of the empire.  Both its citizenry and Ravenna considered it an exclave of the western empire, and it may well have been in regular contact with pro-Roman elements in the Diocese of Britanniae.
Historians estimate that it is around this time, possibly up to twenty five years later, that Ambrosius Aurelianus, whom Gildas refers to as the “last of the Romans” (in Britanniae), is active as the foremost leader of what remains of Roman Britain.

The Visigothi acquired Septimania, also called Gallia Narbonensis, in 462, leaving them in control of the entire south of the Diocese of Galliae.

Dux Aegidius died in 464 at the Battle of Orleans against the Visigoths as ally of Childeric I of the Francii to his immediate east, and was succeeded by his second-in-command, Paulus, Comes of Angers, who subsequently also died in battle against the Visigoths to be succeeded as Dux by Syagrius, son of Aegidius.

* * * * *

In the fateful year 476, Odoacer of the Scirii, head of the foederati (non-native, mostly Germanic, troops) in the Prefecture of Italiae whose ranks included Heruli, Ostrogothi, Franci, and Lombardi, captured Ravenna and overthrew Flavius Orestes, Magister Militum in the West, and Imperator Caesar Flavius Romulus Augustus.

He then invited Imperator Caesar Flavius Zeno Augustus in Constantinopolis to become sole ruler of the reunited Imperium Romanum and recognize him as King of Italy under imperial authority. Zeno granted Odoacer the pronomen Patricius and the title Dux Italiae, while recognizing Imperator Caesar Flavius Julius Nepos Augustus as ruler of the West.  Patricius Odoacer maintained all of the imperial institutions, including the Senate at old Roma.

The Visigothi destroyed the last remnants of the Prefecture of Galliae the next year, except for the Ducatas Noviodunum in the north.

In 480, Imperator Caesar Nepos Augustus was murdered in Dalmatia in the Balkan peninsula where he had made his residence, after which Patricius Odoacer moved to take over Sicilia and Dalmatia.

The Ducatas Noviodunum was finally conquered by Clovis I, king of the Francii, in 486, leaving him in control of all Gaul north of the River Loire.  Dux Syagrius fled to the protection of the Visigothi to the south, only to be executed by Alaric II.

Theodoric, Consul of the Imperium Romanum at Constantinopolis and now king of the Ostrogothi, invaded the Prefecture of Italiae in 488 at the behest of Imperator Caesar Flavius Zeno Augustus after Patricius Odoacer became too independent.

In 493, the Ostrogothi under Consul Theodoric completed their conquest of Odoacer’s domain, and now Patricius Theodoric, like his predecessor, ruled as viceroy to Zeno with the title Dux Italiae.

In 500, the Romano-British commander Agricola reconquered Dyfed, formerly known as Demetia, from the Irish Deisi and became its governor as Tribune. Such Roman imperial titles are attested to well into the 6th century.

Imperator Caesar Flavius Anastasius Augustus raised Clovis of the Franci to the rank of Consul of the Imperium Romanum after he conquers the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse under Alaric II in the Battle of Vouille in 507, leaving only Septimania (Gallica Narbonensis) and Hispaniae in Visigothic hands.

The same year Theodoric, commander of the Classis Britannica (probably then based in Britanniae), campaigned in Armorica.

Patricius Theodoric, Dux Italiae, re-established the Prefecture of Galliae in its former capital of Arelate (Arles) in 510.

Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus (Justinian), who would become very significant to the remains of the Imperium in the West, became Imperator Caesar Augustus of the Imperium Romanum in 527.


In 534, his Magister Militum, Flavius Belisarius, brought an end to the Kingdom of the Vandals and Alans and established the Prefecture of Africa, which included Corsica and Sardinia, with its seat at Cartago.

From 535 to 554, Belisarius conducted the Gothic War with the Ostrogothi for control of the Prefecture of Italiae.

The revived Prefecture of Galliae fell to the Francii in 536.  In the same year, Magister Belisarius finished reconquering Sicilia and established what became the Thema of Sicilia.

In 552, the Imperium Romanum had reconquered enough of Hispaniae to establish the autonomous province of Spania in Iberia, under a magister militum.

In 554, imperial forces under Magister Militum Narses, a scion of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, finally completed the conquest of the Prefecture of Italiae.

In 580, the Senate of Roma sent two ambassadors to the court of Imperator Caesar Flavius Tiberius Constantinus Augustus at Constantinopolis.

Imperator Caesar Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus transformed the western holdings of the empire in 584, creating two exarchates, with governors combining civil and military powers. 

The Prefecture of Africa became the Exarchate of Africa, adding to it the formerly autonomous province of Spania and the Islas Baleares. 

The Prefecture of Italiae became the Exarchate of Italiae, with its constituent parts being the Ducatas Romanus, the Ducatas Pentapolis, the Ducatas Perusia, the Ducatas Neapolitanus, and the Ducatas Bruttium (Calabria).

In 603, the register of Pope Gregorius, Bishop of Roma and Pontifex Maximus, recorded the acclamation by the Senate of Roma of new statues of Imperator Caesar Flavius Phocas Augustus and his wife Leonitia Augusta, the last to be erected in the Roman Forum.

With the succession of Imperator Caesar Flavius Heraclius Augustus in 610, Greek became the official language of the Imperium Romanum.

The province of Spania fell to the Visigothi in 624.

In 629, Heraclius assumed the title Basileus tuv Basileuv (Shahanshah or King of kings) in honor of his defeat of the Sassanids, ending the long-running Romano-Persian Wars, two years previously.  He also changed the pronomen from Imperator Caesar to Basileus and the cognomen from Augustus to Sebastos, with the empire now called the Basilea Rhomaion.

In 637, Muslim Arab armies invaded the Basilea Rhomaion and conquered Syria-Palestina.  Two years later they conquered Aegyptus and Armenia.

Basileus Konstantinos Pogonatos Sabastos moved the seat of the Basilea Rhomaion from Konstantinopoulis to Siracusa in Sicilia in 663, but it returned to the former after his death in 668.

In 697, Basileus Leontios Sebastos established the Ducatas Venetia in northeastern Italiae, under the Exarchate at Ravenna, with Paolo Lucio Anafestom as Doux (Dux) and Hypatos (Consul).

The Exarchate of Africa fell to the Muslim armies of the Umayyads the following year, except the city of Septum (Ceuta), which remained in the Basilea Rhomaion as an autonomous entity under a comes.

In 710, Julian, last Comes of Septum, switched his loyalty from the Basilea Rhomaion to the Umayyad dynasty when he needed closer allies in his fight against the Visigothi, leading to the invasion of Hispaniae.

The Exarchate of Italiae came to an end in 751 when it was conquered by the Lombards.  The holdings of the Basilea Rhomaion in Italia were reduced to the Themas of Sicilia, Calabria, and Lucania, along with the Ducatas Venetia.

Themata were the administrative divisions of the Basilea Rhomain, which had replaced the system of provinces in the mid-7th century.

In 754, Pope Zachary, Bishop of Roma and Pontifex Maximus, anointed Pepin the Short king of the Francii and bestowed on him the title of Patricius Romanorum.

A portion of the Ducatas Neapolitanus secedes in 758 as the independent Ducato di Amalfi.

In 763, the Ducatas Neapolitanus switched its allegiance from Konstantinopoulos to Roma, becoming part of the Papal States.

Charlemagne of the Franci conquered the Lombard Kingdom of Italy in 774.

The Ducatas Romanus disappeared in 781 when Charlemagne granted it to Pope Benedict VII as part of his temporal domains, the Papal States.

In 800, Pope Leo I crowned Charlemagne as Imperator Romanorum, nominally subordinate to Basilissa Irene Sebastos.  Charlemagne and his successors used the less presumptuous title Imperator Romanum gubernans Imperium. Basileus Michael I Rangabe Sebastos recognized Charlemagne as Imperator in the West in 812.

In 811, the former Ducatas Venetia of the Basilea Rhomain became independent as the Republic of Venice.

Arab armies captured the realm of the Lombards in southern Italiae in 847, and the region became the Emirate of Bari.

In 871, the Basilea Rhomaion retook its lost lands in southern Italiae and formed them into the Thema of Longobardia.

Berengar I, King of Italy and last successor of the imperial line of Charlemagne, died in 924 with no successor appointed or crowned.

In 962, Pope John XII crowned Otto I, Duke of Saxony, as Imperator Romanorum, founding the Imperium Romanum Sacrum, or Holy Roman Empire.

In 965, Sicilia fell to Muslim invaders, who established the Emirate of Sicily. In response, the Basilea Rhomaion united the themata of Calabria, Lucania, and Longobardia under the Strategos of Bari as Kapetan and Patricius, forming the Katepenate of Italia.

The Great Schism of the Christian Church took place in 1054 when the Patriarch of Roma and the Patriarch of Konstantinoupolis excommunicated each other. Since religion and government were deeply entertwined in both the Basilea Rhomain and the West, the split was political as well.

The Katepanate of Italiae came to an end in 1071 when the forces of the Basilea Rhomaion were ousted from the territory by the Normans.  With its exit, the last vestiges of the old Imperium in the West are gone.

* * * * *

In 1077, the Seljuk leader Suleyman bin Kutalmish established the Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia in territory taken from the Basilea Rhomain.

The First Crusade began in 1095 when Basileus Alexios I Komnenos Sebastos in Konstantinoupolis asked Pope Urban II, as a fellow Roman, for assistance against the Seljuk Turks, and he responded with the Council of Clermont to call up volunteers.  

At the end of the war 1099, the Crusaders established the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Principality of Antioch, County of Edessa, and County of Tripoli.

A couple of crusades later, the Treaty of Ramla between Richard the Lionheart and Salah al-Din in 1192 effectively ended the rule of the Crusaders, except for a tiny portion of the Mediterranean coast around the city of Acre, which maintained the title of Kingdom of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the French established the Kingdom of Cyprus the same year.

The Fourth Crusade began in 1202 with the intention of reconquering the Holy Land, but instead attacked the Basilea Rhomain. 

After the capture of Konstantinoupolis in 1204, the western Crusaders divided the conquered territory into the possessions of the Republic of Venice (primarily Crete) and those of the Imperium Romaniae (Latin Empire) and its vassel states: Kingdom of Thessalonika, Principality of Achaea, Duchy of Athens, and Duchy of Naxos.  Rhodes became the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller. 

The surviving “Greek” portions of the empire include the Empire of Nicaea, the Empire of Trebizond, and the Despotate of Epirus.

The “Greek” Despotate of Epirus conquered the “Latin” Kingdom of Thessalonika in 1224, while in 1261 the “Greek” Empire of Nicaea reconquered the “Latin” Imperium Romaniae and reestablished the Basilea Rhomaion.

In 1291, the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt captured Acre, the last territory of the Crusaders in the Levant, ending the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  In 1302, the island of Arwad off the coast of Syria, the very last stronghold of the Knights Templar in the Levant, fell.

The Sultanate of Rum fell to the Ottomans in 1307.

In 1340, the Basilea Rhomaion reabsorbed the “Greek” Despotate of Epirus, and in 1432 reconquered the “Latin” Principality of Achaea.


The Council of Florence which met 1431-1445 defined Papal Supremacy and attempted to resolve differences between the Patriarchate of Rome and those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem to affect a reunion, but it ultimately failed.  The chief sticking points were the Filioque clause in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, Purgatory, and Papal Primacy, the first being the question on which agreement was never reached.

Konstantinoupolis fell to the armies of the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and the Basilea Rhomain, or Imperium Romanum, finally came to an end.  Mehmed II, Sultan of the conquering Ottomans, assumed the title Kaysar-I Rum (Caesar Romanus), which all his successors carred.

The Ottomans conquered the “Latin” Duchy of Athens three years later.

In 1461, the “Greek” Empire of Trebizond, fragment of the Basilea Rhomain independent since 1204, fell to the Ottoman Empire.

The French sold the Kingdom of Cyprus to the Republic of Venice in 1489. The Ottomans conquered it in 1570.  The Ottomans annexed the “Latin” Duchy of Naxos, last remaining vassal state of the former “Latin” Imperium Romaniae, in 1579.
In 1669, the Republic of Venice lost Crete, its last major overseas outpost, to the Ottoman Empire.

The last Doge of the Republic of Venice, founded as the Ducatas Venetia of the Exarchate of Italiae of the Basilea Rhomain in 697 and independent since 814, abdicated in 1797 after surrendering to Napoleon Bonaparte of France.  It had lasted longer than the empire which spawned it. 

Napoleon conquered the Imperium Romanum Sacrum (Holy Roman Empire) in 1806 and ordered it to dissolve.  It reorganized as the Confederation of the Rhine.

Following the Great War, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk overthrew the Ottoman Empire, ending both the Sultanate and the Caliphate, replacing it with a secular Republic of Turkey in 1922.  The title of Kaysar-I Rum (Caesar Romanus), the last vestige of the old Imperium Romanum/Basilea Rhomain, was abolished with the other titles.  The name of Constantinople was changed to Istanbul, which means The City in Turkish, the name by which it had commonly been designated even when the Basilea Rhomain was still called the Imperium Romanum.

The Bishop of Rome, or Pope, still carries the title of Pontifex Maximus.

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