Gibbon on Julian – 17

Edward-Gibbon

The History of the Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire

Chapter XXIV
The retreat and death of Julian
Part II


The martial impatience of Julian urged him to take the field in the beginning of the spring; and he dismissed, with contempt and reproach, the senate of Antioch, who accompanied the emperor beyond the limits of their own territory, to which he was resolved never to return. After a laborious march of two days, he halted on the third at Beræa, or Aleppo, where he had the mortification of finding a senate almost entirely Christian; who received with cold and formal demonstrations of respect the eloquent sermon of the apostle of paganism. The son of one of the most illustrious citizens of Beræa, who had embraced, either from interest or conscience, the religion of the emperor, was disinherited by his angry parent.

The father and the son were invited to the Imperial table. Julian, placing himself between them, attempted, without success, to inculcate the lesson and example of toleration; supported, with affected calmness, the indiscreet zeal of the aged Christian, who seemed to forget the sentiments of nature, and the duty of a subject; and at length, turning towards the afflicted youth, “Since you have lost a father,” said he, “for my sake, it is incumbent on me to supply his place.” The emperor was received in a manner much more agreeable to his wishes at Batnæ, a small town pleasantly seated in a grove of cypresses, about twenty miles from the city of Hierapolis.

The solemn rites of sacrifice were decently prepared by the inhabitants of Batnæ, who seemed attached to the worship of their tutelar deities, Apollo and Jupiter; but the serious piety of Julian was offended by the tumult of their applause; and he too clearly discerned, that the smoke which arose from their altars was the incense of flattery, rather than of devotion. The ancient and magnificent temple which had sanctified, for so many ages, the city of Hierapolis, no longer subsisted; and the consecrated wealth, which afforded a liberal maintenance to more than three hundred priests, might hasten its downfall.

Yet Julian enjoyed the satisfaction of embracing a philosopher and a friend, whose religious firmness had withstood the pressing and repeated solicitations of Constantius and Gallus, as often as those princes lodged at his house, in their passage through Hierapolis. In the hurry of military preparation, and the careless confidence of a familiar correspondence, the zeal of Julian appears to have been lively and uniform. He had now undertaken an important and difficult war; and the anxiety of the event rendered him still more attentive to observe and register the most trifling presages, from which, according to the rules of divination, any knowledge of futurity could be derived.

He informed Libanius of his progress as far as Hierapolis, by an elegant epistle, which displays the facility of his genius, and his tender friendship for the sophist of Antioch. Hierapolis, situate almost on the banks of the Euphrates, had been appointed for the general rendezvous of the Roman troops, who immediately passed the great river on a bridge of boats, which was previously constructed. If the inclinations of Julian had been similar to those of his predecessor, he might have wasted the active and important season of the year in the circus of Samosata or in the churches of Edessa.

But as the warlike emperor, instead of Constantius, had chosen Alexander for his model, he advanced without delay to Carrhæ, a very ancient city of Mesopotamia, at the distance of fourscore miles from Hierapolis. The temple of the Moon attracted the devotion of Julian; but the halt of a few days was principally employed in completing the immense preparations of the Persian war. The secret of the expedition had hitherto remained in his own breast; but as Carrhæis the point of separation of the two great roads, he could no longer conceal whether it was his design to attack the dominions of Sapor on the side of the Tigris, or on that of the Euphrates.

The emperor detached an army of thirty thousand men, under the command of his kinsman Procopius, and of Sebastian, who had been duke of Egypt. They were ordered to direct their march towards Nisibis, and to secure the frontier from the desultory incursions of the enemy, before they attempted the passage of the Tigris. Their subsequent operations were left to the discretion of the generals; but Julian expected, that after wasting with fire and sword the fertile districts of Media and Adiabene, they might arrive under the walls of Ctesiphon at the same time that he himself, advancing with equal steps along the banks of the Euphrates, should besiege the capital of the Persian monarchy.

The success of this well-concerted plan depended, in a great measure, on the powerful and ready assistance of the king of Armenia, who, without exposing the safety of his own dominions, might detach an army of four thousand horse, and twenty thousand foot, to the assistance of the Romans. But the feeble Arsaces Tiranus, king of Armenia, had degenerated still more shamefully than his father Chosroes, from the manly virtues of the great Tiridates; and as the pusillanimous monarch was averse to any enterprise of danger and glory, he could disguise his timid indolence by the more decent excuses of religion and gratitude. He expressed a pious attachment to the memory of Constantius, from whose hands he had received in marriage Olympias, the daughter of the præfect Ablavius; and the alliance of a female, who had been educated as the destined wife of the emperor Constans, exalted the dignity of a Barbarian king.

Tiranus professed the Christian religion; he reigned over a nation of Christians; and he was restrained, by every principle of conscience and interest, from contributing to the victory, which would consummate the ruin of the church. The alienated mind of Tiranus was exasperated by the indiscretion of Julian, who treated the king of Armenia as his slave, and as the enemy of the gods. The haughty and threatening style of the Imperial mandates awakened the secret indignation of a prince, who, in the humiliating state of dependence, was still conscious of his royal descent from the Arsacides, the lords of the East, and the rivals of the Roman power.

The military dispositions of Julian were skillfully contrived to deceive the spies and to divert the attention of Sapor. The legions appeared to direct their march towards Nisibis and the Tigris. On a sudden they wheeled to the right; traversed the level and naked plain of Carrhæ; and reached, on the third day, the banks of the Euphrates, where the strong town of Nicephorium, or Callinicum, had been founded by the Macedonian kings. From thence the emperor pursued his march, above ninety miles, along the winding stream of the Euphrates, till, at length, about one month after his departure from Antioch, he discovered the towers of Circesium, the extreme limit of the Roman dominions.

The army of Julian, the most numerous that any of the Cæsars had ever led against Persia, consisted of sixty-five thousand effective and well-disciplined soldiers. The veteran bands of cavalry and infantry, of Romans and Barbarians, had been selected from the different provinces; and a just preeminence of loyalty and valor was claimed by the hardy Gauls, who guarded the throne and person of their beloved prince. A formidable body of Scythian auxiliaries had been transported from another climate, and almost from another world, to invade a distant country, of whose name and situation they were ignorant.

The love of rapine and war allured to the Imperial standard several tribes of Saracens, or roving Arabs, whose service Julian had commanded, while he sternly refuse the payment of the accustomed subsidies. The broad channel of the Euphrates was crowded by a fleet of eleven hundred ships, destined to attend the motions, and to satisfy the wants, of the Roman army. The military strength of the fleet was composed of fifty armed galleys; and these were accompanied by an equal number of flat-bottomed boats, which might occasionally be connected into the form of temporary bridges. The rest of the ships, partly constructed of timber, and partly covered with raw hides, were laden with an almost inexhaustible supply of arms and engines, of utensils and provisions.

The vigilant humanity of Julian had embarked a very large magazine of vinegar and biscuit for the use of the soldiers, but he prohibited the indulgence of wine; and rigorously stopped a long string of superfluous camels that attempted to follow the rear of the army. The River Chaboras falls into the Euphrates at Circesium; and as soon as the trumpet gave the signal of march, the Romans passed the little stream which separated two mighty and hostile empires. The custom of ancient discipline required a military oration; and Julian embraced every opportunity of displaying his eloquence. He animated the impatient and attentive legions by the example of the inflexible courage and glorious triumphs of their ancestors.

He excited their resentment by a lively picture of the insolence of the Persians; and he exhorted them to imitate his firm resolution, either to extirpate that perfidious nation, or to devote his life in the cause of the republic. The eloquence of Julian was enforced by a donative of one hundred and thirty pieces of silver to every soldier; and the bridge of the Chaboras was instantly cut away, to convince the troops that they must place their hopes of safety in the success of their arms.

Yet the prudence of the emperor induced him to secure a remote frontier, perpetually exposed to the inroads of the hostile Arabs. A detachment of four thousand men was left at Circesium, which completed, to the number of ten thousand, the regular garrison of that important fortress. From the moment that the Romans entered the enemy’s country, the country of an active and artful enemy, the order of march was disposed in three columns. The strength of the infantry, and consequently of the whole army was placed in the centre, under the peculiar command of their master-general Victor.

On the right, the brave Nevitta led a column of several legions along the banks of the Euphrates, and almost always in sight of the fleet. The left flank of the army was protected by the column of cavalry. Hormisdas and Arinthæus were appointed generals of the horse; and the singular adventures of Hormisdas are not undeserving of our notice. He was a Persian prince, of the royal race of the Sassanides, who, in the troubles of the minority of Sapor, had escaped from prison to the hospitable court of the great Constantine.

Hormisdas at first excited the compassion, and at length acquired the esteem, of his new masters; his valor and fidelity raised him to the military honors of the Roman service; and though a Christian, he might indulge the secret satisfaction of convincing his ungrateful country, than at oppressed subject may prove the most dangerous enemy. Such was the disposition of the three principal columns. The front and flanks of the army were covered by Lucilianus with a flying detachment of fifteen hundred light-armed soldiers, whose active vigilance observed the most distant signs, and conveyed the earliest notice, of any hostile approach.

Dagalaiphus, and Secundinus duke of Osrhoene, conducted the troops of the rear-guard; the baggage securely proceeded in the intervals of the columns; and the ranks, from a motive either of use or ostentation, were formed in such open order, that the whole line of march extended almost ten miles. The ordinary post of Julian was at the head of the centre column; but as he preferred the duties of a general to the state of a monarch, he rapidly moved, with a small escort of light cavalry, to the front, the rear, the flanks, wherever his presence could animate or protect the march of the Roman army.

The country which they traversed from the Chaboras, to the cultivated lands of Assyria, may be considered as a part of the desert of Arabia, a dry and barren waste, which could never be improved by the most powerful arts of human industry. Julian marched over the same ground which had been trod above seven hundred years before by the footsteps of the younger Cyrus, and which is described by one of the companions of his expedition, the sage and heroic Xenophon.

“The country was a plain throughout, as even as the sea, and full of wormwood; and if any other kind of shrubs or reeds grew there, they had all an aromatic smell, but no trees could be seen. Bustards and ostriches, antelopes and wild asses, appeared to be the only inhabitants of the desert; and the fatigues of the march were alleviated by the amusements of the chase.”

The loose sand of the desert was frequently raised by the wind into clouds of dust; and a great number of the soldiers of Julian, with their tents, were suddenly thrown to the ground by the violence of an unexpected hurricane. The sandy plains of Mesopotamia were abandoned to the antelopes and wild asses of the desert; but a variety of populous towns and villages were pleasantly situated on the banks of the Euphrates, and in the islands which are occasionally formed by that river.

The city of Annah, or Anatho, the actual residence of an Arabian emir, is composed of two long streets, which enclose, within a natural fortification, a small island in the midst, and two fruitful spots on either side, of the Euphrates. The warlike inhabitants of Anatho showed a disposition to stop the march of a Roman emperor; till they were diverted from such fatal presumption by the mild exhortations of Prince Hormisdas, and the approaching terrors of the fleet and army. They implored, and experienced, the clemency of Julian, who transplanted the people to an advantageous settlement, near Chalcis in Syria, and admitted Pusæus, the governor, to an honorable rank in his service and friendship.

But the impregnable fortress of Thilutha could scorn the menace of a siege; and the emperor was obliged to content himself with an insulting promise, that, when he had subdued the interior provinces of Persia, Thilutha would no longer refuse to grace the triumph of the emperor. The inhabitants of the open towns, unable to resist, and unwilling to yield, fled with precipitation; and their houses, filled with spoil and provisions, were occupied by the soldiers of Julian, who massacred, without remorse and without punishment, some defenseless women.

During the march, the Surenas, or Persian general, and Malek Rodosaces, the renowned emir of the tribe of Gassan, incessantly hovered round the army; every straggler was intercepted; every detachment was attacked; and the valiant Hormisdas escaped with some difficulty from their hands. But the Barbarians were finally repulsed; the country became every day less favorable to the operations of cavalry; and when the Romans arrived at Macepracta, they perceived the ruins of the wall, which had been constructed by the ancient kings of Assyria, to secure their dominions from the incursions of the Medes. These preliminaries of the expedition of Julian appear to have employed about fifteen days; and we may compute near three hundred miles from the fortress of Circesium to the wall of Macepracta.

The fertile province of Assyria, which stretched beyond the Tigris, as far as the mountains of Media, extended about four hundred miles from the ancient wall of Macepracta, to the territory of Basra, where the united streams of the Euphrates and Tigris discharge themselves into the Persian Gulf. The whole country might have claimed the peculiar name of Mesopotamia; as the two rivers, which are never more distant than fifty, approach, between Bagdad and Babylon, within twenty-five miles, of each other. A multitude of artificial canals, dug without much labor in a soft and yielding soil connected the rivers, and intersected the plain of Assyria.

The uses of these artificial canals were various and important. They served to discharge the superfluous waters from one river into the other, at the season of their respective inundations. Subdividing themselves into smaller and smaller branches, they refreshed the dry lands, and supplied the deficiency of rain. They facilitated the intercourse of peace and commerce; and, as the dams could be speedily broke down, they armed the despair of the Assyrians with the means of opposing a sudden deluge to the progress of an invading army.

To the soil and climate of Assyria, nature had denied some of her choicest gifts, the vine, the olive, and the fig-tree; but the food which supports the life of man, and particularly wheat and barley, were produced with inexhaustible fertility; and the husbandman, who committed his seed to the earth, was frequently rewarded with an increase of two, or even of three, hundred. The face of the country was interspersed with groves of innumerable palm-trees; and the diligent natives celebrated, either in verse or prose, the three hundred and sixty uses to which the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the juice, and the fruit, were skilfully applied.

Several manufactures, especially those of leather and linen, employed the industry of a numerous people, and afforded valuable materials for foreign trade; which appears, however, to have been conducted by the hands of strangers. Babylon had been converted into a royal park; but near the ruins of the ancient capital, new cities had successively arisen, and the populous ness of the country was displayed in the multitude of towns and villages, which were built of bricks dried in the sun, and strongly cemented with bitumen; the natural and peculiar production of the Babylonian soil.

While the successors of Cyrus reigned over Asia, the province of Syria alone maintained, during a third part of the year, the luxurious plenty of the table and household of the Great King. Four considerable villages were assigned for the subsistence of his Indian dogs; eight hundred stallions, and sixteen thousand mares, were constantly kept, at the expense of the country, for the royal stables; and as the daily tribute, which was paid to the satrap, amounted to one English bushel of silver, we may compute the annual revenue of Assyria at more than twelve hundred thousand pounds sterling.

Sparta – XV

Translated from EVROPA SOBERANA

“A desperate fight remains for all time a shining example. Let us remember Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans!”

—The Testament of Adolf Hitler (1945)


sparta


The Battle of Thermopylae as an example of heroism


This is one of the most famous battles in history. It decided the future of Europe and in it the Spartans showed the world their immense quality. The Battle of Thermopylae came framed within the context of Greco-Persian Wars, which catalyst was the expansion of the Greek presence in Asia Minor with the extension of the Greek colonies to the east. During the Greco-Persian Wars emperor Darius of Persia had been defeated in the famous battle of Marathon (490 BCE), after which Sparta and Athens signed a military pact aimed at the defense of Greece against the Persians in the near future. Darius was succeeded on his death in 485 BCE by the very ambitious Xerxes, who craved to take over large parts of Europe.

Persia was a vast reign ruled by an Iranian aristocracy, the descendants of the Medes, who along with the Persians before them and after the Parthians, monopolized, during their existence, the domain of the empire—the largest in the world—, stretching from Turkey to Afghanistan.

Persia was a united and centralized state, with vast crowds, massive and specialized armies and endless tracts of land. Its existence was already a feat worthy of those who made it possible. Although the background of this empire was clearly Indo-European, it had become an abyss of miscegenation, as it held sway over a wide variety of non-Indo-European peoples, including Jews and the descendants of the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. The Punics of Carthage (in what today is Tunisia) in alliance with Persia were ready to strike the Greek dominions in Italy and Sicily. Europe faced foreign hordes, a geopolitical meddling and a flood of eastern blood of magnitude not seen since the Neolithic.

Greece, on the other hand, besides being infinitely smaller, was not even a state but covered a balkanized collection of city-states or poleis that often warred with each other. There was no empire: that would come with the Macedonians. The ethnic heritage was, on the whole, more Indo-European in Greece than in Persia, and the strong political personality of the Hellenic polis made of Greece the only major obstacle of the Persian conquest of the Balkans and the Danube.

In the year 481 BCE, before invading Greece, Persia sent two ambassadors to Sparta to offer the possibility of surrender. King Leonidas made them to be directly thrown into a well. This impulsive act, little “diplomatic” and highly condemnable, has an explanation. Leonidas had not been raised exactly as a Spartan prince because in first place the throne did not correspond to him. There was a king, but had poor health and did not survive so his succession fell on the following fellow in line, which had been brought up as a prince in anticipation to the health problems of the previous king. This one, however, fell in battle and suddenly Leonidas found himself in the throne of Sparta, having been raised as a common Spartan boy without the diplomatic finesse imparted in princely education. Leonidas was a soldier: blunt, simple and to the point.

It is clear, in any case, that the Ephorate did not consider just the murder of the ambassadors, as it sent two Spartan volunteers to go to Persia, submitted to Xerxes and offered as sacrifice to “atone” for the injustice that Leonidas committed against the ambassadors. Xerxes rejected the offer and let them go. He did not make a similar mistake, or get his hands dirty with blood or being found guilty of dishonor. The Athenians were more sensible: when the Persian ambassadors made their bids, they simply declined.

That same year, Xerxes sent emissaries to all the Greek cities except Sparta and Athens, to get their submission. Many, terrified of his power, subjected while others, prudently, remained neutral although their sympathies lie with Greece. Sparta and Athens, seeing that an anti-Hellenic alliance was emerging, called for the other cities to form an alliance against Persia. Few responded. Persia was the new superpower, the new star. Its sweeping advance was a fact and its ultimate triumph, almost a given.

Persia began shipping its army, the largest in the world, and moved to Europe to conquer Greece. According to Herodotus, the Persian army consisted of 2 million men. Today, some have reduced this figure to 250,000 or even 175,000 men (including 80,000 cavalry), but it is still a massive army: a crushing and brutal numerical entity, especially compared with the tiny Greek force. As the Persian tide moved, all the villages it passed submitted without a fight.

Hellenic allies then met in Corinth. Envoys from Sparta, Athens, Corinth, Thebes, Plataea, Thespiae, Phocis, Thessaly, Aegina and others, parleyed on the strategy. They formed the Peloponnesian League, confirming the Hellenic alliance to boldly resist Persia. All Peloponnese poleis (excluding Argos, a traditional and stubborn enemy of Sparta) joined the alliance. The league was put in command by Sparta; Leonidas was made commander in chief of the troops of the league.

The leagues were common occurrences in Greece, and they expressed the more “federalist” trends that somehow sought unification and a proper Pan-Hellenic nation. Some leagues were created only to face a common enemy, dissolving themselves afterwards and other leagues lingered; always pursuing political goals and long-term business. The Peloponnesian League was one of these ephemeral “emergency leagues.”

An army of 10,000 was formed of Peloponnesian Greeks under the command of Sparta. Since they had agreed to defend the passage of Tempe, they were stationed on the slopes of Mount Olympus, in northeastern Greece. However, the King Alexander I of Macedon, who had good relations with Persia but felt sympathy for the Greeks and especially for Sparta, warned the Spartan commanders that the position was vulnerable by the presence of several pathways, and they decided to abandon it in favor of another more defensible position. At that time the Thessalians, considering themselves lost, submitted to Persia.

The definitive site for the defense of Greece was established in the pass of Thermopylae, the “Hot Gates.” According to legend, Heracles had rushed into the water to appease the inner fire that tormented him, turning it instead in thermal waters. The area was basically a narrow passage between the steep mountain and the sea. At its narrowest the gorge was 15 meters wide. This meant that although the Greeks were numerically lower, at least the fighters would face a funnel that balanced the scale, as only a certain number of warriors from each side could fight at once. And yet it was a desperate move, as the Greeks would soon tire while the Persians always counted with waves of fresh troops.

According to Herodotus, after coming to the sanctuary of Delphi, the Spartans received from the oracle the following prophecy:

For you, inhabitants of wide-wayed Sparta,
Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men,
Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon
must mourn a dead king, from Heracles’ line.
The might of bulls or lions
will not restrain him with opposing strength;
for he has the might of Zeus.
I declare that he will not be restrained
until he utterly tears apart one of these.

Or a king of Sparta died, or Sparta fell. Consider how this prophecy could have influenced Leonidas. Suddenly, a heavy burden of responsibility on his shoulders had been downloaded. This monstrous doom, that would kill of shock most and make them sweat and shake, was received by the king with dignity and sense of royal duty. The mission of any Spartan was sacrificing his life for his country if needed. It was natural and joyful for them.

In the summer of 480 BCE, the Peloponnesian troops reached Thermopylae and camped up there. There were about eighty men of Mycenae, 200 of Phlius, 400 of Corinth, 400 of Thebes, 500 of Mantinea, 500 of Tegea, 700 of Thespiae, 1,000 of Phocis, 1,120 of Arcadia and all the men of Locris. The Athenians were absent because they had put their hoplites and commitment to the naval fleet, which also was ridiculous compared to the Persian navy. But the gang that should have received cheers and applause, the formation whose mere presence instilled courage and confidence to all military buildup, was the group that showed only 300 Spartans for battle. No more Spartans came because their city was celebrating a religious holiday, which prohibited Army mobilization. And for the Spartans, the first and most important was to make peace with the gods and not violate the ritual order of existence.

So the Greeks were together about 7,000—seven thousand Greeks against 250,000 Persians (175,000 according to other modern historians). Imagine the variety of the colorful congregation: the brightness of the bronze, the solemn atmosphere, the commentaries on foreign gangs, the emblems on the shields, the typical rivalry gossip in the military, the feeling of togetherness, respect and a common destiny. The entire camp had to be surrounded by an aura of manliness and heroism. These Greeks, mostly hoplites, were well instructed. Since their younger days they were used to handling weapons and exercise the body. However, the only “professional” army was the Spartan, because in other places the hoplites lived with their families, trained on their own and were only called in case of war; while in Sparta they were permanently militarized since childhood under the terrible discipline that characterized them, and never stopped the training.

Among the Persians, however, the situation was very different. Although undoubtedly they had the numerical advantage and equipment, most were young men who had been conscripted and had little military training. However, they had highly specialized units. Unlike the Greeks, who, conditioned by their land, had stubbornly perfected the infantry level, the Persians had a formidable cavalry, chariots and excellent archers. In the vast plains, plateaus and steppes of Asia, to dominate this type of highly mobile forms of warfare was essential. The Persian Empire also had “the immortals,” a famous elite unit composed of ten thousand chosen among the Persian and Median aristocracy that, under General Hydarnes, formed the royal guard of Xerxes. The officers also consisted of Persian members of the aristocracy.

Xerxes camped his troops at the entrance, in Trachis. Leonidas, as soon he reached Thermopylae, rebuilt the ancient wall of two meters in the narrowest part of the pass, quartering the troops behind him. Having been informed that there was a path around the pass that led to the other side, he sent a thousand Phocaeans to defend it.

Xerxes, who could not conceive that the Greeks be obstinate in fighting, sent an emissary to parley with Leonidas, encouraging him to put his arms aside. The soldier’s laconic reply was “Come and catch them.” That night, when a Locris hoplite of defeatist tone commented that the cloud of Persian archers’ arrows would darken the sky and turn the day into night, Leonidas answered: “Then we’ll fight in the shade.”

The next morning, the troops appeared in ranks of formation. The Persians had gathered thousands of Medes and Kysios (Iranian peoples) and stationed at the entrance of the pass. At first, their orders were to capture alive the Greeks, as the Emperor thought he could place chains on them and display them in Persia as trophies, the style of the later Roman triumphs. Leonidas, meanwhile, made the Greeks form in the narrow gorge, and took his royal position at the right end of the phalanx. He decided not to mix the different peoples of his contingent. In his experience the soldiers preferred that well-known comrades died beside them, and it was more difficult that they fled in combat if those who they abandoned were lifetime family and friends. Leonidas put his Spartans to the front of the formation, as a spearhead. They would be the first to engage.

300SpartanWarriors

Ominously the Persians advanced and entered the gorge. The Spartans sang the paean with religious solemnity. When the Persians began raiding with terrifying shouting, the relentless meat grinder of the Spartan phalanx began to operate silently. The Persians crashed into the wall of shields with a deafening roar, waving their arms and finally skewering into the Spartan spears. Imagine the sight of that.

The blood that had run, the orders at the top of lungs, the cries of war and of pain, he cuts and stabbings, the reddened spears in and out rhythmically as sinister spikes from the shield of breastplates splashed with blood, attacking accurately the weaknesses of poorly protected enemy bodies; the shocks and bumps, the terrible wounds, the bodies of the fallen and the Spartans maintaining calm and silence in the midst of the confusion and the terrible din of battle; the Persians, brave but ineffective, immolating themselves in a glorious feat. The Spartans seemed to be everywhere, and there they were, inspiring the other Greeks to imitate them, pointing out that victory was possible and stirring the moral. By their conduct they were proving that their socialism of union and sacrifice was clearly superior to any other political system, and that they were better prepared to face the Iron Age.

Unlike Leonidas, Xerxes did not fight. Sitting on his throne of gold, located in a suitable place, he watched with horror what was happening: his troops were being slaughtered catastrophically. The Persians had much lighter and ineffective armor than the heavy Greek cuirass, as the type of Persian fight was based on mobility, speed, fluidity and flexibility of large crowds, while the Greek was organized resistance, accuracy, coordination, diamond hardness and willingness to stand together as one compact rock before the onslaught of the ocean waves. Furthermore, the Persian spears were shorter and less stout, and could not reach the Spartans with ease. They fell by the hundreds, while the Spartans were barely injured. The best Persian officers fell when, going by the head of their troops, tried to inspire them and were wounded by Hellenic weapons. When Leonidas ordered to relieve the Spartans, passing other units into combat, the situation continued: the Persians fell massacred. It is said that three times Xerxes jumped from his throne to see what was going on, perhaps as a football coach sees his team thrashed. Leonidas would only say, “the Persians have many men, but no warrior.”

General Hidarnes removed the contingent of Kysios and Medes, discovering a floor mangled with corpses. Then he made enter his immortals in combat, convinced that they would change the course of battle. Leonidas ordered his Spartans to be on the forefront again. The immortals advanced impassively on the bodies of their fallen compatriots and furiously rammed the phalanx. The Spartans suffered some casualties, but their formation did not break. For their part, the immortals were pierced by long spears and fell by the dozens, wounded and dead. Many fell into the waters of the Gulf of Malis, where many, for not knowing how to swim, or sunk by the weight of their weapons and armor, were carried by ocean currents and drowned.

The Spartans implemented their more tested and complicated tactics, demonstrating the perfect instruction they alone possessed. They opened gaps where unsuspecting enemies penetrated, only to be shut down and massacred by rapid spears poking from all sites. Other times they simulated panic and retreated in disarray, after which the Persians emboldened, pursued in disarray. But the Spartans, displaying their mastery in close order, turned quickly returning to phalanx form, each taking place at the last moment and terribly reaping the Persian ranks, sowing the ground with corpses and watering it with their blood. So passed a whole day. When evening came, the fighters retreated and had their rest. It was considered bad luck fighting at night (it was more difficult that the dead found their way to the afterlife). The Greeks were exhausted but in high spirits. The Persians, on the other hand, were fresher but their morale hit rock bottom. They must have wondered if they were as bad or if it was the Greeks who were so good.

The next morning the fight resumed. Xerxes commanded fresh Persians, hoping that maybe they made a dent in the exhausted Greek defenders. Nothing was further from reality: wave after wave, the Greeks massacred the enemy again. The terror began to spread among the Persians. Many times they tried to escape the Spartans, and the officers lashed them with whips to force them to combat.

At that point, Xerxes had to be amazed and desperate at the same time. Its fleet had failed to defeat the Greek fleet at Cape Artemision, and he could not outflank Thermopylae by sea. Then came the betrayal, the heroes’ curse. A local shepherd named Ephialtes asked to speak to Xerxes and, in exchange for a hefty sum of money, he revealed the existence of the road that skirted the ravine, in a process archetypally similar to what happened many centuries later in the fortress of Montségur of the Cathars. General Hidarnes, in command of the immortals, crossed the road guided by Ephialtes. When he saw at the distance a few Greeks ready for the fight, he hesitated and asked Ephialtes if they were Spartan. He told him they were Phocis, and Hidarnes continued. Since then, the die was cast: the Greeks were doomed. They were going to lose the battle to death.

Leonidas, meanwhile, received messengers (probably repentant Thessalians fighting under the Persians) who informed him how they would be surrounded by the enemy. The Greeks took counsel immediately. Leonidas knew already that he would lose the battle. He ordered all the Greeks to retire except his Spartans and the Thebans. The Thespians, led by Demophilus, decided to remain on their own will, and so they did, covering their small town with glory. When only Spartans, Thebans and Thespians remained (1,400 men at first, less than the casualties suffered during the fighting), the troops breakfasted. Leonidas told his men: “This is our last meal among the living. Prepare well friends, because tonight we will dine in Hades!”

The Greeks formed, this time together, the phalanx. Before them, the vast army; and the immortals to their rear. Instead of attacking the immortals to perhaps defeat them and fight their way to the withdrawal (which would be useless because it would open the Greek doors to the Persians), Leonidas ordered to attack the bulk of the Persian army, in a magnificent display of heroism and courage, with the goal of maintaining the fight for as long as possible and give time to Greece to prepare. They knew they were going to die in any case, so they chose to die heroically, showing an immense greatness. The Greeks were aware that this was no longer a resistance with hope, but a struggle of sacrifice in which the goal was a passionate and furious rush into the arms of glory; inflicting the enemy the greater damage in the process and delaying the invasion.

art_of__300_spartans_by_alexcooperart

In the middle of combat, and having killed countless Persians, Leonidas fell. Around his body, a hellish turmoil was formed while Greeks and Persians fought for its possession. Several times he fell into enemy hands and several times he was recovered by the Greeks. Eventually the body was secured by the Spartans that, constantly fighting, retreated to the Phocaean wall.

At one point, the Thebans separated from the bulk of the Greek phalanx. For long instants they fought valiantly, but in the end, exhausted, crazed and looking lost, threw their weapons and spread their hands in supplication to surrender to the Persians who, in the adrenaline rush, even killed a few more. The rest of Thebes was captured. After the battle, the Persians would mark them on the forehead with hot irons and sell them as slaves. What helped them to surrender? What did they get? Life? A life of slavery and humiliation? Would it not have been better and more dignified to die in battle, fighting to the end?

The Spartans and Thespians, meanwhile, continued to struggle beside the Phocaean wall. Under pressure and shock loads the wall collapsed, crushing warriors of the two armies. Fighting continued, deaf and ruthless. Many fell exhausted and could not raise again. Others died pierced by the enemy metal. When finally Hidarnes appeared in front of the immortals, the few Greeks who remained, almost all Spartans, climbed a small hill to defend themselves more easily. They put their backs against a wall to avoid being completely unprotected. There were less than a hundred Greeks against at least 100,000 Persians (some say 150,000 and others speak of figures far higher). There, every Greek was facing more than a thousand Persians.

The time of final resistance witnessed the most flaming heroism of history. The last fight on the hill of Thermopylae has been the inspiration for countless works of art over centuries. Probably only Spartans were left. Almost all of them were wounded and bleeding from several wounds. Their spears were broken and their shields shattered, so they resorted to the sword. Those who were unarmed after breaking or losing the sword used rocks to hit the enemy, or fanatically rushed upon him to kill him with their hands or teeth, fist, choking, breaking, hitting, crunching, tearing and biting with superhuman ferocity, in a vicious and bloody melee. Were not these men possessed by the legendary holy wrath, that of the berserkers and the inspired warriors? They well could have asked: “Why do you fight, if you will lose? You are shattered, on the brink of death and closer to the other world than to Earth. Why do ye keep fighting?” But those were improper thoughts for heroes. Their behavior far exceeded anything in this world. Reason had been trampled under the feet of the Hellenic will, which squeezed at the maximum the forces from those heroes. It was a rage that came from the above. It was blind fanaticism; an invincible, visceral, red and instinctive feeling. It was a fight to the end.

The Persians failed to reduce those brave and, totally demoralized, retreated. Then their archers advanced, and loosed successive rains of arrows that finished off the resistant. A massive, imperial army of hundreds of thousands fighting dozens (probably around a hundred) of crazed Greeks, and still they had to beat them from afar because in melee they could never win!

When the last Spartan—exhausted, delirious and bleeding, with his mind set on his wife, his children, his country and the sky—fell riddled with arrows shot from a distance, the battle of Thermopylae ended. The Greeks had lost and the Persians won. The fallen had furiously slain themselves to the last man, gentlemanly consummating their oath of honor and eternal fidelity and ascended the steps of immortal glory. In a single battle those fallen men achieved a higher luminance than what a thousand priests and philosophers have achieved in lifetimes of dedication.

To imagine the fear that this slaughter of Persians injected into the heart of Xerxes, suffice it to say that he ordered the corpse of Leonidas to be beheaded and crucified. (Similarly, William the Conqueror viciously ordered to mutilate the body of King Harold after the Battle of Hastings against the Anglo-Saxons, who also defended themselves at a high point). This is much more revealing than it seems, since the Persians had the tradition to honor a brave, dead enemy. But Leonidas had shown him something too far above his respect, something terrifying that turned upside down all he took for granted and knew about the Great West. Other Greek corpses were thrown into a mass grave. Xerxes asked, beside himself in his trauma, if in Greece there were more men like those 300 Spartans. We can well imagine what he felt when he was informed that there were 8,000 Spartiates in Sparta, brave and trained as the 300 fallen.

Let us now do a little count of the battle of Thermopylae: 7,000 Greeks against (say) 250,000 Persians. The Greek side had 4,000 dead, including Leonidas, his 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians. But the Persian side had no more and no less than 20,000 people dead, including two brothers of Xerxes: Abrocomes and Hyperanthes. That is, an army thirty times smaller than the enemy inflicts losses five times greater than what themselves suffered. Proportionally this means a triumph of 150 to 1. Comment is superfluous, although we know that, after all, the cold numerical figures understand nothing of heroism and will.

What happened after the battle? Was the sacrifice in vain? What did the fallen get? Buying time for the naval fleet and the Greek counter-offensive. The Persians continued their march to Athens, finding it empty because its inhabitants had been evacuated during the fighting at Thermopylae. The Persians sacked and burned what they could. In the battle of Salamis in the same year of 480 BCE, the Greek fleet defeated the Persian in glorious combat. Xerxes had to retire with an important part of his army, for without the fleet, logistics and supply were precarious. He, therefore, left 80,000 Persians (some say 300,000) under the command of his brother, General Mardonius, to continue with the campaign.

A few months later, at the Battle of Plataea in 479 BCE, 5,000 Spartans along with their allies, under the leadership of King Pausanias of Sparta, decisively defeated the Persians, and General Mardonius fell in combat. Persia was defeated. Greece won the Second Greco-Persian War. The sacrifice of Thermopylae, therefore, was not in vain.

The poet Simonides wrote a poem in honor of the fallen Spartans at Plataea (below, an elegiac couplet):

O Stranger, send the news home
to the people of Sparta that here we are laid to rest:
the commands they gave us have been obeyed.

What was the catastrophic possibility that Leonidas prevented? Had he withdrawn from the fight, the Persian cavalry would have attacked in mass and in the open, closing from behind and from the sides and slaughtering his troops. Persia would have conquered all of Greece and probably a significant portion of Eastern Europe; perhaps even beyond the Balkans and the Danube. (At that time there was no Vienna that would stop it.) This would have been a disaster for all posterity of ethnic Europeans.

Before parting for the fight, Queen Gorgo, wife of Leonidas, asked: “What should I do if you don’t come back?” The short answer was: “Marry one worth of me and have strong sons to serve Sparta.” In the perpetuation of the race there is no acceptable pause. The road is inexorable and the mystery of the blood is transmitted to the new heirs.

Leonidas_monument

The Battle of Thermopylae was archetypal. Leonidas (a Heraclid descendant of Heracles, ancestor of the Spartan kings) fell on the spot where, according to tradition, Heracles had rushed to the waters to calm his inner fire. There a statue was placed of a lion (an animal whose skin Heracles put on and contained in it the same name of Leonidas), and a simple inscription on a plate, “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”

Gibbon on Julian – 16

Edward-Gibbon

The History of the Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire

Chapter XXIV
The retreat and death of Julian
Part I


The philosophical fable which Julian composed under the name of the Cæsars, is one of the most agreeable and instructive productions of ancient wit. During the freedom and equality of the days of the Saturnalia, Romulus prepared a feast for the deities of Olympus, who had adopted him as a worthy associate, and for the Roman princes, who had reigned over his martial people, and the vanquished nations of the earth.

The immortals were placed in just order on their thrones of state, and the table of the Cæsars was spread below the Moon in the upper region of the air. The tyrants, who would have disgraced the society of gods and men, were thrown headlong, by the inexorable Nemesis, into the Tartarean abyss. The rest of the Cæsars successively advanced to their seats; and as they passed, the vices, the defects, the blemishes of their respective characters, were maliciously noticed by old Silenus, a laughing moralist, who disguised the wisdom of a philosopher under the mask of a Bacchanal.

As soon as the feast was ended, the voice of Mercury proclaimed the will of Jupiter, that a celestial crown should be the reward of superior merit. Julius Cæsar, Augustus, Trajan, and Marcus Antoninus, were selected as the most illustrious candidates; the effeminate Constantine was not excluded from this honorable competition, and the great Alexander was invited to dispute the prize of glory with the Roman heroes. Each of the candidates was allowed to display the merit of his own exploits; but, in the judgment of the gods, the modest silence of Marcus pleaded more powerfully than the elaborate orations of his haughty rivals.

When the judges of this awful contest proceeded to examine the heart, and to scrutinize the springs of action, the superiority of the Imperial Stoic appeared still more decisive and conspicuous. Alexander and Cæsar, Augustus, Trajan, and Constantine, acknowledged, with a blush, that fame, or power, or pleasure had been the important object of their labors: but the gods themselves beheld, with reverence and love, a virtuous mortal, who had practised on the throne the lessons of philosophy; and who, in a state of human imperfection, had aspired to imitate the moral attributes of the Deity.

The value of this agreeable composition (the Cæsars of Julian) is enhanced by the rank of the author. A prince, who delineates, with freedom, the vices and virtues of his predecessors, subscribes, in every line, the censure or approbation of his own conduct. In the cool moments of reflection, Julian preferred the useful and benevolent virtues of Antoninus; but his ambitious spirit was inflamed by the glory of Alexander; and he solicited, with equal ardor, the esteem of the wise, and the applause of the multitude. In the season of life when the powers of the mind and body enjoy the most active vigor, the emperor who was instructed by the experience, and animated by the success, of the German war, resolved to signalize his reign by some more splendid and memorable achievement.

The ambassadors of the East, from the continent of India, and the Isle of Ceylon, had respectfully saluted the Roman purple. The nations of the West esteemed and dreaded the personal virtues of Julian, both in peace and war. He despised the trophies of a Gothic victory, and was satisfied that the rapacious Barbarians of the Danube would be restrained from any future violation of the faith of treaties by the terror of his name, and the additional fortifications with which he strengthened the Thracian and Illyrian frontiers. The successor of Cyrus and Artaxerxes was the only rival whom he deemed worthy of his arms; and he resolved, by the final conquest of Persia, to chastise the naughty nation which had so long resisted and insulted the majesty of Rome.

As soon as the Persian monarch was informed that the throne of Constantius was filed by a prince of a very different character, he condescended to make some artful, or perhaps sincere, overtures towards a negotiation of peace. But the pride of Sapor was astonished by the firmness of Julian; who sternly declared, that he would never consent to hold a peaceful conference among the flames and ruins of the cities of Mesopotamia; and who added, with a smile of contempt, that it was needless to treat by ambassadors, a she himself had determined to visit speedily the court of Persia. The impatience of the emperor urged the diligence of the military preparations.

The generals were named; and Julian, marching from Constantinople through the provinces of Asia Minor, arrived at Antioch about eight months after the death of his predecessor. His ardent desire to march into the heart of Persia, was checked by the indispensable duty of regulating the state of the empire; by his zeal to revive the worship of the gods; and by the advice of his wisest friends; who represented the necessity of allowing the salutary interval of winter quarters, to restore the exhausted strength of the legions of Gaul, and the discipline and spirit of the Eastern troops.

Julian was persuaded to fix, till the ensuing spring, his residence at Antioch, among a people maliciously disposed to deride the haste, and to censure the delays, of their sovereign. If Julian had flattered himself, that his personal connection with the capital of the East would be productive of mutual satisfaction to the prince and people, he made a very false estimate of his own character, and of the manners of Antioch.

The warmth of the climate disposed the natives to the most intemperate enjoyment of tranquillity and opulence; and the lively licentiousness of the Greeks was blended with the hereditary softness of the Syrians. Fashion was the only law, pleasure the only pursuit, and the splendor of dress and furniture was the only distinction of the citizens of Antioch. The arts of luxury were honored; the serious and manly virtues were the subject of ridicule; and the contempt for female modesty and reverent age announced the universal corruption of the capital of the East.

The love of spectacles was the taste, or rather passion, of the Syrians; the most skilful artists were procured from the adjacent cities; a considerable share of the revenue was devoted to the public amusements; and the magnificence of the games of the theatre and circus was considered as the happiness and as the glory of Antioch. The rustic manners of a prince who disdained such glory, and was insensible of such happiness, soon disgusted the delicacy of his subjects; and the effeminate Orientals could neither imitate, nor admire, the severe simplicity which Julian always maintained, and sometimes affected.

The days of festivity, consecrated, by ancient custom, to the honor of the gods, were the only occasions in which Julian relaxed his philosophic severity; and those festivals were the only days in which the Syrians of Antioch could reject the allurements of pleasure. The majority of the people supported the glory of the Christian name, which had been first invented by their ancestors: they contended themselves with disobeying the moral precepts, but they were scrupulously attached to the speculative doctrines of their religion. The church of Antioch was distracted by heresy and schism; but the Arians and the Athanasians, the followers of Meletius and those of Paulinus, were actuated by the same pious hatred of their common adversary.

The strongest prejudice was entertained against the character of an apostate, the enemy and successor of a prince who had engaged the affections of a very numerous sect; and the removal of St. Babylas excited an implacable opposition to the person of Julian. His subjects complained, with superstitious indignation, that famine had pursued the emperor’s steps from Constantinople to Antioch; and the discontent of a hungry people was exasperated by the injudicious attempt to relieve their distress. The inclemency of the season had affected the harvests of Syria; and the price of bread, in the markets of Antioch, had naturally risen in proportion to the scarcity of corn.

But the fair and reasonable proportion was soon violated by the rapacious arts of monopoly. In this unequal contest, in which the produce of the land is claimed by one party as his exclusive property, is used by another as a lucrative object of trade, and is required by a third for the daily and necessary support of life, all the profits of the intermediate agents are accumulated on the head of the defenceless customers. The hardships of their situation were exaggerated and increased by their own impatience and anxiety; and the apprehension of a scarcity gradually produced the appearances of a famine. When the luxurious citizens of Antioch complained of the high price of poultry and fish, Julian publicly declared, that a frugal city ought to be satisfied with a regular supply of wine, oil, and bread; but he acknowledged, that it was the duty of a sovereign to provide for the subsistence of his people.

With this salutary view, the emperor ventured on a very dangerous and doubtful step, of fixing, by legal authority, the value of corn. He enacted, that, in a time of scarcity, it should be sold at a price which had seldom been known in the most plentiful years; and that his own example might strengthen his laws, he sent into the market four hundred and twenty-two thousand modii, or measures, which were drawn by his order from the granaries of Hierapolis, of Chalcis, and even of Egypt.

The consequences might have been foreseen, and were soon felt. The Imperial wheat was purchased by the rich merchants; the proprietors of land, or of corn, withheld from the city the accustomed supply; and the small quantities that appeared in the market were secretly sold at an advanced and illegal price. Julian still continued to applaud his own policy, treated the complaints of the people as a vain and ungrateful murmur, and convinced Antioch that he had inherited the obstinacy, though not the cruelty, of his brother Gallus.

The remonstrances of the municipal senate served only to exasperate his inflexible mind. He was persuaded, perhaps with truth, that the senators of Antioch who possessed lands, or were concerned in trade, had themselves contributed to the calamities of their country; and he imputed the disrespectful boldness which they assumed, to the sense, not of public duty, but of private interest.

The whole body, consisting of two hundred of the most noble and wealthy citizens, were sent, under a guard, from the palace to the prison; and though they were permitted, before the close of evening, to return to their respective houses, the emperor himself could not obtain the forgiveness which he had so easily granted. The same grievances were still the subject of the same complaints, which were industriously circulated by the wit and levity of the Syrian Greeks.

During the licentious days of the Saturnalia, the streets of the city resounded with insolent songs, which derided the laws, the religion, the personal conduct, and even the beard, of the emperor; the spirit of Antioch was manifested by the connivance of the magistrates, and the applause of the multitude. The disciple of Socrates was too deeply affected by these popular insults; but the monarch, endowed with a quick sensibility, and possessed of absolute power, refused his passions the gratification of revenge.

A tyrant might have proscribed, without distinction, the lives and fortunes of the citizens of Antioch; and the unwarlike Syrians must have patiently submitted to the lust, the rapaciousness and the cruelty, of the faithful legions of Gaul. A milder sentence might have deprived the capital of the East of its honors and privileges; and the courtiers, perhaps the subjects, of Julian, would have applauded an act of justice, which asserted the dignity of the supreme magistrate of the republic.

But instead of abusing, or exerting, the authority of the state, to revenge his personal injuries, Julian contented himself with an inoffensive mode of retaliation, which it would be in the power of few princes to employ. He had been insulted by satires and libels; in his turn, he composed, under the title of the Enemy of the Beard, an ironical confession of his own faults, and a severe satire on the licentious and effeminate manners of Antioch.

This Imperial reply was publicly exposed before the gates of the palace; and the Misopogon still remains a singular monument of the resentment, the wit, the humanity, and the indiscretion of Julian. Though he affected to laugh, he could not forgive. His contempt was expressed, and his revenge might be gratified, by the nomination of a governor worthy only of such subjects; and the emperor, forever renouncing the ungrateful city, proclaimed his resolution to pass the ensuing winter at Tarsus in Cilicia. Yet Antioch possessed one citizen, whose genius and virtues might atone, in the opinion of Julian, for the vice and folly of his country.

The sophist Libanius was born in the capital of the East; he publicly professed the arts of rhetoric and declamation at Nice, Nicomedia, Constantinople, Athens, and, during the remainder of his life, at Antioch. His school was assiduously frequented by the Grecian youth; his disciples, who sometimes exceeded the number of eighty, celebrated their incomparable master; and the jealousy of his rivals, who persecuted him from one city to another, confirmed the favorable opinion which Libanius ostentatiously displayed of his superior merit.

The preceptors of Julian had extorted a rash but solemn assurance, that he would never attend the lectures of their adversary: the curiosity of the royal youth was checked and inflamed: he secretly procured the writings of this dangerous sophist, and gradually surpassed, in the perfect imitation of his style, the most laborious of his domestic pupils. When Julian ascended the throne, he declared his impatience to embrace and reward the Syrian sophist, who had preserved, in a degenerate age, the Grecian purity of taste, of manners, and of religion.

The emperor’s prepossession was increased and justified by the discreet pride of his favorite. Instead of pressing, with the foremost of the crowd, into the palace of Constantinople, Libanius calmly expected his arrival at Antioch; withdrew from court on the first symptoms of coldness and indifference; required a formal invitation for each visit; and taught his sovereign an important lesson, that he might command the obedience of a subject, but that he must deserve the attachment of a friend.

The sophists of every age, despising, or affecting to despise, the accidental distinctions of birth and fortune, reserve their esteem for the superior qualities of the mind, with which they themselves are so plentifully endowed. Julian might disdain the acclamations of a venal court, who adored the Imperial purple; but he was deeply flattered by the praise, the admonition, the freedom, and the envy of an independent philosopher, who refused his favors, loved his person, celebrated his fame, and protected his memory.

The voluminous writings of Libanius still exist; for the most part, they are the vain and idle compositions of an orator, who cultivated the science of words; the productions of a recluse student, whose mind, regardless of his contemporaries, was incessantly fixed on the Trojan war and the Athenian commonwealth.

Yet the sophist of Antioch sometimes descended from this imaginary elevation; he entertained a various and elaborate correspondence; he praised the virtues of his own times; he boldly arraigned the abuse of public and private life; and he eloquently pleaded the cause of Antioch against the just resentment of Julian and Theodosius. It is the common calamity of old age, to lose whatever might have rendered it desirable; but Libanius experienced the peculiar misfortune of surviving the religion and the sciences, to which he had consecrated his genius.

The friend of Julian was an indignant spectator of the triumph of Christianity; and his bigotry, which darkened the prospect of the visible world, did not inspire Libanius with any lively hopes of celestial glory and happiness.

Aryans and mongrels

Excerpted from the 11th article of William Pierce’s “Who We Are: a Series of Articles on the History of the White Race”:


The foregoing remarks are especially well illustrated by the fate of a related group of Indo-European tribes whose members called themselves Aryans. Although the name “Aryan” is sometimes used to designate any person of Indo-European ancestry, it applies especially to the tribes which, beginning probably in the third millennium B.C., migrated eastward and southeastward from the ancient Nordic homeland, some going down through Turkistan and into Iran from the northeast—and some into the more easterly foothills of the Hindu Kush, in what is now Afghanistan.

The high Iranian plateau, much of it covered with grass, provided an ideal territory for the horsemen from the northern steppes. They multiplied and prospered, raiding their non-Indo-European neighbors in the Zagros Mountains or on the edge of the Sumerian plain from time to time, collecting slaves and booty. They maintained their racial purity scrupulously enough, however, so that, as late as the middle of the first millennium B.C., King Darius the Great could still proudly and truthfully boast: “I am an Aryan, the son of an Aryan.”

But Semites and other aliens became more numerous in Iran as the might and wealth of the Aryan Persians grew. In the reign of Darius’ son Xerxes, as we know from the Old Testament’s Book of Esther, Jews were already quite influential there. Today, 2,500 yeas later, the Iranians are no more Aryan than their Semitic neighbors, so thoroughly have the genes of the various races in that part of the world been mixed.

(Here Pierce writes several paragraphs about the conquest of India, then he adds:)





Crop of Half-Breeds

The first step may be a simple matter of military indiscipline: the rape of a few hundred dasyu women in a rebellious district after a revolt is put down by Aryan warriors. Twenty years later there will be a crop of half-breeds in that district, and some of the half- breed females will be much lighter and comelier than the average dasyu.

These light ones will be especially likely to be targeted for rape the next time there is a rebellion—or the next time a gang of drunken Aryans goes out on the town. And so, 20 years later, there will be some quarter-breeds around—and some of these may be light enough to be chosen as concubines by the local Aryan landlord.

Beware the almost-Whites!

And so it goes, century after century, with the simple Black-White picture gradually giving way to one in which there is a continuous range of mongrels between the two racial extremes. Near the White end of the spectrum there will be some who, although carrying some dasyu genes, will be almost indistinguishable from the true Aryans. Drawing the line between what is Aryan and what is not becomes more and more difficult. And as the racial picture becomes more blurred, the will to preserve the race is sapped. Many of the almost-Aryans will be bright and energetic citizens; style will be mistaken for substance; the keen edge of the Aryan race-soul will be blunted by imperceptible degrees.

(Nuristani kids from Afghanistan)

By the time the damage has become quite noticeable, racial decadence has become irreversible. The subtle but essential qualities of psyche and intellect in the Aryans which led to conquest and to the building of Aryan civilization are diluted to ineffectiveness in their almost-Aryan descendants 15 or 20 centuries later, even though fair hair and blue eyes may still be abundant.

That is what happened to Aryan Persia and Aryan India. And it is also what is happening to Aryan America and Aryan Europe today.

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