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this is a phrase he never uses in the post-±° context. As for basileus
Rhomaion (emperor of Romans), after the fall of the City this is applied
to no one without quali¬cation. The most that Choniates does is to grant
that the Latin emperor Baldwin (µ.“), Manuel son of Isaak II Ange-
los (µ.µ) and Theodore Laskaris of Nikaia (µ.µ“) were each ˜pro-
claimed™ emperor of the Romans. Thus, in his account of the aftermath of
the crusade, Choniates makes no clear statement of imperial rule over the
Romans “ even by his own ruler Laskaris. It is worth pointing out that Cho-
niates thoroughly accepted Laskaris™ position as emperor of the Romans in
his other works written in Nikaia, but then history-writing was a franker
genre than imperial panegyric.±±
Choniates seems able to accept Baldwin as an emperor, but not as
emperor of the Romans since, even though the Franks are now accepted
as emperors in Constantinople, they are notwithstanding never unequiv-
ocally called ˜emperors of (the) Romans™. It is surely their simple Latinity
that precludes this. The ethnic Roman identity is at work here, and it
is in con¬‚ict with the Roman political identity. Signi¬cantly, Baldwin of
Flanders is repeatedly given the title basileus, though without the quali¬er
˜of (the) Romans™ (e.g. ±., ±µ.±±, °.°). One may assume that the

±± Cf. Choniates on Isaak II, Harris °°: ±·; Magdalino ±b: ; Angelov °°·: “µ.
° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
fact of ruling as an emperor from Constantinople was enough to ensure
some acceptance of Baldwin and his successors, no matter how strong the
prejudice against Latins; it is moreover clear that the western conquerors
played up themes of continuity to encourage loyalty among Romans, with
the Latin emperors adopting the imperial regalia and symbols and in return
being feted by many of their Roman subjects.± At times, moreover, Cho-
niates displays some acceptance of the Latin empire, and even suggests
that certain Romans could be understood to be legitimate subjects of
this empire. Thus, those Romans who fought against the Latins after the
fall of the City are frequently characterised as rebels (e.g. ±., ±.·“,
.±): this ascription clearly signi¬es their subject status although, at the
same time, Choniates clearly does not expect or want his compatriots to
submit to the Latins. Ironically, this attitude on Choniates™ part, implying
that these Romans were subjects of the Latin emperor in Constantinople,
is probably a re¬‚ection of the strength of the Roman political identity, in
which the rule of an emperor from Constantinople was so much a part.
It is possible to detect ethnic associations in individual instances, like the
˜Roman guides™ and the ˜Roman soldiers™ respectively used and rejected by
Boniface of Montferrat in ±°“µ (°.µ°, ±.“µ°). These individuals
who were willing to assist their new western ruler would clearly not consider
themselves subjects of any nascent Byzantine Roman successor state. They
were or wished to be subject to the Latins, but a description as ˜Roman™
could not usefully be employed to denote this submissive attitude. Thus
this use of ˜Roman™ has nothing to do with political status, and these
Rhomaioi were so called to denote their ethnic origin, to distinguish them
from the Latin subjects of the Latin lords. For Choniates, this is a striking
example of Roman identity divorced from any political loyalty.
Along similar lines, in the aftermath of the fall of the City Niketas
bemoans ˜the indifference of the Romans in the east for their suffering
compatriots™ (µ.“µ); thus there were Romans in Nikaian Anatolia and
Romans in the European provinces united by genos but not by any formal
political or administrative institutions. The disaster of the crusade, then,
highlighted the fact that ethnic identity did not need to coincide with
political af¬liation or with residency.
This ethnic identity becomes evident in these post-±° usages: that is,
once the effective removal of the political identity allowed the pre-existing
ethnic aspects of being Roman to come out into the open. However, this


± Lock ±: °“.
±
Niketas Choniates
kind of ethnic signi¬cation, untouched by political associations, is only
rarely to be detected in Choniates™ account of the years before the fall
of Constantinople. Usages that can at ¬rst sight seem ethnic can also be
understood, without any emphasis on descent, as denoting the fact that
the individual(s) concerned are subjects of the Roman state though, obvi-
ously, this is not necessarily unmixed with ethnic connotations. Contrasts
between Romans and Germans or between Romans and Venetians, or
between Latins and Romans in accounts of the friendly jousts between
Latin non-subjects and Roman subjects of Manuel, in this way seem pre-
dominantly to serve to signify contrasting political allegiances (e.g. .,
µ.“, ±°.·“). Rhomaioi is also employed unequivocally to signify
˜those ruled by the emperor™, for example at °.µ, .· or ±°.·±.
However, when Choniates™ account of the years before ±° touches on
ethnic borders, the ethnic sense of being Roman is occasionally apparent
or at least possible. Mixed-ethnic situations in the twelfth century included
Corfu (µ) or areas in north-west Anatolia (±, µ±). The uses of Rhomaioi
in each of these cases could be understood to denote subject status, but
there may be more to it as these areas were on the margins of the empire
and far from secure. Such usage may thus emphasise people™s ethnic Roman
status in contrast to people of other ethnicities living in close proximity to
them.
More conclusively, note the account of the merchants from Seljuk
Ikonion, <Rwma±oi te kaª To“rkoi (˜Romans and Turks™), who, being
present in Constantinople, were both equally arrested by Alexios III Ange-
los in reprisals against the Seljuk Turks of Ikonion (.µ). The Roman
merchants seem to have been treated more as Turks than as Romans because
they were from Ikonion. They were perhaps considered to have more con-
nection with and sympathy towards the Turks whom they lived under, but
were nevertheless still recognised and named as Roman for some reasons “
perhaps their religion, or the fact that they were related to Roman families
within the state “ which were certainly ethnic.
Given the strong signi¬cation of the collective Roman identity as the
state and territory ruled from Constantinople, it is also illustrative to
examine Choniates™ treatment of those groups who were resident in the
empire but were nevertheless not Roman. Resident westerners were one
problematic example. Could families of western origin who had lived in
the City, perhaps through several generations, be considered Roman? The
answer for Choniates was, in the last analysis, no “ and the reasons for that
answer can only be ethnic. Choniates says the Venetians at Constantinople
were viewed ˜as compatriots and as altogether Roman™ (±·±.µ±), nevertheless
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
it is abundantly clear that they were on the contrary both identi¬able and
identi¬ed as different from Romans, as this comment comes in the prologue
to his account of the ±±·± mass arrest of all Venetians within the empire.
There could, then, be subjects of the empire who were ˜altogether Roman™
in the political sense, but nevertheless not Roman in another, crucial,
sense. Another example were the members of the Varangian Guard, clearly
imperial subjects and loyal to the empire, who were barbarian, non-Roman
and explicitly contrasted with Romans (cf. µ·.·°“±). Choniates does not
go so far as to call these ˜altogether Roman™, which raises the question of
degrees of non-Roman-ness, to be further discussed below.
Choniates™ description of the Anconans resident in the empire as having
equality with those t¤€ g”nei <Rwma©wn, of Roman descent, is another
clear contrast of Roman ethnic identity with political identity (°.±“).
Most explicit of all is his account of the repressive regime of Andronikos I
Komnenos, whose death decree he describes as

putting virtually all Romans (t¼ PanrÛmaion) under the death penalty and doing
away with not only those who were descended from Romans (¾p»soi <Rwma©wn
prožl{osan) but also with people of foreign descent (–x –{n¤n).(.·“°)

Here, ˜the whole Roman populace™ should be taken to denote the col-
lective imperial identity inclusive of both those who were Roman and
those who were non-Roman in the ethnic sense, while ˜those of Roman
descent™, contrasted with ˜many of foreign descent™, literally emphasises the
importance of birth for an ethnic Roman identity. Choniates thus does not
expect the empire to be made up only of ethnic Romans. He is working
within an assumption that the empire should be heterogeneous and multi-
ethnic, even though he only accepted that with reservations because of
the concomitant potential for disorder “ ˜the rabble of Constantinople . . .
was composed of diverse nations and one could say it was as ¬ckle in its
views as its trades were varied™ (.·±“.). In this acceptance of ethnic
diversity he had more in common with his predecessors than with those
who were to follow him.±
As shown above, Choniates had a strong sense of Roman land, that
is, land that belonged or had recently belonged to the empire and of
which it was expected that the residents would typically be Roman. Put
another way, for Choniates Romans lived in the area ruled by the Roman
emperor “ or, more problematically, in areas which should be ruled by

± Cf. Eustathios of Thessaloniki: Magdalino ±b: ±·µ“.

Niketas Choniates
the Roman emperor. Thus, it was true that certain Romans lived in areas
which, though now lost, had historically been part of the Roman empire
and, it was thought, would one day again be part of it. This kind of
˜ideal™ extent of the empire perhaps only really encompassed those parts
recently lost, although the foreign policy of the Komnenoi is enough to
show that the Byzantine Romans could have long memories with regard
to historically imperial territory. However, although Choniates is unclear
about the precise boundaries of the Roman empire (actual or ideal), within
the territorial extent of this empire people were likely to be considered
Romans in some sense, and ethnic criteria like religion, language and dress
might be key in distinguishing Roman people from others in the border
areas of the empire.
The examples of the resident Venetians and Anconans have shown that
the ethnic criteria of Roman-ness could supersede the political criteria
of residency in, and even loyalty to, the empire. However, Choniates also
shows that ethnic criteria might not be enough on their own to give Roman
identity. The key passage in this respect is his treatment of the island-
dwellers of Lake Pousgousae (Lake Beysehir) in south-west Asia Minor,
¸
with whom he deals in his account of the reign of John II Komnenos
(±±±“). This area was now far closer to Seljuk power than to Roman,
and these islanders were Christians who had of course historically been
Romans within the Roman empire, and were de¬nitely within the ideal
extent of the Byzantine Roman empire. However, these people inevitably
had come to have more to do with their near neighbours, the Turks of
Ikonion, with the result that they had established a ¬rm friendship with
these Turks and did a lot of business with them. Choniates says that this
resulted in a change of allegiance, such that, when John II Komnenos came
to liberate their territory from the Turks, these islanders thought of the
Romans as their enemies. John II had to compel them to accept imperial
rule, and Choniates comments that this shows that ˜custom, strengthened
over time, is stronger than race or religion™ (·.“). This example shows
that ethnic criteria might not on their own suf¬ce if the political identity
were entirely lacking. For once, Choniates gives some hint of the content
of the Roman ethnic identity “ religion and race, or birth.
This example strongly reinforces the importance attached by Choniates
to the political identity and the necessary components of that identity.
Becoming used to dealing with the neighbouring Turks, these people
¬nally allied themselves against the Byzantine Romans and on the side
of the Turks; they had fundamentally rejected allegiance to the emperor
and no longer held themselves to be a part of the empire. For all their
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
geographical location, their historical identity as subjects of the empire
and their Christianity, Choniates therefore withheld the name of Romans
from them, in what on balance looks like a denial of the ethnic as well as
the more obvious political identity. He was happy to name them instead
as ˜Christians™ (·.), and this is a useful reminder that, in the face of the
converted Balkan nations and the western Christians who were ever harder
for the Romans to ignore, the empire had had to acknowledge the fact
that it was no longer the unique nation of Christendom. Choniates was
at ease with the idea of Christians outside the empire, but he refused to
countenance Romans who had rejected the empire. As far as Choniates was
concerned, it was thus possible to cease to be a Roman in every sense via the
rejection of imperial rule. This was Choniates™ response to the provincial
separatism of the twelfth century.
This ideology did not necessarily facilitate acceptance of the Byzantine
Roman successor states after ±°, which were in many ways the heirs of
separatist movements. However, the events of ±° inevitably undermined
the fundamental importance of imperial allegiance within the Roman iden-
tity, and brought into the foreground the ethnic Roman identity dependent
on more than just political allegiance. For one thing, after ±°, there were
at least three rival Roman successor states as well as the Latin empire laying
claim to Roman loyalties. In these circumstances, it became easier, even
necessary, for the ethnic Roman identity to become detached from the
political and to suf¬ce alone.

In conclusion, Choniates was working with the traditional imperial ide-
ology, wherein the emperor was a uniquely signi¬cant ¬gure, qualitatively
different from any other ruler, and consequently the state over which he
ruled was also unique. This state was physically manifested in two associ-
ated ways. Firstly, the empire was imagined to have a territorial extent and,
secondly, it was a group of people: the Rhomaioi. The primary quali¬cations
for being a Roman in this political sense were twofold:
r ¬rstly, there should be an acceptance and expectation of the rule of the
emperors as an ideal (this did not debar support of rival claimants, or liv-
ing outside the limits of imperial rule providing there was an expectation
of the restoration of imperial rule); and
r secondly, this acceptance and expectation should be inherited within
the family. The political identity must be transgenerational: Romans
belonged to families who were Romans in the territorial and political
senses before them, and they should expect that their posterity would
also be Romans in a like sense after them.
µ
Niketas Choniates
This political Roman identity clearly has strong ethnic content in being
transgenerational and self-ascriptive, but Choniates also has an ethnic
understanding of the Roman identity operating alongside the political.
This ethnic identity emerges on occasion in Choniates™ account of the
years before ±°, but the ethnic Roman identity is allowed to emerge
much more strongly than before in his account of the immediate after-
math of the fall of Constantinople. This was inevitable given the pressure
on the Roman political identity resulting from the loss of the City and the
end, however temporary it might prove, of Roman imperial rule. Yet, in an
understandably confused presentation, there is nevertheless in Choniates™
account of the years after ±° still evidence of the political understanding
of identity revolving around loyalty to the emperor in Constantinople, even
though the emperor was a Latin, and above all else this shows the funda-
mental importance of the political identity in Choniates. Finally, Choniates
relies on certain markers to indicate the transgenerational ethnic identity
existing independently of the political, but these come out most clearly
via his presentation of contrasting non-Roman identities, which will be
discussed shortly.


other forms of self-identi¬cation
While Rhomaios is by far the dominant term used by Choniates for the
group with which he identi¬es himself, he also makes use of ˜we™, Hellenes
and Graikoi.

We
For Choniates, ˜we™ generally denoted the Romans, with all the same
political connotations, and it is used in a parallel way. Thus, ˜we™ is used
in a military context, e.g. ˜our fortresses™ (±.), or ˜our ships™ (.·).
Alternatively, ˜we™ may denote the state in the familiar collective sense, and
thus as ˜we™ the Rhomaioi again have ˜borders™ (±.“·), or territory that
is invaded (·.°“±), or are the objects of rule (µ.).
Uses of ˜we™ multiply in the context of Latin attacks. It is the Sicilian sack
of Thessaloniki that prompts the ¬rst ¬‚urry of ˜we™ terminology (°±“),
and these again proliferate in the account of the fall of Constantinople
(from µµ) and his summing up from µ. It is tempting to associate such
favouring of the more personal ˜we™ with a heightened emotional response
to events, but it could also re¬‚ect some unease with the political Roman
identity given the fall of the state.

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