The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Friday, December 23, 2005

Misunderstanding the Fall of Rome

The Night Attila Died turns out to have a ten-page aside on Gaiseric (also spelt Gaeseric). In it, Babcock describes "the last gasp of the Western Empire" as the later expedition of the 460s CE, not the former one (pp. 182-3).

He calls Anthemius, Leo's man in Rome, as "an ally in the West". But this is vague. Was he a native Westerner like Stilicho, or an ally from back East? In context, we're supposed to think of Anthemius as a Westerner - but Heather makes clear that he wasn't.

He also calls Marcellinus's navy "the Western navy", but doesn't say anything about Marcellinus. He was, in fact, an Illyrian. By then, Illyria had become Balkan / Byzantine in focus (although still pan-Roman in ideal). The future emperor Justin I, and the famous Justinian I, were Illyrian.

There is no reason to posit that Leo's expedition was a Western Empire anything, even a "gasp". I will grant this was only an aside in Babcock's thesis, and that Heather made the same missteps (although at least the latter gave us the tools to figure it out). However I think that this expedition deserves better understanding; not as the West's last gasp but as the East's first.

posted by Zimri on 13:16 | link | 0 comments

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