Ave Atque Vale: The 564th Anniversary of the Fall of the Roman Empire

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Hieromonk Mark Ciccone, S.J. at Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church, San Francisco

Hieromonk Mark Ciccone, S.J. at Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church, San Francisco, serving Divine Liturgy in continuity with the Roman Empire in 1453. The Legacy continues.

Ave Atque Vale: The 564th Anniversary of the Fall of the Roman Empire

Hail and Farewell!

I cannot let today go by without commemorating one of the most pivotal events in history. On Tuesday May 29, 1453, at about 2:00 in the afternoon, the walls of New Rome (Constantinople) were breached by the Ottoman Turks, and the Roman Empire, whose legacy stretched back through the Republic to the Kingdom to 753 BCE, the founding of Rome. 2100 years of Ῥωμαιοσύνη–Rōmaiosúnē–Romanness, which, of course, by 1453, was Greekness, came to an end at its center.

Romanitas (the Latin equivalent of Ῥωμαιοσύνη) had been withdrawn from Western Europe earlier, with the Fall of the Old Capital of Rome in 476, and then after its recovery, the final loss of Roman power there after the Emperor Justinian’s reconquest, was complete. Western Europe was in darkness.

Today, Ῥωμαιοσύνη is perpetuated not only in the Churches, but in every Nation which has an

Russian Double-Headed Eagle

Russian Double-Headed Eagle

Eagle as its standard (the early single headed eagle, as in the United States, or the later Roman Double-Headed Eagle used by Russia), uses the Fasces as an emblem, and builds its National structures in the Roman fashion. We are children of Alexander, and heirs of Rome. 

I am only mentioning this briefly this morning as I commute on CalTrain to Rosicrucian Park, as I have blogged extensively about this before to commemorate this watershed event. The two events, Tuesday May 29, 1453 and October 12, 1492, when Columbus rediscovered the New World, are the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the modern world.

So much flowed from these two events. From the Fall of Rome, the ancient wisdom and mysteries were communicated to Renaissance Italy. These had been preserved in the East, and in Islam, and fueled the Renaissance fascination with Hermetism and other mysteries. From Columbus’s landing on Hispañola came the massacre of millions of New World Natives (there were as many people in North and South America as there were in Europe at the time), and the beginning of the war of conquest waged by Europe against the rest of the world which has resulted in the world as we know it.

An excellent video and documentary on the lamentable Fall can be found here: http://www.crashonline.eu/darkest-day-in-history-of-hellenism-fall-of-constantinople-29-may-1453-video/. Link to this page, as they have linked to us!

The Fall of the Roman Empire?

Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins

Those educated in our school systems are probably now asking themselves, “Didn’t the Roman Empire fall in 476? That’s what they taught us in History Class?” Well, I can only relate an anecdote about what authorities teach us:

Molly Ivins, the late, and much missed Journalist and Author, tells the story about how her parents taught her to only drink from the “Whites” fountain in public places like the train station, and not to drink from the “Coloreds” Fountain, because “it was dirty.” One day at the depot, she walked past the “Coloreds” Fountain and saw that it was pristine. She then wondered…”What else have they been lying to me about?”

As she put it: “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point — race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.”

Your History teachers weren’t so much lying, as they and their teachers had been lied to. No one puts it better than Kelley L. Ross, PhD, whose site Rome and Romania is my hands-down, absolute favorite for the subject of the Roman Empire and many other historical items. He and I might disagree about some modern political ideas, but I applaud his forthrightness, and agree on our allegiance to the Constitution. On history, I know no better source. Bookmark it! I quote from his preface at length because he nails it:

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople as it was in the 12th Century. For Real: Stop this from being converted into a Mosque!

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople as it was in the 12th Century. For Real: Stop this from being converted into a Mosque!

What most people would probably regard as an obscure and possibly unpleasant footnote to Mediaeval history, the Byzantine Empire, was in fact still the Roman Empire, known to Western Europeans, “Latins” or “Franks” at the time, as Romania, already the name of the Empire in Late Antiquity. In the Middle Ages, the Greeks used the Classical word for “Greeks,” Hellênes, Ἕλληνες, to mean the ancient pagan Greeks, as the word is used in the New Testament–sometimes the Latin word for Greeks would be borrowed, as Graikoi, Γραικοί, if this was needed for contemporary reference, as for the language. In 1354 Demetrius Cydones even translated the Summa Contra Gentiles of St. Thomas Aquinas into Greek as the Book against the Hellenes. Mediaeval Greek speakers, and the other citizens of the Empire, whom we would now regard as different nationalities, Armenians, Albanians, Vlachs, etc., were themselves always Romans, Ρωμαῖοι, Rhômaîoi, and the Empire was always ἡ Ρωμαίων Ἀρχή hê Rhômaíôn Arkhê, ἡ Ρωμαίων Βασιλεία, hê Rhômaíôn Basileía, “the Empire of the Romans,” or even Ῥωμανία, Rhômania, as in Latin. (See the “Note on ‘Romania‘”.)

It is then natural that Classicists, to whom the Romans were the last people who proudly weren’t Christians, would prefer the hostile modern neologism “Byzantine” for the continuing Empire, rather than pollute the memory of Augustus and Trajan with that of Justinian, Heraclius, or Basil II. Yet even Justinian wore no beard and was still speaking Latin — and what Classicist will dare, and I dare them, to fault the others for speaking Greek? The very people, as it happens, thanks to whom we possess Classical Greek and its literature. Indeed, even Edward Gibbon, who actually called Mediaeval Romans (and he does frequently call them that) “a degenerate people” [The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Modern Library, p.299], nevertheless, when speaking of the replacement of Latin by Greek in the Law, Court, and Army, referred to “the Greek, whose intrinsic merit deserved indeed the preference” [p.295, boldface added]. So we find that Gibbon was a Hellenophile.

Historians sometimes note the humiliation of the Greeks in being conquered by Rome, and sometimes the irony of the Romans admiring and adopting Greek thought, architecture, literature, etc. — Horace said, Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit, “Captive Greece captured the wild victor.” But I have never seen the stark truth put this way: The Greeks inherited the Roman Empire, without, however, ceasing to identify with it. Why does no one say that? They must be thinking that those Christian Greeks are no longer really Greeks, who by definition were pagans. Of course, Basil II and Alexius Comnenus would agree. They are no longer Hellênes; they are Rhômaîoi. But if, to historians, they are neither Greeks nor Romans, what can they be? Oh, let’s make up a word. They are “Byzantines” — and we all know how nasty that is. But the Romans, who were the last Classical people who were not Christians, were also, as it happens, the first who were. Classicists, as with Gibbon’s “triumph of barbarism and religion” [ibid. p.865], seem to choke on this simple truth.

… I have in fact never seen a book or treatment of the Roman Empire that addresses it as an institution with a continuous history from Augustus to Constantine XI. Classicist “Roman” historians lose interest in the 4th century and throw in the towel in the 5th, while “Byzantinists” generally begin with Constantine. This is a distortion due to modern prejudices, written by historians whom the Romans would have dismissed as “Franks.” The Rhômaîoi themselves possessed a strong sense of their identity and the continuity of their history, which is reflected in the popularity of continuous histories and chronicles written by Mediaeval historians in Constantinople. For instance, John Zonaras, writing in the 12th century, produced an Epitome, or abbreviated history, starting with the Creation, that was so popular that 79 partial or complete manuscripts survive today. Zonaras, drawing on sources that are now often lost, such as much of the history of Cassius Dio, divided his treatment in half, with Book II running from 106 BC down to his own day [cf. Warren Treadgold, “John Zonaras,” The Middle Byzantine Historians, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp.388-399].

Read the whole study here, you won’t be disappointed!

So refuse the lies of Edward Gibbon and those classicists who follow his lead. The truth will set you free to think for yourself!

Remembering Rome

There is always so much to say, but this is enough for today. Remember Rome, as did William Butler Yeats:

Sailing to Byzantium (1926)

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the treesSail
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire

Byzantine Mosaic

Byzantine Mosaic

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

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