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The threat from the Muslim Arabs and later from the Turks was a threat
to both state and religion, and each had gained strength from the other.
˜The ¬ght is a struggle for God and for his love and for all the nation
(‚lou to“ ›{nouv). Above all it is for our brothers of the same faith . . .
for our wives, for our children, for our fatherland (patr©dov)™; thus Leo
VI (“±) encouraged his generals to urge on their troops against the
Arabs. The Byzantine Romans were not simply soldiers of Christ, how-
ever, but guardians of Orthodoxy, of correct interpretation of the faith. The
early emperors had intervened in the church councils to establish the true
interpretation of the faith against heterodox heresies, and in the iconoclast
struggle of the eighth and ninth centuries, the con¬‚ict over the admissibil-
ity of images of the holy and divine, the state again was necessarily involved
in the maintenance of Orthodoxy. Thus, war undertaken by the Chosen
People of God could encompass war against misguided fellow Christians.
However, the correlation of Orthodox Christianity with the Roman
political identity came to be problematic in a number of ways, such that
the Franks with their distinct Christian church were only one in a series
of anomalies within the ideal coterminality of state and religion. Firstly,
there was the problem of Christians outside the empire. Leo™s advice to
his generals illustrates that he identi¬ed the state with the faith, yet more-
over saw those Christians under Muslim rule, the erstwhile subjects of the
empire, in a personal or familial sense as compatriots. Alternatively, take
the case of the Bulgarians settled in northern Macedonia, Thrace and to the
north, whose conversion to Christianity was followed by the reincorpora-
tion of these areas into the empire. The Roman approach to the Bulgarians
illustrates, ¬rstly, that the Byzantine Romans thought that Christians ought
to be Romans in the political sense and, secondly, that many Christians
could never be considered as Romans in the ethnic sense.
Converted in the °s, the Bulgarians existed for a century and a half as a
Christian state outside the political boundaries of the Roman empire, some-
thing not really accounted for in Byzantine Roman theory. The Romans
clearly considered the independent Bulgarians to be nevertheless some-
how under their hegemony: Byzantine Roman writers repeatedly charac-
terised Bulgarian attacks on the empire as revolt, and the correspondence


±  
Cf. DAI, Proem ±“. Leonis Tactica, PG cvii: col. . Hylland Eriksen ±: “.
µ Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
between Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos and the Bulgarian tsar Symeon in the
early tenth century shows that the Romans were aware of the combined
political and religious aspects to their rule. Mystikos stated that the Bulgar-
ian church came under the control of the patriarchate of Constantinople,
and this implied that they should also be subservient to the emperor; more-
over, the emperor naturally owned dominion over the west. The inde-
pendent Christian Bulgarians thus constituted a novelty and an anomaly,
and the Byzantine Roman response was to incorporate them politically as
well as religiously: Basil II ˜the Bulgar-Slayer™ achieved ¬nal victory for the
Byzantine Romans over the Bulgarians a century later in ±°±. Chris-
tian and Roman had been brought into the appropriate harmony once
more.
But this harmony was strictly limited to the political Roman identity
and, both before and after their incorporation into the empire, the Bul-
garians failed the Roman ethnic identity test. To the Byzantine Romans,
the advance of peoples from the north to settle the Balkans and the Greek
peninsula was an all too familiar model; typically these were disorgan-
ised peasant populations seeking land to settle and the Bulgars, although
more organised than other groups on the move, ¬tted this quintessential
barbarian model. Such non-urbanised journeyers from the outside were
more or less expected by de¬nition to be pagan.µ The converted ˜pagan
who accepted Orthodox Christianity ceased, in theory, to be a barbar-
ian™. More precisely, though, once the Bulgarians were Christianised they
entered a shadowy zone that was ideologically neither fully Roman nor
fully barbarian: Leo VI described them as to±v <Rwma·ko±v –p™ ½l©gon
metab†lonto ¢{esi, ˜almost assimilated into the Roman way of life™ (my
emphasis).· Even after becoming part of the empire, the Bulgarians only
fell into the Byzantine classi¬cation of inferior, peripheral Romans which
has already been noted. In the view of the Constantinopolitan elite they
constituted a familiar type: politically Roman but perhaps not ethnically
or culturally, and Theophylact, archbishop of Ochrid in the late twelfth
century, remains the classic witness to this attitude. Notable in this regard
was the new usage by writers from the eleventh century of mixobarbaros
with reference to the mixed populations in the northern Roman“Bulgarian
zone: intermarriage and the mixing of cultural traditions had made some
people hard to classify.

 Ahrweiler and Laiou ±: ±“µ. µ Ahrweiler and Laiou ±: µ“, ±±“±µ.
 Obolensky ±·±: µµ; also Ahrweiler and Laiou ±: µ“. · Leonis Tactica, PG cvii: col. °.
 Mullett ±·: “··.
 Stephenson ±: “; Stephenson °°: ch. . Note that these people of mixed ethnicity are
classed by the Romans as basically within the outgroup, ˜them™; cf. Hylland Eriksen ±: .
µµ
Byzantine identities
People like the Bulgarians, who were subjects of the empire and converts
to Orthodoxy but nevertheless failed the ethnic test as Romans, were one
anomaly. Subjects who were Christian but not Orthodox also failed the
test, people like the Armenians and Syrians, who re-entered the empire
in great numbers as a result of the Macedonian reconquests of the ninth
and tenth centuries.·° Many of these Armenians and Syrians were Mono-
physite Christians, believing in the single nature of Christ as opposed to
the dual nature upheld by imperial Orthodoxy, and as well as this doctrinal
distinction there were key differences in ritual. Attitudes to these hetero-
dox churches varied, with some (often including the secular authorities in
Constantinople) favouring a pragmatic tolerance that might lead to assim-
ilation, and others “ the hierarchy of the Orthodox church “ favouring
the forcible imposition of Orthodoxy. In these disputes we should note
again a contrast between the capital and the provinces; it was inevitable
that most Armenian and Syrian worshippers lived in Asia Minor and Syria,
and there is evidence that in the regions there was a local tolerance of het-
erodoxy that was in stark contrast to the fundamentalist Orthodoxy of the
church leaders in Constantinople.·± The Monophysite churches presented
a challenge to the role of Byzantine Orthodoxy within the imperial state,
and the varied response to this challenge shows that the Orthodox identity
remained subject to debate. Moreover, in the response to these heresies, we
see a re¬ning of the elite ethnic Roman identity as necessarily Orthodox
and Greek-speaking in contrast to the heterodox religions and languages
of the immigrants.·

The response to the non-Orthodox eastern sects provided the model for
the response to heterodox westerners, who eventually presented the most
serious threat to the model of Orthodox ecumenicity incorporated within
the Byzantine Roman imperial model.
When the Franks took Constantinople and the empire in ±° the fact
of religious difference between east and west was already a familiar point
of dispute. The formal schism between the eastern and western churches,
initiated in ±°µ when Cardinal Humbert of Rome and Patriarch Michael
Kerularios of Constantinople mutually excommunicated each other, had
at ¬rst created few problems in practical relations between east and west.·
Western aggression then in¬‚amed the situation: in Norman southern Italy
the Orthodox rite was ousted in favour of the Latin rite, and the crusader
states in Outremer followed this Norman lead in instituting the Latin

·° ·± ·
Cheynet ±°: ; Dagron ±·. Kolbaba °°±: ±“. Dagron ±·: ±“±µ.
· Runciman ±µµ: “µ°.
µ Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
rite and a Latin religious hierarchy and ousting the incumbent Orthodox
churchmen or at best tolerating them as a parallel hierarchy. The resulting
dual patriarchate was a perpetual reminder of the schism, as witnessed
by the vitriolic attitude of Theodore Balsamon, Orthodox patriarch of
Antioch under the Angeloi.· Then again, the increasing proximity of and
congress between westerners and Romans in Constantinople and other
ports and cities turned the formal differences in religious ritual into issues
of grievance. Increased tension is re¬‚ected in the new genre of tracts directed
˜against the errors of the Latins™, and it is noteworthy that in these compar-
atively early days these tracts focused most on everyday differences “ how
to sign the cross, the Latin use of unleavened bread and so on “ and little
was made of the larger issue of papal supremacy. Christianity was a vital
aspect of the Roman ethnic identity, and as the Romans came up against
the existence of an alternative view of Christianity, their sense of tension is
expressed in an emphasis on the criteria of Orthodoxy.
However, the increasing independence and activity of the papacy added
another area of tension, as the movement for papal reform impinged on
the eastern Romans and their church. The papacy was now promoting
itself as having a unique authority over the Christian world that had
divine origins; this implied a monarchical model of the papacy which
was not only perilously close to that of the emperor of the Romans, but
also downplayed the conciliar model of clerical authority favoured by the
eastern church.·µ Long-standing differences on the relationship between
the eastern and western churches came into sharper focus and assumed real
political signi¬cance in the eleventh century. The issue of supreme papal
authority emerged as the major sticking point between the churches, as
can most clearly be seen in the controversy over the ¬lioque.·
In its rendering of the creed into Latin, the western church had come to
speak of the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the father ¬lioque, ˜and the son™,
and this constituted an addition to the older Greek creed, naturally still
current in the east. The two versions of the creed implied very different
views of the nature of the Son within the Holy Trinity, and both sides
found it dif¬cult to ¬nd middle ground. Just as important, however, was
the con¬‚ict between papal and conciliar authority. The Latin church was
highly disinclined to countenance any revision of papally approved doctrine
while, from the other side, the Byzantine Romans, ¬rstly, could not ignore
the fact that additions to the creed had been formally disallowed by the


· ·µ ·
Angold ±µ: µ°. Papadakis ±: ±·“·; Nicol ±·a: ±±“. Runciman ±µµ: °“.
µ·
Byzantine identities
Council of Ephesos in ± and, secondly, ¬rmly upheld that any doctrinal
debate could and should only be settled with a general council of the church
of which the pope was only one of the ¬ve patriarchs. Thus, differences in
religion played an important part in the ever widening gulf between Latins
and Byzantine Romans. Both the political and the ethnic Roman identities
became clari¬ed in the sense of threat produced by the contrast with the
newly energetic western church, which ¬rstly constituted a challenge to
the supreme imperial identity of the empire of the Romans and, secondly,
gave extra emotional weight to a variety of differences between eastern and
western Christians that became more provocative as contact between the
two groups increased within the empire.
Once again, however, we should beware of viewing the Byzantine Roman
world as a uniform whole. It was initially divergences of opinion within
the Orthodox world which caused issues of ritual to become controver-
sial within Byzantium, as a result of the in¬‚ux of Monophysite Christians
into the empire with the reconquests in the east. In the eleventh century,
Patriarch Michael Kerularios™ focus on incorrect usages ¬rst arose because
of the desire to impose uniformity on the large Armenian community
newly integrated into the empire; Armenians and Latins shared some of
the practices of which the Orthodox Romans disapproved, and the Latins
picked up some of the opprobrium attached to Armenians because of these
shared practices. The imperial appeal for western help, with the concomi-
tant need to conciliate the westerners, fostered such internal disputes, and
in turn exacerbated tensions with the west.··
The alternative versions of Christianity, met ¬rst within the empire and
then to a more extreme extent in the west, fostered a defensive Orthodox
identity that impacted on the Roman identities in a variety of ways. Within
the empire, Orthodox Christians might be seen as more fully Roman than
the minority churches that attached to minority ethnicities, despite the full
political integration of these ethnic groups. Then again, as the boundaries of
Christianity and of the empire became increasingly dissimilar, Orthodoxy
became more important as a constituent of the ethnic Roman identity.
Hence, in the eastern border zone, Christians could be viewed as Romans in
contrast to the Muslim Turks, and this is a clear issue in the epic of Digenes
Akrites where the hero™s father, a Muslim emir, converts to Christianity
on his marriage to a Roman (and therefore Christian) girl. Orthodoxy
here presents as a necessary constituent of Roman-ness but, importantly,


·· Kolbaba °°±: ±“.
µ Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
conversion does not suf¬ce to make the emir a Roman.· As with Saracens
in Anatolia, so with the Slavs and others in the Balkans. Newly converted
Slavs or Bulgars became Orthodox Christians, but other ethnic prejudices
precluded naming them Romans; here the spread of Orthodoxy inculcated
a religious identity focused on Constantinople that did not need to take
account of political loyalty and was in a sense a rival to the political Roman
identity.
Finally, just as there was conversion in the east, so the negative reac-
tion to westerners was not universal “ on the periphery of the empire,
some Romans adopted Latin religious practices, as the writings of aghast
churchmen testify.· On the actual borders of the empire and of the faith,
the Orthodox Christian identity was negotiable. By ±°, it was clear that
being Christian was not the same as being Roman, and that religious alle-
giance to Constantinople need not be accompanied by political loyalty.
Politically loyal non-Orthodox Christians were a known phenomenon, as
were Orthodox Christians not politically subject to Constantinople. The
Franks of ±° represented a wholly new anomaly in the nexus of political
and religious identities only in that they constituted non-Orthodox rulers.
How would this impinge on the Byzantine Romans™ sense of themselves?

Language and literacy
The other fundamental criterion of the ethnic Roman identity was the
use of the Greek language, and here again the Franks of ±° presented
something new, in that Greek ceased at least in part to be the language of
rule. However, if the Greek language was an expression of the unity of the
Byzantine Roman empire, it was also an important factor in its underlying
disunity in the years before and after ±°.
While Latin had at all times been dominant in the west of the ancient
Roman empire, in the east Greek had always existed as at least a parallel
language which, although it had had its political role within the ancient
cities of the east, was above all the language of everyday exchange and of
cultural discourse. In the third century ad, Greek speakers were content to
see Greek as the language of that brand of educated sophistication which
was the incomparable gift of Hellenism to the empire, and Latin as the
language of that imperial power which promised security for the cultured
life.° Once the east had taken on a discrete political existence, over the
three centuries from the death of Constantine to the death of Heraklios

· ·
Digenes Akrites, Grottaferrata version iv. “·. Cf. de Boel °°: ±±“. Angold ±µ: µ±±.
° Dagron ±; also Goldhill °°: ·“°.
µ
Byzantine identities
(ad ·“±) the Greek language effectively ousted Latin in the eastern
empire to become the language of political power as well as of culture.±
In illustration of this, it is notable that Emperor Heraklios ceased using
all the multiple and celebrated Latin titles of the emperor, in favour of
the Greek basileus (˜emperor™), which had been unof¬cially customary in
the east since the time of Constantine. Greek was also the language of
religion. Although the early church councils of Nikaia and Chalkedon were
both opened with a speech in Latin from the emperor, the debates were
conducted in Greek; at the Council of Ephesos in ± a Latin letter from
Pope Celestine had had to be translated into Greek. With its reputation
in philosophy, Greek was the natural choice for theological argument; it
was also the most useful common language for the widely spread church
hierarchy.
Thus, alongside the imperial and religious facets of the Byzantine Roman
identity, there was also the linguistic. Greek was the language of the empire,
if anything becoming more dominant with the contraction of the state to
its oldest Greek-speaking centre. Although in the late twelfth century the

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