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empire was far from monoethnic and monoglot, the balance had never-
theless shifted in favour of the Greek Aegean and away from the more
diverse eastern Mediterranean; moreover, while the state must have
remained fundamentally multilingual, this was not seen as a positive aspect
of empire. In the ethnic Roman identity, then, the speaking of Greek
played a fundamental part.µ
However, the use of Greek also played a part in internal division within
the Byzantine Roman world. This is shown even in the survival of Latin
in¬‚uences within the eastern empire. In the second half of the tenth century,
Symeon the Logothete (known as Metaphrastes) undertook to rewrite the
lives of the saints. Most saints™ lives had provincial origins and were written
in popular Greek, and Symeon rewrote them in a higher register. Where
the provincial originals have survived, it is possible to gain an insight
into provincial Greek at the end of the ¬rst millennium, and to compare
hagiographical texts written before and after this ˜Metaphrastic™ process.
This has revealed that Latinisms were always more current in the further-
¬‚ung areas of the empire; a purist and exclusive pride in speaking Greek was
thus always strongest in the Constantinopolitan elite, while Latin retained
a stronger hold in the socially disadvantaged provinces.


± Dagron ±: “.  Chrysos ±·.  Dagron ±: .
 Charanis ±µ; Dagron ±: ±“. µ Bryer ±±: ·.  Kahane and Kahane ±: ±“.
° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
This was just one aspect of a linguistic divide in the empire that mir-
rored social divisions and was inculcated by education. There was a wide
spectrum of literacy within the Byzantine Roman world and we need to
distinguish between, ¬rstly, the vast majority in the empire who received
no education at all, secondly, those few who were taught in the elementary
schools of provincial towns to read and write in the Greek they spoke, and
¬nally the tiny minority who advanced further to study in Constantinople
and become acquainted with the ancient models.· As a result of the vast
gulf of learning between the ruling elite and the mass of the populace,
the Greek of the Byzantine Roman empire existed in a state of diglossia “
which may be de¬ned as a situation where at least two variants of the
same language are used under different conditions by at least some of the
speakers of that language.
Modern Greek, which we may brie¬‚y examine for illustrative purposes,
represents a classic example of diglossia. Ancient and modern Greek are
clearly closely related, yet ¬‚uency in either will not guarantee ¬‚uency in the
other. After the revolution of ±±, the founders of the modern Greek state
inherited a popular spoken language (dimotiki) that was “ of course “ very
different from ancient Greek. Fired with a belief in the continuity of the
Hellenic people from ancient times, they attempted to ˜cleanse™ the dimotiki
of foreign in¬‚uences and to regularise grammar and vocabulary along
ancient lines, with the aim of creating a so-called ˜puri¬ed™ (katharevousa)
form of the language. Despite all efforts, though, katharevousa was not able
to displace dimotiki, and the end result was diglossia, with katharevousa
used for more formal situations (politics, literature, religion, education etc.)
and demotic for everyday communication.° Katharevousa is typical of a
linguistic ˜high™ form, in the situations in which it is employed, its greater
grammatical complexity and its prescriptive, formally taught, acquisition;
it is furthermore by its nature a written language. Conversely, dimotiki is
learnt spontaneously, is less standardised, sets the phonological norms for
both varieties and is the spoken language (though in the last century this
dichotomy of spoken and written has naturally broken down). A high form
is thus typically the language of prestige while the low is dismissed as crude
and unsophisticated.
A remarkably similar situation can be observed in the Byzantine Roman
context, where education had the potential to open up to a writer a whole

· Browning ±·b: “µ; cf. also Kazhdan and Epstein ±µ: ±°“; Sevˇenko ±±.
ˇc
  Horrocks ±·: ch. ±·; Beaton ±; Mackridge ±°.
Ferguson ±µ.
° Mirambel ±·; also Browning ±: ±±±“±; Mackridge ±°.
±
Byzantine identities
new range of styles beyond the spoken Greek learned in childhood.± To
progress beyond basic literacy in the spoken Greek a student needed to
be in Constantinople, where the educational programme imparted a value
system that placed worth on the antique and disparaged the model of the
spoken tongue as debased and uncultured; the educational process mili-
tated against writing as one spoke, and all written language tended towards
archaic models of grammar, syntax and even vocabulary. This type of
diglossia had been a factor in the eastern empire since its birth; however,
from the late ninth century, under the Macedonian dynasty™s rediscovery
of Hellenic learning, the linguistic gulf was widened under the in¬‚uence of
the impulse to archaism. Huge numbers of ancient texts were copied in the
new cursive bookhand, and these served as the exemplars for contemporary
style from the tenth century until the end of the empire. Commentaries
on the texts served as schoolbooks, so that every reasonably educated per-
son was imbued to some extent with the style of the ancient writers.
The Metaphrastic approach was part of this wider Hellenising movement:
Symeon Metaphrastes reworked the hagiographical texts, introducing obso-
lete forms like the dual or optative, scattering Attic particles and reworking
simple prose into rhetorical ¬‚ourishes. Under the Komnenoi dynasty (from
±°±), the process only intensi¬ed: Anna Komnene and Niketas Choniates
exempli¬ed the learned style that could verge on the incomprehensible
in its striving towards archaic complexities, and which was surely only
truly appreciable by a tiny minority “ Choniates, after all, was paraphrased
into easier Greek in the fourteenth century. Thus we see a complex and
exceedingly prestigious high form, formally acquired and associated with
literary production, accompanied by a low form which was the naturally
acquired spoken language, devoid of prestige and only limitedly recognised
as a written style. Education and language were thus an integral part of the
elite Constantinopolitan Roman identity “ and another factor that divided
capital and provinces.
It is true that there was always a wide spectrum of literary styles in the
Byzantine Roman world; at the close of the twelfth century the archaic
classicising style was, as ever, by far the most prestigious by virtue of its
alien complexities, but there were other accepted ways of writing. From the
latter part of the ninth century, there had developed a second register for

± Browning ±. Beaton ±· comments on choice of register as indicative of status; see also Beaton
±: “µ for the low status given to early vernacular works in Greek.
 Wilson ±: ±“· summarises the educational programme. Major cities like Thessaloniki also at
times had superior institutions, cf. Kazhdan and Epstein ±µ: ±±.
 Wilson ±: “; Browning ±·a: ±±“±.  Magdalino ±b: °, .
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
written Greek that was something of a midpoint between the classicising
style and the everyday, spoken, language.µ Thus, in the tenth century,
Constantine Porphyrogenitos had written his De administrando imperio
and De ceremoniis in a consciously unpretentious mode which he explic-
itly described as ˜everyday and conversational narrative™ in contrast to ˜an
Atticising style™, and this kind of contrast went back at least to the Roman
imperial period. Kekaumenos, writing in the later eleventh century and
like Constantine ostensibly for his sons, made a similar point, as did Leo VI
in his Taktika. Such men scarcely wrote in conversational language; rather,
they pursued a middle way of an educated Greek which did not wholly
avoid contemporary usages and was based rather on the Greek of the early
church as opposed to that of the golden age of Athens. This style would still
require to be formally taught.· A similar style of educated, non-Atticising,
Greek was employed in the ˜political verse™ which became popular from the
eleventh century. This decapentasyllabic (¬fteen-syllable) metre may well
have been in use as early as the eighth century and, although employed
within the imperial court, almost certainly arose from the vernacular
(i.e. uneducated) milieu. Under Manuel I Komnenos (±±“°), John
Tzetzes employed political verse for his works on Homer and ancient
Greek mythology, works composed for high-ranking ladies of the impe-
rial court who perhaps lacked the learning for the originals; Constantine
Manasses wrote his historical Chronicle in political verse for the same
audience.
The literary koine of Tzetzes and Manasses is a polished style, but verse
was also employed under the later Komnenoi, for the ¬rst time, for works
in something approaching the vernacular, ˜low™, form of Greek. The origins
of the Anatolian border epic Digenes Akrites are moot, but there is clearly
a strong vernacular element in the telling of the story, which probably
re¬‚ects an oral tradition. More conclusive are the Poems of Poor Prodromos,
generally attributed to Theodore Prodromos, and the poems of Michael
Glykas. Both men were writing around the middle of the twelfth century
and both were capable writers in the high style; indeed, both writers
employ a mixture of registers in these poems. However, more than any
writer hitherto, these poems employed language which must have been
close to the actual spoken Greek of the time.±°° Vernacular writing of this

µ Browning ±: µ±; Sevˇenko ±±.  DAI .±±“. Swain ±.
ˇc
· Browning ±·b: ±±; Browning ±°: ±°“µ; also Horrocks ±·: ±µ“.
 Jeffreys ±·; and with E. Jeffreys ±: “; also Beaton ±: “±°°.
 Horrocks ±·: ±“µ; Beaton ±: °“µ±, µ.
±°° Browning ±: ·µ“; Horrocks ±·: µ“·±; Kazhdan and Epstein ±µ: “.

Byzantine identities
type was to become ever more popular, and it also moved away from the
capital and into the provinces.
Thus twelfth-century Constantinopolitan literature encompassed the
extremes of the heights of Atticising style and the new phenomenon of
vernacular literature. Could this too be symptomatic of strain within the
Byzantine Roman identity? It has been held that Byzantine Roman diglossia
was not a socially divisive issue, in contrast to the modern Greek situation,
and it is true that for centuries diglossia presented no challenge within the
Roman state.±°± Nevertheless, in the context of the twelfth-century crisis,
the rise of vernacular literature can be taken as one indicator of diglossic
strain within Byzantine Roman society.
More than ever before, this was a monoethnic and monolingual soci-
ety of speakers of Greek; at the same time, this was a period of increased
and problematic contact with outsider groups who did not speak Greek,
and language is always one of the ¬rst identi¬ers of difference. Thus the
Greek language became more signi¬cant as a way of identifying one belea-
guered group against the threatening others, and the spoken form of the
language had the potential to be viewed as something like a national
language. More than that, as cracks grew in the imperial identity, the
spoken language could be seen as a vehicle for alternatives to the old
conservative order; it has been speculated that Manuel I Komnenos, an
emperor more innovative than most, may have encouraged work in the
vernacular.±°

Other identities? Hellen and Graikos
Hellen was the name the ancient Greeks had given to themselves when they
thought of themselves collectively rather than as citizens of distinct city-
states. In the Christian Roman empire, Hellen was in contrast negatively
associated with the pagan faith and learning of the Greek east: Hellen, with
its cognates, was synonymous with paganism from at least the ¬fth century.
This pagan association was strong enough to permit the application of the
term to Saracens by John Moschos in the sixth century and even, by virtue
of their in¬del status, to the Chinese by Michael Psellos in the eleventh.±°
While Hellen was for centuries limited to this derogatory usage, related
vocabulary was closely associated with the Greek language and here had
more mixed connotations. There were negative associations, with Greek as

±°± Browning ±·a: ±±. ±° Browning ±·a: ±.
±° PG lxxxvii., cap. ±, col. D and cxxii, col. ·B. Cf. also ˜Hellene™ in ODB, ii: ±±“±.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
the language of paganism within the eastern empire, but this vocabulary
could also be used positively in relation to language and the literary arts:
Gregory of Nazianzenos was, for example, able to use —llhn©zw (hellenizo)
to denote the speaking of good Greek alongside —llhnik»n (hellenikon) for
idolatry.±° These con¬‚icting associations were to persist throughout the
life of the empire; Michael Psellos exempli¬es the educated Byzantine™s
ambiguous attitude well, being careful not to exalt the Hellenic explicitly
while also using Hellenic wisdom as a mirror for the critique of his own
times.±°µ
Despite its negative connotations, Hellenism “ the association with the
ancient past of Greece of which the Atticising literary style discussed above
was one aspect “ remained of huge importance into the twelfth century,
again to the elite of Constantinople. The Hellenic past formed the lens
through which all intellectual endeavour was focused; the one exception
was necessarily Christian theology, although even this played a part in the
Hellenic revival under the Macedonians and Komnenoi. The Byzantine
Romans™ reliance on the classical past for their model of the world, their
genres and their terminology has been seen as a ˜distorting mirror™ that
impels us to see them as wilfully conservative and their state as unchanging.
However, the classical mirror also allowed for a safe mode of critique of
contemporary life at the same time as providing a comforting feeling of
continuity and stability.±°
Nevertheless, the vocabulary of Hellenism retained its derogatory over-
tones of paganism alongside its positive associations with literary culture,
and all Byzantine Roman intellectuals had to tread carefully to avoid accu-
sations of Hellenism “ that is, of heresy “ in their reliance on or reference to
the classical corpus. A particular danger lay in the use of Plato or Aristotle
for theological argument. John Italos, despised by Anna Komnene, was
caught like this and as a result the anathema against ˜those who devote
themselves to Hellenic studies and, instead of merely making them a part
of their education, adopt the foolish doctrines of the ancients™ was added
to the Orthodox Synodikon. However, as the anathema shows, study of the
ancients was always permitted “ as we have seen, it was the very stuff of all
education beyond the basic.±°·
The Hellenism of the twelfth century had distinctly humanist overtones,
with a new willingness to engage with contemporary life and a growing

±° Gounaridis ±: µµ. ±°µ Wilson ±: ±µ·ff.; Kaldellis ±: ±±·“±.
±° Mango ±·µ; Kazhdan and Epstein ±µ: ±“±; Macrides and Magdalino ± : ±µ±“.
±°· Papadakis ±: ±·“°; Wilson ±·°: ·±.
µ
Byzantine identities
importance for the individual.±° It is clear that the Byzantine Romans
now felt closer to the ancients: Eustathios of Thessaloniki put the Homeric
heroes in a contemporary context, Anna Komnene compared her father
Alexios I Komnenos to Herakles. Whereas ˜the classical past had been
regarded as alluring but alien . . . in these centuries Byzantine identi¬cation
with the hellenic past became ¬rmly rooted™; it has been suggested that this
assertion of a close relationship with a past and culture whose worth seemed
irrefutable was a response to the growing sense of insecurity in a world newly
threatening.±° It has also been suggested that a new fondness for Greece,
the home of Hellenic culture, can be detected in writers of the mid and
late twelfth century, alongside the customary derogatory comments about
provincial lifestyles.±±° Moreover, an increased familiarity with the peoples
of Italy and the rival ˜Holy Roman Empire™ of the Germans could make
the ethnonym ˜Roman™ more problematic and so promote the search for
an alternative self-identi¬cation.
In the twelfth century, then, some Byzantine Roman writers started
to use Hellen as a name for themselves, and this surely denotes a more
strongly felt emotional link with their ancient forebears among the literate
elite. In the ±±µ°s George Tornikes explicitly contrasted the Hellenes, as his
people, with the barbarians (mostly Latins) who were being employed by
the emperor Manuel. Most writers of the twelfth century were less direct.
Anna Komnene uses Hellenes predominantly for the ancients; however,
her use of t‡ « Ellžnwn (˜the language of the Hellenes™) for the language
spoken by the group with which she identi¬es herself and from which she
wishes to exclude the foreign heretic Italos is self-identifying, even though
the primary reference is to the learning and style imparted by study of the
classics.±±±
In the ¬fty or so years before the Fourth Crusade, then, there was
a growing identi¬cation with the ancient Hellenes on the part of some
Byzantine Roman writers, whereby Hellen was employed to promote the
status of the Byzantine Romans by association with a glorious past, and as
a contrast to the barbaros. This was by no means universally or consistently
done: Eustathios of Thessaloniki speaks in a sermon of Hellenising as
constituting a moral and indeed Christian desirable contrast to barbarian

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