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Was the Byzantine Empire mainly a Hellenic Empire?

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  Quote dorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Was the Byzantine Empire mainly a Hellenic Empire?
    Posted: 28-Jun-2005 at 08:02

Originally posted by Komnenos



Isn't there a slight flaw in your logic?
"The Ostrogoths unsuccessfully tried to convince the indigenous Roman population that the East-Roman were Greeks and therefore an alien invader.
The Roman population however refused to acknowledge that and in the contrary regarded the East-Romans as brothers, as Romans."
What you are saying is, that a Germanic tribe called the East-Romans Greeks for propaganda purposes, whilst the Romans, who should know better, regarded them as fellow Romans. Im my books, this is not a proof for the Hellenisation of the East-Roman Empire.

Apart from that, the premise that the indigenous Roman population in Italy welcomed Belisarius' or Narses' armies with open arms, is at its best historically inaccurate.
The City of Rome and its administration switched allegiance on a few occasions, especially during the siege of Rome in 538, and so did a number of other cities during the campaigns. The Roman population basiscally regarded both the Ostrogoths and the East-Roman as foreign invaders.
In fact, this would be a far better argument for your claims.

It's not the strongest proof but obviously it's a fact that indicates the greek character of the Empire even before the change of the official language which was such an important step toward the sanction of the Greekness of the Empire.

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  Quote dorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Jun-2005 at 08:32

Originally posted by Phallanx


No one has actually attempted to explain, why we find the terms like "Bulgaroktonus" (Bulgr-slayer 9th cent) and the demographic measure named "epi tas Sklabinas" (on the Slavs 8th cent.), used for the already assimilated in the empire ethnic groups.
What is the purpose of using these terms when they could have easily used the term "Romaioi" that was allegedly cultural and not ethnic???

It is also interesting that Constantine Porphyrogenitus in his "De Administrando Imperio" clearly makes a seperate reference to the ethnic groups of Bulgarians, Slavs and Armenians and does not name them "Romans-Romioi".




The region of Armenians sometimes was a part of the Byzantine Empire, but generally it wasn't given that the peoples of Caucasia (Armenians, Albanians, Georgians etc) were on the side of the Byzantines and the latter tried to ally with them specially against the Persians. So, Armenians had kinda of autonomy and they couldn't be described with the classic term "Romans" or "Byzantines" 

Btw, I don't think that any of these nations (Slavs, Bulgars, Egyptians, Syrians, Palaistines etc) were called Romioi. I'm not sure for that but maybe it explains the especial use of this term.

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jul-2005 at 08:28

 Hi to every one , Im new to this forum, I can see that there are very interesting topics here.

 First at the topic at hand, as every one probably knows here the so called " Byzantine Empire " was called " The Eastern Roman Empire ", and reading some of these posts here, by naming this empire " Greek or Hellenic " is a false distinction, there isn't any " Byzantine"  texts claiming this empire being " Greek, Hellenic " or any other ethnic group, this empire wasn't owned by no ethnic group, espescially any modern group of people, the empire used Latin and Koine as it's standared language, it was a multi-ethnic empire, and i don't agree with the above post that Slavs, Bulgars or other groups were not included in this Empire. After the Slavic tribes settled through the Balkans including modern " Greece ", a lot of them were in service of this empire, later the Byzantines recruited Bulgars (Tatars- not to be confused with modern Bulgarians of mixed origin) in there army and settled them in the north of modern Bulgaria. On the language issue speaking Latin or Koine in this empire didn't mean that you were part of any ethnic group, all that were in service in this empire were called " good Romans" or " Romioi", even when the Turks held this region it was called " Rumelia" and its inhabitants " Rum",  even though there were various ethnic groups here they were still called by this name. Using the word "Rum" wasn't really an ethnic term but a religious one, the " Byzantine " empire was a Christian Orthodox empire, so anyone that was Christian was called a Rum, no matter there ethnic origin Serb, Greek (Romiosini), Macedonian, Bulgarian or Albanian. But from all these groups only the modern Greeks adopted it duiring Ottoman rule to be there ethnic origin. Above post stated there was " Greek " character to this empire, correct me if i'm wrong i do not remember reading the Greeks inventing the "Legion" because they were still in use duiring this empire, and the only thing left from ancient Hellas is the Koinon language, not it's ethnicity, Ethnic structure changed in the Balkans duiring the height of Roman power, a lot of modern countries in this region don't want to admit it.

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  Quote Menippos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jul-2005 at 09:06
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  Quote merced12 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Oct-2005 at 09:46
byzentine of course greek maybe the first period roman but next time greek
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  Quote Mila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Oct-2005 at 12:10
I don't understand this line of thinking at all.

The Byzantine Empire destroyed the Hellenic Empire. You can't compare a pagan empire that expanded the world's understanding of everything from democracy to science to a religious heirarchy that did it's best to smother such thought and advancement.
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  Quote Yiannis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Oct-2005 at 13:10
I tend to think of the Byzantine empire not as the destruction but as the continuation of the Hellenic one. More of an evolution rather than destruction.
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  Quote Mila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Oct-2005 at 15:04
^ I'd agree with that as well. I think of the Bosniak conversion to Islam from the Bosnian Church, etc...as an evolution, moreso than a destruction - mainly because it involves the same Bosniak people.

I wouldn't, for example, consider the founding of Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia to be a continuation of ancient Illyria because we're not the same people who founded and developed Illyria. We of course absorbed a certain number of the Illyrian people into our own, but we're overwhelmingly a completely new "empire".
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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Oct-2005 at 18:35
I think we could call Byzantium an evolution of the Hellenic people, keeping in mind the Empire was often multi-ethnic. Any nation which retains the language, urban structures, literature, political structures and original homelands and changes other details like religion could still certainly be called a continuation.
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Oct-2005 at 05:20

^ I'd agree with that as well. I think of the Bosniak conversion to Islam from the Bosnian Church, etc...as an evolution, moreso than a destruction - mainly because it involves the same Bosniak people.

I think it's the same with the Byzantine empire: the people considered themselves Roman before and after the conversion to christianity, so it's an evolution that involved the same people. After this conversion there may have been some fanaticism that opposed sience, but if I'm not wrong knowledge (even the ancient greek one) was very appreciated in the Byzantine empire. I don't know if we can say that it was an Hellenic state, but the Hellenic culture was not a stranger.

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  Quote Alkiviades Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Oct-2005 at 06:10

Every empire in the course of time is dominated by a culture (or many cultures as years pass by) and the Roman Empire (no "eastern" empire, it's THE Empire) is no exeption to that rule.

The Greek culture, beeing strong, vibrant and a more or less common ground for all people throughout the central and eastern mediteranean (as result of a process that started from the 8th century BC colonisation and culminated in the conquest of Alexander the Great and the hellenistic empires) and as far as the borders of India, was bound to dominate the "Roman" world.

The dominance of the Greek culture, besides the obvious loans to the Roman culture, is present in the hellenization of elites throughout the whole eastern mediteranean, even if they had nothing to do with Greeks to begin with (Pontians and Parthians for instance - the Pontians being an amalgam of Anatolians, the Parthians of Iranian origin, yet both elites became extremely hellenized - Thracian and most of the Anatolians like Karians, Lydians, Lykians had been hellenized more thoroughly, not only the elites).

Roman arms and administration, Greek culture and art - that's what the Graeco-Roman world was all about.

Later on, when the Roman arms became... not so Roman and the administration became more "Eastern" (imitating the hellenistic kingdoms who imitated the "real" easteners), there had to be a new "glue" to put everything under perspective. The Greek culture and tradition became that glue, but I guess it wasn't enough, so the Romans (practical, oh so practical) adopted Christianity as the "new" glue that would enforce the Roman bonds.

What resulted was a Greek-Christian culture, that was dominant in the "eastern" Empire long before the fall of Rome, and that resulted in the gradual adjustment of the (still Roman) administration over the ages.  In Heraclius' times this resulted to the sweeping of the last (alright, not "last", since several elements remained sort of Roman till 1204 but still)  strong "pure" Roman elements and the replacement with "Greek" elements - starting from the official titles, the official language and others.

Stating that Byzantium was a Greek empire is an oversimplification, really. It's not a lie and it's not distant from reality, but its way too simplifying. Surely, most emperors were Greeks, the administrative elite was predominatly Greek (the militaire elite, though, was mostly Isaurian, Armenian and only partially Greek). Most, not ALL.

 It would be much better (and accurate) to describe it as a multinational empire, based on the (orthodox) Christian religion and with a dominant Greek culture.

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  Quote Jazz Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Oct-2005 at 20:41
My simple explanation of East Roman (or Byzantine if you will) Civilization is a Hellenistic realm with a Roman Law book and a Christian Church.

At what point forward in the transition from late Antiquity to the Middle Ages this applies is of course up to debate.
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  Quote ArmenianSurvival Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13-Oct-2005 at 22:15
Originally posted by Komnenos

Heraclius(610-641) whose father was Armenian
Leo III the Isaurian (717-741)
Leo V the Armenian (813-820)
Basil I (867-886) of Armenian/Macedonian descent


I was under the impression that the entire Macedonian line of Byzantium was Armenian in origin, and not Macedonian at all. Please correct me if im wrong.

I read somewhere that out of its 1123 years of existance, Byzantium was ruled by emperors of Armenian origin for 786 years (again, correct me if im wrong). Heraclius, Basil II "Bulgar Slayer", Leo V, Nicephorus Phokas and John Tzimiskes to name a few.


About the Armenian-Byzantine relationship, the Armenians lost their capital city Ani in 1064 to the Byzantine Empire, and after establishing a kingdom in Cilicia (1080-1375), they maintained in an autonomous stance against Byzantium. The Armenian kingdom in Cilicia was shaped by two Armenian dynasties, the Rubenids and Hetumids. The Hetumids wanted to rule Cilicia under the rule of Byzantium (winning the support of the emperor), while the Rubenids wanted an autonomous Armenia. After numerous power struggles the entire region of Cilicia fell under the control of the Rubenid dynasty, and would remain so for virtually the entire existence of the kingdom (until late in the kingdom's history when a Rubenid princess married a Hetumid prince and combined the two dynasties). The kingdom collapsed because of a Mamluk invasion, in which Byzantium did not offer Armenia any help, because of the Armenians refusal to place their church under the Greek Orthodoxy (Armenians have had their own form of Christianity, Armenian Apostolic Christianity, since 451...Apostolic because the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholemeu spread Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century A.D.). This created the religious strife that Phallanx was referring to.

Back to the original topic, i view the Byzantine empire as culturally Greek, even though their laws might have been Roman and they were originally part of the Roman Empire. Their official language was Greek (after Heraclius), and Byzantium was a dominatly Greek city, and the official religion was Greek Orthodox. Yes, they were multi-cultural and had many foreigners contribute to the empire (such as Armenians), but they were mainly Greek.

And about the Armenians referring to themselves as "Romanoi", this was not true. The Roman Empire under Trajan only controlled Armenia for 3 years (114-117 A.D.), and Armenia had to ally with Rome or Persia for reasons of national security. Other than these brief encounters, and some Armenian kings being nominal to Rome, Armenians never referred to themselves as "Romanoi". This was not even the case when the entire eastern flank of the Byzantine Empire was Armenian land, because Armenia was at its largest extent (culturally) at this time than almost any other period. I cant say the same for Bulgars and others because i do not know their history well.
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  Quote Alkiviades Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 00:26
If we go by blood (which is extremely innacurate anyway and has nothing to do with reality) the Macedonian dynasty minus Basil I was purely Greek: Basil married to a Greek lady (the maitresse of his good friend the emperor - Basil was ...ahem... doing a favor to his friend, who needed to make his girlfriend a "lady" but couldn't marry her himself). His son, Leo (called "the philosopher" later) was a progeny of his benefactor, Michael III himself, and not of Basil's. Several sources point out those facts, exclaiming that Basil had not sexual contacts with his wife for as long as Micheal was still alive. Basil took care of that, of course, by repaying his sponsor (and co-emperor, after a point... seems like a really generous lad this Michael, doesn't he?)  and benefactor by the blade and taking the throne for himself.

Michael was Greek, the child's mother was Greek... well, I guess the line from there on (and since Leo married to a Greek lady as well) was Greek by blood.

Heraclius was also Greek by blood, I really don't know why some people prefer to call him Armenian, and Nikephoros Phokas was also Greek by blood.

But the truth is, blood has nothing to do with it. Culture has everything to do with it. How many Romans, after the 1st century AD, could claim "pure blood"? How many people today, besides some very isolated communities, can claim "pure blood"? Genetics tells us that purity of blood is a myth. The Macedonian dynasty was Greek by culture and that's what really counts. For instance, Basil I barely spoke Armenian, and no other Macedonian emperor spoke any Armenian at all.
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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 03:03
The only other Armenians in the Macedonian dynasty were John I and Romanus I, the Armenians have obviously provided some very capable men for the Byzantine army and throne. But Alkiviades is correct, people identified themselves by language, religion and culture more than blood-ethnicity more in those days. None of the Armenian Emperors ever tried to impose monophysitism on Byzantium, were happy to speak Greek and kept up court protocol.

Alkiviades, I should point out that the mother of Leo VI (Eudocia Ingerina) was not Greek, she was Scandinavian. Eudocia Ingerina was an import from the Rus princedoms. Like you mentioned, though, bloodlines were less important than cultural alignment.
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  Quote Alkiviades Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 03:20

Scandinavian? Now that's something I've never heard before... Her father was Theophilos, and her mother was Theodora of Paphlagonia, and she was born in Constantinoupolis in 835... how could she have been Skandinavian?

Though we certainly agree on the notion that ancestry by blood of some specific ethnic group, was definitely not seen as important back in those times. A rather large number of emperors married with various non-byzantine princesses (Rus, Bulgarian, Khazar are mentioned among many others in the sources) and their progeny ruled the empire.



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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 03:36
Ingerina is derived from Scandinavian, I have never heard a Greek name similar to it. Now that I think about it the source I used (J. Norwich) said she was half Scandinavian, and that apparently was the cause of some consternation in the court.

The first foreign Empress that I recall off the top of my head was another Eudocia, a Frankish girl who married Theodosius II. Clearly the Empire did not suddenly turn Frankish on account of that .
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  Quote Alkiviades Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 03:44

Indeed, Ingerina sounds Skandinavian (or Rus)  but seing as her parents were known and she was born in Constantinoupolis, I don't know how she could be half-skandinavian.

But truly, the emperors had wives from all around the (known at the time) world, that wouldn't be a novelty. I mentioned her because she was not of "noble" descent and because she was Michael's Drunkard mistress, before becoming Basil's wife.

Also, there is even more controversy concerning Basil, as I've seen a couple of sources claiming he was of a "noble Greek family"... maybe he fabricated (or obscured) his past, to facilitate (via a Greek "noble" family) a more appropriate claim on the throne? I wouldn't know...

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  Quote ArmenianSurvival Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 04:01
Originally posted by Alkiviades

Heraclius was also Greek by blood


His father was an Armenian, wasnt he? At least i know he was born in Armenia.


What you guys say is understandable, about them being aligned with the Greek culture because of their duty to the state. But how would you know if Basil II (or any Armenian emperor of Byzantium) didnt know how to speak Armenian? Is it mentioned in a history book or something?
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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Oct-2005 at 05:28
I have not encountered it, but the fact that they spoke Greek well and used it regularly is something I am willing to assume. Had they not done so it is extremely likely that the historians would have said something about it. Procopius records of Justinian I, who was originally a peasant from Dardania and bi-lingual in Thracian and Latin, the he spoke terrible Greek throughout his life. If Basil was similar we would probably have heard about it through the historians. In Byzantium the upper classes would not even lower themselves to speak like commoners, trying often to imitate classical Attic as best they could. If Basil I could speak Armenian he definitely learnt Greek to a high standard and made it his everyday tongue. Stuck in the upper echelons of a Greek court, he would not have had many associates to speak Armenian to compared to Greeks. With the running of a Greek Empire in store for his sons, he would hardly have troubled himself teaching them Armenian if he even retained a good grasp of it later in life.
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