Holy War in East and West


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Slides from lecture on the World of Late Antiquity module at the University of Warwick, March 2012.

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Holy War in East and West

  1. 1. Dr Jamie Wood, University of Manchester
  2. 2. Aims of today’s session To examine some primary sources on religion and warfare in late antiquity and the early middle ages To appreciate the close relationship that was understood to exist between military victory and divine favour in the late- and post-Roman world To explore possible differences and similarities between  Eastern and western conceptions of ‘holy war’  Christian and Islamic conceptions of ‘holy war’ To think about how the divine favour = victory association developed over time
  3. 3. Structure of today’ssession the gods of victory in the Roman Religion and army Primary source work Christianity and the later Roman military ‘Holy war’ in the early middle ages  Western Europe  Byzantium  Islam and jihad Religion in Byzantine military responses to Islam Further developments in the West
  4. 4. Religion and the Romanimperial army Read the calendar on the final page of your handout and think about the following questions:  What events are the soldiers celebrating in this calendar?  What seems to be the focus of these celebrations?  What sorts of offerings are made?  Although this calendar is incomplete, how are the celebrations organised or distributed throughout the year?  What do you think would have been the effects of these celebrations on the troops?
  5. 5. Gold solidus of ConstantineVICTORIA II (337-340) with Victoria on reverse ‘To the victory of our Emperors and of Legion I Adiutrix Loyal and Faithful Antoniniana, Publius Marcius Sextianus, son of Publius, from Ephesus, [set up this] at public expense through the decree of the town council, dedicated by Egnatius Victor, legate of the Emperors with propraetorian power, and Claudius Piso, legate of the fifth legion, on 13 June, in the consulship of Aper and Maximus.’ ○ CIL 3. 11082, inscription, Arrabona (Györ), Upper Pannonia, 207 CE:
  6. 6. FORTUNA Column of the Goths in Constantinople; possibly originally constructed in 3rd C; Inscription:  ‘To Fortuna, who returns by reason of victory over the Goths’
  7. 7. DOLICHENUS Doliche: originates from Commagene in s. Anatolia; tradition of Baal worship; associated with other deities (e.g. Jupiter); popular in army, possibly due to link with iron; decline in late 3rd century (after Commagene taken by Sassanids)  ‘To Jupiter Best and Greatest, of Doliche, and the spirits of the Emperors, for the welfare of Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrian Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of the fatherland, and of Legion II Augusta, Marcus Liburnius Fronto, centurion of the same legion, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.’ ○ CIL 7. 506 = RIB 1330, inscription, Condercum (Benwell), Britain, 2nd century CE
  8. 8.  Ancient Iranian spirit of light; MITHRAS attributes include that of a successful warrior; increasingly popular with troops from late 2nd C CE  ‘To the invincible Sun-god Mithras, Everlasting Lord, Publicius Proculinus, centurion, on behalf of himself and his son Proculus, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow, in the consulship of our lords Gallus and Volusianus.’Mithras altar from frontier fort at  CIL 7. 646 = RIB 1600, inscription,Osterburken in Germany Vercovicium (Housesteads), Britain, 252 CE
  9. 9. Third century crisis Military play an increasingly prominent political role:  Militarisation of society = militarisation of religion?  E.g. growing importance of cult of Sol Invictus in late 3rd C; possible fusing of different elements of military religion (Mithras, Jupiter) into a more monotheistic system; supported by Diocletian and Constantine (imperial warlords) ‘Crisis’ suggests to some that the gods have abandoned Rome  Leads to attempts to re-establish divine favour? ○ E.g. empire-wide religious uniformity: Decian (mid 3rd C) and Great Persecutions (early 4th C)
  10. 10. Primary source work ow is the relationship between military success and religion presented in these sources? re there any differences between the eastern and western sources? hat can these sources tell us about social, political and religious thinking in late antiquity?
  11. 11. Constantine’s conversion Source 1: on Milvian Bridge in the Life of Constantine  Constantine looking for a god to aid his military campaign against Maxentius  Divine patronage by the Christian God enables him to defeat Maxentius, who relies on sorcery Problem – this is not the only version of events:  What about the vision on the eve of the battle? What message does that convey?
  12. 12. Military martyrs Idea developed in Christian discourse of 2nd and 3rd Cs that martyrs are soldiers of Christ (miles Christi) Army as place where persecution began because of need to sacrifice (e.g. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 7.15.1-5 on Marinus) Tertullian, On the military crown: Christian divine oath is in tension with military oath so Christians shouldn’t really be in the army Martyrdom in general – and military martyrdom in particular – contribute to idea that victory can be gained by dying for the faith
  13. 13. Christians in the 2 nd C army:‘It is reported thundering legion about to The that Marcus Aurelius Caesar […], being engage in battle with the Germans and Sarmatians, was in great trouble on account of his army suffering from thirst. But the soldiers of the so-called Melitene legion, through the faith which has given strength from that time to the present, when they were drawn up before the enemy, kneeled on the ground, as is our custom in prayer, and engaged in supplications to God. […] The lightning drove the enemy to flight and destruction, but a shower refreshed the army of those who had called on God, all of whom had been on the point of perishing with thirst. […] Among these is Apolinarius, who says that from that time the legion through whose prayers the wonder took place received from the emperor a title appropriate to the event, being called in the language of the Romans the Thundering Legion.’  Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.5
  14. 14. Christianity in the laterRoman army Assumption that Christianisation of the army proceeded more slowly than of rest of society in 4th C due to strong influence of traditional military cults Yet by end of 4th C increasing Christian presence in the army  Source 3: Vegetius on inducting new troops into the army ○ Oath sworn to God, Christ, Holy Spirit and Emperor ○ Soldiers serve God and the Roman state ○ Signals used in battle include ‘God with us’
  15. 15. Violent barbarians Increasing barbarisation of the Roman army in late antiquity Conversion of the barbarians brings its own problems for imperial power:  Source 2: Conversion of the Goths to Arianism ○ The Goths are so violent that Ulfila chose not to translate the Book of Kings into Gothic (contains too much war)
  16. 16. Divine punishment Victories of barbarian heretics over imperial armies interpreted as divine punishment  E.g. death of Valens at Adrianople (378): ‘his punishment should bear even greater witness to, and provide an even more terrible example of, Divine Wrath for future generations, he did not even have a common grave.’ (Paulus Orosius, Histories) Similarly, the sack of Rome by the Visigoths (410)  Some pagans argue that it is punishment for the abandonment of traditional cults in favour of Christianity  Refutation of these opinions is one of reasons for Augustine writing City of God
  17. 17. TheodosianTriumphalism Altar of victory controversy  Between Symmachus and Ambrose of Milan over removal/ replacement of the altar of victory in the senate house in Rome  One of S’s arguments is that altar has protected Rome from barbarians in the past and enabled it to prosper Theodosius  Becomes a strong proponent of Nicene orthodoxy: banning of paganism  Victory over (pagan) usurpers and (heretical) barbarians proves righteousness of his religious policies
  18. 18. Early medieval west:Developing Constantine’smodel? of barbarian peoples from ‘paganism’ (e.g. Franks) Conversion or Arianism (e.g. everyone else) to Nicene orthodoxy Enables deals with Nicene bishops and ‘Roman’ nobles Church can offer bureaucratic support Churchmen write histories of ‘convert kings’ (Higham, 2007) ○ E.g. source 4: Gregory of Tours on Clovis: a battlefield conversion ○ Source 10: Bede on Anglo-Saxon kings:  heretical Britons receive God’s punishment from pagan Anglo-Saxons  Christian Anglo-Saxon kings impose Christianity on defeated pagan enemies (Christianity as a tool of empire)  (not in source pack) King Edwin’s standard (= Constantine’s labarum?)
  19. 19. Visigothic Spain Conversion from Arianism to Nicene Christianity in 587/9 leads to increasing cooperation with bishops:  Campaign to end heresy and strong anti-Judaism  Prayers for the king while on campaign (Council of Mérida, 666)  Clerics in the Visigothic army for protection of the kingdom (source 8) Religious and political triumphal ideology:  Leander of Seville (589): Homily on the triumph of the Church for the conversion of the Goths  Isidore of Seville (625): In praise of the Goths
  20. 20. 6 th- 7 th C East Justinian  Reconquest of the West (against heresy)  Eradication of heresy at home Maurice Tremissis of Justinian; reverse shows victory advancing with wreath and globe  Generals should ensure God is on side and troops should demonstrate their Christianity in battle (source 6)  God protects Edessa against the Persians (source 5) Heraclius  Anti-Jewish measures Half follis of Justinian; obverse shows him wielding a cross  George of Pisidia, court poet, emphasises repeatedly the divine nature of H’s campaign against Persia
  21. 21. Rise of Islam and Jihad Based on your independent research and the Sizgorich reading from last week, think about the following questions: How many different conceptions of jihad can you identify? What does jihad have to do with holy war? Is there a difference between medieval and modern conceptions of jihad?
  22. 22. Jihad Root (classical definition):  ‘exerting one’s utmost power, efforts, endeavours, or ability in contending with an object of disapprobation’ Often categorised as deriving from 1 of 3 sources:  a visible enemy; the devil; aspects of one’s own self Most kinds of jihad have nothing to do with war  Can include defending Islam / propagating the faith (though not necessarily by war)  References to war often focus on war between Muslims (rather than against other faiths)  So, meaning is much broader than ‘holy war’  See Rueven Firestone, Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam (Oxford: 1999), pp. 16-18
  23. 23. Byzantine response: God’s anger sources Last week’s  Arab-Muslim expansion as God’s divine punishment for the emperor and/or his people (see source 9, inscription 1)  As a sign of the end of days: apocalyptic interpretations of Arab- Muslim expansion
  24. 24. Byzantine responses: Let’sget God on our side Source 11: prayers and communion before battle, appeals to Christ and Mary during battle (cf. source 6) Source 9: 2nd inscription at St. Sergius – the cross acts as a conduit of divine power for the Christian armies against Muslims (see previous sources on labarum/ icons)
  25. 25. Byzantine responses: God’s on our side! Divine forces fight on the side of the Byzantine instead of punishing them  E.g. Persian-Avar siege of Constantinople in 626: Mary repeatedly intervenes against the attackers ○ ‘But the All-Powerful Virgin, after having made known to him her own power by experience, revealed to him the presages of the fall which quickly awaits the sinner. Because she attracted a great number of soldiers of the Khagan into a trap before of one of her churches, being in front of the wall of the city.’ (Theodore the Syncellus, Homily on the siege of Constantinople, 19)
  26. 26. Arab-Muslim sieges ofConstantinople First siege (674-8)  Theodosian Walls, Byzantine naval supremacy and use of Greek Fire Second siege (717-8)  Same factors  In addition, Byzantines call on support of Bulgars  Historical significance – seen as eastern counterpart to battle of Poitiers in west; halting Arab-Muslim expansion into Europe
  27. 27. Way out west: Charlemagne’s‘holy wars’ Christmas Day 800: Frankish King Charlemagne crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Connection between empire and holy war? Not really:  Close relationship with papacy (but before C’s time)  Campaigns of expansion in the east, esp. against Saxons are justified in religious terms – as against pagans (but before deal with papacy)  Also, C does deals with Muslim powers against Christian political enemies, e.g. in Spain Religion and empire connected, but holy war only when it suits C
  28. 28. Way out west: the reconquista in Spain Original conquest seen as punishment for sins of Christians and disunity of Visigothic leadership  Source 7: Isidore of Seville – Huns & Persians as divine punishment  Used to explain the conquests Covadonga: god saves Pelayo & his followers (source 12) Religion as justification for conquest (or reconquest) Santiago Matamoros and Battle of Clavijo (844)
  29. 29. Conclusion andquestions Very close relationship between divine favour and military victory/ political success  Reciprocal: divine support leads to military victory, but military victory is proof of divine support...  Similar to relationship that was believed to exist between military defeat and divine displeasure Christianisation of ideas already present in Roman thinking about warfare Development: direct intervention of God’s agents in battle Next step: those who are fighting = God’s agents Questions:  Does religious violence within communities lead to aggression outwards?  Is there a connection between empire-building and monotheistic violence (inward and outward)?  Are jihad, reconquista (& crusade) related to Roman/ late antique holy
  30. 30. For the week after Easter (23rd April) The fall of the Roman Empire on film R Read your assigned article, from the list below: ○ Monica Cyrino, ‘Gladiator and Contemporary American Society’ in Gladiator: Film and History, ed. Martin M. Winkler (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), pp. 124-149 ○ Martin M. Winkler, ‘Cinema and the Fall of Rome’, Transactions of the American Philological Association 125 (1995), pp. 135-154 ○ Martin M. Winkler, ‘The Roman Empire in American Cinema after 1945’, The Classical Journal 93.2 (1997-1998), pp. 167-196 ) Find and watch a clip relating to the reading or to the ‘fall of Rome’ on YouTube (or similar) u Send the link to the clip and a brief (100-200 word) discussion of your reason for choosing it to jamie.wood@manchester.ac.uk by Tuesday 17th April