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bestiality, and this startlingly novel association of the Hellenic and Christian

±° Magdalino ±±: ±; Kazhdan and Constable ±: ±±“±µ.
±° Kazhdan and Epstein ±µ: ±, ±· and in general ±“±; Macrides and Magdalino ±: ±µ“.
±±° Magdalino ±±: ±“±µ; Macrides and Magdalino ±: ±±“.
±±± Darrouz`s ±·°: ±.“·; Leib ±·“µ ii: ·.“; see Magdalino ±±: ±°.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
is indeed a sign of the rehabilitation of the Hellenic. However, in his account
of the fall of Thessaloniki Eustathios never characterises the Byzantine
Roman defenders as Hellenes, even though the Normans are freely named
as barbarians.±± Hellen is employed in Eustathios™ Capture only to denote
the ancient Greeks and, while on both occasions a contrast is drawn with
barbaros, no contemporary parallels are drawn with either the attackers or
the defenders of Thessaloniki.
We may conclude that the elite Byzantine Romans of the twelfth century
felt a closer bond with the ancient Hellenes, such that the Hellenic could be
held up as an example and, on occasion, they could assert an identi¬cation
with their predecessors for rhetorical effect. In the context of an increasing
feeling of alien encirclement, the classical contrast between Hellene and
barbarian was beguiling, and could well remain so for the term of the
beleaguered empire. It is, especially, the perceived increasing acceptability
of Hellen as an alternative ethnonym under the Palaiologoi that has been
cited by Greek nationalist historians as evidence of proto-nationalism.
Outside the Constantinopolitan elite, however, perception of the ancients
was very different, and there is evidence from the medieval to modern
period that the popular conception of the Hellenes was as a mythic race of
the past, giants in stature: this can rest as a tribute to the remnants of their
grandeur which littered the countryside of the empire.±±

In the early centuries of the empire, Graikos, the term derived from the Latin
name for the ancient Hellenes, was quite widely used as a less derogatory
replacement for Hellen. As late as °°, Theodore Stoudites used Graikos
for the inhabitants of the empire, rejecting Rhomaios as attaching only to
the emperors, in an early con¬rmation of Rhomaios as having a primary
political reference to the imperial institutions.±± However, from the ninth
century onwards the term fell into disuse, suffering by association with the
western practice of calling the inhabitants of the empire Graeci and their
ruler the imperator Graecorum (˜emperor of the Greeks™). The Byzantine
Romans felt this to be an insult, in denying their Roman imperial heritage,
and there is evidence that some at least in the west intended it as such “
Liutprand of Cremona, a German ambassador to Constantinople in ,
knew the ˜Greeks™ looked on this form of address as peccatrix et temeraria
(˜wrong and thoughtless™).±±µ The term did not disappear; interestingly, it is
used once in the De administrando imperio for the non-Slavic inhabitants

±± Magdalino ±±: ±±. ±± Vacalopoulos ±·°: ±, n.. ±± Gounaridis ±: µ.
±±µ Becker ±±µ: °°, section ·. For Graikos, see Magdalino ±±: “±°; Angelov °°·: µ“.
Byzantine identities
of the Peloponnese in the ninth century, although this may be a re¬‚ection
of the Slavic source used by the compilers of the work and therefore not
really a self-identifying term.±± In the twelfth century Graikos is barely
used by Byzantine Roman writers: this had become the vocabulary of the

before 1204: a crisis of identity
H´l`ne Ahrweiler has described the fall of Constantinople in ±° as semi-
inevitable, arising out of the problematic condition of the empire at the
close of the twelfth century.±±· Not the least among the many problems
facing the empire of the Romans in the years leading up to the Fourth
Crusade was a crisis of its received ideologies and identities. Although
the political ideology of the supreme and unique emperor ruling over his
body of civilised, Christian, subjects superior in kind to all other earthly
associations remained (despite many vicissitudes) basically unchallenged
as the twelfth century drew to a close, yet beneath the surface there were
numerous and challenging tensions.
Some of these problems were far from new, being perhaps inevitable
in the diverse Roman state. Thus there was friction between the ideal
of uniformity across the empire and the actuality of diversity, in culture,
language and status. The Byzantine Romans were used to the presence
within the state of those who were in the formal sense outsiders. Of course,
the eastern Roman empire had come into being as multi-ethnic, mul-
tilingual and multi-faith; and indeed, the internal variety of the empire
had made it a theologically pleasing model of the universal kingdom of
God. In the early middle ages, ethnic homogeneity was not prized; there
was a tolerance, if not expectation, of multi-ethnicity.±± As time went
on, and under the pressure of invasions from the southern Muslims and
northern nomads, the empire had contracted by the time of the Kom-
nenoi to become ever more characteristically ˜Greek™, in language, faith
(i.e. Orthodoxy) and other cultural phenomena. Nevertheless, other eth-
nic identities were always present and it does not seem that the Byzantine
Roman state thought it appropriate to extirpate this ˜other™ within, even
if there were occasional exceptions, with attacks on Latins intermittent
and Jews and Armenians subject to more sustained harassment.±± Partic-
ularly in Constantinople and all the major cities and ports of the empire

±± DAI .; Vryonis ±: °. ±±· Ahrweiler ±·µ: .
±± Pohl and Reimitz ±: “; Bartlett ±: “.
±± Ahrweiler and Laiou ±: vii“ix; Angold ±µ: µ°“±°.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
people would have been used to different languages, to different styles of
dress and to intermarriage between Romans and others. There were the
barbarians in the imperial guard and other ethnic units in the imperial
army “ under the Komnenoi the employment of foreign mercenaries had
increased markedly and their presence was felt throughout the empire.±°
There were the merchants from both east and west, and there were sig-
ni¬cant Jewish communities. There were diplomats and embassies in the
capital, and there were monasteries reserved for non-Roman Christians.
Under the Komnenoi, again, westerners had risen to important posts in the
imperial service. Moreover, along with these various reasons for residency
went the necessary arrangements for differing faiths and legal mechanisms:
minority Christian churches, synagogues and mosques, separate courts and
So much for ethnic heterogeneity within the empire. Turning to views
of the outside world, by the twelfth century the characteristic Byzantine
Roman attitude to the aliens outside the empire was one of wary contempt “
especially to those from the west “ and this was a defensive response
to the growing threat from outsiders, added to the ingrained sense of
cultural superiority. The immediate roots of this went back to the late
eleventh century, when a conglomeration of circumstances had combined
to produce a new distrust of the west; this had prompted a particular
response from the then new emperor Alexios I Komnenos.±
The Normans of Sicily invaded Byzantine Roman Epiros in ±°±, ¬x-
ing the archetype of the bellicose westerner in the Roman imagination “
an archetype to which Anna Komnene™s compelling portraits of Robert
Guiscard and Bohemond bear witness. Alexios looked for support to
Venice, historically quasi-subject to the empire, giving the Republic sub-
stantial trading concessions in return for naval aid and effectively initiating
the commercial hegemony of the Italians within the empire. The First
Crusade bolstered the warlike image of the westerners and, in the estab-
lishment of the crusader states of Outremer, gave new outlets for west-
ern mercantilism. The crusades, as well as the establishment of Venetian
trading posts throughout the empire, also simply brought huge numbers
of westerners into the Byzantine Roman sphere, highlighting all the lit-
tle differences in religion and behaviour. The Romans could not help

±° Magdalino ±b: ±·µ“, ±“.
±± Haldon ±: µ“·; Adler: ±°·; Papadakis ±: ±“·; Magdalino ±b: ±“; Ahrweiler and
Laiou ±: ±·±“ on the Venetians before ±°; also Kazhdan and Epstein ±µ: ±·“·.
± Ahrweiler ±·µ: “; Shepard ±: “±±.
Byzantine identities
but acknowledge the trading ascendancy of the Italian mercantile cities
and the ambitious military dynamism of the western crusading nations.
The response was not always hostile: Manuel I Komnenos clearly hugely
admired aspects of the western way of life. However, his importation of
westerners into the court and administration and his perceived favouring of
westerners over native Romans built up a wave of resentment that exploded
on his death: Andronikos I Komnenos surged to power on a wave of anti-
Latin fervour that resulted in massacres in Constantinople. This anti-Latin
feeling was, however, not necessarily so strongly felt outside Constantino-
ple “ provincial Romans did not necessarily share the Constantinopolitans™
prejudices against Latins and, in contrast to the elite of the capital, the
businessmen of the provinces often welcomed the new market eager to buy
their wine, oil and other products.±
Yet many Byzantine Romans were beginning to fear the west. In contrast
to the benign others of the De administrando imperio, under the Komnenoi
westerners were reclassi¬ed as violent and inimical barbarians.± For Anna
Komnene, the Sicilian Normans were ˜a foreign, barbaric race™, and they
were also barbarians for Eustathios of Thessaloniki. In the twelfth century,
the Norman sacks of Corinth and Thebes in ±±· and Thessaloniki in ±±µ,
the Venetian raids of the ±±°s undertaken in reprisal for the massacres
under Andronikos I Komnenos, and the progress of the Second and Third
Crusades in ±±· and ±± which seemed to threaten Constantinople itself,
can only have reinforced this negative perception.±µ There was violence
in the westerner, but there was also organisation and power; it was more
and more dif¬cult to reconcile the vigorous actuality of the west with
the image of inferiority demanded by the imperial ideology. The Romans
felt vulnerable, before a combination of military might, economic pre-
eminence and a certain raw and hostile vigour.
Combined with this nascent sense of vulnerability, it is moreover clear
that there were dangerous frictions of identity within the empire which
were based on economic and social status and had a strong geographi-
cal aspect. The apparently monolithic sense of Byzantine Roman imperial
identity was in fact the identity of a privileged elite who would have been
identi¬able to their contemporaries by their obvious marks of privilege
and wealth, by their educated language and by their attachment to the
capital, Constantinople. The contempt of the Constantinopolitans for the

± ± ±µ
Cheynet ±: °“±. Shepard ±: “. Jeffreys and Jeffreys °°±: ±°“±°, ±±.
·° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
provincials was an attitude often marked by linguistic reference, partic-
ularly perhaps with reference to southern Greece, which was known to
be the geographical home of so much of the Hellenic wisdom exalted by
the elite, and an epigram of the tenth century expresses it well: ˜Not the
land of barbarians, but Hellas itself has been barbarised in speech and in
manner™.± As far as Constantinopolitans were concerned, provincials were
scarcely to be distinguished from foreigners. In the new shrunken empire
the phenomenon of diglossia was expressive of this divergence of interests
between provinces and capital. There was also divergence in the perspective
on foreigners. To many people on the borders of the empire, Constantino-
ple™s rivals might offer security and protection in contrast to the centralised
power of the empire which seemed to them to be all about taking with
precious little granted in return: thus, when the Seljuk Turks captured land
in the Maeander valley, some subjects of the empire voluntarily migrated
to live under Turkish rule.±·
On the eve of the Fourth Crusade, then, the Byzantine Roman empire
could reasonably be said to be in crisis. The Angeloi dynasty that had suc-
ceeded the Komnenoi in ±±µ had proved ineffectual, violent and corrupt.
The sheer poor quality of the emperors had weakened the Romans™ faith,
if not in the time-honoured imperial system, then at least in those aspects
of its application that were responsible for calling down God™s displea-
sure upon them. This crisis of imperial rule added to the other strains
which were undermining the supposed certainties of the Roman identity.
Militarily, the empire was under pressure with the successes of the Turks
in the east, the Normans in the west and the Bulgarians in the north.
Politically, the pre-eminent status of the empire seemed to be at risk with
whatever sense of deference the west had retained steadily declining and the
papacy taking on a quasi-imperial universalist role. Moreover, internally,
the capital Constantinople was dangerously out of step with the provinces,
which, overtaxed and underbene¬ted by imperial rule, were seeking sep-
aratist solutions. The political Roman identity which was central to the
ideology and elite superiority of the ruling class seemed less appropriate or
appealing to provincials, making them likely to search for other identities.
Economically, the Italian mercantile communities were becoming increas-
ingly necessary to the empire as business intermediaries and as a source of
naval power. Spiritually, the autonomy and tradition of the eastern church

± Cited in R. M. Dawkins, ˜The Greek language in the Byzantine period™, in Baynes and Moss ±:
µ. See also Magdalino ±; Magdalino ±b: ±±±.
±· Cheynet ±: ·°“.
Byzantine identities
were under attack from the claimed supremacy of the papacy, and the
lack of equivalency between the empire and the Orthodox commonwealth
was becoming acute. Culturally, the move towards a positive Hellenism
suggests at least a dissatisfaction with existing modes of thought. Ideolog-
ically, the comfortable contrast between superior Romans and benighted
barbarians no longer seemed to ¬t, either in international relations or yet
in the day-to-day contact with others in the streets of the empire. In sum,
the Byzantine Romans felt beleaguered, by the perceived failings of their
own system, and by the west. How would the events of ±° “ which may
reasonably have felt like a justi¬cation of all the Romans™ worst suspicions
of the west “ affect their sense of themselves?
chapter 3

Niketas Choniates

Niketas Choniates stands at the cusp of the period of the late twelfth
century, which was considered in the last chapter, and the period of the
Frankish conquests. He is an impressive writer, and an exemplar of the
educated Byzantine Roman, writing complex Greek in the ancient style,
and referencing the classics as well as Biblical sources in a display of extreme
erudition. He served the Komnenoi and Angeloi emperors at the highest
level, and lived through the sack of Constantinople in ±° and subsequent
exile. Choniates can therefore serve as a marker of much that was typical
in Byzantine Roman attitudes at the dawn of the thirteenth century, while
also giving valuable insights into the shock of the events of ±°. This
chapter is the only one which looks at a single source, and it is intended to
serve as a model for the approach to be followed in future chapters, showing
how the usage of particular items of vocabulary can be used to elucidate
patterns of thought. Additionally, Choniates may in this way be used to
illustrate the patterns of thought outlined in the last chapter, and at the
same time be set as a template against which we can measure developments
in later writers.

Niketas Choniates was born around ±±µµ in Chonai, a small city in the
Maeander valley near the modern Denizli in western Turkey, which was
very much in the frontier zone with the Seljuk Turks (it would be lost
to the empire within his lifetime). His was not an aristocratic family, but
it had useful connections, and he was godson to Niketas, the Bishop of
Chonai (History µ). He had a much older brother, Michael, born around
±±, of whom he can have seen little in his early years, as Michael went
to Constantinople to pursue a career in the church when Niketas was just
in his third year (Michael, Monodia ·).± The contacts made by Michael

± Michael Choniates™ Monodia was written in memory of his brother and provides substantial bio-
graphical detail: Lambros ±·“°: µ“; also useful are Michael™s letters (Kolovou °°±), Niketas™
own letters and speeches (van Dieten ±·), and the History (van Dieten ±·µ).

Niketas Choniates


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