All entries for June 2006

June 26, 2006

The Narrative Structure of Procopius' Wars

So, I've been thinking a bit about the structure of the Wars as whole and here I'm going to add some ideas that I might try testing out at some point in the future. Not sure just how plausible it is yet, but, a little elbow grease, a few more months, and some more close reading of P's Wars and I might have a better idea. It does seem to fit with this wonky 'rise and fall of Belisarius' idea. So, much to think about.

Having thought about the Homeric aspects again of the Gothic Wars and then the Wars as whole, I think that the Wars, whether or not it really does present the rise of Belisarius, is at least presented fairly symmetrically: in other words, it has a more or less symmetrical narrative. The order I think would be something like A1–A2–B1–B2–C–B/A. Now, the A and the B at the beginning are a little longer than the B and A (which is why I have made it A1–A2–B1–B2 and then B/A) in the latter part of the Wars, and admittedly the C is not quite at the geometric centre of the history. But, there are a number of things that, at least at this point, suggest such a structure.
1. Early on in the PW there is the somewhat mythological (historical perhaps?) battle between Ephthalites and Huns; at the end of the bk 8 there is the Heroic battle (as P calls it) between Teias and the Goths and Narses and the Romans.
2. Not long afterwards in the PW is the key battle of that part of the Wars, the Battle of Dara, which represents Belisarius' smashing debut; towards the end of bk 8 is the Battle of Taginae, which in many respects represents Narses' smashing debut. Plus, the two battles themselves are ordered along similar lines. P gives us a list of the Roman fighters in both cases, the forces themselves in both cases are heterogenous (reflective of the actual situation I'm sure, but P doesn't always highlight the varied character of the armies), there is a little skirmish between the 2 forces, there is one central set or lone single combat which boosts the morale of the Roman forces , there is the some sort of communication between the two sides before the central part of the narrative really begins (Peroz to Belisarius about bathing and Totila to Narses about a delay), there are speeches that are in some ways similar, there is the arrival of reinforcements for one side which ushers in the 2nd day of battle, and there's even the eating issue (midday stratagem at Dara, Narses prepared for that at Taginae), and then finally the main phase of fighting, and even the length of the two battles is comparable (about 85 lines for Dara, and about 95 for Taginae). Not perfect, but awfully similar, particularly when it's clear that there is quite a bit of variety among all the battle–narratives.
3. There is another key battle in bk 8 (the naval battle around Ancon) just as there is yet another key battle in the PW at Callinicum. And, while both of these battles are fairly important, it is the preceding in the case of the PW, and the following in the case of bk 8, that is the most important.
4. The peak of the narrative is the first siege of Rome, when Belisarius reaches his high–point of his career. The fighting here is rather unlike any other fighting in the rest of the Wars. Plus, this part of the Gothic Wars is also the most 'Homeric' and so 'heroic' of the Wars as a whole. And, to be honest, it is really only the Gothic Wars that is Homeric, for there P focuses on the single–combats and makes numerous references to both Homer and the events of the Odyssey (journeys of Odysseus).
5. In book 8 we have a return to the affairs of the capital of Byzantium, which were somewhat passed over in the VW and first couple of books of the GW, that were a fairly important part of the PW (though admittedly, bk 8 lacks set pieces along the lines of the the plague and the riots).
6. There is only the second sea–battle presented a little more than halfway through bk 8 that is similar to the sea battle at the beginning of the VW.
7. One last thing that I'll point out (of what I've noticed at this early stage) is the fact that we seem to get a return to the analepses that were common in the battels of the PW, but weren't really in the VW. At the same time, the prolepses that were fairly common in the VW, are not quite so evident in the bk 8 and in the latter stages of the GW.
8. One very last point: Belisarius doesn't appear in the narrative until well into the PW, whereas, he disappears from the narrative in the early stages of book 8.

One thing that I'll want to check about this is what sorts of events are described in the beginning and the end of the narrative. If there are X battles in the first 'half' of the narrative, are there also X battles in the second half? And if not, how close are they? As it stands, there are several battles described later on too, but they're often quite brief. That, however, may have been a conscious choice. I'll have to think about that.

Anyway, before I really think about any more of this I'll be doing some more thinking about discipline and generalship in the sixth century. A conference paper is only a week and a day away. Oh…and with 5 minutes to kickoff, go Australia!

June 17, 2006

Procopius, Generalship, and Homer

I have to go back to the academic posts. I also pointed out in my US defence that the lesser football nations are getting better, when in this World Cup it seems that the opposite has happened as the traditional giants are getting the results.

So, I had my upgrade meeting on Wednesday morning and one of the most interesting things that came of it was this idea of shaping my dissertation around generalship. Admittedly, I had been thinking about this over the past 6 months or so, and particularly recently as I've been working on this conference paper (on Procopius and Maurice and generalship), and so it seems like a logical progression, well, of sorts. I certainly do think, at least in the PW and the VW (which are what I've paid most attention to thus far), that generalship pervades Procopius' descriptions of battle. Plus, I think it would tie in with the work that I've done, and I would have to change all that much from my research plan. At the core the dissertation is meant to be a study of the battle descriptions of Procopius. The idea is that once I've done that, then here will be this work that will help guide those who use P in their own work, at least for warfare. It should also add something new to this discussion of P's classicism. Then there's this cultural bit that I've been thinking about. That is also where the generalship comes in. Do his views match those of the Greek literary tradition? Do his views match those of his contemporaries? Where does he fit? Interesting stuff.

Now, the problem is, that whenever I think about generalship I'm always thinking, is that too obvious? Is that all I'm doing really? After all, that's what P says he's going to do. So, he does it. But, I guess no one's really paid much attention to it, though it may only be because they didn't think it was necessary. Hmmm. I'm not sure. Belisarius has been discussed before, but usually in relation to P's development and thoughts and so forth. If I do go with this generalship approach, then P's characterization of B will certainly become an important part. I'd have to figure out where to fit that in, though I think I already have an idea. Hmm.

Also, thinking about the Gothic Wars and this rise and fall of B, I'm wondering if the GW aren't to some degree modelled on the Iliad. At the beginning of the Wars P makes this comparison between Homeric archers and contemporary archers. By making that comparison, he's trying to show why the Wars of J are the greastest ever. Fair enough. But, he also wants to make these little claims throughout, which I think he does, and with a reasonable amount of subtlety. Some scholars have seen in the GW some major similarities with Thucydides. Now, might those similarities be more in keeping with the Iliad? The whole thing starts with a woman who, to a certain degree, is taken (or forced to leave), her home. There is someone who claims that he only wants to get back what is his. The GW end on a somewhat negative note. There is the fairly tragic Greek hero, Belisarius, and the fairly tragic Trojan hero, Totila. Plus, that same Totila ends up dying in flight, much like Hector. There is a long period of stalemate, or flip–flopping in momentum between the two sides in the body of the work. And, the battle scenes are more gory in the GW than they'd been in the PW or VW. Plus, I also think that there are some big lists (ala the Iliad). So, what better way to make out your war as the best of all time than by comparing it with the greatest epic of all time? A little tweaking of the historical details of the GW to match, at least subtly, the Iliad, and then you have the Gothiad. Or something. Anyway, we'll see if my close reading of the GW changes this impression.

Go Oilers!!!!

June 12, 2006

USA Football…er Soccer

So, just to do something radically different, I'm going to leave a non–academics related post–sorry Procopius. Earlier today I left a comment on someone's blog in which I defended the US team and claimed that I would't be surprised if they made it out of their group in the top spot. I think I used some pretty decent arguments; what's more, that was probably ever defended a US sports team. They afterall usually favourites, or pretty close, in just about everything so there's really no need. Plus, they're rarely the underdog so for me they don't ever have that going for them. So, if you're reading this you probably know how the match turned out: the US got thumped. Yep, my career as a pundit in this country has probably just ended right as it was about to begin. In fact, I told some North American friends that I was going Triple A for my WC picks: that is, England (Anglo) as my pick of the favourites; the Americans as my dark horse pick; and the Australians as my underdog pick. I guess I haven't done so bad, I just hope that I haven't condemned the other two to certain doom. Perhaps I could say that I should stick to hockey. But, then again, I was about 99.9% confident that the Canadian men's team would win both the gold in the Olympics and the World Hockey Championships. And, they played like #$#%$#&. So, maybe I SHOULD just erase this post and stick with the academic ones, though they might be jinxed now too…

June 07, 2006

Procopius and Belisarius

It's been a while since I posted something and I guess it's about tiem I add something new. I guess I could have added something sooner, but this is first really important thing that I think I need to share (even if it's really only with myself). I am considering adding other more stuff to my blog, and non–school related things, but that may be a while yet. Still, you never know. Anyway, on with the show.

A common theme propounded by modern scholars is this idea that Procopius entered or rather embarked upon his work with such optimism, particularly after witnessing such astounding achievements as Belisarius' victory at Dara, and then the victories at Ad Decimum and Tricamarum, before losing his way and becoming hostile towards Belisarius and the whole enterprise by the Gothic Wars. As a result, he started blaspheming the Romans and their efforts. But is this really so? I'm starting to think that it's no; instead, Procopius presents this story that gets increasingly better throughout the Persian Wars before reaching its peak midway through the Vandal Wars. Then, there are still successes bu things start to go wrong. This, I think, is likely even true for particular Wars themselves, like the Persian, Vandal, and Gothic Wars. So, what I think happened is that Procopius always planned on including the positive and negative of Belisarius, who is for all intents and purpsoses, the protagonist of the Wars. In the first 3 books he measures up very well, particularly compared with his Persian and Vandal contemporaries. Much is made of how positive Procopius' treatment of the Goth Totila is in the Gothic Wars, but I might ask how negative IS his treatment of Gelimer and even Khusrau in the Persian Wars? What we see instead is the changing fortunes of Belisarius, which had always been Procopius' intention;. He said in the preface that he planned on including BOTH the successes and failures of his most intimate acquaintances. And, might not th evolving and tragic character of Belisarius be, in effect, what makes these wars so great? After all, it's not a history of the successes of Justinian, and wars have a nasty habit of revealing both the good and the bad in everyone. One last thing: I think that Belisarius is the Roman state in microcosm, for his fortunes and failures match those of the state in the narrative as well. And, there is much continuity within the Wars as a whole, and individual wars.

So where does teh Secret History and book 8 fit in? I'm not sure. The most I can say at this point is that books 1 through 7 were published altogether; book 8 was a later addition. It's character is different from its predecessors and so there's no need to see its inclusion with books 1 – 7 as problematic for my theory. Anyway. This theory could be modified further once I explore the Gothic Wars and Book 8 in more depth.

June 2006

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