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another potential enemy: although the Republic had long held a favourable
trading position within the empire, there was a history of hostility with
the mass arrests of ±±·± and the massacre of Latins in ±±, which had fallen
heavily on the large Venetian colony in Constantinople. Enrico Dandolo,
the current doge of Venice, was moreover personally antipathetic to the
empire. Economically, the empire was impoverished by the payment of
the Alamanikon and the loss of tax revenues as the territory of the empire
shrank. The atmosphere in Constantinople was febrile with distrust of the
west and disappointment with the record of rule under the Angeloi. Cul-
turally, the Byzantine Romans were mostly stuck within an outdated world
view that made it extremely dif¬cult to address the problems confronting
them.
And thus, in so many ways, the fall of the empire in ±° was a disaster
waiting to happen. However, it should be remembered that the Byzantine
Romans would prove themselves able to pick themselves up and recreate
their empire even after the westerners had seemed to deal them such a
mortal blow. Therefore, despite the many problems and weaknesses clear
at the close of the twelfth century, the empire was not moribund and it
retained a certain strength.

the terminology
It will be useful now to consider some of the more important ways in
which the writers of the Byzantine Roman empire chose to discuss both
themselves and other groups. The terminology used will constitute the
set of ˜key content items™ for the consideration of ethnic identity after
the Fourth Crusade, and this initial discussion will highlight more of the
background to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. What framework
for representation of ethnicity was available to writers after ±° and what
were the established ways of looking at different ethnicities which they
inherited? We need to look back into the history of the empire to uncover
the likely, the inherited, perspective on ethnicity of the writers in our
period.
±
Byzantine identities
Ethnic groups: genos and ethnos
Digenes Akrites is the eponymous hero of a Byzantine Roman epic poem
whose origins in written form almost certainly go back to the twelfth
century but rely on earlier Anatolian traditions. His name literally means
˜the twice-born borderer™, and this expresses his identity as a man born
in the border zone in Anatolia between Romans and Muslims. As was
no doubt the case with many in this situation, he was ˜twice-born™, that
is, he could trace his descent to both groups: –{nik¼v m•n ap¼ patr»v,
–k d• mhtr¼v <Rwma±ov, ˜foreign on his father™s side, but Roman on his
mother™s™.
This description introduces the two primary terms used by the Byzan-
tine Romans for groups that could be thought of as being ethnic: genos and
ethnos. Etymologically, and as shown in Digenes™ name, it was genos that
most closely conformed to the model of ethnicity outlined above; classi-
cally, genos had denoted ˜race™, ˜stock™ or ˜kin™, and was ¬rmly associated
with biological relationship.µ In Byzantine Roman writing genos was thus
frequently used with the meaning of family, but it could also denote a state,
taking the broadest sense of kinship. This is notable in the twelfth century,
when genos had strong associations with nobility, in a re¬‚ection of the new
aristocracy based on and around the imperial family of the Komnenoi.
These associations also allowed for a contrast between the noble genos of
the Byzantine Romans and the less distinguished non-Roman races. In
some sense, all Romans were part of the same family.
In contrast, this sense of biological relationship was of much lesser
importance in ethnos and its cognates. In the classical period ethnos meant,
at its simplest, ˜a group living together™, and any closely associated group
could be an ethnos, including a ¬‚ock of animals or a social class.· From the
time of Homer, however, ethnos had been used to denote a people or a state;
in Attic Greek it was used in the plural to denote the foreign, non-Greek,
races and states, while in Biblical Greek it denoted in an exactly parallel
manner the non-Jewish peoples (the ˜gentiles™). The members of an ethnos,
then, did not need to be biologically related, and ethnos was more a matter
of shared association, of culture, than of kinship; in this sense a genos can be
a subdivision of an ethnos, but not vice versa. The description of Digenes™

 Digenes Akrites, Grottaferrata version iv.µ±. For the tangled issue of the dating of Digenes Akrites see
especially Jeffreys ±: xxx“xli, xlvi“xlvii; Magdalino ±a.
µ Liddell & Scott. s. v. g”nov A±.  Angold ±c: ·; Magdalino ±±: ·“.
· Liddell & Scott. s. v. ›{nov A±, .
 Cf. especially Jones ±; also Smith ±: ±; Geary °°: “.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
origins also illustrates that, in Byzantine Roman usage, ethnos in addition
had very strong connotations of being foreign, non-Roman. The term thus
also had derogatory overtones, while genos was in contrast more neutral.
Thus, although ˜ethnicity™ now refers to a sense of group solidarity which
is founded on a putative biological link, this sense of shared descent was
predominantly lacking in the Greek understanding of ethnos. In contrast,
the connotations of shared descent were so strong in genos that any use of
this term in application to Byzantine Romans should be seen as potentially
indicative of a sense of ethnic identity. Such uses are known throughout the
history of the empire, but it should be borne in mind that formulas such
as g”nov t¤n <Rwma©wn (˜the genos of the Romans™) may more limitedly
attest to a desire on the part of the literate ruling class to encourage a
sense of shared ethnicity over and above the more obvious polyethnicity “
particularly in the early days of the empire.
Nevertheless, despite the ˜foreign™ overtones in ethnos, and even though
the connotations of shared descent were far stronger in genos, both terms
were still used in the modern ethnic sense. The emperor Constantine VII
Porphyrogenitos, writing in the mid tenth century, displayed a strong and
typically Byzantine Roman sense of ethnicity, stating that, since each nation
(ethnos) had different customs, laws and institutions, so each ethnos ought
to stick to its own ways; further, just as animals mate with their own kind,
so the members of any ethnos should marry only their compatriots who
speak the same language as them.° This is in the context of disapproving
a marriage between a Roman and a Bulgar: here, then, ethnos is strongly
associated with race and with being Roman: the Romans are viewed as a
group apart which should stick to its own. Constantine™s comments show
that the Byzantine Romans were thus certainly comfortable with the idea
of ethnic identity, seeing ethnicity as based in shared descent and expressed
in ways of behaving “ and speaking “ that differed from the ways of other
groups. The Romans made up such an ethnic group.

Romans on non-Romans: barbaros
The division between themselves and others was fundamental to the Byzan-
tine Roman world view: in opposition to the Roman there stood the
barbaros, the barbarian. Another term with ancient origins, barbaros had
originally served to represent non-Greeks onomatopoeically by reference


 °
Chrysos ±: . DAI ±.±·µ“±; cf. Magdalino ±±: “µ.

Byzantine identities
to the incomprehensible ˜ba-ba-ba™ sounds they made “ a locus classicus of
language as ethnic marker “ and Homer had thus used ˜barbarophone™ to
denote those whose ¬rst language was not Greek.± In the classical period
then, used as the fundamental ˜they™ term in direct contrast to the Hel-
lenic ˜we™, the term was essentially derogatory, with overtones of moral and
cultural disparagement. Uncultured nomadic barbarians were contrasted
with urbanised and sophisticated Greeks. In time, barbaros came in turn
to be similarly contrasted with civilised imperial Roman citizens, although
this shift was not without problems since the ancient Hellenes had naturally
at ¬rst classed the Romans themselves as barbarians. However, the Roman
empire successfully adopted the term to denote non-Roman status, natu-
rally preserving its negative connotations, and barbaros furthermore often
had territorial associations, encouraged by the introduction of universal cit-
izenship within the empire by Caracalla in ad ±. Thus Romans were those
who lived within the bounds of the empire and the barbaroi were those
outside those bounds. Over time, though, with the increasing settlement of
barbarian peoples within the territory of the empire and their employment
within the imperial army, purely geographical connotations decreased in
importance, and instead political and religious allegiances marked out the
Roman and the barbarian. The Byzantine Romans continued to use this
model to draw a contrast between Roman insiders and barbarian outsiders,
with a renewed emphasis on the geographical dimension.
Obolensky thought that there could have been little explicit ethnic
content to the barbarian categorisation, since ˜the East Roman Empire
was made up of too many races for any meaningful distinction to be
possible on ethnic grounds between the Rhomaios and the barbarian™.µ
However, this confuses the ethnic sense with the (presumed) objective
criterion of race, and the situation is rather more complex. The barbaros
must always be understood as existing in opposition to Rhomaios but, as
we shall see below, there was more than one version of Roman identity, and
the barbaros was in fact opposed to the Rhomaios in both these versions.
Thus, one understanding of Rhomaios had as fundamental the connotation
of loyalty to the emperor: to be Roman was above all to be a subject of
the emperor, resident in the empire. In parallel to this there was a clear
and primary political content to the barbarian categorisation: barbarians

± Homer, Iliad .·.
 Hall ±: especially “±±, µ“±°°. Further examples of the classical Greek perspectives: e.g. Aristotle,
Politics ±.±b±° and .±µa“b; Herodotos, Histories ±.±; Thucydides ±.±.
 Goldhill °°: µ“·±.  Greatrex °°°: “·. µ Obolensky ±·±: µµ.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
were those who lived outside the jurisdiction of the emperor and did not
acknowledge his suzerainty. In this dichotomy there was indeed no explicit
ethnic content: this was just a matter of political ascription. On the other
hand, there was an understanding of Rhomaios which relied as much, if
not more, on a certain set of cultural criteria (in which political, imperial,
loyalty might or might not need to play a role) “ Orthodox Christianity,
speaking Greek as a ¬rst language, and the more amorphous concepts
of civilised living. A second barbarian/Roman dichotomy paralleled this
Roman identity, so that those who failed on one or more of these cultural
criteria were also open to be called barbaroi. Here, there was a very high
level of ethnic content in the categorisation.
Curiously, then, the body of imperial subjects could include barbarians.
In the classic Byzantine Roman formulation, a Roman was a subject of the
empire, but such an imperial subject did not need to be a Roman. Notably,
barbarians played an important role in imperial ceremony, for the closest
bodyguard of the emperor was composed of the ˜axe-bearing barbarians™.
Several groups of palace guards are known, but the characteristic axe-bearers
were the Varangian guard, of Scandinavian, and later English, origin.
The Varangians were regularly present for imperial receptions, when they
would formally salute the emperor in their native tongues, and in this
way their ethnic non-Roman identity was explicitly evoked in contrast
to their political allegiance. Dion Smythe has argued that writers of the
eleventh and twelfth centuries employed mention of this barbarian presence
to assert or stress the legitimacy of emperors or imperial pretenders, and
this emphasises the signi¬cance of these ˜barbarians within™; they were an
essential part of the life of the empire and an essential complement to
any true emperor.· As all peoples were viewed as theoretically subject to
the empire, so the barbarian presence in imperial ceremonial served also
to emphasise the universalism of the Roman imperial role. Paradoxically,
the b†rbarov (barbaros) was the quintessential outsider, but he too came
beneath the presumed universal umbrella of the emperor.
Westerners held a particular place in the ranks of the barbarian outsiders,
whereby they were far from the lowest of the low. Firstly, they inhabited
lands which had been part of the Roman empire of old. As such, they again
came in theory under the authority of the emperor of the Romans, and
their inferior though honoured status was expressed through the model
of the family of kings. In the tenth-century De administrando imperio

 Dawkins ±·; Shepard ±·; Nicol ±·; Bartusis ±: ·“.
· Smythe ±.  Obolensky ±·±: µ“µ.
µ
Byzantine identities
Constantine Porphyrogenitos accorded special status to the Franks: ˜never,™
he says, ˜shall an emperor of Romans become allied through marriage with
a nation which uses customs differing from and alien to those used in
the Roman way, except with the Franks alone. That great man, the holy
Constantine [i.e. Constantine the Great in the fourth century, founder of
the eastern empire] made an exception of these only, because he himself
came from those parts, and there is much relationship and congress between
Franks and Romans.™ This distinction is a pragmatic re¬‚ection of the
exalted brotherly status accorded to Charlemagne over a century earlier. The
coronation of Charlemagne as ˜emperor of the Romans™ in °° had been
insulting to the Byzantine Romans, but they had come to a compromise
with Charlemagne by which he could remain an emperor, a basile…v
(basileus), but not ˜of the Romans™. The special status accorded to Franks
in the De administrando imperio also re¬‚ected the fact that in court circles
intermarriage between Romans and Frankish women was actually taking
place.°
In reality, apart from this, there was very little contact between westerners
and Romans at this date; subsequent developments would suggest that this
lack of actual contact facilitated such earlier, blithe, claims of close af¬nity.±
In the twelfth century, which saw far closer contact between east and west,
the princess Anna Komnene had no qualms about classifying the crusading
westerners as barbarians, while the bishop Eustathios of Thessaloniki was
equally ready to use the term for the Normans who attacked his city in
±±µ. It should be noted too that, for all his stipulations, Constantine
Porphyrogenitos classed the Franks among the alien and inferior nations.
Constantine™s approach ostensibly presents as more analogic than binary;
that is, he seems ready to accept a scale of otherness, with the Franks
closer to the Romans than were other barbarian groups. Nevertheless, it
should be emphasised that this passage comes in the context of forbidding
Roman intermarriage with barbarians, and thus it is clear that the broader
sense of ˜we the Romans™ versus ˜them the barbarians™ was the primary
conceptualisation of ethnic difference for the Byzantine Romans, on a
binary model of ˜us™ versus ˜them™.
As the fundamental term for the non-Roman other, then, barbaros will
merit attention. In particular, it will be useful to see if the fairly undis-
criminating and binary sense of otherness which was dominant under the


 DAI ±.±±“±. ° Macrides ±. ± Shepard ±: “.
 Cf. Pohl and Reimitz ±: µ“.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
Komnenoi is maintained in the Frankish period, or whether the Byzan-
tine Romans developed a more differentiated understanding of the vari-
ety of non-Romans. Further, could the victorious incoming Franks of
±° be classed as subject barbarians or would new models need to be
developed?

Romans on themselves: Rhomaios, Rhoma¨kos, Rhoma¨s and
± ±
Rhomania “ the political and ethnic Roman identities
Thus, the Byzantine Romans set themselves against the barbarians, and in
various ways had been able to perceive themselves as superior. Above all, it
was the fact of empire that made the Byzantine Romans see themselves as
unique among the peoples and gave them a sense of a past which belonged
to them.
In the twelfth century, the subjects of the empire were still ruled by
an emperor in Constantinople and they still called themselves Romans,
in a direct debt to the ancient empire that had conquered the Balkans,
the Aegean and Asia Minor more than a thousand years before. These
Byzantine Romans expected to be ruled by an emperor, and with this
went the expected corollaries of paying tax and performing military and
other service. As far as we can tell, there was pride in the empire: it was
the highest form of political living, and the emperor was the highest of
earthly rulers. Roman imperial rule was strongly associated with the ter-
ritory it covered, with an expectation that all those within the limits of
the empire were Roman while those living outside were not. The capi-
tal of the empire could only be Constantinople, which was the seat of
the emperor and the greatest city on earth. The empire was a Chris-
tian entity, and all Romans were necessarily Christian: the emperor had
a sacral role as the earthly equivalent of the divine ruler of the kingdom

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