Voices from Russia

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Fall of Rome and All That

01 kathryn_archdiocese_of_brisbane in rome

Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People)… this is what Professor Boin wants us to attend to… that’s there a spiritual aspect to things that interacts with all “practical” affairs…



Lots of good stuff here, I’d call it a “read n’ heed”, even though it has flaws due to its “West-o-centric” orientation. However, it’s not crank, and I read this twice. It’s a good read, with nary an idle word in it.



Last November, Ted Cruz of Texas stood on the Senate floor and claimed that America, like ancient Rome, faced a moment of grave, existential danger. He’s not the only one telling scary stories about ghosts in togas. Over the past six months alone, media outlets (including this one) averaged about one gloom-and-doom essay a month, citing everything from America’s cultural relativism to the increasing use of drones in military conflict to the spread of gay marriage as proof that Rome’s history is repeating itself. As a historian of the Roman Empire, I’d like to suggest there’s really no need for alarm.

One of the most well-known moments in history, the “Fall of Rome” isn’t a historical event. It isn’t even a series of unfortunate mistakes. It’s more akin to a theological idea, and the time has come to stop screwing up the way we talk about it. Understanding the place of religion in history is an urgent one, too. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the rise of the so-called Islamic State, many commentators, even President Obama, began to wonder whether it was fair to call Islamic extremism “religious”. Everyone was and is eager to find ways to talk about a world faith without condemning it as inherently intolerant. Unfortunately, our track record in this area isn’t good.

Edward Gibbon was one of the first of the modern era to wrestle with this dilemma… he failed miserably at it. Gibbon, one of the brightest stars of the Enlightenment, a learned man whose name became synonymous with the disease he studied, “Decline and Fall”, was adamant that “the intolerant zeal of the Christians” led to the “fall of Rome”. Gibbon’s broad, anti-religion thesis was popular for the 18th century, when science and secularism were the hottest buzzwords. It also set off an explosion of interest in the late Roman Empire. By the 1980s, there were 210 explanations for what had caused Rome’s “fall”… from a lack of moral character to a pervasive “tiredness of life”. Archaeologists soon started to claim that they could see the “end of civilisation” in their pots and houses. Nevertheless, no one ever stopped to point out the flaw at the root of all these experiments.

Romans predicted the downfall of their own empire for decades, even centuries, before anything remotely “disastrous” ever happened to it. Blinded by an ideological contempt for people’s beliefs, intent on talking about religious identity in monolithic ways (“the Christians”), Gibbon overlooked some key data. In the late Republic, conspiring citizens put their trust in the gods that a military man would come to save them during a time of crisis. It never happened. The state rounded up and executed the group. Later, one of Jesus’ followers did something similar… summoning the spectre of Rome’s fall to rally his base. Christians were attending festivals, showing their neighbours they could be good citizens. To the writer of Revelation, their ability to do two things at once was an abomination. Christians were supposed to be fighting a spiritual war, he argued, not building bridges with people in town.

Of course, Rome’s empire never came to a fiery end in a war fought between “angels and demons”. Within two decades, the entire Mediterranean would be living through the greatest economic prosperity it’d ever know, and Christians raised their social profile everywhere. Crackpot Romans and zealous Christians weren’t the only ones obsessed with the end times, either. One Jewish writer in Egypt drew upon the same ideas to encourage his followers to take up arms against the state. He predicted Rome would finally suffer defeat for annihilating Jerusalem. His rebels foolishly fought the Roman army. They lost. Within two decades, Rome forced the Jewish community to live as exiles from their homeland.

Gibbon’s eagerness to see history through the “secular” lens of the Enlightenment blinded him to the most important “religious” story of the empire… it left us woefully unprepared to talk about the complexities of religious identity today. Anxious notions about the last days, notions of spiritual warfare, and a righteous belief that a divine hand endorses a specific law or policy were ideas in Rome that crossed the theological aisle. However, that doesn’t make them any less “religious”.

In Rome, these were the ways many people grappled with uncertain times… from the late Republic to 476 AD… when a Christian king replaced the Christian emperor of Rome. Traditionally, we associate that latter year with the “Fall of Rome”, but it’s time to drop the historical charade. Just because the government changed, it wasn’t the end of the world… despite the people who saw it that way. That’s why today’s ghost stories are ultimately so revealing. We keep pretending we’re doing Roman history when what we’re really masking is our own severe anxiety about the fast-changing changing world… using the same ideas that our ancestors did, two thousand years ago. It’s time we put these beliefs back into our history books instead of doing as Gibbon did… ignoring them or, worse, pretending they were never there. What people believe… and what people are taught to believe… can’t be left out of history.

29 March 2015

Douglas Boin

Assistant Professor of History at Saint Louis University (St Louis MO USA)

History News Network



Friday, 27 November 2009

“Gad, Sir, We’re the REAL Romans… Byzantines? … GIVE ME A BREAK!”

A soldier of the Varangoi… the Varangian Guard of the medieval Roman Empire… made up of Norsemen, Russians, and Anglo-Saxons… they were the bravest of the brave… the fiercest fighters under the double-eagle standard of the Orthodox Roman Emperor (most of them perished gallantly in battle against the treacherous papist aggressors in 1204). May their memories be eternal!


There are some oddball notions circulating out there, not only amongst konvertsy, but, in pseudo-intellectual circles, as well. Some of them actually believe in such fantastic and lunatic fancies as “the Eastern Church”, or, “Byzantine” this and “Byzantine” that. It’s utter insanity if the person indulging in such claims to be Orthodox (if such issues forth from a Uniate, they’re just spouting papist propaganda, so, one expects it).


Here’s Fr Tikhon’s Byzantine Lesson with English-language dubbing… look at the right-hand side of the page for the other parts of this film… there are nine videos in this series. IF you have trouble accessing any of them, click here, and look for “How to DISTROY a state: The lessons from the fall of the Byzantine Empire“… there’s a list of eight vids to follow. The ninth vid is below.


Conclusion of the Byzantine Lesson


Firstly, where did this daft term “Byzantine” come from? It didn’t originate in New Rome, that’s for sure. Contemporary accounts all speak of “the Empire of the Romans” (Greek: Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων (Vasileia ton Rhomaion), Latin: Imperium Romanorum). This state is also called Rhomania (Ῥωμανία) or Rhomais (Ῥωμαΐς) in records dating from the time. Its people proudly called themselves the Rhomaioi… the Romans. The distortion “Byzantine” first appears in the 16th century in Germany (!), was picked up in France in the next century, but, it only picked up currency in the 19th century. Thus, it is NOT ancient or correct usage. I’ll state frankly and baldly what it is (and people shall call me hateful and nasty for doing so)… “Byzantine” is nothing but lying papist propaganda of the worst and most noisome sort, and we should stop its use IMMEDIATELY. One should note that contemporaneous Persian, Islamic, and Orthodox Slavic sources all use “Rome” and “Roman”, never the perverted usage “Byzantine”.


Soldiers of the medieval Imperial Roman Army… an archer, a katafraktos (armoured cavalryman), and an infantryman.


You see, if we speak the truth about Christian Rome, it destroys the entire papist edifice and the myths that sustain it. There was NO fall of Rome in 476 AD. The western provinces of the empire fell to barbarian invaders… that’s all that happened. The empire continued, for Emperor St Constantine the Great had moved the capital to Constantinopolis Nea RomanaOld Rome was a provincial backwater (albeit with snotty pretensions). New Rome was the centre of early medieval Europe, it was the most powerful and richest city of all Europe (which is why the papist Crusaders lusted to loot and rape her in her later years). New Rome was the shining beacon of Apostolic Orthodox Christianity; Old Rome after its final fall to northern barbarians in the 8th century was nothing but an illiterate bunch of unwashed Teutons in comparison to the educated and civilised Romans in the Empire. It is why such non-Christian and quasi-pagan notions as papal infallibility and papal monarchy (and the inevitable distortions of ancient Christian theology and practise that followed such in due course) took root there. Note well that the Patriarch of New Rome was never a secular ruler. The vasileos was still on his throne, and the clergy were kept in their proper place (this is one reason why Orthodox are much more relaxed with their clergy than are the Western heterodox… the clergy were always a subordinate social class (especially the married parochial clergy)).


A contemporary re-enactor in the garb of a medieval Roman katafraktos (armoured cavalryman) of the Imperial Army.


If the above shall have me hated and vilified in certain quarters, what I’m about to say is even more provocative. I say such because it’s true… and one must speak the truth in love… come what may.



Anyone who uses the terms “Byzantine Christian”, “Byzantine Church”, or “Byzantine” anything spits on Christ and His Church (for the Church is the Body of Christ… an attack on the Church is an attack on Our Lord Christ Himself. QED). It’s quite that simple. There’s Orthodoxy and there’s heterodoxy. It matters nothing if some of the heterodox ape our practises and rituals. Uniates are nothing but papists. They bow before their Vicarius Christi (Substitute for Christ) and believe in his infallibility and his immediate and absolute monarchy over his confession. THAT’S what they wish us to emulate. Please, God, spare me from such sacrilegious blasphemy and profanity. People such as Robert Taft are not Orthodox Christians and we should NOT treat them as such (the fact that they have an academic “reputation” matters not at all in this regard… Orthodox fooled and misled by such are sad cases). What would St Hilarion Troitsky the New Martyr have said of such? For that matter, what would Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan of Kiev say of such (don’t forget how the Uniates attack him and attack the Church in the Ukraine today… pray for him!)? I care nothing for windfests such as Balamand… it wasn’t a binding council of the Church and it hasn’t been accepted by many legitimate Orthodox authorities.


Contemporary re-enactors portraying the Varangoi. Note well that they carry Christian icons, as did all units of the army of the Christian Roman Emperor.


There’s no supporting evidence for the term “Byzantine”… NONE. Let me repeat that, so that it sinks in, even for the slow learners. There’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever in contemporaneous documentation for the usage of the term “Byzantine” to refer to the Empire of the Romans, or to the Rhomaioi, or to the Imperial army or civil service, or to any aspect of the Church of New Rome. It’s a noxious papist neologism… if the papists wish to use it, so be it. We can’t control what others do and say… we’re not PC hooligans. However, if we’re Orthodox Christians, we should stand for what’s true and right. The usage of “Byzantine” isn’t true and right, therefore, we should abandon it directly. I don’t care about the opinion of those who are influenced by papists such as Taft… we really should put such people to the test… what do you want? Do you stand for Christ, or, do you stand for the pope? If it’s the latter, do become a Uniate… that’s honest, at least. It has nothing to do with being “fearful of outsiders”… those who came up with that one should truly go back to kindergarten. Let’s ask simple and straightforward questions! Mr Taft… do you accept the Pope of Rome as the head of the church? If so, go with God… I shan’t argue with you… it’s pointless to argue with such sorts. As for the Orthodox who associate with such sorts for the sake of worldly academic “recognition”… shame on you! Their arguments are flimsy in the extreme and one should kick the arguments aside (not the people… the arguments) without any compunction or mercy. Intellectuals love windy talk… there are times when the only response is to give such talk the tip of one’s boot. “Fearful of the outside world”… what have we come to? I’ll check into Bedlam with Mr Scrooge!


The flag of the Empire of the Romans… Byzantine Empire? Don’t be blasphemous!


What’ll we do with those who refuse to abandon the use of such terms? Firstly, determine the depth of your interlocutor’s knowledge. Most people who use such aren’t educated or educated in some other field than history… we can either ignore or tolerate them. As for certain loud intellectuals (I’m thinking in particular of Vassa Larina and Andrei Psaryov), I’d say that it’s proper to counter and check them at every opportunity… they know better… they truly do. Orthodoxy is what it is. Heterodoxy is what it is. You can’t make a false union by writing of a fictive and notional “Byzantine Church” or “Byzantine Christians”. Where are St Mark of Ephesus and Professor Aleksandros Kalomiros when we need them? All Orthodox Christians have the binding OBLIGATION to counter the papal supremacist claims wherever they pop up, no matter who spouts them, in whatever form. We also have the DUTY to debunk the Western myth of “The Fall of Rome“… that’s only a apologia for papal claims and innovations. Let’s not be coy. We’re the proud heirs of Christian Rome… of the Christian Empire… of the Apostolic Christian Faith… of the unbroken line of Confessors from St Photios the Great to St Maksym Sandovich to Blessed Gavriil Kostelnik to Fr Mikhail Shuvar. Rome did NOT fall… it not only lived on in New Rome… it lives on still… embodied both in our hearts and in Christian Moscow, the Third Rome.

Christian Rome… yes, indeed! Gad, sir, we’re the REAL Romans. “Byzantine?” … GIVE ME A BREAK!

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Friday 27 November 2009

Albany NY

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