Thursday, 5 May 2016

Gratillonius' Political Programme

"Why could no one else see what must be done? It was so simple." (Gallicenae, p. 141)

Is it ever simple?

Government, firm and just, obeying its own laws;
miltary reforms;
taming of the barbarians;
honest currency;
reduction of taxes;
reduction of burdens on the productive classes;
liberation of individuals from bondage to the estates of their birth;
religious tolerance.

Would you vote for Grallon? You would not be able to vote. You would have to fight but:

"...Gratillonius had no legions to hail him Emperor." (p. 142)

Would he have taken that route if it had been open to him?

Medieval feudalism went against several of his policies. I believe in church-state separation and religious belief and observance as responsibilities of the individual. The state should recognize all gods or none.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I remember the text you cited here, and I discussed it in my LONG letter to the Andersons about THE KING OF YS. While I agree with Gratillonius' policy preferences and sympathized with his frustration, I wrote that genuine changes and reforms are hard to bring about. And NOT always because the persons resisting reform did so for bad reasons. Sometimes they did not either understand the need for reform or advocated contradictory reform policies. In other words, sheer indecisiveness could lead to the kind of policy paralysis we see in the late fourth century Empire.

In my letter to the Andersons I wrote that Emperor Valentinian I (r. 364-75) was probably the ruler who came closest to executing the policies Gratillonius advocated. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, Valentinian I was an able soldier, strove to levy taxes as fairly as possible, and practiced religious neutrality in politics (he himself was a Catholic, btw). Unfortunately, his son Gratian (r. 375-83), while sharing some of his father's abilities, made mistakes which cost him the support of the legions, enabling Maximus to depose and murder him.

The constitution of the Roman Empire was a very curious thing. The Emperors were quasi elective and quasi hereditary both. Theoretically, the Senate and Army chose the Emperors, but in most cases the choice of the legions was the DECIDING factor.

Unlike most, I don't believe that what we saw in Medieval Europe was a uniting of Church and state. Recall how OFTEN the Church opposed the state. The kind of "merging" of Church and state we saw later in history belongs more to the Renaissance and Reformation. And was resisted by the Catholic Church, which saw it as the state intruding in matters not belonging to its proper sphere. After all, it was Martin Luther himself who advocated having the state control the church (to advance Lutheranism, of course!).


Paul Shackley said...

But the medieval bishops were feudal landlords, hence the investiture conflict between Emperors and Popes.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

But the Investiture Controversy was by no means the only occasion of conflict between Church and State. There were many, many other disputes, both major and minor. Henry II of England's attempt at controlling the Church in England led dirctly to the martyrdom of St. Thomas a'Becket. That was another example of conflict between Church and State.

No, I have to continue to disagree with the notion that the Middle Ages saw some kind of "merging" of Church and State.

MY view is that Henry VIII of England, the Scandinavian kings, and many of the German princes saw in Protestantism a "Heaven" sent opportunity of increasing their power, by setting up puppet churches which not talk back to them, or oppose them, as the Catholic Church had done so often.


S.M. Stirling said...

A basic problem of the Roman Empire was that it was a monarchy without a monarchic ideology, which made power inherently unstable. The literate culture which was the common experience of the Empire's upper class was based on Classical Greek and pre-Imperial Roman texts which assume that monarchy is a primitive and inferior form of government; and the transition to Imperial government had occurred while literate observers were watching. The desperate attempts at establishing the emperor as a quasi-divine being were intended to make up this lack, but it never really took. The fact that Augustus had seized supreme power by victory in a civil war was never forgotten.

By way of contrast, medieval Europeans had a very strong sense of monarchical legitimacy and the sacredness of dynastic succession. Even countries with elective elements in their choice of kings chose them from a family with presumptive blood rights.

You could conquer a country from the outside, the way William did England, though that became more and more uncommon as time went on.

But a French or English noble couldn't simply seize the seat of government and proclaim himself King. Nobody would obey him. Medieval civil wars usually aimed at forcing policy concessions or distributions of office, or establishing a regency, or pushing the claims of one branch of the royal kin at the expense of another. Even nobles who despised or disregarded a weak king didn't deny that he -was- the King, God's anointed.

S.M. Stirling said...

Note that after Charlemagne's empire foundered, Caesaropapism of the sort Byzantium had and which the Christian Roman Emperors had aimed at was impossible. There were too many separate political sovereignties, and the Papacy was one itself, usually dominating central Italy. The relationship between the Church, with its universalistic presumptions, and the secular rulers, was always complex and tense. No ruler could do without the Church, which limited the extent to which they could dominate it (if only because the other rulers wouldn't let one get a monopoly on that powerful a base) but the Church was a part of and needed to support the overall political/social structure of Latin Christendom.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Many thanks for your comments, which supplements or complements my own remarks. I would add the "theological" point that, as a Catholic, I don't believe God would ALLOW any secular to totally dominate the Church. Somehow, all such attempts will fail.