writing a book [cont'd]

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Fri, 24 May 1996 19:38:34 CDT

sociologist, spell that d-i-l-l-e-t-a-n-t-e. What's worse, I generate tons
of first draft, but published nothing not edited by someone else. The someone
else who did the editing when I was in academia, in return getting co-author-
ship, now charges $75 an hour minimum. What's worse even than that, last
time I tried to write a book-length anything, I spun wheels and got burned
out, having forgot what it was about.

At this time I want to know what ethnogenesis is. It's for sure a Thingie
which is much clearer in retrospect than it ever is at the time. There has
been wide disagreement, historically down to the present, as to what Romans
were. Things were both much clarified and confused to the utmost in 212
when anyone who was not a slave became a Roman citizen and, if literate
in Latin and speaking some dialect of it could pass for Roman. The former
Hellenistic East's inhabitants became generic Greeks. That lasting till
the fourth to sixth centuries during which Coptic and Syriac became elite
high-cultural languges, for reasons involving passionate religious
disagreements with the Authorities over the nature of God, official
persecution, proximity to the Silk Route from China previously mentioned,
and quite possibly skin colour. Armenian culture likewise flourished, but
whereas Armenians were Monophysite Christians, like Syrians and Egyptians,
they were indistinguishable in skin colour from the neighbouring Greeks
of Asia Minor. When the Eastern Roman Empire survived, even flourished,
after the Fall of the Roman Empire, as we call it, the Greeks of Asia
Minor now called themselves *Romaoi*, which they continued to do for
a thousand years. When the Arab conquests lopped off the provinces
inhabited by Coptic and Syriac, also darker-skinned, Monophysite Christians,
Armenian Monophysite Christians became the backbone of the Roman Army, which
was, actually, that of the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire, as we call it.
Whose inhabitants simply would not listen to anyone questioning their claim
to the name Romans. When the Saljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor following
the Battle of Manzikert, in 1071, they named it Rum. Ottoman Turks called
the formerly Byzantine territory in Europe "Rumelia," and to this day the
people of Romania are, on spurious grounds, "sons of the Romans." There
was for many centuries a "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation." Some
or most of these designations were fictions, but not all of them were
*mere* fictions. Fictions which endure are emotionally compelling fictions.

Ethnogenesis is most readily seen to have taken place once the Peoples
concerned have disappeared, as all Peoples sooner or later do. When the
Ostrogoths were conquered or exterminated by Byzantines, and the Visigoths
likewise by Franks and Muslims, it was known that, according to both kinds
of Goths, there had been Ostrogoths and Visigoths for centuries; also,
they both had a common eponymous ancestor, named Gaut. Their ruling lineages,
Amals and Balthis, were of great antiquity. Yet, in the mid-fourth century,
there were two Peoples, Trevisi and Greuthungi, which had established states
in what is now Romania. These Peoples lived in villages of mixed ethnicity
with Dacians, who were ethnically diverse. In 376, the approach of Huns
led to blind panic, with both Peoples, generically Goths, begging asylum
from the East Roman government, and it is safe to assume that Dacians
were tagging along. Emperor Valens ordered that the Trevisi be let across,
but the Greuthungi refused passage. The Roman officials were both racist
and crooked, and either could not distinguish Trevisi or Greuthungi, or
could be made to do so or not for a price. Henceforth, there were Goths
within the Roman frontier, Goths ruled by Huns, and Goths moving from the
latter to the former with varying legality. The Romans so fleeced and
swindled the refugees that in 378 the latter revolted, beating the Romans
at Adrianople where Valens was killed. From this time forward, whether
Goths were migratory or stationary, there were always plenty of volunteers
for Goth-hood in the form of runaway slaves. The emergence of Visigoths
and Ostrogoths was in fact a highly confused mess, replete with complex
political manuevers and wars with contingent outcomes. These included
an evenly-matched power struggle for leadership of what became the
Ostrogoths, decided by the purely accidental death of one of the

We can say that a People acquires a Past *following* ethnogenesis, but
this is almost trite. It must acquire a Past which is *congruent* with its
present circumstances and prospects, ideologically. That is, it cannot
be congruent with the objective reality of what is current, as this is
ideologically mystified already.
Does this imply that, as the current circumstances change, the Past
must be renewed? Of course. Sometimes, even revolutionized. The myth of
the Exodus, for instance, surely wiped out the Past which those Peoples,
known to the Egyptians as Israel, must have developed while dwelling up
there in the hills of Canaan for hundreds of years. Vast fabrications of
the Past are not innovations of twentieth century totalitarian states.

Daniel A. Foss