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Metamorphosis - a change, alteration, transformation, transmutation of a body.
Hypothesis - The Fall of the Roman Empire - fact or illusion, or, in other words, is it possible for someone/thing to appear in one form at one time, then change its' manifestation in another ?
It has been recorded by historians that in 476 A. D. the invading Germanic tribes overthrew the last of the Roman Emperors, Flavius Romulus Augustus, thus ending the Western Roman Empire, (though it would remain in the East until 1453). However, whilst the generally accepted form of the empire was most certainly destroyed, it is my contention that some 164 years earlier, a process had begun by which metamorphosis would change its' known existence from military into theological world super power. In the year 312 A.D., the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, said that he had received a sign (a cross) from the god of the Christians in a dream, the night before he fought the decisive battle of Milvian Bridge (October 28th) against the major rival to his rule, Emperor Maxentius. When Constantine won this battle, he professed to show his gratitude to the Christian god by turning his entire empire over to this new faith, which at that time was just another small (though often persecuted) religious sect within the Empire. In the following year he issued the Edict of Milan, backed by the Eastern EmperorLicinius, returning all previously confiscated Christian meeting places and properties. (Although in 311 A.D. it was in fact Galerius, a junior emperor under the senior Diocletian - the Caesar ironically responsible for initiating the last great persecution of the Christians - who issued an edict just a few weeks before the former died, that granted religious toleration to the Christians, provided they professed loyalty to the Empire). However, was this truly the real reason for Constantine's conversion? It is quite clear from contemporary writings of that time that Constantine was by no means a "saintly" person, even by the brutal standards set by many other Roman leaders. Did he indeed have a much more profound ulterior motive?
The Ecumenical Council of Nicea, 19th June 325 AD.
This was a gathering of about three hundred Christian bishops and deacons from the eastern half of the Roman Empire, whom had come to this little town near the Bosporus Straits, flowing between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The Council was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine The Great, and formulated the Nicene Creed, which expressed the belief of the Holy Trinity and that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was one substance, but they did not invent the Holy Trinity, which is held to have been described in much earlier writings.
It is my hypothesis, however, that the decision by the Emperor Constantine to convert to Christianity was in no small way an attempt to cement his absolute control over the disparate peoples of his Empire. Indeed this process of macro manipulation over the general populous would be used to great success by many autocratic leaders and “divine” monarchies long after Constantine’s death. Perhaps it was not lost on the Bishops at Nicea, that the Old Testament stated that a line of kings was created by God through the prophecy of Jacob, who created his son Judah to be king of Israel, until the coming of the Messiah. The New Testament would state that the first Pope, St. Peter, commanded that all Christians shall honour the Roman Emperor (albeit at that time a pagan) (ref. 1 Peter 2:13-17). Post Nicea, this line was endorsed by all the Popes and the Church, beginning with Constantine himself. Thus, if you went against the Emperor, you went against God. His Roman influence over the Christian Bishops can be bureaucratically seen by adaptations of the following practices, held both prior and post to Constantine's conversion to Christianity:
Birth date of Jesus Christ - the Roman army worshipped the "imported" Persian god of light called Mithrus(the soldiers god). His birthday was the 25th December. However, the god Mithrus was a "men only deity", with access forbidden to women. Note the hierarchical setup within the Roman Church, which soon suppressed the teachings of the Gnostics (early Christians whom held a far more enlightened view of Jesus Christ, and especially his relationship with Mary Magdalene, - gnostics: named after the Greek word gnosis, meaning "knowledge" ). The Roman Church would later uphold the conflicting opinion formulated by Irenaeus (Bishop of Lyon, circa 180 A.D.) of the Gnostics' treatment of Thecla as an early day feminist, and Paul as an ascetic preacher, discouraging marriage, and is another example of their stance on Christianity as a male dominated religion. Whilst not wishing to make judgement over the controversy on the so-called Da Vinci Code, I would commend readers to investigate translations of the supporting Gnostic scriptures within the Nag Hammadi Library, found as recently as December 1945 by an itinerant Egyptian peasant. The Gnostic Gospel of Judas provides a most illuminating, though highly contrary insight to events surrounding the Crucifixion, and had not surprisingly been totally suppressed by the early Roman Church authorities, which ordered the total destruction of all known copies. (According to the text, Jesus had actually instructed Judas to lead the Roman soldiers to arrest him). Not a theory, but now authentic hard historical evidence, according to the find - and of course your own personal belief ! Also, it was a custom at that time that crucified persons still alive by the end of the Jewish Passover, would be released from their crucifixion by the Roman authorities. (In some countries, including England, it used to be a convention that when hanging persons on the gallows, if the rope broke, and yet still lived, they would have their sentence reduced to life imprisonment). This practice, perhaps, could explain the actions by a Roman soldier, whom it is alleged thrust his spear (of destiny) into the body of Jesus whilst the latter was still literally nailed and helpless on the cross, thus ensuring his death. This is obviously a most divergent version of events, that neither Emperor Constantine nor the early, or indeed latter Roman Church would wish to exist. Hence their immense opposition to the Gnostics.
The Virgin Mary - also worshipped by the ordinary Romans was Isis, she was the "imported" Egyptian goddess of the earth. Although her worship entailed elaborate and exotic rituals, what is far more important is that she was often depicted as the holy Mother, with child in arms.
Mary Magdalene - it is written in the Gospels that following the Crucifixion, she came to the sepulchre with sweet spices to anoint the body of Jesus, where she was the first witness of the Resurrection. Following the death of her husband Osirus, Isis anointed his body so that it could pass onto the afterlife.
The Sabbath - worshipped by early Christians, (whom were of course originally Jewish), on Saturdays. Changed by Constantine to Sundays for 2 reasons. Firstly, to placate the newly-to-be-converted Romans and/or pagans, who worshipped the sun god on Sundays. Secondly, and more ominously, to detract criticism away from the Romans for their often brutal persecution of the Christians over the previous 300 years; by placing the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, upon the then indigenous Jewish inhabitants in Israel (a precedent already existed for successfully apportioning blame on minorities, with Emperor Nero's violent campaign of religious persecution against the early Christians, immediately following the great fire of Rome in 64 A.D.). The facts that the Jews were themselves quite cruelly treated by the Romans, with their Temple in Jerusalem being destroyed in 70 A.D., and virtually the entire Jewish population being "ethnically cleansed" just a 100 years later, did not stop this obvious blood libel, which persists in many forms of anti-Semitism today, with such tragic consequences as the Nazi holocaust. Just in case of any detractors, worshipping the Sabbath on a Saturday became a capital offence, with many forced to work on that day to prove that they were now observing the correct day or worship, i.e. Sunday.
Passover - date had previously been fixed by the Bible's Hebrew calendar. Following on from the work byIrenaeus in the 2nd Century, against the Quartodeciman celebration of Easter (14th Nissan in the Jewish calendar), Constantine confirmed its' transformation into a Christian Passover, called Easter, (Pascha, or Resurrection Day). The Roman (Gregorian Calendar) canonical rule is that Easter Day is the first Sunday after the 14th day of the lunar month (the nominal full moon) that falls on or after 21 March (nominally the day of the vernal equinox - but falling no later than the 25th April - though Eastern Orthodox Christians calculate the fixed date of 21st March, according to the Julian Calendar). Indeed today rather complicated algorithms, used to calculate the "Metonic" cycles, containing years of "Golden Numbers", "Epacts" and "Dominical Letters" are involved - and far too detailed for the nature of this website. The Romans thus settled upon an "ecclesiastical" full moon, rather than observations of the true Moon as the Jews did in determining Passover. Indeed, it is was forbidden for Easter to fall on the 14th Nissan. Constantine wanted to augment the schism with Christianity's "Jewish" roots. By using the writings of Irenaeus that there could be no salvation for those outside the Church, he thus "Romanised" this most holy of Christian events, suppressing all opposition to his actions. However, such was his almost blind determination in doing so, that he left behind him a most unusual calendar conundrum, whereby whilst Jesus Christ has a fixed date of birth, he was then deemed to have a variable date of death! Most regretfully, this was followed by a whole liturgy of anti-Semitic writings, that were designed to deflect away any blame from the occupying Roman army in Israel from complicity in the Crucifixion. The results are still, most tragically, still around to this day.
The Gospel of Judas - most highly controversial of all the gospel writings, now forming perhaps the most contentious part of the Nag Hammadi Library. In short, it portrays the "act of betrayal" by Judas against Jesus in a more positive vein, basically that Jesus told Judas to arrange his capture by the Romans, in order that he would ultimately be crucified, thus preparing the way for his resurrection. Obviously these scriptures are quite forcibly attacked by the Roman Church authorities. Unfortunately, the Churches "take" on what they view as Judas' act of treachery against Jesus, has been a bedrock of anti-Semitism over the past 1700 years. Thus, the blame for Jesus' death is taken away from Rome, and placed upon the Jewish inhabitants of biblical Israel. However, on a more positive note, in 1962 Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, which set out to dismantle the charge that Jews were responsible for killing Jesus. Perhaps the Gospel of Judas (by implication) had achieved that already?
Following the defeat of Carthage at the end of the third Punic War in 146 B.C., the Romans created a blood libel against the Carthaginians to justify their conquest and destruction. They "created" graphic accounts of child sacrifice that mothers and fathers had buried their children, who had been (allegedly) sacrificed to their gods Baal Hammon and Tanit in Tophets, (literally place of burning). A similar campaign was waged by Rome against the early Christians in the 1st and 2nd Centuries. Propaganda alleged that the Christians literally drank blood based upon their belief in transubstantiation, and was used to persecute them with tragic results. These precedents can ominously be compared with the later accusations started by religious bigots during the Middle Ages, that Jews drank the blood of Gentiles, following human sacrifice. Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), a German Catholic nun (and self-alleged visionary), wrote in her biography that an elderly Jewish woman had told her that the blood libel was in fact true, and that Jews did steal Christian children for use in ritual sacrifices. Emmerich's The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was, to my understanding, a key source for Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ (2004).
The Romans later "adopted" the Carthaginian god Tanit, whereby it became known as Dea Caelestis. Thus continuing the practice of taking over the religious beliefs of their new citizens, for their own use. The symbol of Tanit, a truncated pyramid, topped with a rectangular bar, over which is depicted the Sun and the crescent Moon, was also utilised. This can be compared with the systematic "take over" of Christianity by the Roman Church, and its' adoption of the "sign of the cross".
The following year (326 A.D.) Constantine had his eldest son Crispus put to death, and his wife Fausta killed at the behest of his mother, Helena. However, just before his death in 337 A.D. he sought catechumen (purification), and chose to be baptized by Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.
A second Ecumenical Council was held in 381 A.D. to conclude the work began 56 years earlier. This was followed by a third, known as The Council of Ephesus, in 449 A.D. (also called by the Roman Catholic Church asThe Robber Council - though meaning here rebel or hostile) it stated that no further changes could be made to it, nor could other creeds be adopted.
Theodosius was the last Roman emperor (based in Constantinople) to actually control both western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire. Although he had been tolerant of most pagan practices, in 391 A.D. he sanctioned the destruction of the Serapeum at Alexandria, enacted laws against pagan practices, and put an end to the Olympic games. He is also credited with putting an end to the power of the Arian and Manichean heresies in Constantinople, while establishing Catholicism as the sole state religion.
Charlemagne King of the Franks and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
In 772 A.D. he began an almost 30 year military campaign to strengthen his realm and bring order to Europe. By 800 A.D. Charlemagne was the undisputed ruler of Western Europe. His vast realm by now included the countries that are today France, Switzerland, Belgium and The Netherlands. It also included half of modern Italy, Germany and parts of Austria and Spain. By establishing the first central government over Western Europe for over 300 years, Charlemagne restored much of the unity created by the old Roman Empire, thus leading the way for the development of modern Europe as we know it today.
That same year on Christmas Day in Saint Peter's, Rome, whilst Charlemagne knelt before Pope Leo III in prayer, the head of the Roman Church placed upon the bowed head of the Holy Roman Emperor, a golden crown. Thus, Charlemagne's coronation was awarded him by the church, which was of course a very cunning plan by the Pope to emphasise who held the upper hand. Thus, although Charlemagne was the undisputed military ruler of Europe, he was awarded his crown by the authority of the Pope. It was not his by right of conquest alone. Therefore, the real power of the Holy Roman Empire lay with the authority of the leader of the Roman Church.
Bellum Sacrum (Holy War)
Many people are aware of Carl Von Clausewitz's famous dictum, that war is merely a continuation of politics by other means. However, can a religious war be a war justified by religious differences? What happens when the legitimate forces of one state, with an established religion, pits itself against those of another state, with either a quite different religion (or indeed even a different sect within the same religion). The Crusades were such an historical event.
In March 1095, Pope Urban II received a request from the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Emperor, Alexius 1, to help him defend his empire from attacks by the Seljuk Turks. He responded by holding the Council of Clermont, which called upon all Christians to unite in a holy war against the Muslim invaders. In return, he promised all those who fell in action that they would receive an immediate remission of their sins. The first Crusader army was subsequently victorious against two sizeable Turkish armies in military engagements at Drylaeum and Antioch, and concluded the crusade in a successful conquest of Jerusalem by assault. Unfortunately, the Crusaders quickly dispelled any semblance of holiness as the Christian knights proceeded to massacre virtually the entire city population, civilian or otherwise, including Eastern Christians, whom they bizarrely regarded as foreigners. Out of all the Crusades, (of which there some nine major, plus a number of smaller expeditions), the first was by far the most triumphant. The Pope’s efforts were rewarded by seeing the creation of several small Crusader states, of which the most notable would be the “Kingdom of Jerusalem”. Thus, to all intents and purposes, the holy city was now back again in the Roman fold, but the soldiers who achieved it were virtually all French knights.
Battle of Lepanto
On the 7th October 1571, the epic but bloody naval Battle of Lepanto was fought at the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, (situated off the western coast of Greece), when a galley fleet representing The (Christian) Holy League, a hotchpotch coalition of Spain, Venice, Genoa, Savoy, the Knights of Malta and others, put together by Pope Pius V, led by Don Juan of Austria (but under the control of the Papacy), defeated a force of (Muslim) Ottoman galleys. Initially in the battle the Ottoman forces (sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto) held the upper hand over the Holy League forces, (which had come from Messina, earlier that day). However, there then followed the "miracle of the rosaries", a most fortuitous change of wind direction greatly favouring the Christian fleet, with The Holy League then crediting the victory to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary. Pius V insured the Church's "leading" role in the ensuing destruction of the Ottoman fleet, by instituting a new Catholic feast day, henceforth called Our Lady of Victory to commemorate the battle, which is now celebrated by the Catholic Church as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is described by historians as the final major naval battle in world history solely between rowing vessels. However, what it also shows us is the affirmation of power and authority of the Pope to command and order a Christian alliance into action.
The latter day Roman Empire
Today there are approximately just over 1 billion Roman Catholics, in a world with a population of approximately 6.5 billion inhabitants, equating to some 17.5%, or just under 1 in 6 of everyone on this planet. When one considers the area covered and the countries therein, including most of the major industrialised countries, (excluding Russia - Eastern Orthodox Church; and China - communist and no official state religion), the metamorphosis is complete. In 2005 following the death of Pope John Paul II, virtually all of the world's leaders and millions of people flocked to Rome to pay their respects to the body and for his funeral. All the dignitaries were sat (diplomatically) in alphabetical order. What other world leader can command the attendance of all others at either his funeral or inauguration? What other world leader could have the Presidents of Israel and Iran sitting just one row apart? What other world leader can have such power and authority with no military force (save the tiny Swiss Guard) to back it up? There may not be a Roman Emperor today in the 21st century, but does the new Pope (also known as the Bishop of Rome), His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI have any less real stature than any Caesar that lived in centuries past?
The above paragraphs are NOT to be taken in any way as either a criticism, or endorsement, of either the Roman Catholic Church or religion. Indeed, in most modern "democracies", the generally accepted rule of law is based upon fact (e.g. evidence, information, etc.) and truth (e.g. testimony, integrity, etc.) - and both are normally presented/given under oath. However, with most of the worlds' major religions, their teachings are based upon belief (e.g. convictions, principles, etc.) and faith (e.g. trust, confidence, etc.). Thus, it is not necessary to prove their rulings, and in some cases may even charge the dissenter with blasphemy! Perhaps the best known (and hotly debated) example of this contradiction would be the Judeo/Christian "creation theory". Paradoxically, in most courts of law, (certainly within the “free world”), oaths to tell the truth are taken by both witnesses and jurors upon: the Bible (either the Old or New Testament), the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, etc., (according to one’s own stated religious beliefs), although atheists in the U.K., U.S.A. and many other countries are permitted to affirm or swear an oath.
This website as stated elsewhere is non-partisan, and the writings both above and on other topics and pages are based upon facts as investigated from research, which are NOT exhaustive. These writings are published to encourage open and sincere debate, which often comes from "standing outside the box" and daring to challenge the "accepted wisdom" long established by others. Without such dichotomies would we ever have been granted the "Magna Carta" (1215), or read tomes such as "The Rights of Man" (1791) by Thomas Paine. My sincere apologies to those readers who might feel that I have offended their faith and/or beliefs, but perhaps the strength of your convictions should be their ability to withstand open debate?
Statius, the Roman poet wrote "Macte animo ... sic itur ad astra" ("Be of courage… thus is the way to the stars".)