Usurpers, A Novel of the Late Roman Empire (Embers of Empire Book 2)

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Between and , large-scale Germanic migrations and political usurpations severed Gaul from western imperial authority in northern Italy. As a result of this absence of central imperial and ecclesiastical authority, the endeavors of Gallo-Roman Catholics to address the issue of Arianism in the fifth century were largely uncoordinated and piece-meal.

Thus, Gaul lacked any type of unified orthodox front against Arianism. Sidonius Apollinaris was born in Lyons in about into one of the premier Gallo-Roman aristocratic families.

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His ancestors had filled the highest offices in the imperial hierarchy. His grandfather had been prefect of Gaul under the usurper Constantine, and his father held the same office under Valentinian III. As a member of the highest Gallo-Roman social stratum, Sidonius found himself close to the center of the major political events in Gaul during the last decades of the western Empire.

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From his early years, Sidonius was involved with a group of patriotic Gallo-Roman aristocrats who wanted to make Gaul a major political power in the western empire with the aid of the Gothic foederati. For Sidonius, the existence of the foedus was the crucial litmus test for the acceptability of Roman dealings with the Goths. As imperial servants, the Arianism of the Goths was not a major concern for many of the Catholic Gallo-Roman elite. Indeed, Sidonius and his contemporaries could look to several Christian writers from the first half of the fifth century such as Saint Augustine, Orosius, and Salvian of Marsielle who had praised German Arians for their piety.

In his panegyrics and first book of letters, Sidonius published writings which depicted how he had advocated amicable relations with the Arian Goths. The best example of this pro-Gothic agenda are the materials that relate to the emperorship of Avitus. In this panegyric, Sidonius repeatedly emphasized that Avitus had maintained good working relations with the Goths throughout his political career through the enforcement of the foedus.

Sidonius published his first book of letters before the end of to justify and win support for Gallic political machinations with the help of the Arian barbarians. Between and , a series of events transpired which forced Sidonius to re-think completely his ideas about acceptable relations between Catholics and Arian Goths. In , like many members of his class in the second-half of the fifth-century, Sidonius entered the Church and became bishop of Clermont. About the same time, the Gothic king Euric broke the foedus and began to conquer the remaining imperial territories in Gaul.

By the time Sidonius returned from exile in c.

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These great changes in his world forced Sidonius to re-think many of the assumptions which he had held about relations between Goths and Romans before By , Sidonius came to realize that his former faith in the maintenance of good relations with Gothic federates—the theme of his earlier published works—had been an embarrassing mistake. The result was that Sidonius began to identify himself with orthodox Christianity, the Gallic Church, and the rejection of the Arianism of the Goths.

Rather, it is clear that Sidonius was here referring to his panegyrics and first book of letters, which had become a terrible embarrassment to him in his later life. This penitential and confessional theme of books II-IX was a clear message to his contemporaries that he had denounced his earlier writings and associations with the Arian Goths.

In his last eight books of letters, Sidonius consciously re-cast his Roman identity in terms of orthodox Christianity and the Church.

He underscores his new identity in particular in books VI and VII, which almost exclusively contain letters addressed to his fellow Gallo-Roman bishops. Sidonius appears to have published these two books separately as one work. Indeed, this concern for his memory is underscored by the refrain with which Sidonius ends every episcopal letter: memor nostri esse dignare, domine papa deign to remember be, lord bishop.

Sidonius illustrates his new identity with two particular episodes recorded in his letter collection, both of which underscore his opposition to Arianism and the Goths, and his loyalty to the Catholic Church. These two episodes are preserved in epistolae VII. He imagines that the success of his dealings and plans comes from the legitimacy of his religion, whereas it would be truer to say that he achieves it by earthly good fortune.

  1. La tela di Penelope: il viaggio di Ulisse (Collana ebook Vol. 21) (Italian Edition).
  2. With notes by the Rev. H. H. Milman.
  3. Tiberius (18 September 14 – 16 March 37).

The writings of Sidonius Apollinaris reveal how one of the leading Gallo-Roman aristocrats of the fifth century re-defined his patriotic Roman identity and idea of proper Roman order. Until , Sidonius believed that the proper way to carry out politics in Gaul was through friendly relations with the Arian Goths through the maintenance of the foedus. During this period, Sidonius was willing to pardon and ignore the heresy of the Goths, and he was moreover noticeably aloof towards his own orthodox Catholic identity.

His limits, at times, compel him to sketch; where that is the case, it is not fair to expect the full details of the finished picture. At times he can only deal with important results; and in his account of a war, it sometimes requires great attention to discover that the events which seem to be comprehended in a single campaign, occupy several years. But this admirable skill in selecting and giving prominence to the points which are of real weight and importance—this distribution of light and shade—though perhaps it may occasionally betray him into vague and imperfect statements, is one of the highest excellencies of Gibbon's historic manner.

It is the more striking, when we pass from the works of his chief authorities, where, after laboring through long, minute, and wearisome descriptions of the accessary and subordinate circumstances, a single unmarked and undistinguished sentence, which we may overlook from the inattention of fatigue, contains the great moral and political result.

Gibbon's method of arrangement, though on the whole most favorable to the clear comprehension of the events, leads likewise to apparent inaccuracy. That which we expect to find in one part is reserved for another. The estimate which we are to form, depends on the accurate balance of statements in remote parts of the work; and we have sometimes to correct and modify opinions, formed from one chapter by those of another.

Yet, on the other hand, it is astonishing how rarely we detect contradiction; the mind of the author has already harmonized the whole result to truth and probability; the general impression is almost invariably the same. The quotations of Gibbon have likewise been called in question;—I have, in general, been more inclined to admire their exactitude, than to complain of their indistinctness, or incompleteness. Where they are imperfect, it is commonly from the study of brevity, and rather from the desire of compressing the substance of his notes into pointed and emphatic sentences, than from dishonesty, or uncandid suppression of truth.

These observations apply more particularly to the accuracy and fidelity of the historian as to his facts; his inferences, of course, are more liable to exception. It is almost impossible to trace the line between unfairness and unfaithfulness; between intentional misrepresentation and undesigned false coloring.


The relative magnitude and importance of events must, in some respect, depend upon the mind before which they are presented; the estimate of character, on the habits and feelings of the reader. Christians, like M. Guizot and ourselves, will see some things, and some persons, in a different light from the historian of the Decline and Fall.

We may deplore the bias of his mind; we may ourselves be on our guard against the danger of being misled, and be anxious to warn less wary readers against the same perils; but we must not confound this secret and unconscious departure from truth, with the deliberate violation of that veracity which is the only title of an historian to our confidence.

Gibbon, it may be fearlessly asserted, is rarely chargeable even with the suppression of any material fact, which bears upon individual character; he may, with apparently invidious hostility, enhance the errors and crimes, and disparage the virtues of certain persons; yet, in general, he leaves us the materials for forming a fairer judgment; and if he is not exempt from his own prejudices, perhaps we might write passions, yet it must be candidly acknowledged, that his philosophical bigotry is not more unjust than the theological partialities of those ecclesiastical writers who were before in undisputed possession of this province of history.

We are thus naturally led to that great misrepresentation which pervades his history—his false estimate of the nature and influence of Christianity. But on this subject some preliminary caution is necessary, lest that should be expected from a new edition, which it is impossible that it should completely accomplish. We must first be prepared with the only sound preservative against the false impression likely to be produced by the perusal of Gibbon; and we must see clearly the real cause of that false impression.

The former of these cautions will be briefly suggested in its proper place, but it may be as well to state it, here, somewhat more at length. The art of Gibbon, or at least the unfair impression produced by his two memorable chapters, consists in his confounding together, in one indistinguishable mass, the origin and apostolic propagation of the new religion, with its later progress. No argument for the divine authority of Christianity has been urged with greater force, or traced with higher eloquence, than that deduced from its primary development, explicable on no other hypothesis than a heavenly origin, and from its rapid extension through great part of the Roman empire.

But this argument—one, when confined within reasonable limits, of unanswerable force—becomes more feeble and disputable in proportion as it recedes from the birthplace, as it were, of the religion. The further Christianity advanced, the more causes purely human were enlisted in its favor; nor can it be doubted that those developed with such artful exclusiveness by Gibbon did concur most essentially to its establishment.

It is in the Christian dispensation, as in the material world.

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In both it is as the great First Cause, that the Deity is most undeniably manifest. When once launched in regular motion upon the bosom of space, and endowed with all their properties and relations of weight and mutual attraction, the heavenly bodies appear to pursue their courses according to secondary laws, which account for all their sublime regularity. So Christianity proclaims its Divine Author chiefly in its first origin and development. When it had once received its impulse from above—when it had once been infused into the minds of its first teachers—when it had gained full possession of the reason and affections of the favored few—it might be—and to the Protestant, the rationa Christian, it is impossible to define when it really was—left to make its way by its native force, under the ordinary secret agencies of all-ruling Providence.

The main question, the divine origin of the religion, was dexterously eluded, or speciously conceded by Gibbon; his plan enabled him to commence his account, in most parts, below the apostolic times; and it was only by the strength of the dark coloring with which he brought out the failings and the follies of the succeeding ages, that a shadow of doubt and suspicion was thrown back upon the primitive period of Christianity. But as the historian, by seeming to respect, yet by dexterously confounding the limits of the sacred land, contrived to insinuate that it was an Utopia which had no existence but in the imagination of the theologian—as he suggested rather than affirmed that the days of Christian purity were a kind of poetic golden age;—so the theologian, by venturing too far into the domain of the historian, has been perpetually obliged to contest points on which he had little chance of victory—to deny facts established on unshaken evidence—and thence, to retire, if not with the shame of defeat, yet with but doubtful and imperfect success.

Paley, with his intuitive sagacity, saw through the difficulty of answering Gibbon by the ordinary arts of controversy; his emphatic sentence, "Who can refute a sneer? But full and pregnant as this phrase is, it is not quite the whole truth; it is the tone in which the progress of Christianity is traced, in comparison with the rest of the splendid and prodigally ornamented work, which is the radical defect in the "Decline and Fall.

Usurpers A Novel Of The Late Roman Empire Volume 2 The Embers Of Empire By Q V Hunter 2013 10

There are occasions, indeed, when its pure and exalted humanity, when its manifestly beneficial influence, can compel even him, as it were, to fairness, and kindle his unguarded eloquence to its usual fervor; but, in general, he soon relapses into a frigid apathy; affects an ostentatiously severe impartiality; notes all the faults of Christians in every age with bitter and almost malignant sarcasm; reluctantly, and with exception and reservation, admits their claim to admiration. This inextricable bias appears even to influence his manner of composition. While all the other assailants of the Roman empire, whether warlike or religious, the Goth, the Hun, the Arab, the Tartar, Alaric and Attila, Mahomet, and Zengis, and Tamerlane, are each introduced upon the scene almost with dramatic animation—their progress related in a full, complete, and unbroken narrative—the triumph of Christianity alone takes the form of a cold and critical disquisition.

The successes of barbarous energy and brute force call forth all the consummate skill of composition; while the moral triumphs of Christian benevolence—the tranquil heroism of endurance, the blameless purity, the contempt of guilty fame and of honors destructive to the human race, which, had they assumed the proud name of philosophy, would have been blazoned in his brightest words, because they own religion as their principle—sink into narrow asceticism.

The glories of Christianity, in short, touch on no chord in the heart of the writer; his imagination remains unkindled; his words, though they maintain their stately and measured march, have become cool, argumentative, and inanimate. Who would obscure one hue of that gorgeous coloring in which Gibbon has invested the dying forms of Paganism, or darken one paragraph in his splendid view of the rise and progress of Mahometanism?

But who would not have wished that the same equal justice had been done to Christianity; that its real character and deeply penetrating influence had been traced with the same philosophical sagacity, and represented with more sober, as would become its quiet course, and perhaps less picturesque, but still with lively and attractive, descriptiveness? He might have thrown aside, with the same scorn, the mass of ecclesiastical fiction which envelops the early history of the church, stripped off the legendary romance, and brought out the facts in their primitive nakedness and simplicity—if he had but allowed those facts the benefit of the glowing eloquence which he denied to them alone.

He might have annihilated the whole fabric of post-apostolic miracles, if he had left uninjured by sarcastic insinuation those of the New Testament; he might have cashiered, with Dodwell, the whole host of martyrs, which owe their existence to the prodigal invention of later days, had he but bestowed fair room, and dwelt with his ordinary energy on the sufferings of the genuine witnesses to the truth of Christianity, the Polycarps, or the martyrs of Vienne.

And indeed, if, after all, the view of the early progress of Christianity be melancholy and humiliating we must beware lest we charge the whole of this on the infidelity of the historian. It is idle, it is disingenuous, to deny or to dissemble the early depravations of Christianity, its gradual but rapid departure from its primitive simplicity and purity, still more, from its spirit of universal love.

It may be no unsalutary lesson to the Christian world, that this silent, this unavoidable, perhaps, yet fatal change shall have been drawn by an impartial, or even an hostile hand.