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by the members of the group by pointing to those traits and practices that
are objectively visible (but not necessarily all of universal application) “
the externally discernible markers like language, dress, or occupation of
territory.· The belief in shared descent can be a justi¬cation for the actions
proposed in the future, and also serves to explain the shared attributes of
the present. A sense of ethnicity is thus necessarily transgenerational. There
is always the sense that the ethnic group has existed in the past and will
(in times of danger, should) exist in the future. Moreover, the relationship
between past, present and future is such that present and future depend on
and are demanded by the past “ the group wouldn™t exist if it hadn™t existed,
and it must continue to exist because it has existed. Thus, tradition “ a set
of beliefs about the past shared within the group “ is hugely important in
any sense of ethnicity.
Importantly, ethnicity is a group identity. Although the ethnic self-
ascription is individual and subjective, ethnic identity necessarily requires
the existence of a group; it is a way of binding people together and promot-
ing group interests, often above the immediate advantage of the individual “
moreover, membership of the group has the potential to in¬‚uence individ-
ual behaviour. Connected with this subjective belief in group membership
is the association with a name (the ˜ethnonym™), which all members of
that group will intuitively give to the members of the group. Smith has
emphasised the importance of ethnic crisis in the genesis and maintenance
of ethnonyms “ the names given to ethnic groups “ with speci¬c reference
to the Muslims of the former Yugoslavia, ˜as if in a name lay the magic
of their existence and guarantee of their survival™. The name a group
gives to itself may be different from that given to it by others and, in
such cases especially, the difference between the subjective self-ascription
and the alien naming can give useful insights into the detail of the ethnic
identity in question. One should also note that ethnonyms are remark-
ably durable, and the continuing existence of an ethnonym should not
necessarily be taken as indicating the parallel continuing existence of a cor-
responding ethnic group, although it may well say a lot about the traditions
and origin myths of the later group that it claims the name of an earlier
group.±°

· Amory ±·: ±.  Nash ±: ±“±µ; Sugar ±°: “µ.  Smith ±: .
±° Geary °°: ±±“±.
±µ
Ethnic identity?
The undeniable association between ethnicity and history means that
each must be considered in examining the other. In any study of an ethnic-
ity it is important to analyse how the past is understood, for this subjective
appreciation of the past (often encapsulated within tradition) will con-
tribute to conditioning present actions and attitudes. In looking at the
period c.±°°“c.±°, then, it may well be important to attempt to analyse
how our subject group, or groups, perceived their past. We may return
to modern Greece to illustrate this point. It is arguable that the modern
Greek state embraces two ethnicities. Modern Greeks generally possess a
very strong ethnic awareness, which has been heightened by being bound
to their political existence as a modern state, but their expression of their
ethnicity can appear contradictory. Hellenismos, the identi¬cation with
the classical past above all else, is dif¬cult to reconcile with Rhomiossyne,
the identi¬cation with the Orthodox and Byzantine past.±± These two
options for ethnic identi¬cation represent a choice between the classical
or Byzantine past for the fund of myth and imagery that justi¬es the
strength of ethnic loyalty.± The competing ethnic histories and ethnici-
ties of modern Greece in turn affect how Greeks perceive their past and
pursue their contemporary goals. One signi¬cant solution to this dilemma
has been the nationalist historical tradition, beginning with Konstantinos
Paparrigopoulos in the nineteenth century, which has posited an essential
continuity from the classical through the medieval to the modern, and
thus seeks to resolve the apparent con¬‚ict between these two identities,
each resting on two contrasting histories.±

Whether it be the case of modern Greece, of post-Braveheart Scotland,
or of Serbia™s attitude to Kosovo, it is easy to ¬nd modern examples of
ethnic identities which draw their strength from the presumed historical
roots or experiences of the particular group in question. However, ethnic
identity is a feature of the modern nation state, and indeed contemporary
ethnicity study has its roots in the investigation of minorities within the
modern nation state. This presents a ¬rst challenge to its legitimacy as a
model for the study of the more distant past: if ethnic identity is a feature
of the modern nation state, then might it not be illegitimate to apply it
as a model to the pre-modern period?± Yet it is so easy to ¬nd examples

±± Herzfeld ±: ±“±.
± Smith ± and, especially for the Greek context, Smith ±: “, ±±µ, ±, °“.
± Summarised in Huxley ±; also Brown and Hamilakis °°: µ“.
± Anderson ±: “µ.
± Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
from the more distant past of the presence of ethnic awareness in inter-
group relations. To take an example from the Byzantine Roman context,
the historian Niketas Choniates commented on the pro-western policies of
the twelfth-century emperor Manuel I Komnenos, criticising the emperor™s
inclination to employ ˜attendants from races who speak other languages
and barbarise their Greek . . . dignitaries of grand nations who are devoid
of any learning at all or of the Hellenic tongue™.±µ In the face of this, it
seems foolish to restrict ethnic sensibilities to the modern nation state.
One approach to dealing with this has been explicitly to associate eth-
nicity with nationalism as, in some sense, the latter™s pre-modern aspect, in
the manner of Greek nationalist historiography.± This places great weight
on the undoubted expression of ethnic feeling in group solidarity, and its
manifestation in pride in language, culture and homeland; ethnicity here
shares much with nationalism™s imagery and popular appeal, and indeed
the two are often con¬‚ated. Seeing ethnicity in this way as a precursor of
nationalism is a striking shift away from ethnicity as minority/subordinate
awareness to a model of ethnicity as popular/dominant self-determining
machine. Nineteenth-century nationalism and late twentieth-century eth-
nic movements may in this model be viewed as making an appeal to a
certain perennial nexus of popular attitudes and feelings; historically peo-
ple have repeatedly organised themselves along lines which show the same
basic conceptual framework.±·
Yet this nationalist interpretation of ethnicity is a mistake. Nationalism
indeed gave weight to ethnic identity, making it into the fundamental basis
for political sovereignty, but this was not the necessary end of ethnicity but
rather a slant on the phenomenon of ethnic identity that answered the needs
of its time. Danger lies in associating ethnicity too closely with nationalism
as a necessary precursor in the way that the late Byzantine period has
been interpreted by modern Greek nationalist historians. Such nationalist
interpretations of the past fall into the trap of overinterpreting ethnic
phenomena with the bene¬t of hindsight: thus, an aspect of contemporary
ethnicity “ a desire to assert a unique and valuable national character “ is
allowed to shape the understanding of the past.± It should rather be agreed
that, whereas ethnic groups have existed throughout history and all over the
globe, the ethnic nationalism which predicates claims to political autonomy

±µ Cf. Kazhdan and Epstein ±µ: ±“·°; Vryonis similarly cites the ethnic prejudice of Katrares:
Vryonis ±: “.
± Armstrong ±; Smith ±; Connor ±.
±· Hylland Eriksen ±: µ“; Smith ±: ±°“±µ.
± Mango ±: µ, with Vacalopoulos criticised for ethnikismos and ˜partisan spirit™.
±·
Ethnic identity?
on the right of self-determination of a certain people inhabiting a certain
geographical space is an invention of the modern era, dating from the
second half of the eighteenth century.± Tibi has shown that ˜ethnic bonds
did not simply disappear when nations emerged™. Moreover, he strongly
suggests that the ethnic nation state is a somewhat unwieldy and ill-¬tting
model for some societies.° The ethnic sense thus cannot simply be the
child which grows to become the nation state adult. Following Anthony
Smith, it may be posited that under certain circumstances the ethnic group
may develop into a nation state, and that nationalism as a model thus
inherits much of the language of ethnicity.± However, the nation state is
not a necessary result of ethnicity, although that was (and largely remains)
the prevailing rhetoric of the European nationalism of self-determination.
In the case of modern Greece, then, though it may be important that Greece
emerged as a nation state in the nineteenth century, this later development
need not be viewed as part of the same phenomenon as any manifestations
of ethnic identity in the medieval period, and is fundamentally irrelevant
in considering that period. Two instances of ethnicity within the same
geographical space and the same linguistic group but widely separated in
time are not proof of the continuity, in any sense, of ethnic identity.

ethnic criteria
Ethnicity can be hard to pin down in an objective sense, in that any
examination of externally perceivable criteria soon shows that these are
not reliable guides: not all Scotsmen live in Scotland, wear kilts or speak
Gaelic, or even have a perceptible accent. Nevertheless, it is these kinds
of criteria that are typically pointed to as evidence of ethnic identity, and
it is easy enough to ¬nd examples of such selection of criteria in any
period, from Herodotos™ description of the barbarians, through Tacitus™
Germania, and on to the historians of the later barbarians of the west and of
the kingdoms of western Europe, and also in Byzantine Roman writers.
Language, traditional weaponry and speci¬c items of dress and appearance,
and legal and religious customs are repeatedly picked out as characteristics
of different peoples, and there is also a strong association with the territory
of residence or origin of a particular people.
Such descriptions picking on particular details are more common when
describing a group to which one does not belong, but it is possible for those

± Geary °°: ±. ° Tibi ±±: ±±. ± Smith ±: ±“±µ; also Smith ±µ: ±“.
 Pohl and Reimitz ±: ±·“.  Ibid.; Goffart ±.  Bartlett ±: ±“.
± Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
with a particular interest to extend their observation of others to comment
on their own group. Thus, Herodotos characterised the ancient Hellenes as
one group, despite their political differences, because of shared language,
shared religion, shared blood and a shared way of life, making appeal to
a nexus of primary ethnic markers.µ Again, however, these ethnic criteria
are by no means de¬nitive guides to ethnic identity. For one thing, such
criteria can serve as signi¬cant markers in other kinds of social differenti-
ation, which may supersede their importance as ethnic criteria. Moreover,
although it is clear that, throughout history, the same visible criteria have
been repeatedly used as grounds for marking ethnic distinction, it is also
clear that such objective criteria are never individually necessary markers
of ethnic identity, nor are they on their own the suf¬cient constituents of
ethnicity. Ostensibly objective ethnic criteria almost always turn out to
be more ¬‚uid and negotiable symbols of identity. In the frontier regions
where rival ethnicities meet, such criteria can become the battleground
of defensive ethnic identi¬cation as groups under threat cling, and make
appeal, to the supposed heart of their group self-identi¬cation. The western
conquests of the Byzantine Roman empire constituted an ethnic crisis of
this kind, and it was therefore likely that ethnic criteria would emerge into
the foreground. Thus, in the sources at the heart of this study, it will often
be at moments of ethnic boundary transgression that appeal is made to the
nexus of the ethnic criteria of ˜Roman-ness™.


boundaries: us and them
Boundaries are essential to the ethnic sense. Although ethnicity has often
been conceived as inherent in the mass of speci¬c cultural content “ the
ethnic criteria “ it is the relationship with others that is central. Thomas
Hylland Eriksen has used the Zen paradox of one hand clapping to express
the absurdity of ethnicity existing in a single group which knows no other
groups; in other words, we may choose to perceive ethnicity as residing in
contact and interaction with other groups.· Ethnicity is a subjective belief
about one™s own group founded on and shaped by a subjective attitude to
the group(s) of which one is not a member. An ethnic group™s attitude to
the others who are outside this group and against whom the group may
be contrasted can vary. A group may adopt a black-and-white sense of ˜us

µ Herodotos, Histories .±..
 Pohl and Reimitz ±: “, especially on dress as social rather than ethnic marker: °; Hall ±·:
°“.
· Hylland Eriksen ±: .
±
Ethnic identity?
v them™, where all outsiders are considered as basically the same and all
equally unlike ˜us™, and this may be classi¬ed as a digital (or binary) sense
of identity. Alternatively, an ethnic group may categorise outsiders on a
sliding scale of difference, where some outsiders are more like ˜us™, and
thereby more acceptable, while other outsiders are very different from ˜us™.
This latter model of difference may be classi¬ed as analogic.
Fredrik Barth argued that investigations into ethnicity ought to focus
on the boundaries, on the relationship of difference from others, rather
than on the cultural matters that are most easily seen as expressing ethnic
identity. Group identities must needs be explained by reference to what
they are not; in a sense of ethnic identity, all the cultural material “
as indeed the act of subjective self-ascription “ is contingent on this sense
of difference, no matter how important such material might appear within
a group™s social systems. The cultural aspects assume signi¬cance from the
nature and development of the boundary awareness, rather than vice versa.
Thus it is typically when a group sees itself as under threat that the cultural
features commonly perceived to be ethnic assume greater importance, as
a result of the choice of assuming group membership in the face of that
threat. Returning to our introduction to ethnicity in its popular sense, it
is therefore no coincidence that the popular jargon of ethnicity should
have emerged during the period of minority civil rights movements. Thus,
when a group which could consider itself ethnic is under threat, it is likely
that an ethnic awareness will emerge. However, while the relationship with
others is the key component and catalyst of ethnicity, that relationship is
expressed and made manifest by such cultural ethnic markers as religion,
language, dress and so on. We have also already mentioned the importance
of the boundary in forming and preserving group names.
Broadly speaking, it is this Barthian model that will be followed in
the present investigation. It is one hypothesis of this study that the new
presence of the Franks as rulers within the area historically ruled by the
Byzantine emperors introduced pressures upon the ethnic identity of the
Byzantine Romans, in that the nature of their relationship with other
ethnic groups (the boundary) was fundamentally altered. The study will
show how that relationship was altered, how the ethnic boundaries shifted,
disappeared, weakened or were reinforced. One principal means of access-
ing this will be through the self-ascriptions adopted by the writers of the
various texts employed and, more speci¬cally, through their use of ethnic
names.


 
Hylland Eriksen ±: “·. Barth ±: ±°“±·.
° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
Ethnicity, then, is one category by which a group may be held together and
de¬ned; as such it is comparable to social class or gender and it is further a
relational category that requires the existence of a contrasting social group.
For ethnicity to bind a group, the members of that group need to believe
that they are all linked together by shared ancestry and have a right to
continue to exist on that basis. The members of the group will have a
common name for the group, and are likely to share some observable traits
such as language and religious practice and perhaps also styles of dress and
appearance. The observable traits, however, are likely not to be universal
and may well vary in importance within the group depending on, for
example, social status or geographical origin. It is worth bearing in mind
that ethnicity is not necessarily going to be the only or most important
category of group organisation in such situations “ regionalism, class or
religion may be as, or more, important, and individuals in an ethnic group
can choose whether or not to put value on the ethnic identi¬cation. Both
the subjective roots of ethnicity and the objective criteria are likely to
become important or gain in importance in situations of encounter and
con¬‚ict with other groups and, ¬nally, ethnic identities are therefore not
static but are, rather, subject to change. Circumstances will alter the quality
of the relationship with the contrasting group, and this will impinge on
the sense of ethnic identity created and maintained by the contrast with

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