Wilders in Rome (2): Crumbling foundations of supremacist mythology

Foto: Sargasso achtergrond wereldbol

Een gastbijdrage van Huib Riethof. Dit stuk werd met toestemming overgenomen van zijn persoonlijke weblog.

March 26, 2011, Mr. Wilders continued (see first part) his remarkable horror story in front of a Roman public by referring to ideas first espoused by Edward Gibbon, a great 18th century British historian, whose “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (1776-1789, 6 vol.) was a first exhaustive study into the fragility of empires.

Inevitably, Wilders (or his ghost writer, for Mr. Wilders did not study at a University) concentrates on a 402 AD (or 401 or 405 AD) event. Some Germanic [and Slavic, HR] peoples crossed the Rhine river and started an invasion into the Roman Gaul lands. Which leads, finally, to plundering of the City of Rome in 406 AD (or 410 AD).

Gibbon’s source is Jerome in Bethlehem, who was observing from a large distance in space and time what had happened to the Western part of the Roman Empire. The event is not central to Edward Gibbon’s theory about the way and causes of the Roman downfall. But Jerome was one of the few written sources he could access. Historiography has much progressed since then. But Mr. Wilders needed a source to underline his anti-islamic world vision and his idée-fixe about Christian supremacy.

Barbarian invasions

So he said:

    In the 5th century, the Roman Empire fell to the Germanic Barbarians. There is no doubt that the Roman civilization was far superior to that of the Barbarians. And yet, Rome fell. Rome fell because it had suffered a loss of belief in its own civilization. It had lost the will to stand up and fight for survival.
    Rome did not fall overnight. Rome fell gradually. The Romans scarcely noticed what was happening. They did not perceive the immigration of the Barbarians as a threat until it was too late. For decades, Germanic Barbarians, attracted by the prosperity of the Empire, had been crossing the border.
    At first, the attraction of the Empire on newcomers could be seen as a sign of the cultural, political and economic superiority of Rome. People came to find a better life which their own culture could not provide. But then, on December 31st in the year 406, the Rhine froze and tens of thousands of Germanic Barbarians, crossed the river, flooded the Empire and went on a rampage, destroying every city they passed. In 410, Rome was sacked.

This intrusion from the North was neither the first, nor the last one that happened during the Migration Period. From the third century on, Roman emperors had been hiring German and Slavic tribesmen as soldiers, allowing them to settle in different parts of the Empire and using them to keep away new peoples coming from the East and the North. During the time we speak of, the East Roman Emperor in Constantinople was engaging Germans to attack his Western Roman rivals. Due, amongst others to climate change (!), the largely Romanized peoples in the transdanubian and transrhenanian area, were driven from the colder regions to warmer climates. A large part of the Vandals ended up in North Africa, where their state subsisted for centuries. The Visigoths (from Sweden) settled in Spain. The Franks in France.

Rome fell from within

And, you’ll ask, what has Christianism to do with this? For, in Wilders’ opinion, Rome was “superior’ because of it’s “judeo-christian roots“. Well, you are in for a big surprise! Those “barbarians” were Christians, too! A quick look by the ghostwriters into the Wiki would have been enough, to make their master less ridiculous. (Wikipedia about Vandals &c):

    Around this time, the Hasdingi [one of the two Vandal tribes, HR] had already been Christianized. During the Emperor Valens’s reign (364–78) the Vandals accepted, much like the Goths earlier, Arianism, a belief that was in opposition to that of Nicene orthodoxy [Concilium of Nicaea, 323, HR] of the Roman Empire. Yet there were also some scattered orthodox Vandals, among whom was the famous magister militum Stilicho, the chief minister of the [Roman] Emperor Honorius [in Constantinople, HR].

    In 400 or 401, possibly because of attacks by the Huns, the Vandals, under king Godigisel, along with their allies (the Sarmatian Alans and Germanic Suebians) moved westwards into Roman territory. Some of the Silingi [the other Vandal tribe, HR] joined them later. Vandals raided the Roman province of Raetia in the winter of 401/402.

Oh, my God! Those “barbarians” crossing the Rhine, they were … Arian Christians! It was a match between Christians, not between believers and non-believers! Like it happens always in war, barbaric acts were perpetrated on both sides. Fellow (orthodox) Christians manipulated Arian Christians to attack Roman Christians. And, believe me, Jews and humanistic polytheists, they were discriminated against and chased away by all three of the Christian sects!

If you read Edward Gibbon even superficially, you’ll find, that he attributes the decline and fall of the Roman Empire to imperial militarist authoritarianism, in particular the use of hired soldiers in the Praetorian Guard, who acted like sectarian militias in the way of the “stadscommandos” (the city vigilantes) the PVV is proposing now for more “security” in the Dutch cities. Rome’s decline and fall came from within, if you follow Edward Gibbon’s reasoning.

From within Christianity, not from the outside.

Winston Churchill

When Wilders needs a dramatic point, he always comes up with Winston Churchill. Florida synagogue audiences hailed him as the “new Churchill” who will save Europe from Barbary. So, it is time for old Winston, to make his appearance in Wilders’ apocalyptic speech:

    The fall of Rome was a traumatic experience. Numerous books have been written about the cataclysmal event and Europeans were warned not to make the same mistake again. In 1899, in his book ‘The River War,’ Winston Churchill warned that Islam is threatening Europe in the same way as the Barbarians once threatened Rome. “Mohammedanism,” Churchill wrote – I quote – “is a militant and proselytizing faith. No stronger retrograde force exists in the World. […] The civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.” End of quote.

Winston Churchill was in 1899 writing as a young reporter about the Fashoda Incident in Sudan, stressing the need for Great Britain to secure a North-South corridor in Africa and exaggerating the “danger” of the Sudanese Mahdi movement, in order to get an excuse to occupy those regions before the French would do so. “Mohammedanism” was certainly not Winston Churchill’s main concern. Which was proven only one year later, when he participated in the British genocide (the first concentration camps!) against the very Christian South African Boers, in spite of their firm Dutch roots. And it was under Churchill’s reign, later on, that Muslim Palestinians and Jordanians were encouraged to fight Jewish immigration into Palestine. Mr. Wilders certainly has a gift. The gift of choosing examples that illustrate the opposite of what he wanted to prove.


Mr. Wilders is not interested in facts that contradict his Manichean beliefs. Christians are always good, or ‘superior’ at least. Outsiders, in particular Muslims, are always bad, or ‘inferior, backward’. A more realistic view on mankind is condemned as “Multiculturalism”, in spite of the fact that there are no other civilizations than multicultural ones.

    … if Europe falls, it will fall because, like ancient Rome, it no longer believes in the superiority of its own civilization. It will fall because it foolishly believes that all cultures are equal and that, consequently, there is no reason why we should fight for our own culture in order to preserve it.
    This failure to defend our own culture has turned immigration into the most dangerous threat that can be used against the West. Multiculturalism has made us so tolerant that we tolerate the intolerant.

These are the rantings of a man, possessed by Angst. If Wilders had an idea of the wealth, the riches and the strength of Western civilization and it’s multi-layered cultural content, he would not be afraid of a possible “fall” of our civilization. But he is an uncultured demagogue, who, as a politician, should look out for solutions to the frictions caused by ever increasing globalism.

But, like so many Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, communist and fascist authoritarians before him, he creates horrible myths about the stranger, whose only concern, he says, is destruction of our society.

In the third part of this series, we’ll have a more close look into Wilders’ remedies against multiculturalists with “weak knees” and the supposed worldwide Islamic conjuration they would be sponsoring.

Huib Riethof is a historian, former local councilor and alderman and a freelance consultant on urban regeneration, living in and working from Brussels. He’s also an editor for Krapuul, a freewheeling Internet watchdog on the PVV and the xenophobia it espouses.

Reacties (8)

#1 Bismarck

De Rijn was tegen 400 ook al lang niet meer de grens van het Romeinse rijk (toch in ieder geval in Nederland niet meer). Daar staat tegenover dat binnen het Romeinse rijk (of aan deze kant van de grote rivieren zo je wilt) in die tijd nog lang niet iedereen christen was.

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#2 piet

als stripliefhebber heb ik al door waar Geertje z’n wereldbeeld op baseert: de wonderlijke, fictieve, eeuwen door elkaar halende, mooi getekende maar onverholen racistische wereld van Prins Valiant.
Waar in de 5e eeuw al moslims de boel liepen te verzieken terwijl er nog niet eens een islam bestond…

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#3 Prediker

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#4 Huib

:) !

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#5 Rene

@2: Dat vind ik dan op zich juist wel weer een sterk impliciet statement. Zo van, het belangrijke deel is het verzieken zelf, niet welk excuus dan wel reden ervoor aangevoerd wordt…

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#6 Stephen Hero

Ik ben er natuurlijk helemaal voor om Geert´s teksten aan de feiten te toetsen, maar dan moet je het natuurlijk wel goed doen. Keizer Honorius naar Constantinopel verbannen is dan bijvoorbeeld een slecht idee. Verder zou het misschien een goed idee zijn om je af te vragen wat de verwoesting van Rome door de Visigoten te maken heeft met het oversteken van Rijn door de Vandalen, Alanen en Suebianen in 406. Is het niet logischer dit te relateren aan het oversteken van de Donau door die zelfde Visigoten in 376? Dat word trouwens ook treffend beschreven door Edward Gibbon in zijn Decline and Fall (waarschijnlijk het best geschreven geschiedenis boek aller tijden, maar dit terzijde).

Ik zou trouwens verder willen gaan in de interpretatie van Gibbon, niet alleen wijt hij de val van het Romeinse Rijk aan autoritair militarisme, maar het is overduidelijk dat voor Gibbon de kerstening van Rome ziet als een middel dat door de keizers werd gebruikt om dat autoritaire miolitarisme te versteviging, dus voor Gibbon droeg de christelijke traditie juist bij aan de val van Rome!

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#7 piet

je begrijpt me denk ik niet helemaal.
nog maar een plaatje.

Het verhaal zou omstreeks 450AD spelen, toen er nog geen Islam was, dus ook geen moslems. Terwijl ze wel genoemd worden.
De verhalen staan trouwens bol van zulke inconsistenties, net zoals de verhalen van Wilders. En de ‘moslems’, dan weer Druzen die in een volgend plaatje weer Arabier zijn, zijn bijna altijd de kwaaie pier.

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#8 Rene

@7: Dat had ik wel door. Mijn (flauwe) insteek was dat de auteur impliciet het statement

“zie nu je wel dat de boel verzieken niets met islam te maken heeft”

zou maken door een zo evidente historische inconsistentie te gebruiken (maar laat maar, ik snap wel dat ie dat niet echt doet).

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