27 October 2011

The Fourth Branch of American government


(Written in the early weeks of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011)

When I was in elementary school, I learned that America is governed by three coequal branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, none of the three any more important or dominant over the others.  This lesson was reinforced in middle and high school, as well as in nearly every one of my political science courses at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  All true, at least according to the written constitution of our federal republic.

Experience and observation during life since university have taught me that there is, according to our unwritten but nevertheless concrete constitution, a fourth branch of our federal republic, one more important than the other three put together, at least given the weight to which its needs are considered and to which its wants are catered, to such a degree that it in fact dominates the other three to the point of eclipse.

The legislative branch passes our laws and approves expenditure, the executive branch executes the laws and conducts foreign affairs, and the judiciary interprets laws and hears appeals.  The fourth, the corporate branch, sets the agenda and determines the direction of the other three, using them as mere extensions of its will, its frontline troops facing off against nothing more than the people over which it rules, the 99%.  The real governing principle of the United States is not “of the people, by the people, and for the people”, but of the people, by the government, for the wealthy corporate elite.

The three branches of the written constitution, both political parties, all commercial media (radio, television, print, digital), every level of lower government, many social and civic associations, even many religious denominations, adhere to the same fiction that the People of the United States actually have a voice.  All of the above support either implicitly or explicitly the idea that capitalist ethics based on individual and collective greed is the best determining factor for deciding any social, economic, and political question.

Occasionally, there is some small change which benefits the actual People of the United States, but only if those advocating the mild, cosmetic change in question can demonstrate more profit to be made for or loss to be avoided by the corporate branch.

Commentators, pundits, and blowhards from across the American political spectrum look without seeing and speak without knowing because what is going on in America today is outside of the fiction they accept, that the political system of the United States is democratic even in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

They want “issues” defined in order to pigeonhole the movement and dismiss it or discover how little they can get away with giving in order for it to go away.  Or they want to co-opt it and use for their own narrow agenda as the Koch brothers, Dick Armey, and Newt Gingrich did to the Tea Party through Americans for Progress, Freedom Works, and Friends of Freedom.

They want leaders selected in order to make it easier to cut off the head or else to use them in order to subvert, dishearten, deflate, and defuse the movement the way the regime in the Islamic Republic used Moussavi, Karroubi, Khatami, and the other “reformists” to destroy the Green Movement.

They do not understand that the paradigm has changed.  The people of America, inspired by the others in the world who have stood up against their oppressors and are in turn inspiring others around the globe to likewise follow their lead and stand up, are refusing to play along with the lie any more.  It’s certainly not about “issues”, and it has less than zero to do with electoral politics. 

It’s about changing the entire system, the real system rather the ideal in which it is more convenient for our rulers for us to believe, which works primarily for the interests of the Fourth Branch of government, the corporate branch.  It’s even less about setting up a system under which a vanguard of persons who pretend to know better than the people themselves what’s good for them take charge.  It’s about taking the first steps toward establishing a cooperative commonwealth that benefits each and every citizen and the citizenry as a whole rather a narrow wealthy elite.

Contrary to what its detractors claim, democracy is not about allowing the tyranny of the majority over any kind of ethnic, racial, religious, or other similar population group minority.  That is not a democracy but an ochlocracy, or rule by the mob.

The Occupy Wall Street, or 99%, movement is not just about America, either.  It’s about the whole world.  Just as we have accepted the baton from our brothers, sisters, and cousins in North Africa, Southwest Asia, and Europe and are holding it with them, we are in turn sharing it and holding it with countless other humans in many, many other countries.

Out of many we are One.  There is but one race, the Human race.

In every major city and state of the United States and Puerto Rico, in every province in Canada, in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brasil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Greece, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Belgium, Croatia, Russia, Serbia, Poland, Belgium, Denmark, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Mongolia, Malaysia,  Australia, and New Zealand are marching in the name of the 99%.  They have joined those in Israel, Palestine, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, even in Iran where the movement is waiting its chance to reawaken, seeking their dignity, freedom, and self-determination.

We are all Terrans, citizens of Earth.  The whole world is our home, and all its people our brothers, sisters, and cousins.

25 October 2011

Occupy America, and the world

“Let them eat cake!” – Marie Antoinette Hapsburg Bourbon, Paris, France, 1789

Sometime this past spring, looking at the actions and reactions of various governments to the current Great Recession, I wrote that, “Governments around the world are on a binge of slashing budgets and cutting programs that work to the benefit of everyone in the name of protecting the abundance of wealth of a few. One of these days we the people are going to wise up and stop letting the rich con us into believing that they deserve wealth which amounts to hundreds or thousands of times their fair share. When that happens, maybe the needs of the many will finally outweigh the greed of the few.”

I had no idea it would take place so soon after I wrote that, nor as strongly voiced and as widespread across the world.

The 400 richest persons in America (0.000001% of the population) have as much as the bottom 150,000,000 people (50% of the population).  That top 1% we’ve been hearing so much about control 60% of the wealth of the country, leaving a mere 40% of the wealth for the bottom 99% upon which they sit.

And most recently, figures from the 2010 census indicate that the poor in our country number 148 million.

During a discussion about why people allow the wealthiest to con the rest of us into believing they somehow deserve their gross overabundance, hundreds of times their fair share, when so many go about in want and need, I quipped that everyone wants to be a slave-owner.  That was the real reason so many who would have never had the chance to own even one slave supported the planter aristocracy of the South in its rebellion. 

The same goes for those who have always supported the interests of the commercial-financial-industrial elite who have always controlled nearly every facet of life in the country we call America, often even against their own interests.

Or as author John Steinbeck put it, “Socialism never took hold in America because here the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”  Whether you advocate or oppose socialism, you have to admit that his observation about the view of the poor, shared by the working- and middle-classes, about themselves is dead accurate.

In addition, people in America are trapped in and by what radio personality Jean Shepherd called the “creeping meatball”.  This, he explained, “is the passive acquiescence of people who surrender to the demands of the consumer culture and collaborate in their own manipulation.”  The Youth International Party of the late 1960’s picked up on this with their slogan, “Rise up and abandon the creeping meatball!”.

I should be up front about the fact that I am a socialist, a member in good standing of the Socialist Party USA.  In fact, I am a social anarchist.  To paraphrase a line in the graphic novel V for Vendetta, anarchism is not chaos and does not mean without rules; it literally means (and I looked it up in the dictionary to check) “without rulers”.

Rulers have subjects.  One cannot be a subject and still be a citizen, because citizenship implies a stake in the ownership of society as a whole.  What we are seeing in the streets and parks and public squares of America today is the occupation of spaces by Americans who are tired of being treated as subjects of an unelected, self-interested, avaricious minority and its loyal servants in the halls of governmental Authority.

In short, the ultimate reason behind the Occupy Wall Street movement is that the Wall Street 1% got a $700,000,000,000 bailout, while the Main Street 99% got the bill, along with a request to sacrifice.  That request to sacrifice was followed closely by another to keep sacrificing in order to maintain the lifestyles of the rich and shameless who did the robbing in the first place, accompanied with guilt-trips and condescension.

The current so-called “debt crisis” has been imposed upon the governments of the world by a web of financial markets—including stock exchanges and brokerages, commercial and investment banks, insurance companies, credit and finance companies—running rampant with speculation, fraud, irresponsibility, avarice, and selfish ambition.  They appeal to the governments of the world to be bailed out of the quagmire they have created for themselves by cutting back spending on programs and infrastructure which benefit the general welfare in order to provide a life-raft for an industry of proven detriment to the 99% of the population. 

The aim of this salvation is for them to continue doing that which brought us, America and the rest of the world, to this low point in the first place.  To help manipulate the decisions toward that end, they threaten governments which such extortionist actions as downgrading their credit rating if they don’t prostrate themselves in compliance before the gods of wealth and commerce.  In other words, the governments of the First World are now facing the same kind of blackmail visited upon those of the Third World by the same culprits.

How out of touch with reality the government and the minds which drive the world’s financial markets are can be clearly seen in the declaration by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research that the Great Recession ended in June 2009.

Tell that to the 30 million unemployed, the 60 million more under employed, and the countless millions more underpaid in America.

The roots of the current Great Recession reach back to the early 1980’s with the advent of Reaganomics, the “supply-side” policies of Ronald Reagan and the neoconservatives in his administration that mark the beginning of the New Gilded Age.  Trickle-down economics for a trickle-down democracy.

The idea was to give the private sector, Corporate America, the main role in forming economic and social policy.  Free enterprise, open markets, abolition of tariffs, turning governmental functions over to private corporations, deregulation of industry and finance, slashing of support for higher education, and destruction of organizations of the working- and middle-classes were hallmarks of Reagan’s administration.

Ironically, economists call this “neoliberalism”.

Reagan is only the most notorious (in America) example.  Every president since him has followed the same general direction, including both Democrats.  The same is true in most countries around the world; for example, Tony Blair continued along the same path laid out by his two immediate predecessors, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Deregulation of greed is one of the worst ideas humanity has ever conceived.

Let’s check out some of the results of what Reagan started.

When I was in at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga my first semester, fall 1981 in the first year of Reagan’s regime, tuition was $325 per semester, before he took his scythe out and started cutting.  Back when the federal support to higher education which had done so much to advance the standard of living in this country was intact.  This fall, now that my son is at the same school, tuition is $3359 per semester.  Of course, tuition would naturally increase through the years, but an exponential increase of over 1000% is way too much.

Does anyone want to argue that making the postal service into a nongovernmental corporation was a good idea?  Hey, Mr. Reagan, how’s that working out?

Remember when the savings & loan industry was strong?  A lot of you may not even remember that such a thing once existed.  Yes, there are still savings & loans, but the number of these people’s banks is rather small compared to their former count.  Reagan and his acolytes deregulated it and immediately the thieves did to that industry what Wall Street did recently to the finance and credit industry.

Deregulation of the housing market helped bring about the bubble and burst of the Clinton and Bush years.  Ditto with dot com.

Deregulation of the credit and finance industry which allowed it to offer promiscuous lines of credit which responsible businesses not primarily motivated by unbridled greed would never have considered holding out.  Then when their irresponsibility began to bit them in the ass, they turned to their pawns in Congress to protect them and turn Americans into debt slaves.

The chaos of the stock markets of the past several years, both in America and around the world, is unlike anything seen since before 29 October 1929.

One of the clearest examples of just how bad an idea giving corporate interests and financial markets primary control over economic and social policy is food prices.  As with college tuitions, food would naturally be expected increase overall through the years.  But in 2008, they took a quantum leap upward due not to decreased supply (there was and still is more actual food than previously) but to market speculation.

Capitalism was an improvement over feudalism in Late Middle Ages Europe and over the planter economy of the antebellum South in 19th century America.  Yesterday’s reform has become today’s ideology of oppression.

In a letter to one Col. J. S. Wilkins, President Abraham Lincoln wrote, “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

This happened soon after the Paris Commune of 1871 and the Great Upheaval of 1877 in the United States in a series of Supreme Court decisions leading up to Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886) andPembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania (1888).

As Ryan Grim and Mike Sachs laid out in their recent Huffington Post article, Justice Stephen Field invented the idea of corporate personhood as a matter of U.S. law.  On little or no grounds, he wrote into opinions and commentary material to be later given as precedent to support their cause, the prospect that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution intended to give citizenship and equal protection of law to the former slaves gave the same citizenship and equal protection of law to money.

This was the series of decisions which formed one of the main bases upon which the current Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts justified their outrageous decision that dollars equal speech under the 1st Amendment in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010).

And to be fair, it is not only the conservative wing of the Court suffering from rectal-cranial inversion syndrome.  It was the LIBERAL wing of the current Court that ruled in Kelo v. City of New London (2005) that governments could take private property of citizens (subjects) under the power of eminent domain and turn it over to private for-profit corporations.

A “long train of abuses and usurpations” indeed.  I have digressed thus to show that even the body which is supposed to safeguard the rights of American citizens is as much a part of the problem as any other branch of government.

In the face of the Great Recession, those governments I spoke of earlier are responding the same way in which their predecessors initially responded to the Great Depression of the 1930’s: with painful, punitive measures of austerity.  What saved America, and the world, from absolute degradation was the reversal of this by programs such as the New Deal.

Those programs were not, as many of its detractors claim, intended to destroy capitalism and the gross overabundance of wealth held by the few, but to preserve it.  They did, however, have the trickle-down effect of making the lives of individuals people better as well as lay the foundation of the prosperity which broke out following the War.

Several pundits, as well as many Americans “occupying” streets and parks and public places in America have noted that the Occupy Wall Street movement is inspired by the rising up of people in various countries during the Arab Spring.  As Karl Vick describes in his recent TIME magazine article, a more accurate parallel is the Occupy Tel Aviv movement during the summer of 2011.

At its height, the movement in Israel had over 100 separate camps and over 350,000 people marching in the streets.  Out of a population of around 7,000,000.  Theirs were specifically economic causes, like their American counterpart.  Many of the same economic causes over which the various risings that inspired the Israelis were the initial causes for the risings by the people of Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, and Syria, though their causes were political as well.

Had the Iranian people not risen up nonviolently against the Islamic Republic and continued to do so for as long as they did, it is possible that the events of the Arab Spring could have been much bloodier and even more chaotic.

The risings in those countries, as well as those against austerity in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, helped inspire the citizens of Israel.

Israeli Arabs, by the way, played a significant part in the movement that swept across Israel this past summer, and many of the Israelis Jews who participated have also been in the lead of those inside Israel supporting the nonviolent movement of the Palestinians for equal human rights.

That reminds me of a story that starts, “A Palestinian, an American, an Iranian, and an Israeli got onto a boat in Paris, France…”

The citizens taking part in the Occupy Wall Street and related protests around the country are more the heirs of the Sons of Liberty who carried out the Boston Tea Party on 16 December 1773 than the movement which has adopted Tea Party as its name.   Sam Adams and his men had risen up, as Englishmen, in protest of laws enacted by Parliament to secure a trade monopoly for corporations based in the mother country, primarily the British East Indian Company, to the detriment of merchants and citizens in the American colonies.

Unlike Adams and the other Sons, however, the Occupy Wall Street movement is neither violent nor destructive.  The protest against corporate power is the only similarity.

Pundits, news reporters, and supporters of corporate power have complained that the Occupy Wall Street Movement has no specific goals and no clear leaders, even though in truth everyone knows what the problem is.  Others have suggested its participants take their concerns to the government. 

I ask this, Why should Occupy Wall Street address itself  to government which has been reduced to a mere frontline of pawns defending Corporate America from those who would be citizens rather than subjects?  Go back and read the description I gave earlier about exactly who is in charge of social and economic policy in this country.

Part of the criticism is coming from Wall Street itself, and I suspect its denizens do not know what to do with an “attack”, as it were, behind their lines.

Israeli protestor Stav Shaffir, quoted in Vick’s article, has sound advice for the movement and an answer for its critics: "As a movement that goes up against the most powerful force, if you act like an organization, like an institution, you lose. If you have one head, they know what to cut off. You have to be like water, to be everywhere, to be unpredictable. We work like an open code. Everybody should act their part. Everybody should act like a leader."

If neoliberal capitalism and the hierarchical trickle-down democracy under which it is currently governed are the permanently engraved ideals of the Republic of the United States of America, then there is no room for improvement, no chance for growth, no space for hope, no anything but more of the same, no hope.

The first step on the road to taking backing personhood for each individual in America, and then the rest of the world, should be taking away personhood from corporations.  By constitutional amendment if necessary.  If corporations were actual persons, not a single one of them would be out of prison, and many of those in prison would be in maximum security.

The time has come to take a stand, for citizenship against for subjection, for government to function for the GENERAL welfare rather than that of a narrow group, for the 99% of the people, for the needs of the many over the greed of the few.  After all, you can't abandon the creeping meatball if you don't first rise up.

As Bobby Sands once said: “Everyone has his or her particular part to play.  No part is too great or too small.  No one is too old or too young to do something.”

Our day will come.

Appendix:

From the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

References:

Ryan Grim and Mike Sachs, “Corporate Citizenship: How Public Dissent In Paris Sparked Creation Of The Corporate Person” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/corporate-citizenship-corporate-personhood-paris-commune_n_1005244.html).

Karl Vick, “What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn from Occupy Tel Aviv” (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2097627,00.html).

07 October 2011

The real end of the Roman Empire in the West

Christopher Columbus discovered America.  The issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the American South.  The Order of Knights Templar was exterminated in the early 14thcentury.  Japan initiated the war against the United States of America in 1941.  The War Between the States was not about slavery but about states’ rights.

These are but a few of the historical misconceptions and outright deceptions with which I and many like me grew up.  The truth of these four “facts” is more like this:

Columbus and crew were lost, on their way to what they believed were the East Indies.  Up to 145 million natives may have lived in the so-called New World in 1492; by 1600 that number had been reduced to 1.5 million, largely due to pandemics.

The Emancipation Proclamation was a propaganda exercise that actually freed no one, not the slaves in the Union states but only those in territory still in Confederate hands.  Like if the USA has announced during the Cold War that all those behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains were now free from Communist rule.

The Templars were never persecuted in Portugal and survive to this day as the Military Order of Christ. In fact, the afore-mentioned Columbus was a member of that order and therefore a Templar.  In the kingdom of Aragon, the Templars were converted into the Order of Montessa.  In Scotland, after the Order was dissolved in England, English and Scottish Templars merged with the Scottish Hospitallers to become the joint Order of St. John and the Temple that lasted until the Reformation.

The United States declared an oil embargo against the Empire of Japan in 1941 and set about enforcing it, the first blood drawn, so to speak.  Such an embargo is a very provocative act of war.

States’ rights were but one argument of many that the elite in the South used to justify continuation of human slavery.  Anyone who doubts that the secessions in 1860 and 1861 were to preserve slavery needs only to read the proclamations.

I’ll never forget my first day in Marvin Cousins’ American Government class my senior year in high school.  He began the course by listing several myths of American history one-by-one, after which he would rip it apart, beginning with the phrase, “YOU HAVE BEEN LIED TO!”

The Roman Empire, or Imperium Romanum, fell in 476 CE. 

Well, not exactly.  The empire continued to exist until 1453, with the fall of its seat, Constantinopolis.  Vestiges of the empire survived well into the modern era.  So, what fell in in 476 CE was merely the fall of the Western Roman Empire with its last emperor.  Only that’s not entirely true either.  Imperator Caesar Flavius Romulus Augustus did have a successor and Roman institutions were maintained for quite some time.  The Senate of Roma, in fact, lasted into the 7th century.

So here’s what really happened.

In 285 CE, Imperator Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus (Diocletian) divided the Imperium Romanum into Eastern and Western halves under himself at Nicodemia in the east and Imperator Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus Herculius Augustus, the lesser of two equals, in the west at Roma.

Emperors in the Late Roman Empire had Imperator (and later also Caesar) as their pronomen with Augustus as their cognomen.

In 293 Diocletianus divided the Imperium Romanum into four parts, known as the Tetrarchy, two of which fell under an Imperator Augustus, and two smaller under Caesars.  He further moved the capital of the West from Roma to Meliandum (Milan) and reduced the size of the empire’s provinces and groups them into twelve dioceses, each under a vicarius.

The Tetrarchy system fell apart in 313, though the system of smaller provinces grouped into twelve dioceses remained.  In 324 Imperator Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (Constantine) of the West defeated his opposite in the East, Imperator Caesar Gaius Valerius Licinianus Licinius Augustus, to become sole imperial ruler, choosing to rule from the East.

Constantine moved his seat from Nicodemia to Byzantium in 330, establishing Nova Roma, later called Constantinopolis, in its place, making it the capital of the whole Imperium Romanum. 

After his death in 337, the Imperium Romanum was divided into three praetorian prefectures: the western Prefecture of Galliae (including Britanniae, Hispaniae, Germaniae); the central Prefecture of Italiae (including the Balkans and Africa); and the eastern Prefecture of the Orient (Thracia, Anatolia, Syria-Palestina, Aegyptus, Libya).  The Imperium carved the Prefecture of Illyricum (Illyria, Dalmatia, Graecia, and Dacia) largely out of that of Italiae in 356.

The Praetorian Prefects of these units were subordinate to the Imperator Caesar Augustus and had authority only over their civil administration.  Each prefecture had its own Magister Militum, head of military, each of whom reported to the Magister Militum of the Imperium, who answered to the emperor.

In the mid-4th century, the military of the empire was reorganized.  In the Diocese of Britanniae, the military was divided into three commands, those of the Comes Litoris Saxonici, Dux Britanniarum, and Comes Britanniarum, who reported to the Magister Militum of the Prefecture of Galliae.  Across the Oceanus Britannica (the English Channel), the Dux Belgicae Segundae and the Dux Tractus Armoricani et Nervicani, along with the Classis Britannica at Bononia Gesoriacum (Boulogne-sur-Mer), fell under the overall command of the Comes Litoris Saxonici.

These commands on the outskirts of the empire are relevant to later events.

In 366, Damasus I, Bishop of Rome, convinced Imperator Caesar Flavius Valentianus Augustus in the West to give him the title Pontifex Maximus, previously held by the emperor, becoming the first Pope in the modern sense of the word.

Following the death of Imperator Caesar Flavius Theodosius Augustus in 395, the Imperium Romanum was once again split into Eastern and Western halves, only this time the division was permanent.

In 402, Flavius Stilcho, Magister Militum of the West, withdrew some legions from Britanniae to face the Gothi in Italiae.  Meanwhile, Imperator Caesar Flavius Honorius Augustus moved his seat from Meliandum to Ravenna purposes.

In 409, the Vandali, Buri, Suevi, and Alani ravaged the Diocese of Galliae until they being driven into Iberia by the Visigothi.  Cut off by the chaos, the people of Britanniae and of Armorica (Britanny) armed themselves and overthrew their civilian magistrates.  Imperator Caesar Flavius Honorius Augustus told them to attend their own affairs from thenceforth.

The following year, the Visigothi invaded Italiae and sacked Roma.

The revolts in Armorica and Britanniae were suppressed in 417, followed by the return of some level of imperial presence in both regions.  A year later, Imperator Caesar Flavius Honorius Augustus granted his Visigothi allies land in Aquitania to settle as foederati.

Flavius Aetius, sometimes referred to as the “last of the Romans” became Comes and Magister Militum of the Prefecture of Galliae in 425. He was to become the last of the great Roman generals in the West.

Four years later, largely due to Comes Aetius’ campaigns, the Vandali and their client Alani crossed from Hispaniae into North Africa, and within ten years conquered all of Roman Africa. 

The same year, Pope Celestine I dispatched Bishops Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes to Britanniae to combat the Pelagian heresy at the request of Palladius, a British deacon. While in Britanniae, Germanus, in his former life a Roman military officer, led the Britons to victory in battle against the Scotti (Irish) near the later Welsh border.

In 435, a local named Tibatto successfully led the Armorican movement for independence from the Diocese of Galliae.

After conquering Africa Proconsularis in 439, completing his conquest of Roman Africa, Genseric adopted the title King of the Vandals and Alans, making his seat at Cartago, the former seat of Roman government.

In 446, the Britons appealed to Comes Aetius for military assistance in their struggle against the Pictii and the Scotti who were raiding their lands from both land and sea, but he had his hands full with Attila the Hun. Instead, German of Auxerre returned the next year, accompanied by Severus, Bishop of Trier.  After expelling the Scotti from the mountain territory of the Cornovii, he established Paganes (Powys), with Catellius, son of Categirn (Cadell Ddernllwg), son of Vortigern, as Tribune, later succeeded by Bruttius, another grandson of Vortigern.

In 451, the armies of Comes Aetius, Magister Militum of Galliae, and of the Visigoth king Theodoric I, which include Alani, Francii, and Burgundones, turned back the army of Attila the Hun in the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains.
         
The Vandali sacked Roma again in 455.  Comes Aetius was not around to prevent this because he had been assassinated in Roma on orders of Imperator Caesar Flavius Placidius Valentinianus Augustus.

Aegidius, Magister Militum per Galliae, established the Ducatas Noviodunum over the same territory as the later Nuestria (Galliae north of the Loire River) the following year, 456, after being cut off from the rest of the empire.  Both its citizenry and Ravenna considered it an exclave of the western empire, and it may well have been in regular contact with pro-Roman elements in the Diocese of Britanniae.
Historians estimate that it is around this time, possibly up to twenty five years later, that Ambrosius Aurelianus, whom Gildas refers to as the “last of the Romans” (in Britanniae), is active as the foremost leader of what remains of Roman Britain.

The Visigothi acquired Septimania, also called Gallia Narbonensis, in 462, leaving them in control of the entire south of the Diocese of Galliae.

Dux Aegidius died in 464 at the Battle of Orleans against the Visigoths as ally of Childeric I of the Francii to his immediate east, and was succeeded by his second-in-command, Paulus, Comes of Angers, who subsequently also died in battle against the Visigoths to be succeeded as Dux by Syagrius, son of Aegidius.

* * * * *

In the fateful year 476, Odoacer of the Scirii, head of the foederati (non-native, mostly Germanic, troops) in the Prefecture of Italiae whose ranks included Heruli, Ostrogothi, Franci, and Lombardi, captured Ravenna and overthrew Flavius Orestes, Magister Militum in the West, and Imperator Caesar Flavius Romulus Augustus.

He then invited Imperator Caesar Flavius Zeno Augustus in Constantinopolis to become sole ruler of the reunited Imperium Romanum and recognize him as King of Italy under imperial authority. Zeno granted Odoacer the pronomen Patricius and the title Dux Italiae, while recognizing Imperator Caesar Flavius Julius Nepos Augustus as ruler of the West.  Patricius Odoacer maintained all of the imperial institutions, including the Senate at old Roma.

The Visigothi destroyed the last remnants of the Prefecture of Galliae the next year, except for the Ducatas Noviodunum in the north.

In 480, Imperator Caesar Nepos Augustus was murdered in Dalmatia in the Balkan peninsula where he had made his residence, after which Patricius Odoacer moved to take over Sicilia and Dalmatia.

The Ducatas Noviodunum was finally conquered by Clovis I, king of the Francii, in 486, leaving him in control of all Gaul north of the River Loire.  Dux Syagrius fled to the protection of the Visigothi to the south, only to be executed by Alaric II.

Theodoric, Consul of the Imperium Romanum at Constantinopolis and now king of the Ostrogothi, invaded the Prefecture of Italiae in 488 at the behest of Imperator Caesar Flavius Zeno Augustus after Patricius Odoacer became too independent.

In 493, the Ostrogothi under Consul Theodoric completed their conquest of Odoacer’s domain, and now Patricius Theodoric, like his predecessor, ruled as viceroy to Zeno with the title Dux Italiae.

In 500, the Romano-British commander Agricola reconquered Dyfed, formerly known as Demetia, from the Irish Deisi and became its governor as Tribune. Such Roman imperial titles are attested to well into the 6th century.

Imperator Caesar Flavius Anastasius Augustus raised Clovis of the Franci to the rank of Consul of the Imperium Romanum after he conquers the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse under Alaric II in the Battle of Vouille in 507, leaving only Septimania (Gallica Narbonensis) and Hispaniae in Visigothic hands.

The same year Theodoric, commander of the Classis Britannica (probably then based in Britanniae), campaigned in Armorica.

Patricius Theodoric, Dux Italiae, re-established the Prefecture of Galliae in its former capital of Arelate (Arles) in 510.

Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus (Justinian), who would become very significant to the remains of the Imperium in the West, became Imperator Caesar Augustus of the Imperium Romanum in 527.


In 534, his Magister Militum, Flavius Belisarius, brought an end to the Kingdom of the Vandals and Alans and established the Prefecture of Africa, which included Corsica and Sardinia, with its seat at Cartago.

From 535 to 554, Belisarius conducted the Gothic War with the Ostrogothi for control of the Prefecture of Italiae.

The revived Prefecture of Galliae fell to the Francii in 536.  In the same year, Magister Belisarius finished reconquering Sicilia and established what became the Thema of Sicilia.

In 552, the Imperium Romanum had reconquered enough of Hispaniae to establish the autonomous province of Spania in Iberia, under a magister militum.

In 554, imperial forces under Magister Militum Narses, a scion of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia, finally completed the conquest of the Prefecture of Italiae.

In 580, the Senate of Roma sent two ambassadors to the court of Imperator Caesar Flavius Tiberius Constantinus Augustus at Constantinopolis.

Imperator Caesar Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus transformed the western holdings of the empire in 584, creating two exarchates, with governors combining civil and military powers. 

The Prefecture of Africa became the Exarchate of Africa, adding to it the formerly autonomous province of Spania and the Islas Baleares. 

The Prefecture of Italiae became the Exarchate of Italiae, with its constituent parts being the Ducatas Romanus, the Ducatas Pentapolis, the Ducatas Perusia, the Ducatas Neapolitanus, and the Ducatas Bruttium (Calabria).

In 603, the register of Pope Gregorius, Bishop of Roma and Pontifex Maximus, recorded the acclamation by the Senate of Roma of new statues of Imperator Caesar Flavius Phocas Augustus and his wife Leonitia Augusta, the last to be erected in the Roman Forum.

With the succession of Imperator Caesar Flavius Heraclius Augustus in 610, Greek became the official language of the Imperium Romanum.

The province of Spania fell to the Visigothi in 624.

In 629, Heraclius assumed the title Basileus tuv Basileuv (Shahanshah or King of kings) in honor of his defeat of the Sassanids, ending the long-running Romano-Persian Wars, two years previously.  He also changed the pronomen from Imperator Caesar to Basileus and the cognomen from Augustus to Sebastos, with the empire now called the Basilea Rhomaion.

In 637, Muslim Arab armies invaded the Basilea Rhomaion and conquered Syria-Palestina.  Two years later they conquered Aegyptus and Armenia.

Basileus Konstantinos Pogonatos Sabastos moved the seat of the Basilea Rhomaion from Konstantinopoulis to Siracusa in Sicilia in 663, but it returned to the former after his death in 668.

In 697, Basileus Leontios Sebastos established the Ducatas Venetia in northeastern Italiae, under the Exarchate at Ravenna, with Paolo Lucio Anafestom as Doux (Dux) and Hypatos (Consul).

The Exarchate of Africa fell to the Muslim armies of the Umayyads the following year, except the city of Septum (Ceuta), which remained in the Basilea Rhomaion as an autonomous entity under a comes.

In 710, Julian, last Comes of Septum, switched his loyalty from the Basilea Rhomaion to the Umayyad dynasty when he needed closer allies in his fight against the Visigothi, leading to the invasion of Hispaniae.

The Exarchate of Italiae came to an end in 751 when it was conquered by the Lombards.  The holdings of the Basilea Rhomaion in Italia were reduced to the Themas of Sicilia, Calabria, and Lucania, along with the Ducatas Venetia.

Themata were the administrative divisions of the Basilea Rhomain, which had replaced the system of provinces in the mid-7th century.

In 754, Pope Zachary, Bishop of Roma and Pontifex Maximus, anointed Pepin the Short king of the Francii and bestowed on him the title of Patricius Romanorum.

A portion of the Ducatas Neapolitanus secedes in 758 as the independent Ducato di Amalfi.

In 763, the Ducatas Neapolitanus switched its allegiance from Konstantinopoulos to Roma, becoming part of the Papal States.

Charlemagne of the Franci conquered the Lombard Kingdom of Italy in 774.

The Ducatas Romanus disappeared in 781 when Charlemagne granted it to Pope Benedict VII as part of his temporal domains, the Papal States.

In 800, Pope Leo I crowned Charlemagne as Imperator Romanorum, nominally subordinate to Basilissa Irene Sebastos.  Charlemagne and his successors used the less presumptuous title Imperator Romanum gubernans Imperium. Basileus Michael I Rangabe Sebastos recognized Charlemagne as Imperator in the West in 812.

In 811, the former Ducatas Venetia of the Basilea Rhomain became independent as the Republic of Venice.

Arab armies captured the realm of the Lombards in southern Italiae in 847, and the region became the Emirate of Bari.

In 871, the Basilea Rhomaion retook its lost lands in southern Italiae and formed them into the Thema of Longobardia.

Berengar I, King of Italy and last successor of the imperial line of Charlemagne, died in 924 with no successor appointed or crowned.

In 962, Pope John XII crowned Otto I, Duke of Saxony, as Imperator Romanorum, founding the Imperium Romanum Sacrum, or Holy Roman Empire.

In 965, Sicilia fell to Muslim invaders, who established the Emirate of Sicily. In response, the Basilea Rhomaion united the themata of Calabria, Lucania, and Longobardia under the Strategos of Bari as Kapetan and Patricius, forming the Katepenate of Italia.

The Great Schism of the Christian Church took place in 1054 when the Patriarch of Roma and the Patriarch of Konstantinoupolis excommunicated each other. Since religion and government were deeply entertwined in both the Basilea Rhomain and the West, the split was political as well.

The Katepanate of Italiae came to an end in 1071 when the forces of the Basilea Rhomaion were ousted from the territory by the Normans.  With its exit, the last vestiges of the old Imperium in the West are gone.

* * * * *

In 1077, the Seljuk leader Suleyman bin Kutalmish established the Sultanate of Rum in Anatolia in territory taken from the Basilea Rhomain.

The First Crusade began in 1095 when Basileus Alexios I Komnenos Sebastos in Konstantinoupolis asked Pope Urban II, as a fellow Roman, for assistance against the Seljuk Turks, and he responded with the Council of Clermont to call up volunteers.  

At the end of the war 1099, the Crusaders established the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Principality of Antioch, County of Edessa, and County of Tripoli.

A couple of crusades later, the Treaty of Ramla between Richard the Lionheart and Salah al-Din in 1192 effectively ended the rule of the Crusaders, except for a tiny portion of the Mediterranean coast around the city of Acre, which maintained the title of Kingdom of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the French established the Kingdom of Cyprus the same year.

The Fourth Crusade began in 1202 with the intention of reconquering the Holy Land, but instead attacked the Basilea Rhomain. 

After the capture of Konstantinoupolis in 1204, the western Crusaders divided the conquered territory into the possessions of the Republic of Venice (primarily Crete) and those of the Imperium Romaniae (Latin Empire) and its vassel states: Kingdom of Thessalonika, Principality of Achaea, Duchy of Athens, and Duchy of Naxos.  Rhodes became the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller. 

The surviving “Greek” portions of the empire include the Empire of Nicaea, the Empire of Trebizond, and the Despotate of Epirus.

The “Greek” Despotate of Epirus conquered the “Latin” Kingdom of Thessalonika in 1224, while in 1261 the “Greek” Empire of Nicaea reconquered the “Latin” Imperium Romaniae and reestablished the Basilea Rhomaion.

In 1291, the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt captured Acre, the last territory of the Crusaders in the Levant, ending the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  In 1302, the island of Arwad off the coast of Syria, the very last stronghold of the Knights Templar in the Levant, fell.

The Sultanate of Rum fell to the Ottomans in 1307.

In 1340, the Basilea Rhomaion reabsorbed the “Greek” Despotate of Epirus, and in 1432 reconquered the “Latin” Principality of Achaea.


The Council of Florence which met 1431-1445 defined Papal Supremacy and attempted to resolve differences between the Patriarchate of Rome and those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem to affect a reunion, but it ultimately failed.  The chief sticking points were the Filioque clause in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, Purgatory, and Papal Primacy, the first being the question on which agreement was never reached.

Konstantinoupolis fell to the armies of the Ottoman Empire in 1453 and the Basilea Rhomain, or Imperium Romanum, finally came to an end.  Mehmed II, Sultan of the conquering Ottomans, assumed the title Kaysar-I Rum (Caesar Romanus), which all his successors carred.

The Ottomans conquered the “Latin” Duchy of Athens three years later.

In 1461, the “Greek” Empire of Trebizond, fragment of the Basilea Rhomain independent since 1204, fell to the Ottoman Empire.

The French sold the Kingdom of Cyprus to the Republic of Venice in 1489. The Ottomans conquered it in 1570.  The Ottomans annexed the “Latin” Duchy of Naxos, last remaining vassal state of the former “Latin” Imperium Romaniae, in 1579.
In 1669, the Republic of Venice lost Crete, its last major overseas outpost, to the Ottoman Empire.

The last Doge of the Republic of Venice, founded as the Ducatas Venetia of the Exarchate of Italiae of the Basilea Rhomain in 697 and independent since 814, abdicated in 1797 after surrendering to Napoleon Bonaparte of France.  It had lasted longer than the empire which spawned it. 

Napoleon conquered the Imperium Romanum Sacrum (Holy Roman Empire) in 1806 and ordered it to dissolve.  It reorganized as the Confederation of the Rhine.

Following the Great War, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk overthrew the Ottoman Empire, ending both the Sultanate and the Caliphate, replacing it with a secular Republic of Turkey in 1922.  The title of Kaysar-I Rum (Caesar Romanus), the last vestige of the old Imperium Romanum/Basilea Rhomain, was abolished with the other titles.  The name of Constantinople was changed to Istanbul, which means The City in Turkish, the name by which it had commonly been designated even when the Basilea Rhomain was still called the Imperium Romanum.

The Bishop of Rome, or Pope, still carries the title of Pontifex Maximus.