Wednesday, 31 October 2012

One Strong Man?

Could one strong man have saved the Roman Empire? Well, not indefinitely but we can at least argue that some policies would have been better than others. In Poul and Karen Anderson's Gallicenae (London, 1988), Gratillonius is understandably disillusioned with the usurper Maximus whom he had supported.

"He had not strengthened the Empire, he had split it asunder..." (p. 91)

The Empire was already divided between West and East and Maximus divided it further when he had to settle for co-ruling only part of the West.

"...as Roman slew Roman." (p. 91)

Well, that is going to happen in any military seizure of power so maybe it should only have been done if it had first been possible to deploy overwhelming force in order to minimise civil conflict.

"He had not given it peace and prosperity..." (p. 91)

A ruler cannot guarantee prosperity but can try to secure its primary condition, peace. That would have to mean both strong defences against barbarians and openness to trading with them if they could be persuaded that this was preferable to piracy. Thus, turn military force outwards, not inwards.

"...he had raised persecution and fear." (p. 91)

Persecuting non-Christians and fellow Christians. Great achievement, Maximus.

"He had broken pledge after pledge..." (p. 91)

That speaks for itself.

"He proposed to violate the ancient compact with Ys." (p. 91)

Ys wanted to keep to itself. Gratillonius had done an amazing job of persuading Ysans to defend Armorica, not just their own city. But Maximus, if he could, would enter Ys to suppress its religion. Some aspects of that religion were certainly in need of reformation but suppression is never the way.

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