#amreading p. 317 of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Chapter XI (“Theology and Faction”) tells a story of a “rash and obstinate” orthodox bishop named Nestorius.

“A sentiment of fear or indignation prompted him . . . The past he regretted, he was discontented with the present, and the future he had reason to dread . . . ”

He eventually died, “his tongue, the organ of blasphemy . . .  eaten by worms.”

So  much for Nestorius!

And then it’s a lot of blah blah blah about the Emperor Theodosius, the second synod of Ephesus and this thrilling announcement:

“May those who divide Christ be divided with the sword, may they be hewn in pieces, may they be burned alive!”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

p. 244, THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

Self will admit she has an enduring fascination with ancient Rome (She’s just imparting that to dear blog readers because aside from the story collection Redeployment, by Phil Klay, the rest of her reading list is ALL ROME, ALL THE TIME: Rubicon, by Tom Holland; SPQR, by Mary Beard; Conspirata, by Robert Harris. And she has a long, long way yet to go in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

She read a biography of Cicero years and years ago (which was called, self thinks, Cicero) and she remembers in particular a section describing how triumphant Roman generals led post-victory processions throughout the capital. Standing just behind the general, in the same chariot, was a slave whose sole responsibility was to whisper into the general’s ear, over and over: Remember, thou art dust.

The minute self read that, her mouth dropped open. She was so in awe.

So far, the most interesting chapter in TDAFOTRE has been the chapter on the rise of monasticism. You would not believe what those monks would get up to! Especially when they were determined to abnegate themselves!

Now she’s into a chapter about Constantine building Constantinople. Very interesting descriptions of the Hellespont and the Bosporus. And then (Italics are mine):

  • As Constantine urged the progress of the work with the impatience of a lover, the walls, the porticoes, and the principal edifices were completed in a few years . . .

Oooh! Emperor Constantine had the impatience of a lover!

#Justimagine

Gibbon does not enter into any detail about Constantine as an actual lover, however, which in self’s mind is a serious omission. Unless the Emperor had no lovers, and dedicated himself exclusively to the cause of being a great Emperor. Which would be pretty sad, actually. For him personally. Not for posterity. Posterity is happy. Only eccentrics like self would bother themselves with wondering about the personal happiness of emperors.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide”: Sentence of the Day in THE DECLINE AND FALL

Self is still on Chapter VII (The Rise of Monasticism) of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. There are some fantastic stories in this chapter. Alas, self has not the time to share them. Suffice it to say, Gibbon gives short shrift to monastic life in Gaul, Italy, Britain, Syria, etc and focuses almost exclusively on Egyptian monasteries (which makes self want to go to Egypt; but she wonders, anyway, if any of those ancient monasteries still exists)

Gibbon seems to feel great affinity for the Egyptian monk’s life of simple arduousness. Perhaps it reminded him of his own scholar’s life?

But, Gibbon being Gibbon, he cannot escape a chance to probe their state of mind. And this is how he describes it:

The repose which they had sought in the cloister was disturbed by tardy repentance, profane doubts, and guilty desires; and while they considered each natural impulse as an unpardonable sin, they perpetually trembled on the age of a flaming and bottomless abyss.

In the “sixth century, a hospital was founded at Jerusalem for a small portion of the austere penitents who were deprived of their senses.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Pleasure and Guilt: p. 221, THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

Pleasure and guilt are synonymous terms in the language of the monks . . .  they had discovered, by experience, that rigid fasts and abstemious diet are the most effectual preservatives against the impure desire of the flesh. The rules of abstinence . . .  were not uniform or perpetual: the cheerful festival of the Pentecost was balanced by the extraordinary mortification of Lent; the fervour of new monasteries was . . .  relaxed, and the voracious appetite of the Gauls could not imitate the patient and temperate virtue of the Egyptians . . . with their daily pittance of twelve ounces of bread . . .  divided into two frugal repasts, of the afternoon and of the evening.

— p. 221, Chapter VII (“The Rise of Monasticism”)

#amreading about Monastic Ireland in THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

The reading matter became more absorbing last night, when Gibbon stated that it only took eighty years for Christianity to move from being a persecuted religion to becoming the main religion of the Roman Empire. This latter development happened when Constantine, a Christian, became Emperor and swore to rule according to the dictates of his Christian faith.

Gibbon (whose faith is obviously important to him) then starts enumerating early monasteries around the Roman Empire, and these include not only monasteries in Syria, Egypt, etc but also monasteries in Ireland. Which leads self to look up names on the internet, and she stumbles on:

  • Glendalough: Monks built the Church of the Rock.
  • Iona, in the Inner Hebrides: Work on the Book of Kells was begun here, but when Viking raids became frequent, the work was transported to a monastery in Kells, hence the name Book of Kells.
  • Kildare: There is Cill Dara, the Cell of the Oak, which was founded by Saint Brigid and became a convent.

Self would love to visit some of these places, if she has time.

She remembers that one of the most exciting things about visiting Venice, a few years ago, wasn’t Venice itself, but her exploration of outlying islands, especially Torcello.

Torcello has a very old stone church, with a very high tower. When you ascend to the very top, you can see all over the Venetian lagoon. This was a watchtower. As Torcello is farther out from the mainland, small bands of Christians took shelter here, away from the barbarian hordes. Gradually, as Italy became more stable, settlement moved inwards, closer and closer to Venice. The culmination of the growing power of the Venetian state was the building of Saint Mark’s.

Self has always loved history.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

#amreading THE DECLINE AND FALL, Help!

Stayed up till the wee hours reading. Not that anything really captured her attention.

The section she arrived at last night (Chapter V: The Progress of Christianity) was nothing but page after page after page after page about religion. Specifically, about Christianity. About moral precepts. About the sacred institution of marriage. About the elements of a spiritual life.

Where are those Roman emperors: Caligula, Nero, Commodus et. al.? Where are those vein-slitting Praetors? Where are those gladiatorial combats? Where are those extravagant Roman processions? Where are those ambitious Roman generals? Is this book really about the Decline and Fall?

Declines are usually pretty interesting. Bad things happen during declines: riots, conspiracies, murders, wars, dissolution, desperation, unfettered evil. Shall self continue?

Stay tuned.

#amreading: p. 96, THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

“. . .  it seems almost unnecessary to relate that ____ was routed, taken, tortured, and put to death.”

The above sentence or variations thereof seem to occur on each and every page.

#lol

Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

from Chapter III: Aurelian and the Restoration of the Empire:

As soon as he was informed that the great army of the Danube had invested the well-known valour of Aurelian with Imperial power, he sunk under the fame and merit of his rival; and, ordering his veins to be opened, prudently withdrew himself from the unequal contest.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

ATOP: Daily Post Photo Challenge, 15 March 2017

For this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge, ATOP, self goes back to the pictures she took of a London church she visited in 2015. She’s not sure if she’s interpreting the theme correctly (“a view from the top”) but she’ll post this anyway.

Two years ago, self was on a Shadowhunters reading binge. She took The Infernal Devices trilogy with her to the UK, and decided to plan her days around places cited in the books.

In her website, author Cassandra Clare says she used St. Bride’s near Fleet Street as the titular setting for the Shadowhunters Academy. And self did get to see this church. And it was one of the most beautiful churches she had ever seen.

You can see an exhibit on the history of St. Bride’s in the crypt. The spire was designed by Christopher Wren. Building began in 1671 and was completed in 1703:

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Rendering of the Steeple of St. Bride’s (aka “The Church of Journalists”) Just Off Fleet Street

The steeple was destroyed during the Blitz (see newspaper headline below).

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World War II London Newspaper

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A Modern Rendering of the Christopher Wren Steeple

The steeple has been rebuilt; you can see it from the top floor of the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a long, slim needle that feels surprisingly at home with the modernistic buildings surrounding it.

Self returned to St. Bride’s last year, with poet Joan McGavin. The main space was closed for refurbishing, but the crypt was still open to the public. While Joan went down to look at the exhibit, self chatted with a clergyman, who asked what brought her to St. Bride’s. And she said, Shadowhunters. He was highly amused.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Huh. Sounds Like . . . That Movie

The death of Marcus Aurelius, in 180 A.D., brought the felicity of the Antonine age to an abrupt end. His son Commodus was a tyrant who degraded the imperial dignity by personally fighting in the amphitheatre both against wild beasts and against professional gladiators. He was murdered after a reign of twelve years. His successor, the senator Pertinax, who sought to return to the methods of Marcus, lasted only twelve weeks. He was murdered by the Pretorian guards who now, resenting the restoration of discipline, “threw their swords into the scale” and, having thus made the throne again vacant, treated it as their property and offered it for sale to the highest bidder.  It was bought by a rich senator, Didius Julianus. But this claim of the Roman household troops to dispose of the empire aroused the resentment of the legions abroad. By a rapid march on Rome, the commander of the army on the Danube, the African Septimius Severus, deposed Julianus after a reign of 66 days, defeated his rival generals, and inaugurated the rule of a new dynasty: the last imperial dynasty of the Pagan empire.

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter II: The House of Severus

#RidleyScottdoesknowhis #EdwardGibbon #HistoryofImperialRome

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