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Was the Byzantine Empire mainly a Hellenic Empire?

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  Quote strategos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Was the Byzantine Empire mainly a Hellenic Empire?
    Posted: 20-Jun-2005 at 23:57
I was looking at the FYROMians main website, quite humorous i might say,  and I found an article on how the Byzantine Empire was not a Hellenic Empire. I know it ruled over diverse people, but was it not mainly Hellenic at heart? What are your thoughts?
http://theforgotten.org/intro.html
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  Quote TheodoreFelix Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 00:17
In many ways yes. In reality it had been so since the Roman times. The Romans never really Romanized lands in the east. Greek was continually spoken as the manin language. Since the Byzantine Empire was an empire that focused on the eastern part, it made sense that it was a hellenistic empire. A multi-ethnic hellenistic empire. I believe it still followed Roman law and the peopel there always referre to themselves as Romans, if I am correct.
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  Quote Perseas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 04:06

Lets see!! Its an undeniable fact that the official language of administration at the begining was the latin language, even though i have read people in their daily lifes were greek-speakers.

Afterwards, the official administratrion language was envolved from a kinda mixture of Latin and Greek during Justinianus to a fully adoption of greek language as predominant, during Heraclius time.

The people indeed were calling themselves Romaioi *Romans in greek language* which had already become a synonym for Hellene . The Franks from the 8th century, were calling the empire as "Greek empire" but its from around 11th century and afterwards, that even high rank officials were considering themselves as greeks. I do believe in the end, the empire had been transformed to a greek orthodox state.

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  Quote Raider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 04:20

 

I think byzantinologist Louis Berhier gave the best definition:

The Byzantine Empire was Roman in traditions, Greek in culture, and Oriental in the practice of power.

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  Quote Murtaza Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 05:20

So 1/3 greek?

himmm

 

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  Quote GENERAL PARMENION Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 05:21
I think there is no doubt that it was a Hellenic Empire.
"There is no doubt, that Macedonians were Greeks."
(Robin Lane Fox "Historian-Author" In Interview with newspaper TO BHMA)

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  Quote Midas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 05:27
They were not totally Greek... But empire was Greek. It was like Alexander's Empire. So i think it was Hellenic...
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  Quote Belisarius Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 08:55
It was not a Hellenic empire until the rule of Heraclius. He was the first to drop the Latin titles of "Augustus" and "imperator", instead calling himself by a the Greek title of "basileus". He replaced Latin with Greek as the empire's official language. Also, it was during his time that the empire contracted to the Greek heartland, losing the predominantly Semitic Levant and Egypt.

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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 09:04

When you have a nation like Byzantium, which at its height ruled an area from Spain to the Euphrates and from the Crimea to the Upper Nile, then of course the Empire isn't going to be completely Greek. The British Empire in India made full use of existing Indian mediums of power and means of administration to rule their vast possession, but this hardly means the very ethos of that Empire did not centre on the cultural power of Britain. Likewise, while Byzantium was a multi-ethnic nation for much of its history it still centred on a Greek speaking Orthodox Christian ethos which saw its government as the legitimate successor of the previous Roman rulers.

For anyone to claim Byzantium was not at its core a Hellenistic or Greek Empire, especially from the 7th century onwards, is pure nonesense. The people of Byzantium called themselves Rhomaioi (Romans), not because they believed they were Italians but because they believed they belonged to a specific ideology, that of being a citizen of the legitimate Roman state. That they were citizens of such a state is true, they were the only nation in the world who had a direct line of rulers who traced their succession in unbroken lineage all the way to Augustus.

The Byzantine state was, of course, influenced by its Roman past. The lands of Byzantium were under Roman rule prior to Justinian for over 500 years, and yet this was not enough to change the language, culture and heritage of the Hellenic people in those lands. A Roman bureaucratic apparatus might be attached to these lands, the laws and language of government might be Latin, yet the Hellenic element of its culture persevered in spite of all that. From the time of Heraclius onwards Byzantium did not even put up the pretence of being culturally Roman (though it definitely preserved the ideology of the Roman Imperium, distinguish between the culture and ideology). It was a Greek speaking nation, it had its own original and distinct type of national organisation having replaced the Roman prefactures with Byzantine Themata, it had a national Orthodox Church which conducted liturgy in Greek. It also proudly drew its heritage from the Classical and Hellenistic age of Ancient Greece, one read of Anna Komnena's Alexiad and all the references to the classical Greek past will give you a good taste of what they considered their heritage.

From time to time non-Greeks would occupy positions of prominence (even Emperorship) within Byzantine society. Being at the cultural cross-roads of the world, it was also natural Byzantium engaged in much cultural exchange and interaction with their neighbours. OK, so Leo III was from as far away as Northern Syria. Because he sits on the throne does that mean the entire ethnic composition, religious structure, cultural heritage, spoken language, and every other facet of cultural identity is suddenly now Northern Syrian? Obviously not. Even Justinian, with his Roman mind and grandeur, still had to bow to the necessities of the day and learn to speak Greek (although rather badly according to Procopius). All in all, the very ethos and base of Byzantine society was Hellenic. From time to time a foreigner might be prominent in Byzantine society in this multi-ethnic Empire, but the true bulk of Byzantine heritage was a Hellenic one.

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  Quote Komnenos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Jun-2005 at 17:25
Originally posted by Constantine XI

From time to time non-Greeks would occupy positions of prominence (even Emperorship) within Byzantine society. Being at the cultural cross-roads of the world, it was also natural Byzantium engaged in much cultural exchange and interaction with their neighbours. ........ From time to time a foreigner might be prominent in Byzantine society in this multi-ethnic Empire, but the true bulk of Byzantine heritage was a Hellenic one.



You've said it all, I just want to mention a thing or two.
I might be wrong here, but I believe Hellenism in Byzantine society was not so much an ethnic, but a cultural concept. As long the Byzantine citizen adopted the very foundations of the Byzantine Empire, Christianity and the traditions of Greek and Roman antiquity in a Christianised form, and the idea of the Byzantine State as the worldly and spiritual cornerstone of human civilisation, the place of birth or ethnic identity had only a minor significance. One became a Byzantine not by the accident of birth, but through the willingness to serve its purpose.
Thus it became easy and frequent that people who did not belong to the ethnic core groups of the Empire would be accepted and elevated to high positions in the Empire, and on many occasions enriched the Hellenic culture through various influences.
The concept that state and ethnicity are identical, is a relatively modern concept, and would have been alien to the Byzantines, as indeed it was to many other Empires of the period.
The Byzantine Empire was Hellenic throughout most of its duration, but it should not be understood by the ethnic definition of the term.
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  Quote Beylerbeyi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jun-2005 at 05:37

Byzantines were Greek (at least after the 7th century or so), just as the Ottomans were Turks.   

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  Quote Raider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jun-2005 at 06:00

 

Of course the question is the same again. Who is Greek?

A population of the Byzantine Empire was culturaly hellenized. This sole fact is enough? (I use the term Byzantine Empire after the arab conquest, and Eastern Roman Empire before.)

 

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  Quote Yiannis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jun-2005 at 06:38

I guess it's a matter of point of view. If you consider bloodlines as a mark of nationality (a term that was in any case not applicable back then) it's impossible to say for sure.

If "nationality" is an inherited, cultural characteristic, then probably yes.

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  Quote dorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jun-2005 at 09:57

Since the 6th century AD Greek was the official language of the Byzantine Empire. The culture was Greek and not Roman (which was formed by the Greek one). There are many references of the people called Greeks.

Constantinople was the cradle of Hellenism and The Fall of Constantinople was a Greek defeat by the Ottomans.

The fact that the Byzantine Empire was a Hellenic Empire is unquestionable amongst historians.

It was the second Greek Empire of history after the Macedonian Empire.



Edited by dorian
"We are Macedonians but we are Slav Macedonians.That's who we are!We have no connection to Alexander the Greek and his Macedonia�Our ancestors came here in the 5th and 6th century" Kiro Gligorov FYROM
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  Quote GENERAL PARMENION Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jun-2005 at 16:00

Anyway , what is this Greek - Roman dispute taking place for?

As far as i am concerned , even the original Roman Empire was infact a  " Greek" Empire aswell.

The Romans borowed our culture , religion , architecture e.t.c. The Romans where a continuation of the Greek civilization. They where " Greeks " in a way. Greek and Roman are the same thing.

"There is no doubt, that Macedonians were Greeks."
(Robin Lane Fox "Historian-Author" In Interview with newspaper TO BHMA)

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  Quote dorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jun-2005 at 17:35
Originally posted by GENERAL PARMENION

Anyway , what is this Greek - Roman dispute taking place for?

As far as i am concerned , even the original Roman Empire was infact a  " Greek" Empire aswell.

The Romans borowed our culture , religion , architecture e.t.c. The Romans where a continuation of the Greek civilization. They where " Greeks " in a way. Greek and Roman are the same thing.

Totally agreed

Besides the Ottoman Empire was Turkish although it was multi-ethnic and included the ex-Byzantine region.



Edited by dorian
"We are Macedonians but we are Slav Macedonians.That's who we are!We have no connection to Alexander the Greek and his Macedonia�Our ancestors came here in the 5th and 6th century" Kiro Gligorov FYROM
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  Quote Raider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jun-2005 at 03:32

"The Romans borowed our culture , religion , architecture e.t.c. The Romans where a continuation of the Greek civilization. They where " Greeks " in a way. Greek and Roman are the same thing."

I disagree. Romans borrowed many thing, but their culture diffred from the Greek's. This was one of the major problem of the empire. Romanisation in the west, and hellenization in the east. This eas the root of the eventual division of the empire.

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  Quote Komnenos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jun-2005 at 03:57
Originally posted by GENERAL PARMENION

Anyway , what is this Greek - Roman dispute taking place for?


As far as i am concerned , even the original Roman Empire was infact a " Greek" Empire aswell.


The Romans borowed our culture , religion , architecture e.t.c. The Romans where a continuation of the Greek civilization. They where " Greeks " in a way. Greek and Roman are the same thing.



You have a very simplistic view on how cultures evolve.
Civilisations don't "borrow", they are influenced by and interact with others, they adopt and further develop new ideas and technologies, and exchange them.
This is not the space to discuss the influences on classical Hellenistic culture, but you will find they "borrowed" quite a lot of ideas from other civilisations.
Of course the Roman empire was heavily influenced by Hellenistic culture, but to deny that had their very own distinct Roman culture that was very different from any other, is historical nonsense.
If you apply the three criteria "culture, religion, architecture" to your alleged sequence of Hellenistic culture, however it must be said, that the Middle or Late Byzantine Empire shared very little with the Classical Greek culture, neither religion nor architecture, and culture only in a very evolved form.
Language and alphabet maybe, but the latter one was "borrowed" from the Phoenicians anyway!
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  Quote Morgoth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jun-2005 at 04:34

We must remember that the term "Byzantine Empire" is really just an academic one, though undoubtably a useful one.

The way I discribe the Byzantine Empire is thus - it was the Greek Christian, Eastern Roman Empire.

Culturally and linguistically, the empire was very much Greek. It was also, however, Roman.



Edited by Morgoth
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  Quote GENERAL PARMENION Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jun-2005 at 13:58
As i said before , Greek and Roman turned out to mean the same thing. Bare in mind that at the time of the Byzantine Empire all of its citizens where refered as " Roman citizens ". True , but ONLY Greeks called themselves Romans . A " Roman " was a synonym for " Greek ". Bulgarians , slavs in general , Armenians e.t.c. never called themselves Romans . They where simply citizens of the Roman Empire.
"There is no doubt, that Macedonians were Greeks."
(Robin Lane Fox "Historian-Author" In Interview with newspaper TO BHMA)

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