ROMANITY, OR BARBARITY?
Quite often in various discussions I happened to notice that the term “Byzantinism” was being used with a negative inference. The term “Byzantinology” is used when someone talks superfluously. This term has been used thoughtlessly, while the reason for its implementation and its prevalence has being altogether overlooked.
Years ago, anything related to the Byzantine arts or the Byzantine civilization was something to be scorned. Naturally, this view is being re-examined nowadays. The disdain, the contempt and the sarcasm towards anything that pertains to Byzantium, or the use of certain terms with a negative inference are not unrelated to the attempts by Western Europeans to marginalize the Roman Empire - which in our time is labelled “Byzantium” - as well as to their efforts to dignify themselves, by regarding that they are the true successors of the great and illustrious Roman Empire.
The borders of Greece at 1830, after the revolution of 1821
against the 400-year Turkish occupation
In reality, the term “Byzantium” was coined at the beginning of the sixteenth century (1562 A.D.) by the west European historian Hieronymus Wolf and was repeatedly used from then on by other western European writers, whose aim was the disparaging of the Roman conscience. Anything associated with Byzantium was considered shameful and contemptible. In fact, “Byzantium” has even been linked to the Mediaeval Dark Ages.
From the historical aspect, however, “Byzantium” - which was the original name of the ancient Hellenic city founded by Byzas of Megara (province of Hellas) - is not mentioned at all. Instead, it is rather indifferently mentioned in passing, as ‘a city’ of the Roman Empire. When the capital of the Roman Empire was transferred from Rome to Byzantium, the latter was renamed “New Rome”, as compared to the original, ‘old’ Rome. In terms of religion and faith, the Roman Empire was mostly Orthodox and its civilization was Hellenic (since Hellenism had universal proportions), while the legal system was based on ancient Roman legislation. In the Roman conscience, two languages were dominant: Hellenic and Latin. Their faith and their cultural traditions were, after all, common. Anyone who incorporated these two elements was considered a “Roman”.
The later conquest of the western part of the Roman Empire by the Franks brought on many problems. In their attempts to convince that they were the true successors of the Roman Empire, the Franks would refer to the inhabitants of New Rome as “heretics”, “impostors” and “deceivers”.
This is how the derogatory terms against Romanity were being justified and we, the successors of Romanity, have been displaying tolerance without harbouring any suspicions and without giving these terms due consideration.
Undoubtedly, the truth is that Romanity is linked to the glory and the ascent of the human spirit. Despite the fact that some people use the term “Byzantinism” disparagingly, the reality of the matter is that this term engulfs the greatest achievements of mankind. When neo-Romans discussed theological matters, they did it in order to preserve humanity and the ways in which man can reach God. They didn’t merely entertain vast and unending social, political or philosophical conversations; these were discussions that dealt with existential issues. That is why neo-Romans were -and continue to be- up to date and always contemporary, as opposed to the Franks, (the occupants of the western reaches of the Roman Empire and masters of the West, where barbarism and a provincial spirit reigned supreme). When Romanity was at its apex, the West had succumbed to a barbarian dark age, given that orthodox theology was replaced by a scholastic theology, which limited the human experience within the bounds of human intelligence. Furthermore, the diminution of scholastic theology in the West nowadays, and the rise of apocalyptic orthodox theology, are also tokens of the difference that exists between the two civilizations and their ways of living.
This raises the question: “Romanity or Barbarity”? The author of this book has worked on this vital issue. I believe that it is quite enlightening and apocalyptic. The reader can learn many things and find Roman history analyzed, simplified and explained just like many other scientists have described it, but moreso fr. John Romanides. Anyone can discover the virtues of being a neo-Roman. The author of this book, Anastasios Philippides, is an acquaintance of mine, and has been, for many decades. I first met him as a primary school student in Edessa. After he had finished his studies in the American College of Thessaloniki, Anatolia, he went on to the financial department of Yale University in USA.
He worked on extensive postgraduate and doctoral studies concerning financial matters and received his Master’s degree from the University of Georgetown in Washington, and later on he worked in the USA. That is how he became acquainted with the western way of life, and as far I know, it disappointed him. He studied the later Roman way of life with great interest and it impressed him profoundly. That is why he subsequently worked on it in a more scientific way, along with the desire to actually become better acquainted with the later Roman way of life. An objective reader can easily see this, by reading his works. A superficial reader may see this as an anti-European book, but the truth is that this book shows the lifestyle of the true Europe, which was ingrained in the spirit of Romanity. The true Europe relates to Europe before Charlemagne, whereas modern-day “Europe” appears to have Charlemagne as its center and portrays him as the successor of the founder of “The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”.
If someone were to dig the soil of Europe, study the culture, the customs, the songs, he will discover in them the true neo-Roman way of life. Thus, whenever we refer to Romanity, we are implying the whole of Europe, as well as the way of life which was inspired by the lifestyle of the Roman Empire, before its occupation by the Franks.
I am convinced that this book will be a good instructor for anyone who wants to cross over the ocean of modern life where the Charlemagne movements prevail, and visit the harbour of Romanity: the highest quality lifestyle that mankind has ever offered.
Archmandrite Hierotheos S. Vlachos
( Fr. Hierotheos is today the Rev. Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and St. Vlasios)
Oversized architecture: Larion, Famagusta, Bufavento:
almost resembling stage décor….
We were accustomed to imagining differently
the heavenly sign: “Jesus Christ prevails”
that we had once seen hovering above the walls of the Regnant City;
The now dry grass, is trampled on by gypsies’ tents;
its mighty towers lay scattered on the ground,
resembling dice tossed down by a potentate who lost the game…
For us, it was a different thing to fight
for the faith in Christ
and for the soul of man
enthroned on the lap of the Virgin Mother - the “Supreme Defender” -
whose frescoed eyes beheld
the yearning of Romanity:
the yearning of that sea
upon discovering the balance of kindness.
Thirteen years after the incorporation of Hellas in the European Economic Community, there have been increasing indications around us, of a profound economical and social crisis. Despite the hefty transfers of funds by the European Community, Hellas appears to be drifting away from, rather than drawing nearer to, its European colleagues. To this day, the Hellenic political reaction to this reality is limited to attempts at securing the largest possible amounts from the European funds. In other words, the viewpoint that is predominant is that the problem is purely one of ‘uneven development’, which can be solved only when sufficient funds and technical know-how pour into Hellas from the European Community.
Our opinion is that the Hellenic crisis is of a different nature. It is more of an overall national identity crisis, where the emerging prevalence of a foreign civilization is provoking spasmodic and uncontrollable personal reactions, beyond every moral framework and every form of hierarchy. The transfers of funds will not resolve any problem (not even the immediate economical one), if we do not previously acquire a realization of what our identity is, and what the cultural causes are, that differentiate us from the rest of the European Union; causes that can negate the customary formulas for transcending the crisis. Unless we do this, Hellas will continue to be asking for the others’ "understanding" with regard to her problems, while our European colleagues will continue to express their indignation over our non-conformance to their instructions.
In our opinion, the crisis that we see today is nothing more than the outcome of an age-old contest between two worlds, two civilizations, and two different perceptions of life. However, there is a tendency nowadays to demote the historical differences between Hellenism and the West, in our attempt to invoke a “common European heritage” which supposedly unites the people of the European Union. For example, the acceptance of the Maastricht Treaty – in absentia of the uninformed Hellenic people - was accompanied by a propagandistic bombardment, whose central message was that Hellas has “at last discovered its destiny”, in Europe. Given this kind of backdrop, any viewpoint that opposes the notion of a uniform European Idea and is reminiscent of the historical opposition between Hellas and Western Europe, is most assuredly condemned to be marginalized during the years to come.
The way to the acceptance of this neutralized version of History was opened two centuries ago by certain Western-educated Hellene scholars who imposed on our people a perception of life and History entirely opposite to those that the Hellenic people themselves had preserved during the years of the Turkish occupation. The systematic distortion of our cultural physiognomy has nowadays reached the extreme stage of schizophrenia.
We observe and analyze ourselves, our History and our religion, through a Western point of view. In other words, we look at ourselves in a mirror that doesn’t reflect us, but only an image of us, designed by Western Europeans. Thus, it is only to be expected, that we will not be able to solve our true problems, if we can't even recognize them in our distorting mirror.
The result of this distortion, but also proof of our cultural difference, is the continuing misapprehension regarding Hellas’ place in Europe. Thus, we have Hellenes feeling flattered whenever they hear official foreign guests praising the country that gave birth to democracy, philosophy etc., and yet, these same Hellenes insist on overlooking the fact that those foreign guests are the ones that also regard today’s Hellas as a decadent country – an embarrassment to Europe. While Hellenes want to boast that they belong to the West, Western Europeans see us as an annoying remnant of the East inside their Community.
These misapprehensions often lead us into major national issues, even into national catastrophes, when Neo-Hellenes refuse to comprehend the Europeans’ reaction to our “justified” national demands. Thus, as a State, we are continuously perplexed by the foreigners’ stance towards the “Grand Idea”, the catastrophe of Asia Minor, the Cyprus issue and more recently, the “Macedonian issue”. In our opinion, it is unfortunately inevitable that the increasing nationalist tensions in Europe today will be bringing us new surprises in the near future, on account of the misguided expectations that we have of foreigners. Already, during the last two years, we have been witnesses to an incredible - for European colleagues- anti-Hellenic sentiment, as displayed in publications of the Western press.
And as far as Western Europeans are concerned, it is only natural for them to harbor whatever views they might have. The problem lies in our own ignorance of the different historical background on which they judge matters.
Our study consists of an effort to historically detect the advent of the different viewpoint through which the Hellenes and the western Europeans see Hellas. Some of the more important problems regarding our national identify cannot be addressed, unless we are familiar with the roots of our historical differences with the West.
An example of such a problem is -as we said before-the opinion that Westerners have about today’s Hellas. It is an opinion of deep contempt, as the millions of our compatriots abroad have had the chance to daily ascertain for themselves. Neo-Hellenes are of the opinion that this contempt has its roots in the Turkish occupation, when foreigners visiting Hellas had observed for themselves the locals’ tremendous lag in progress, as compared to the West. To the extent that Hellas still carries residues of the Turkish occupation, Westerners continue to maintain their contemptuous stance towards her.
This perception is utterly wrong and historically unfounded. The Westerners’ opinions of Hellas were NOT shaped during the Turkish occupation.
This same scorn is observed during the last centuries preceding the fall of Constantinople, when the Latin church had launched its all-out campaign to Latinize Romanity – in its religion as well as in its language. This same contempt is also observed during the time of the Crusades. And should we desire to seek its deeper roots, we will have to go back even further, to the beginning of the Mediaeval period, from the 5th to the 9th centuries, during which time, the idea of “Western Europe” was first formulated.
Consequently, the contempt of the Westerners does not originate from today’s “superiority” of the West’s civilization, but from the historical differences that existed as far back as the time that the western Europeans were still living in the darkness of mediaeval barbarity.
This very essential point is dealt with in more detail, in Part 3 (chapters 6, 7 and 8) of this study.
A second example of a problem that cannot be addressed -unless the historical cause of our difference with the West is researched- is the familiar dilemma as to whether Hellas belongs (culturally, that is) to the “East” or the “West”.1 In our opinion, the related discussions on this matter often do not take into account certain elementary historical facts. As we shall see in our study, Western Europe was born between the 5th and the 8th centuries, when the barbarian Germanic tribes clashed with the Hellenic-Roman civilization, whose exclusive carrier was, at the time, the so-called “Byzantine” Empire. The Western European conscience was shaped within this very conflict with Constantinople, and was defined by it.
From that time onwards, a “Western European” was defined as anyone who was not Christian Orthodox; one who did not feel that he belonged to the Ecumenical Christian Empire with Constantinople as its capital; and one who did not acknowledge the civilization that was formed from the synthesis of Hellenism and Christianity in the Eastern Roman Empire.
If we accept this basic historical definition, then any and all discussions regarding Hellas’ place in Europe, in the West or the East, will cease to be of any relevance. To the “Europeans”, Hellas by definition does not belong to Europe, since she is the heir of an opponent tradition – the opponent civilization which they themselves had to fight against tenaciously, so that they could become what they are today. It should not escape us, that European Mediaeval history between 800 and 1400 A.D. is essentially a continuous conflict between Latins and “Byzantines”.
But even nowadays, most of the seasonal discussions regarding the so-called “common European heritage” do not include elements of our Roman tradition. On the contrary, the remnants of this tradition are looked upon as anachronistic impediments for the fulfillment of Europe’s new cultural profile.
On the other hand, the Hellenes see no reason to identify themselves with either the East or the West, since these two concepts are both defined by an (opponent) relationship with Hellas. That is, the West exists –in the cultural sense- only because it fought against - and annihilated - the Hellenic-Roman civilization, otherwise, all of Europe would have continued to be a Roman province. The East was also something entirely different to the Hellenic-Roman culture, albeit deeply influenced by it during Mediaeval times.
The conclusion is that –historically- the West and the East are both defined by their relationships with Hellas, and not the other way around. This is a true fact, for the simple reason that Hellenes were for at least 1800 years (from 600 B.C. through to 1200 A.D.) undisputedly the most civilized nation in Europe. Subsequently, what happened was that all the other nations that came in contact with us had to take sides and either accept or reject the elements of the existing Hellenic civilization.
The historical framework that we are proposing here will assist in the understanding of certain problems and misapprehensions which will otherwise remain obscure. A characteristic, recent example is Durosel’s renowned “History of Europe”, which ignited multiple reactions in our homeland, the reason being the absence altogether of any mention of ancient Hellas and Byzantium in the history of Europe. To the Hellenes, it is self-evident that ancient Hellas and the “Byzantium” were primary factors in the shaping of Europe. To the non-Hellenic Europeans however, Europe “begins” from the moment that the Westerners themselves make their appearance on the scene; in other words, in the 4th century A.D., with the invasions of the Roman Empire by the Germanic tribes. 2 The whole “European idea”, which is so widely advertised in our day, is nothing more than an attempt to reunite the descendants of those Germanic tribes.
In this context, it is not very obvious why Hellas or “Byzantium” should belong to “Europe”. In fact, the entire course of Europe after the 4th century was nothing more than the expansion of the “Europeans” (=the barbarian tribes), to the detriment of the “Byzantines” (=the Romans). Western historians of course strive to convince us that Romans and barbarians merged and thus produced today’s west-European civilization. This viewpoint constitutes a witting distortion of History, which the Westerners have imposed, in order to secure amnesty for the crimes of their ancestors and to simultaneously usurp the achievements of the Hellenic-Roman civilization. We shall have the chance to say more about this fundamental distorting of History, in chapters 4, 6 and 8 of our study.
The Durosel viewpoint was “heretical”, only inasmuch as he had ignored Ancient Hellas. The omission of “Byzantium” is a common denominator in the Western stories of Europe. In lieu of the many examples of this fact, we could mention one instance which is quite recent (1980), in a multi-volume, French “General History of Europe” (C. Livet and R. Mousnier, Presses Universitaires de France publications), recently circulated in the Greek language (1990) by Papazisis Publications. The Hellenic edition is in fact prologued by the President of the Athens Academy, Mr. G. Vlachos, who expressed his amazement over the absence of Byzantium therein. But why the amazement? To anyone who has lived overseas, it is a well-known fact that for the Westerners, mediaeval and latter-day Hellas are not included in that which is called “Europe”. Even when reasons of “courtesy” and “cultural pluralism” demand that “Byzantium” be included in such publications, its role is inevitably portrayed as a peripheral one, as though it were some insignificant duchy of the East and not the most prominent political and cultural power of Europe for many centuries.
Unfortunately, the age-old enmity of the West towards the Romans of Mediaeval times does not allow them -even to this day- to objectively study such an “innocuous” subject like mediaeval history.
As a last characteristic example, we could refer to the collective work “Handbuch der Europaischen Geschichte” (Publishers: Ernst Klert-Cotta of Stuttgart, with General Publisher: Theodore Schieder), which presents European History from latter antiquity until our times, in seven large volumes. In the first volume (which was published in 1976) the publisher certifies that this work is not limited only to western and central Europe, but that it also extends to Eastern Europe, in order to include the Slavic and Hellenic-Orthodox civilizations. And yet, the first volume - which covers the period between 400 A.D. to the middle of the 11th century - of its total 1061 pages, dedicates a meagre 81 pages for Byzantium! Seven whole centuries of Byzantine History take up almost the same space as the text that analyses the organizing of the barbaric tribes during the 5th century (75 pages) !!!! 3
We believe that comments would be redundant at this point, in the face of these examples. One has to be blind, to not perceive what the European opinion is of us, of our History and our tradition.
Instead of trying to convince West Europeans with inferiority-ridden protests and announcements asking to include us in their History, we should have grabbed the rare instance of honesty displayed by them, with the opportunity of Durosel’s History. We should have –at last– acknowledged that both as peoples and as civilizations, the Hellenic and the Western European sides are conflicting sides, ever since the first appearance of “western Europeans” in the 4th century A.D. It is subsequently not at all peculiar, that certain books express that which is ingrained in the conscience of every western European. 4 Durosel could have become the pretext for us to stop and reconsider more seriously what our position is, towards a civilization that is exceptionally hostile, exceptionally anti-Roman. A civilization that tries to impose a universal model of man, by eliminating the memory and the lifestyle of different peoples, including the Hellenic people.
Our study will attempt to highlight some of the historical causes of the gap between Hellenism and the West, by stressing those that are usually overlooked or purposely falsified in “official”
European –but also Hellenic– historiography. We believe it is redundant to refer to the cultural differences per se; they have already been described in a superb manner by some of the most inspired minds that our country has given birth to during the last hundred years, and have been deposited in the life works of a certain Per. Yannopoulos, a certain G. Seferis, a certain Ph. Kontoglou.....
Our study is therefore purely historical. Part 1 (chapters 1,2 and 3) is necessarily dedicated to the clarification of the confusion that was caused by our national names. In the past 1500 years, we have been referred to with four different names (Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Hellenes). The reasons for this confusion did not originate from our people, who always knew their one and only name, throughout these centuries. They originated from our west European enemies, who concocted various names, in their desire to cut us off from our national continuity.
These names were used as ideological means, for the extermination of Hellenism.
In Part 2 (chapters 4 and 5) we shall examine the shaping of our “Roman national conscience”, which differs radically from the tribal, national ideologies of the Western lands, beginning from the time that the Germanic tribes invaded western Europe. The two constituents of this Roman conscience are: the supranational model of the State, and the Christian faith. An understanding of the Roman national ideology is a necessary step towards comprehending the individuality of Romanity versus the West.
In Part 3 (chapters 6,7 and 8), we shall present some of the problems of the “Dark Ages” (7th - 8th centuries), when an immense “rupture” appeared in European History : a barbarian tribe, the Franks, began a conscious effort to distort History, for the purpose of usurping the Roman imperial title. As we shall see, it was from that moment on, that western Europe made its choice of renouncing and turning against the Hellenic-Roman civilization. From within this conflict, “Europe” for the first time acquired a conscience of its own, and “western civilization” was also born of it, as a distinctly separate phenomenon. It is within this “rupture”, that the sources of our difference with the western Europeans can be found.
From the beginning of the 9th century onwards, Romanity and the West followed diverging courses, as the West now began to reveal its mortal hatred towards anything Roman. The external expressions of this hatred (the Schism, the “Crusades”, the Frankish domination, etc) were especially revealing for our ancestors, and they became the determining factor of Romanity’s orientation thereafter. However, a more analytical description of this period is beyond the scope of this study. What concerns us more at this point is the ever-widening gap of the original rupture, which was the source of the conflicts that were to follow.
The publishing of this study would not have been possible, without the love and the prompting of the reverend father Hierotheos Vlachos, who read the manuscript and offered his suggestions for its improvement. For all of these things, I would like to express my warmest thanks.
For the informed reader, it will also become obvious that this study owes much to the pioneer work of fr. John Romanides, “Romanity”. In our opinion, the reasons for “Romanity” not reaching as many readers as possible, is due to various reasons. Anyway, because father Romanides’ views are sometimes ambiguous, we tried to proceed to an independent study of certain other sources, in order ascertain which points can be verified. Thus, wherever we had the potential to check our sources, we did so, without needing to reference Romanides. The conclusion reached through this research is in almost absolute agreement with Romanides’ conclusions.
One could counter-observe that, regardless what the conclusions of such a historical study may be, they have no bearing on the scalding issues of today’s Hellenic society. We disagree with this view. It is our belief that, firstly, History itself provides answers to questions that are being posed nowadays, precisely because those same questions had been posed in the past. The entire issue of Hellas vs. the West is a characteristic example of a problem that persists for over 1500 years. Especially during periods when our national threats are exacerbated, it becomes self-destructive, to have no conscience whatsoever of the deep-rooted cultural adversity that characterizes the sentiment of Westerners towards us.
Beyond this, however, historical knowledge also shapes the vision that we have for the future. The impression that we have of ancient Hellas, of “Byzantium”, or of western European history, defines - either consciously or subconsciously – what kind of society we envisage for ourselves. Perhaps that is what the poet Seferis meant, when he said that “by erasing a part from the past, one erases a corresponding part from the future.”
The only way to overcome our problems today is to rediscover our lost historical memory and to regain contact with what we truly are, with what our heart truly desires. Only then will we discover that – no matter how hard we try to deny it by believing that we are one with western Europeans - our everyday life, our joys and sorrows, our hopes, our celebrations and our disappointments feasts are all permeated with a sensation exclusively our own, unknown to the Westerners, which can also be called “Romanity’s longing”.
We shall begin our study with a clarification regarding the terms “Hellenes” and “Romans”, under which terms there underlies a huge debate. The Hellenes of 1994 might be amazed, when they discover that up until the beginning of our century a great ideological conflict had taken place between these two words as our national name. This conflict reflected the general conflict that existed between two ideological trends in our country, which had begun in the 18th century, although its roots can be traced back, many centuries before.
Ever since the period of European ‘Enlightenment’, two different trends appeared among the Hellene intellectuals. The first one strived to convey the values of European humanism to the enslaved Hellenes and to “clean up” the language and the customs of the people, following the four centuries of Turkish darkness. To attract the support of foreigners, it resorted to utilizing the Romantic era’s worship of antiquity, and it enthusiastically propagated the theory of the racial descent of today’s Hellenes from the ancient Hellenes. In a time when prominent names of Europe such as Goethe, Byron, Shelley, etc., were praising the return to an idealized classical past, the idea that some pure-blooded descendants of Pericles still exist caused quivers of emotion to many intellectual circles in Europe.
This trend had strived to impose an archaic form of the language (Attican) to the Hellenes, so that their identifying with the ancient Hellenes would seem even more real; at the same time, it sided fully with the views of the Western Europeans on mediaeval History:, i.e., that the Byzantine Middle-Ages was a period of obscurantism, of “religion and barbarity” as Gibbon had called it, “full of conspiracies, intrigues in dark palaces and unending discussions on unsolvable and incomprehensible theological issues that were of interest to no-one”. This viewpoint is embraced even today by a large portion of Hellenes. The main representative of this trend was Adamantios Korais , and after him came Rizos-Neroulos, Koumanoudis and many other supporters of the “katharevousa” (=the “cleaned” form of the language). For example, in 1841, Rizos-Neroulos, then president of the Hellenic Archaeological Society and former minister of Ecclesiastical affairs, had proclaimed that: “Byzantine History is an almost intertwined and extremely lengthy series of insane acts and ugly violence of the transplanted Roman State within Byzantium. It is a contemptible variorum of the utmost squalor and the humiliation of Hellenes.” 5
The second trend had even deeper roots, and it is difficult to determine its beginning; it is much easier to describe its positions. First of all, it did not readily accept the modern name “Hellenes”, since all that our subjugated co-nationals knew was that they were neo-Romans. The difference is not merely typological, as we shall see in the following chapters. Secondly, the neo-Romans of that time did not feel that they had any direct relationship with the ancient Hellenes. They felt much closer to the Romans of the mediaeval period, i.e., they were Christian Orthodox who were ready to sacrifice themselves for their faith. Just like them, they would likewise weep whenever they heard the Hymn to the Theotokos, “To the Defender General”, and not whenever they heard the paeans of Aeschylus; they honoured the memory of “the devout Kings of Constantinople”; their dream throughout all the years of slavery was the liberation of their City, which they acknowledged as the only centre of the Nation, and finally, they displayed a greater trust in the popular language and the traditions of the people.
This trend was represented by many scholars, without any uniform program or ideology. In the matter of the national name of neo-Romans, we can refer to D. Katartzis, G. Typaldos-Iakovatos and later on, to many advocates of the demotic (popular) language, one of whom was Arg. Eftaliotis who had written the “History of Romanity” which began in 146 B.C., that is, with the conquest of Hellas by the Romans! D. Katartzis (1730-1807) in his work “Know yourself”, in which he made a historical retrospect on the words “Hellene” and “Roman”. He concluded that: “certain high-and-mighty men have overthrown even the rules of grammar, daring to change the meaning of a word and to call themselves Hellenes, without regarding this a disgrace - given that they are Christians – and a dishonour – given that they are Romans - when our very parents, the Romans, did not concede to this, except for one person, the transgressor called Julian, who took pride in calling himself a Hellene.”. 6
Typaldos-Iakovatos of the Eptanese (the seven islands of the Ionian Sea) during the decade of 1830 characteristically wrote: “A part of the ideal nation has been freed; it is the province of Hellas. The remainder of it still awaits -‘the throne of Constantine the Great’ - and along with this, yet another, very minute part of Romanity, the seven islands, where also, for things to straighten out, the Roman flag should be waving.” 17
The leader of the “demotic” (popular language) movement, Psycharis, believed that “when, in 1821, Botsaris and his like were beginning to revolt, they were obeying – unbeknownst even to them – to a Neo-Roman political impulse”. 8 The inscription on Psycharis’ grave stone is characteristic: “Sing me a dirge like the ones I heard you sing when I was a young man and had gone to the mastic-tree villages to learn your tongue, the Neo-Roman one. Who knows, you may awaken me suddenly, even from the grave, because so much did I love this language, so deeply did I place it inside me, deep in my heart, my Roman heart.” 9 Besides, it is noteworthy, that the famous periodical – the instrument of the “demoticists” – bore the title “Numas”. (Numas was none other than the second King of ancient Rome!).
These two trends were in conflict throughout all of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. A detailed examination of this conflict would go beyond the scope of our study. In any case, the expediencies hidden behind the use of our national names did not escape the attention of the foreigners. In 1857 a major philhellene, French historian had said to Sp. Zambelios: “The strangest thing is that these greedy friends of ours (the Neo-Hellenes), without looking towards anything else except their personal benefit, call themselves “Hellenes” in the morning, for historical reasons, then at noon they are called “Romans” for political reasons, and in the evening they compromise between both names, and call themselves “Greco-Romans”. 10
What is certain is that even at the beginning of our own century, this matter had still not been solved. In 1901, the publication of the first volume “The History of Romanity” by Eftaliotis had caused intense reactions, not only for its linguistic form, as it was the first History book to be written in 'demotic’ (popular language) form, but also for of the use of the term “Romanity” therein. A huge debate ensued, which eventually divided the Hellene intellectuals, with G. Hatzidakis and N.Politis supporting one side (which was opposed to the term “Romans”) and K. Palamas and Gr. Xenopoulos supporting the other side. 11
By the looks of things, even after seventy years of freedom, most of the people were still not used to the name “Hellene”. As the poet Palamas had written at the time, the name “Romeos” (=Roman) came more readily to the lips of the people, “far more than the festive and cumbersome name "Ellin” (=Hellene), or even "Ellinas” (also Hellene), which is somewhat more difficult to take root than the name “Romeos” (means: Roman, Romiós , pronounced “Rome-ee-os”), which furthermore maintained until recently its ancient, pagan inference (....) and which still signifies, even to this hour, for most of the people, ‘the brave one’, ‘the giant’.” 12
The poet Palamas had clearly perceived the essence of this conflict:
“Because the terms “Romeos” (=Roman, Romiós , pronounced “Rome-ee-os”) and “Romanity” have not reached us directly, straight from the time of Pericles, they were pushed aside, ever so gently, by the official language.”
“Hellenes, to fool the world, but in reality, Neo-Romans. A name is by no means something to be ashamed of. If it is not embraced by a wreath from a wild olive tree of Olympia, it is exalted by a crown of thorns of martyrdom, and it is scented with thyme and gunpowder.” When justifying Eftaliotis for his choice of the term “Romanity”, he concluded: “a purer and more profound sense of the language cannot but find something that is poetically and musically tinged, even in a word like “Romanity”; something winged, something gallant to us and ever so light, that I believe “Hellenism”, in all its weighty, immobile grandeur, does not possess.” 13
Despite all the above, the harsh polemics that had reached the point of even doubting Eftaliotis’ patriotism, led the latter to desist from ever publishing the remaining volumes of his “History”. In a Hellas that was desperately trying to cover four hundred years of “lagging behind” the “enlightened” Europe, it would be inconceivable for a viewpoint such as this to be acceptable: “its impossible, my friend, to seek to emulate the English, the French, the Germans, and the ancient Hellenes, and not possess a certain dose of barbarity inside you; a barbarity that looks upon fancy foreign things and is awed, and looks at her own treasures and feels ashamed of them”. 14
The advocates of the “anti-Roman” cause had reached the point of declaring that as a people, we are related only to ancient Hellas and that the medieval period is completely foreign to contemporary Hellas. 15 As a matter of fact, with the term “ancient Hellas” they meant classical Hellas – the one that the foreigners still call “Hellas proper”, in other words, the land south of Thermopylae. For example, Rizos-Neroulos in 1841 argued that that Hellas is only the tiny Hellenic State (of 1830). All others that trespass - or have trespassed - on it are foreigners. Consequently, Philippos, the victor of the Hellenes at Chaeronia, must also have been a..... foreigner, who had “performed something even more devastating than that victory: he had given birth to Alexander.” 16
Views such as these had also acquired a political expression during the 19th century. According to P. Karolidis, commissary and holdover of the “History of the Hellenic Nation” by Paparrigopoulos: “These ridiculous and strange beliefs, products of illiteracy and lack of judgment, also had a political impact in certain circles of scholars who proclaimed that the political inclinations and trends and national ideas of today’s Hellenes should not reach beyond the borders of ancient Hellas.” 17
As it is clearly obvious, in a country whose people knew that the three quarters of its nation continued to live in subjugation, such a distortion of History bore serious national dangers. And why shouldn’t it, when Korais (one of the “founding fathers” of the modern Greek state) had opened the way for the acceptance of such a theory, in his attempt to ‘illuminate’ the subjugated Hellenes with words such as: “The nation is a corpse being devoured by crows. The homeland is dead.....from the time that Philippos had trodden on us, and up to 1453.” 18 It is fortunate that the Slavomacedonians of Skopje have not yet discovered Korais.....
To be absolutely precise, Korais was not even fond of the term “Hellene”. In his famous “Dialogue between two Greeks” (1805), he wrote: “So, one of these two things (‘Hellene’ or ‘Greek’) is the proper name of the nation. I approved of the term ‘Greek’, because that is how all of the enlightened nations of Europe refer to us.” And further down: “Not only should we be deemed inhuman, but also foolish in this matter, if we were to prefer the name of the Romans instead of the name ‘Greeks’”, to conclude: “Whomsoever calls me a Roman from now on, I will look upon him as my enemy. From this day on, I am a Greek.” 19
The term “Greek” - as pointed out by prof. John Romanides and as we shall examine in more detail in chapter 7 – is a national name that was bestowed upon us by the “enlightened” nations of Europe in the 8th century, at a time when they were still engulfed in the deepest darkness of their History. Unfortunately, a conclusive study of the obscure role of Korais in the shaping of the neo-Roman identity still awaits its author.... As for poor, afflicted Hellas, after everything that we said up to now, it becomes obvious that the borders of 1830 were by no means a coincidence, as they corresponded to the exact borders of ancient Hellas, as seen by foreigners and their local mimics. The acceptance of the name “Hellenes” had provided the necessary ideological alibi to all those who had envisioned a tiny Hellas, within the bounds of 1830...
In this chapter, we will take a short historical stroll to the sources, in order to clear up the confusion that the later ideological expediencies had accumulated around our national name. In this way, we will discover the answer to the problem posed in the previous chapter. The historical sources will provide a clear picture and it will truly require a strenuous attempt for someone to support a different view.
All of the historical sources that we have available lead us to the realization that the name “Ellin” (Hellene, pronounced “eh-leen”) had already lost its national-racial innuendo during the first post-Christian centuries. In the vast melting pot of the multi-racial Roman Empire, all of the peoples therein had gradually acquired a “Roman conscience”. This is not a suitable place for examining how this occurred; the important thing is that it occurred. Without a doubt, the civilization of this Empire was profoundly affected by classical and Hellenistic tradition. It was in a way the ecumenical fulfilment of what Alexander the Great had envisioned but did not survive to fulfil himself; in other words, to permanently establish Hellenic education in every area of the known world. Contemporary foreign historians concede that the Roman Empire was, finally, a Hellenistic State, while others even speak of a “Hellenic Hellenism” and a “Latin Hellenism”. 20
Besides, this was the reason the “Hellenic” reactions towards the Roman conquerors diminished over time and most certainly vanished after the first century b.C.. After the fall of the Hellenistic Kingdom of Cleopatra in 30 B.C., there are no mentions of anti-Roman revolts; an indication that the Hellenes felt at ease within this Hellenized environment, which had furthermore been providing them with a much desired peace and security, for hundreds of years.
With time, the Romans also came to feel the same way. Proof of this, was that one of their great Emperors, Constantine I, chose as a new co-capital the city of Byzantium - a thoroughly “Hellenic” city in a Hellenic-speaking region. If the Romans had felt themselves to be “different” and hostile towards the Hellenes, they would naturally not have transferred their capital there, in “enemy territory”. The fact is, that in 320 A.D., five hundred years after the occupation of Hellas, such racial differences had become completely extinct.
The term “Ellin” (Hellene) had by then acquired a purely religious significance and was thus linked to the notion of “idolater”. It appears that this about-face had already begun to take place during the first post-Christian century, long before Christianity was made the official religion of the State. In the Gospel of Mark we read about a certain woman who had approached Christ when he was in Tyre, whom the Evangelist says was a “Hellenis, of Syrian-Phoenician nationality” (“çí äĺ ç ăőíç ĺëëçíéň óőńáöďéíéęéóóá ôů ăĺíĺé” ) (Mark 7: 26). As correctly observed by P. Christou, if the woman was of Syrian-Phoenician nationality, then the term “Hellenis” (=fem. Hellene, pronounced hell-ee-niece) must have denoted her religion. 21 A few years after 300 A.D., Athanasios the Great, a Hellenic-speaking Father and Patriarch of Alexandria - a par excellence Hellenistic city – had written a homily titled “Against Hellenes”. If this word had continued to imply the Hellenic nation, then it would have been entirely absurd: that grand Hellenistic center was turning against- who? We notice the same thing in the homilies of Saint John the Chrysostom, offspring of another grand Hellenistic city: Antioch. The word “Hellenes” definitely denoted the impious, the idolaters.
Neither is the argument correct, which asserts that the word (Hellene) lost its national meaning through force, because it was supposedly used by Christians for their opponents. First of all, as we can surmise from the passage in the Gospel of Mark that we mentioned above, this change in name had already taken place, long before Christians had acquired any kind of authority. Moreover, as Mantouvalou rightly points out, the foremost enemies and persecutors of the Christians were the Romans; yet this did not deter the Christian inhabitants of the Roman Empire from continuing to call themselves “Romans”. 22 Therefore we must conclude that the name “Ellin” (Hellene) had already lost its national inference during the time of Christianity’s predominance, regardless of what Christians said. Christians had found the new term in place; they did not coin it. From that time on, and throughout the Middle-Ages, the word “Hellene” signified the idolater. We continue to see the term with this same meaning, up to the end of the 18th century. For example, in one of his homilies in a village, Saint Kosmas of Aetolia had said: “....And I too, my brethren, who have been so fortunate as to stand here, in this holy, apostolic place by the mercy of our Christ, had first of all asked about you and had learned that by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are not Hellenes; you are not impious, or heretics, or atheists, but devout, orthodox Christians......”. 23
The national name of our ancestors throughout all these years is “Romans”, or “Romee” (in Greek “Romií”, Pronounced “Rome-ee-ee” Plural for “Romeos”), in the popular form of the language. In every one of the historical sources, without exception, the Empire of Constantinople refers to itself as “Roman”, or “Romania” (=land of the Romans) in the popular form of the language, while its emperors, up to and including Constantine Paleologos, were known as “king of the Romans”. For some strange reasons however, this perfectly clarified fact is disputed by certain contemporary researchers, who struggle to compose their own, personal ideological fabrications.
For example, they have been promoting the “objection” that for most people, the national meaning of the word “Hellene” has not been lost, and that the term “Roman” that we encounter in all the sources is merely the official name attributed to the citizens of the State; a name that was imposed on them “from higher up”, and that it was not the name that the inhabitants of “Hellas” had personally chosen as most representative of what they believed themselves to be. 24
But, as Mantouvalou has keenly observed, if that were the case, then how does one explain the continuing use of the name Romans (or “Romií”, Pronounced “Rome-ee-ee” Plural for “Romeos”) during the Turkish occupation, after the dissolution of the Roman State? 25 The “Hellenes” – now subjects of the Ottoman Empire – would logically have no reason whatsoever to continue using the name of their former conquerors – the Romans – and continue to refer to themselves as Romans. Not unless they actually felt they were Romans..... And the truth of course is, that they did feel that way, and were very much aware of it, regardless of what Westerners propagandized..... From the innumerable examples that could be mentioned here, we will present only a few, indicatively. All of the examples originate, not from scholars and intellectuals, but from ordinary, everyday people.
What most of the people believed about the “Hellenes”, before becoming “enlightened” by western Europeans, has been recorded by I. Th. Kakrides in his invaluable study on folklore “The Ancient Hellenes in the neo-Hellenic Popular Tradition”. 26 Very briefly, the average person – up to and including the beginning of the 20th century - believed that the Hellenes were an ancient, idolatrous population of giants. This is the way they also explained the existence of the oversized monuments that used to abound in our land.
These ancient people were admired for their strength (in 19th-century Cephalonia island, Kakrides mentions that the inhabitants had an expression “hey, this guy is like a Hellene!”) 27, but they certainly did not identify themselves with them. Besides, the author referred to them as “Hellenes” and not “Ancient Hellenes”, obviously because there was no chance that they would be confused with another contemporary nation.
In 19th-century Sfakia (in the Island of Crete), the locals claimed that “up there, on the crest of the Samaria mountain, is the olden-day land of the Hellenes. That’s where the Hellenes finished. And they say that up there is a treasure, but it was never found.” 28
In the region of Thesprotia – and of the 20th century in fact - grandmothers used to tell a story a story that began like this: “In the olden years, there used to live in this region a different kind of people, the Hellenes. (.........) Those Hellenes did not resemble today’s people. They were tall in stature, like cypress-trees....”. 29
A characteristic, 19th century song from the region of Epirus says: “Angelina, Koumena’s daughter, has a gallant husband; He has tresses (long hair) just like a Hellene’s, and his chest is like a lion’s...” 30
Another familiar folk-song says: “My mother was a Christian maid, my father a Hellene.....”
Kakrides records a total of 85 narratives or phrases, from every corner of Hellas, where the “Hellenes” have remained in our popular tradition with the significance that we mentioned above.
An interesting fact is that western Europeans were also aware of our real name and did not hesitate to mention it, whenever they weren’t directed by other expediencies. Thus, in the year 1713, at a time when our school books were teaching us that the Romans had vanished 1200 years ago, the Venetian printer of the first edition of the famous romantic poem “Erotokritos” noted that he was printing this book, “having being touched by the fervid love and reverence that I have had since my childhood for the glorious nation of the Romans”. The same person states that “I am Italian, and totally ignorant of the language”, but nevertheless he tried his best to print books “that until now had been printed by both Roman and Italian printers, but also the more unusual and more useful ones, which had not been printed by any Roman.” The prologue ends with the printer’s request towards the “Roman lords” to furnish him with any available manuscripts, so that he could print an improved version later on. 31
In the poem itself, we find the following verse:
“In times long past, when Hellenes ruled,
whose faith had no foundation, or any root...”
(verse A 19-20)
These lines are in full accord with popular tradition, the way that Kakrides recorded it:
“There used to be a time during which the “Hellenes” ruled. Not the “ancient Hellenes”, but the “Hellenes”, who were people other than us, who had a belief that lacked any foundation and roots; in other words, they were atheists and idolaters.
For several more proofs regarding the use of the name “Romans”/ “Romee” (neo-Romans), let us go further back in time. Four hundred years earlier, in the 14th century, the anonymous anti-Hellene author of “The Chronicle of Moreas” knew full well that the adversaries of the Latins - the inhabitants of “Hellas” -were the Romans. Here are two characteristic extracts from the “Chronicle”:
Who has ever listened to a Roman and believed him, whether for love, friendship or perhaps for a kinship? Never trust a Roman, on whatever he swears by:
Whenever he wants and intends to utilize you,
that is when he will make you a friend, a blood-brother, or an in-law, so he can exterminate you.”
(Verses 3932-3937). 32
Or when Lord Jeffreys (Villeardouin ) Lord of Moreas writes to the king of Constantinople Roberto (de Courtenay 1221-1228):
“And if necessary, his troops, and likewise his body, whenever he decides and the need arises, to have them at his disposal, to be with him and to maintain the battle, to conquer the Romans and the troops that they have.”
(verses 2564-2567) 33
For our last example, let us go back three hundred more years in time, to the 11th century.
In the great epic poem “Digenis Akritas” which marked “the beginning of neo-Hellenic literature”, the author –contrary to what one would expect- does not suspect that he is a Hellene (or a “byzantine” for that matter, but we will touch on this detail in the next chapter). Even at the very beginning of the poem, the Arab emir is portrayed as “having an accurate knowledge of the language of the Romans” 34, thus enabling him to converse with his adversaries. Further along, one of the brothers who came to take back the daughter that the Emir had kidnapped, fought a duel with him and, as he neared the moment of victory, the other Saracens counselled the Emir: “Seek love, and cease the fight. The Roman is awesome, and may defeat you.” 35
In our opinion, the examples taken from “Digenis Akritas” are especially noteworthy, because they originate from a scenario that takes place on the outskirts of the Empire, at the river Euphrates, and not in the Empire’s capital. These examples therefore show us that even the rural populations believed they were Romans, and not something else. In conjunction with everything that we mentioned above and with the information that we have taken from all the “official” sources (histories, state records etc.) it is more than evident that our ancestors were called Romans or neoromans (Gr: “Romii”) everywhere. Therefore the view that Christou and other researchers expressed, that the name “Romans” was merely their official name, and that they personally preferred a different one (Hellenes, Greeks) is entirely unfounded.
So, our recent ancestors did not know themselves to be Hellenes. They knew that they were Romans, and that their country was called Romania, as we can see in various folk songs, such as “The Lament of Constantinople”:
“O, God, I wish the Romans could also fight this way,
and never to have lost, alas, the kingdom.”
Or, in another well-known song from the Pontus, titled “Romania has been taken”, and also in the poem “Digenis Akritas”, where the sole name of the State is quoted as “Romania”, tens of times therein.
“The Emir promptly took his men
and to Romania did return for his beloved one.
And whenever he took over Romanian lands,
he would free all those that he held captive.” 36
The colloquial language was named “Romǽiki” (Gr: “Ńůěáßéęç», Romehiki=”of the Romans”), in order to contradistinguish it from the ancient Hellenic language, which they simply called “Hellenic”. And this is why there are so many translations -from the ancient language into the popular one- in which they mention that they have translated “from the Hellenic to the neo-Roman form”. The most prominent precursor of the popular language form, D.Katartzis, when disagreeing with those who wrote in the archaic form, commented in 1783 that: “Everything that we write in the Hellenic language is a kind of translation from the Romaeiki which we always think with to the Hellenic ,which we think with, only when we pick up a pen.” 37 Therefore, “for one to think that the Hellenic and the Romaeiki are the same language and not two, would be going against rational logic.” 38 Respectively, D. Filippides and Gr. Konstantas who had authored the work “Modern Geography” in 1791, mention in their presentation of European languages that “the Romaeiki language, which has been unreasonably and illiterately shunned by some, is very closely related to the Hellenic language, and is one of its daughters, which closely resembles it, because almost all of its words are derived from the Hellenic tongue.” 39
This is the reason for the existence of dictionaries, from the Turkish occupation onwards, with titles such as “French-Roman”, “Italian-Roman” etc..40 And, so that there may not be the slightest doubt, there are dictionaries such as the “Lexicopoulo” of Simon Portius (Paris, 1635), which is titled “Roman-Hellenic-Latin”. In Portius’ dictionary, the Latin word “fabula” -for example- is translated into Hellenic as “myth” and in Roman as “paramythe”.(“Paramythe” is also the word used in modern day Greek)
As expected, we were named “Roum” (pronounced “Room” = Romans”) by the Seltzuk Turks who had begun to conquer territories of the empire from the 11th century, just as the Ottomans had likewise called us “Roum”. The land that they conquered they named “Roum-Ili” (“Room--lee” = land of the Romans), and it is from there, that the name “Roumeli” is derived, which, up until 1912 denoted European Turkey (almost all of the Balkans) and not only Mainland Hellas, as one can discern from maps of that time. The examples that confirm the use of this name are innumerable. Indicatively, we can mention the decree issued by the Vizier in April of 1821 (after the lynching of the Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory) for the Turkish Prefect of Hadrianoupolis. In it, the patriarchate is referred to as “the Constantinople-based Patriarchate of the Romans”, and the revolution of 1821 as “the movement being prepared amongst the Roman Nation”. 41 The Turks in other words were also familiar, like us, that they had conquered (neo-) Romans. Even today, the Romans of Constantinople are called “Roum” by the Turks. However, since the neo-Hellenes preferred to change their national name, the Turks took advantage of this and gave us the name “Yunan”, thus differentiating the (neo-)Romans of Constantinople from their co-nationals in Hellas.
Closing this chapter, we must stress that the entire discussion about our national name is not simply a nominalistic one. The name “Romans” corresponded to a national conscience different to the one that we see in Western peoples; different to the one that was transferred to the miniature State of Hellas after 1830. In the second part of this study, we shall try to present the basic coordinates of this “Roman national conscience” which, to a large degree was lost during the 160 years of free living. In the last two centuries, immense efforts were made by western-bred scholars of Korais’ kind, for the elimination of the Roman conscience and, despite the reactions, the name “Romii” (pronounounced “Rome-ee-ee”) was finally displaced.
The conflict between the two trends ended in a synthesis whose foundations were placed by K. Paparrigopoulos, with his monumental work “History of the Hellenic Nation”. In there, the Byzantine period was embedded in the perennial course of the Hellenic nation and created the neo-Hellenic national ideology of an uninterrupted continuation of the race. However, the complex-ridden regurgitation of Western ideas of the Enlightenment was continued by many scholars, which, as a result, brought about the falsification and relentless slandering of our mediaeval history. Even in our time, in the year 1975, the extremely popular and overly advertised author, Yannis Skarimbas had written: “the agony of the Hellenic nation did not begin with the sacking of the City….but many centuries before the sacking, thanks to the crushing of the military power of Athens by the Macedonian dynasty (King Philippos and Alexander the Great) at the battle of Chaeronia.” And further along: “Was (Constantine) Paleologos a Hellene? Was Alexander the Great an “Athenian”? Racially, there was no kinship whatsoever between us. Both of them were our conquerors.” 42
Influenced by such ideas, a large portion of the Hellenic people today is inclined to deny its natural descent from “Byzantium” and continues to confuse the obscurantic western Dark Ages with Hellenic-Orthodox Romania. That is why we deemed it necessary to outline in the 5th and the 6th chapters of this study some of the fundamental differences between “Byzantium” and the West during the mediaeval ages. Moreover, even though our official History embodies the Byzantine period, our national life has been dominated for two centuries by an uncontrollable worship of antiquity, which looms comical, even in the eyes of whichever friends in the West. Especially when neo-Hellenes, who, carried away by their antiquity worship, actually believe that they can defend their national rights, exclusively with arguments from the time of Pericles and Alexander the Great, the result touches the boundaries of “nationally dangerous”.
Most certainly today, in 1994, there is no issue of a conflict regarding our two national names. Both of them now have the exact same meaning. But we should be aware that –historically- the term “Romeos” (=Roman, pronounced “Rome-ee-os”) covers something much broader than the term “Hellene”, and of course the name “Roman” also provokes assorted logical associations as compared to the name “Hellene”, both to us as well as to foreigners. Furthermore, if our aim was to define our national identity, the word “Hellene” cannot cover the broader significance of the name “Romeos” (Roman) of the mediaeval period and the Turkish occupation. The name “Hellene”, which was revived as our national name during the 19th century, is the product of the “Enlightenment” and the outbreak of nationalisms in Europe. On the contrary, as we shall see further along, the Romans were proud citizens of a supra-national State which embraced and extended over many regions, far beyond the boundaries of ancient or modern Hellas. It had extended itself, not as a conqueror, but as the bearer of the one and only, Ecumenical Christian Empire on earth.
Before moving on to tracing the elements of the “Roman national conscience”, we need to clear up one more misapprehension that Western bibliography has instituted, regarding the name of our mediaeval ancestors.
As we are told, this era is called “Byzantine”, and our ancestors are certain mysterious “Byzantines” who came from nowhere and who vanished magically, even though “we” seem to have preserved ourselves during the 400 years of slavery.
It has also been told by the sources that there never existed in history a people who called themselves “Byzantines”, or their nation “Byzantium”. The term was coined, after the dissolution of the so-called “Byzantine” empire in 1562, by Hieronymus Wolf, who began to collect historical sources in a work that he titled “Corpus Historiae Byzantinae”.
The reasons for coining a new name were purely political. In every way possible, the Romans’ remembrance of their past had to be erased from their national conscience. Most of all, their land had to cease being identified with the Roman Empire. From there on, both western Europeans and neo-Romans would be informed that “there used to be a certain Byzantine Empire”. In this way, the western Europeans would have succeeded in imposing that which they had been coveting ever since the 8th century, i.e., to be acknowledged as the true heirs of the Hellenic-Roman civilization and State. The invention of the word “Byzantines” was, in other words, a violent falsification of History that was dictated by our adversaries. The fact that neo-Hellenes accepted the term “Byzantines” and that we are being taught it at school, is indicative of the blind, complex-ridden emulation that pervaded post-liberation Hellas. This counterfeiting of History has, however, created an unsolvable problem for western historians: when did “Byzantine” History begin?
From time to time, various dates have been proposed, ranging from 284A.D. (the rise of Diocletian to power – proposed by E. Stein), to 717 A.D. (the rise of Leo III Isaurus – proposed by Cambridge Medieval History). In-between solutions were considered to be 330 A.D. (the founding of Constantinople), 395 A.D. (the division of the Empire into Eastern and Western, by Theodosius I), 476 A.D. (the “final” dissolution of the Western Empire), or 610 A.D. (the rise of Heraclius and the “Hellenizing” of the State). It is of course stressed by all researchers that every historical division is arbitrary, and that such divisions are subjective and are used only for educative reasons.
All of this is correct, but it doesn’t explain why we should agonizingly search for a new name, when we could have very well called the Empire with its proper name: “Roman Empire” or “Romania” (=land of the Romans). Its character may have undergone change at a certain point in time, perhaps when Christianity was imposed, and we could have thus been taught about the “Roman Empire”, which was followed by the “Christian Roman Empire”, but one should not concoct strange neo-terminology that carries very specific ideological vibes. Let’s use an example, in order to perceive the magnitude of the historical counterfeiting that is being imposed with the term “Byzantine”.
If, with the use of a time machine, we could place ourselves in the city of Thessaloniki of 330 A.D. and address a random passer-by as a “Byzantine”, you can be certain that the passer-by would walk away and look for a more educated person to converse with. Because he himself would know he was a Roman citizen, a member of the Roman Empire, with all the clout of the Roman tradition behind him. If you were to tell him that from now on, our books would be calling him a “Byzantine” and not a Roman, he would revolt, and would be right to do so, since nothing had occurred that would force him to change his nationality.
If we attempted to say the same thing to a citizen of Thessaloniki in 530 A.D., we would again get the same response. And if we were to insist “but how can you be a Roman? Rome has been in the hands of the Goths for 54 years now, from 476 A.D., and our books tell us that the Roman Empire has ceased to exist”, our astonished citizen would reply: “yes, perhaps Rome has fallen, but the rest of the Empire to a large extent remains free; it is governed by New Rome (Constantinople), which has been the co-capital of the Empire for 200 years and that any day now, our enslaved brothers will be free once again.” And he too would be correct in saying so, because a few years later, the armies of Justinian would liberate Italy.
This is a suitable time to note that the term “liberate” should be preferred, as opposed to “conquered” or “re-conquered” (reconquista), which are presently being used as though dealing with an alien enemy of Italians and with the imperialist designs of an ambitious potentate. The armies of Justinian were welcomed by the subjugated fellow-national Romans as liberators: when Belissarius reached Carchedon, he found the city illuminated and its orthodox population celebrating the defeat of the Arian Vandals. As the historian Prokopios reports: “….and the Carchedonians, having opened wide their gates, every one of them lit their lamps and all of the city glowed brightly with the flames throughout that night, and the remnants of the Vandals sat as supplicants in the temples.” 43
The same kind of reception was reserved by Rome, which had actually invited Belissarius to come.
Anyway, it is irrational to believe that the occupation of a portion of a country can oblige the remaining, free parts of that country to change their name. After a theoretical occupation of Thrace (northern Greece) by Turks, would the rest of Hellas be obliged to stop being called Hellas and begin to be called –for example- Pelasgia? And yet, we have fallen into precisely such an absurdity, by labelling as “Byzantine” the Eastern Roman Empire; that still free part of the vast Roman Empire, after the fall of Rome.
One last attempt to address a citizen in Thessaloniki of 630 A.D., or any other date up to 1430 A.D.( when Thessaloniki finally fell to the Turks), in the same manner as we proposed above, would have brought the same result. Even though our school books persistently teach that the character of the “Byzantine” empire changed at the beginning of the 7th century (around the time of Heraclius) and was transformed into a purely Hellenic State, our friend would still remain puzzled. Both he and his forefathers always spoke the Hellenic language, as did the majority of the citizens of the Eastern Roman Empire, but that did not mean they felt less Roman than their Latin compatriots in the Western parts of the Empire. Besides, the Roman Empire had always been bilingual. For example, as early as 57 A.D., the Apostle Paul had written in the Hellenic language his familiar Epistle to the Christians of Rome, while thirteen of the first sixteen Popes of Rome were Hellenic-speaking. In the churches of Rome, the services were performed in the Hellenic language, up to at least the end of the third century, possibly even later. 44 Anyway, it is a known fact that “from the end of the 3rd century b.C. up to the 3rd century A.D., every educated Roman was bilingual.” 45
The only change observed in the 7th century was that the Hellenic language gradually became the official language, in place of Latin. This happened for purely practical reasons, since the portion of the empire that remained free was Hellenic-speaking. Justinian clearly mentions in one of his “Neares” that these laws were written in Hellenic because in that way, they would be better understood by the population: “We did not compose the law in the forefathers tongue – the Latin one – but the common and Hellenic one, so that it might be recognizable by everyone, thanks to the ease of interpretation”. 46 («ďő ôç đáôńßů öůíŢ – ëáôéíéęŢ – ôďí íüěďí óőíĺăńÜřáěĺí áëëÜ ôáýôç äç ôç ęďéíŢ ęáé ĹëëÜäé, ţóôĺ Üđáóéí áőôüí ĺßíáé ăíţńéěďí äéá ôď đńü÷ĺéńďí ôçň ĺńěçíĺßáň»).
Furthermore, as P. Charanis notes, this event – which today appears especially significant – occurred so imperceptibly, that even the citizens of the empire probably didn’t notice it. 47 Most assuredly, the use of the one language or the other did not signify a change in the “national conscience” of the State. Any simplistic views that link the language to the national conscience might perhaps be befitting to older times, but not in the 20th century. We know for sure that we have no indication whatsoever from within the sources that any change in national conscience had taken place during the 7th century.
As for the term “Byzantine”, it did not enter into broad use until the 19th century. The renowned British historian Gibbon wrote his famous “Decay and Fall of the Roman Empire” at the end of the 18th century and finished his work in 1453, which was the year that he believed was the fall of the Roman Empire.
In our opinion, although the term does not appear to serve any purpose, it does however cloud the proper understanding of mediaeval History.
For example, apart from everything that we have mentioned so far regarding the difficulties in tracing the beginning of the “Byzantine” Empire and its “Hellenicity”, problems also appear when attempting to analyze its external policies. Thus, many historians maintain that the imperialistic Justinian ideology of the 6th century was succeeded by a defensive ideology from the 7th century onwards which focused on the preservation of territories.
But if we put aside the term “Byzantine” and bring to mind that we are talking about the free regions of the Roman Empire, then Justinian’s policy ceases to be imperialistic, inasmuch as he had merely aimed at liberating the subjugated Romans of Italy and Africa.
The more we move towards the 8th and 9th centuries, the more we notice that problems on account of the usage of the term “Byzantine” seem to multiply. As we shall see in chapters 7 and 8, Westerners insist that Roman Italy had revolted against the “Byzantine” domination at the time, and it had preferred to place itself under the barbaric occupation of the Franks. By using the word “Byzantine”, western historians introduce a nationalistic separation of Roman fellow-countrymen of Italy and the East, and they speak of a “Byzantine expansionism” in southern Italy, when all of the Romans of the West were struggling to rid themselves of the barbaric yoke of the Franks.
A comical aspect here is that the same historians eventually acknowledge “Byzantine” influences in Italian art during that period, and they struggle to find the channels through which “Byzantine” art influenced the West. In other words, they are struggling to explain how Roman art appeared in.... Roman Italy.
All of these superfluous problems accumulated, only because our western European adversaries had, at a certain point in time, wanted to give us a name that would alienate us from our History. For centuries, they strived to attribute to this name every possible negative inference; for example, the word “byzantinism”, which they naturalized in every European language and later, transferred it into Hellas. And to a large extent, they succeeded: neo-Hellenes nowadays believe that “Byzantium” destroyed the Hellenic civilization, so they try to distance themselves from everything reminiscent of “Byzantine”.*
Things would have been quite different, if we simply used the proper national names. That would have demanded a special effort on the part of the Westerners, if asked to explain how it was possible for Romans themselves to have destroyed their own Hellenic-Roman civilization.
Finally, the use of the term “Byzantine” instead of “neo-Roman” (Romǽikos) at the beginning of the 19th century served only the political designs of western Europeans. With this method, whenever any neo-Romans (“Greeks”, to the foreigners) were liberated, they could not pursue the re-establishment of their empire; they would have to simply have to be satisfied with the boundaries of ancient Graecia, in which they were confined – as we know today – thanks to the treaties that formed the Hellenic Kingdom in 1830….
* Perhaps this is the reason that the neo-Hellenic State was unable to find a single historical personage from the one-thousand year old “Byzantine” period who was worthy enough to be depicted on its coins: Of the 12 coins and paper notes that are in circulation nowadays, 4 of them depict faces belonging to ancient history, 2 from ancient mythology (!) and 6 from our modern history.
Translators note: The author is talking about “Drahmas” the official money of Greece, before the introduction of the “Euro”.
1 The «East» is understood here in its Arab-Turkish version, which is the one used mainly by foreigners when they refer to Hellas. There is also the inference to the East as developed by the Russian Slavophiles of the 19th century, with Alexei Komiakov its principal herald. See also Archmandrite Hierotheos Vlachos “Neo-Romans in the East and the West – a brief approach”, Holy Monastery of the Birth of the Theotokos (Pelagias), Levadia, 1993, page 27.
2 Indicatively, check the characteristic title of the book by L. Musset «The Germanic invasions: The making of Europe A. D. 400-600», London, 1975. Also the similar title of the classic book by C. Dawson «The making of Europe», London 1932.
3 See Chrysos (1987), pages 75-76.
4 Besides, western Europeans never miss an opportunity to repeat their related views. With the occasion of the war in Yugoslavia, and in the context of the anti-Serb hysteria that prevailed throughout the western world, the well-known former director of the French periodical «Monde», Andre Fontaine, thought it would be useful to remind us that «Europe ends, wherever the Gothic cathedrals end» (see Fontaine, «The Yugoslavian nightmare», newspaper “BEMA”, 28 June 1992, page Á22). It was in the same spirit that the Belgian minister for the Exterior and later secretary general for NATO, Willi Klaes, in his address in the summer of 1993 regarding the expansion of NATO, plainly declared that: «only those countries that originate from the circle of the Protestant Catholic culture can be considered as candidates for joining. On the contrary, the ‘heirs of Byzantium’ can cause nothing but problems to the structure of the Alliance». (see Ô. Telloglou, «The expansion of NATO : a Headache», newspaper KATHIMERINI, 28th October 1993).
5 See K. Th. Dimaras, «The ideological infrastructure of the new Hellenic State», in “The History of the Hellenic Nation», Ekdotiki Athinon publishers, Athens, 1977, volume 13, page 459.
6. Mantouvalou (1985), page 195.
7 as above, page 194. Exhaustive research on G. Typaldos-Iakovatos, see in fr. George Metallinos «Politics and Theology», Tertiuos, Katerini, where the difference in the names “Hellenes” and “Romans” is also analyzed.
8 Article in “Ordre Public” dated 29-7-1919. see Chrystou (1989), page 150.
9 See Chrystou (1989), pages 150-51.
10 See Sp. Zambelios, “Byzantine Studies, on the sources of neo-Hellenic ethnicity from the 8th to the 10th centuries A.D.”, Ch. Nikolaides, Philadelfeus, Athens, 1857, page 10.
11 See Valetas (1982), pages 16-31.
12 C. Palamas, «Romans and Romanity», (1901), The Complete Works, volume 6, C.Palamas Foundation, Biris, Athens, page 277. For the inference to “gallant” and “giant”, see below page 21.
13 C. Palamas, as above, pages 277, 279.
14 Árg. Eftaliotis, «History of Romanity», Athens, 1901, page 9.
15 One of the outcomes of this perception was also the demolishing of many Byzantine monuments in Athens during the 19th century; some for reconstructing ancient edifices (eg., the Temple of Haephestus, the Arcade of Attalus), and others, in order to not block the view towards other adjoining antiquities. Some of the monuments that were demolished were: the church of “Megali Panayia” at the site of Hadrian’s Library (1885), the church of “Panayia Pyrgiotissa” at the site of the Attalus Arcade (1859), the church of Prophet Elijah, the church of Saint Panteleimon, e.a.; see related article in the «New Hellenic Encyclopedia of Haris Patsis», volume 23, «Athena», 1967, pages 496-503.
16 see K. Th. Dimaras, «The ideological infrastructure of the new Hellenic State», in «The History of the Hellenic Nation», volume 13, page 459, Ekdotiki Athinon publishers, Athens, 1977.
17 Paparrigopoulos (1932), volume 3, page 7, footnote 1. Victim of those same ideas was Paparrigopoulos himself – one of the most significant intellectual personalities of 19th-century Hellas. After a 10-year tenure in the Ministry of Justice, Paparrigopoulos was dismissed in 1844, in conformance with the stipulations regarding «indigenous» Hellenes. It was the period in which prevailed the narrow definition of who was a “Hellene” (i.e., those who were born in Hellas of that time, or, those who had come during the Revolution and had become its acknowledged figures). Despite being born in Constantinople in 1815, Paparrigopoulos lost his right to be appointed as a public employee, even though his father had been slain by Turks in 1821 (and had been bestowed with honours for this, by Hellas). Thus, our «national historian» albeit a Roman, did not qualify as a «Hellene», according to the official state’s views. See resp. K.Th. Dimaras, «Constantine Paparrigopoulos», Educational Foundation of the National Bank, Athens, 1986, pages 118-119.
18 In his work «Contemplations of Kriton», page 5. Ref. Christou (1989), page 45.
19 See Korais (1964), page 440.
20 The first view belongs to Jacques Pirenne and the second to F. E. Peters. See resp. analysis and footnotes in D. Zakynthinos, «Meta-Byzantine and New Hellenic», in «The particular identity of modern Hellenism», volume Á, Goulandri-Horn Foundation, supervised by P. Drakopoulos, Athens, 1983, pages 85-86.
21 See Christou (1989), page 75.
22 See Mantouvalou (1985), pages 171-172.
23 See. J. Menounos, «Kosmas the Aetolian - Teachings (and biography)», Tinos publications, 3rd edition, Athens, pages 115-116.
24 See Christou (1989), chapters 8 and 10.
25 Mantouvalou (1985), pages 171-172.
26 Kakrides (1979).
27 as above, page 29.
28 as above, page 32.
29 as above, page 33.
30 as above, page 27.
31 See «Erotokritos», supervised by St. Alexiou, “Hermes”, Athens, 1988, page 5.
32 See L. Politis (1980), volume Á, page 69.
33 as above, page 65.
34 John Mavrogordato, «Digenes Akrites», Oxford University Press, London, 1956, (bilingual edition, verse Á 115.
35 as above, verses Á 188-89.
36 as above, verses. Â 2-5.
37 See K. Th. Dimaras (1977), page 216. Equally characteristic is the title of a work by Katartzis: «Evidence is, that the Roman (“Romaeiki”) tongue, when spoken and written, has melody in its word structure, and rhythm in its poetry, and passion and persuasiveness in its rhetorics. Because it is thus, just like the Hellenic (tongue), makes it better than all other tongues, in everything» (as above, page 203). The distinction between the “Romaeiki” and the “Hellenic” tongues is perfectly obvious here.
38 as above, page. 219.
39 Daniel Philippides– Gregory Constantas, «Modern Geography», supervised by Katherine Koumarianou, Hermes, Athens, 1988, page 87.
40 For a more recent example, see «Dictionnaire Francais-Romeique» by Emilie Missir, Libraire Klincksieck publications, Paris, 2nd edition 1952. The author calls it Roman because it uses the “demotic” (popular) language.
41 See T. X. Tsonidis «Cyril VI Patriarch of Constantinople, 1813-1818», Orestias, 1984. See Lignadis (1989), page 245.
42 See J. Skarimbas. «1821 and the truth», Cactos publications, Athens, 1988, volume Á, pages 35, 38.
43 See Prokopios ÉÉÉ, 20, page 396. Also ref. Paparrigopoulos, volume 3, page 95, also Bury, vol 2, page 135.
44 See Browning (1983), page 121.
45 See Toynbee (1981), page 71.
46 Chapter Á of the 7th “Neara” . Also see Paparrigopoulos, volume 3, page 79.
47 See Charanis (1963), page 103.
File created: 12-2-2007.
Last update: 12-11-2007.