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of heaven, the earthly pantokrator; all other rulers were lesser rulers and
anyway in some sense subject to the emperor. The millennial history of
imperial rule placed great weight on tradition and precedent, written rules
and conservatism. Lastly, as we have noted, being Roman was contrasted
with the barbarian in a fundamentally binary model. Where Romans were
ancient and civilised, barbarians were newcomers, unsettled and with-
out worthy institutions; where Romans were Christian, barbarians were
pagan; where Romans lived within the empire, barbarians lived outside the
empire.

 Barker ±µ·: ·“; Magdalino ±b: ±µ“±.
·
Byzantine identities
This brief summary necessary generalises over the inevitable variety and
evolution of the many centuries of Byzantine Roman history. Yet, as will be
seen, this imperial model was strongly entrenched and remained dominant
in the ideology of the Byzantine Roman state until its end in the ¬fteenth
century. This imperial Roman identity can be viewed as an ethnic identity,
being formulated in opposition to the barbarian other, but having a great
deal of objective content in the political, social and religious institutions
of the empire and also having a strong sense of its past; moreover, the
political identity founded on the inheritance from ancient Rome provided
the dominant ethnonym of the Byzantine Romans.
It is of central signi¬cance that Rhomaios “ more usually in the plu-
ral Rhomaioi “ was always the most important self-identifying name in
Byzantine Roman writers. Usage of Rhomaioi falls into two broad cate-
gories “ the two versions of Roman identity already referred to in the
discussion about barbarians. Firstly, Rhomaioi was a clear shorthand for
˜the state ruled by the emperor™, it is indeed the most usual way of referring
to this state. For example, in De administrando imperio, Rhomaioi receive
tribute, make administrative decisions, rule territory, are at war with others
and engage in foreign policy (DAI .±±, .±, ., ·.µ, .±“, .± and
±). Again, basileus is in the same text usually quali¬ed ˜of the Romans™:
the people in a collective sense were the very stuff of this state, and this
quali¬cation, in use since Heraklios, was of¬cially added to the imperial
title in ± in response to Charlemagne™s imperial pretensions. A simi-
lar collective usage can be observed at the end of the twelfth century in
Eustathios of Thessaloniki: the Latins are accused of planning harm ˜against
Romans™, i.e. against the Byzantine Roman state, Alexios Komnenos hopes
that ˜the eyes of Romans™ will turn to him, i.e., he hopes to win the state,
and Illyria marks the boundary of ˜the things of Romans™ (t‡ <Rwma©wn,
ta Rhomaion) “ the phrase really does not work in English, but plainly
means ˜the Roman state™.µ This usage of Rhomaios, which attaches to the
millennial tradition of imperial rule from Constantinople, will be referred
to in this study as the political Roman identity. Here, the basic stuff of
being Roman was loyalty to the emperor in Constantinople. Again, this is
not to deny that the Roman imperial identity was also an ethnic identity:
merely, this distinction should be observed in order to separate the imperial
identity from the alternative religious“linguistic identity to be discussed
next.


 µ
ODB iii: ±·. Melville Jones ±: ., .±±“± and ±“±µ.
 Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
There was an alternative understanding of Rhomaios. The named exis-
tence of other ethnic groups within the empire in the period of the
Komnenoi, in speci¬c contrast to the Rhomaioi, indicates that on some
level a Rhomaios was not identical to ˜a subject of the empire™. It had taken
on distinct ethnic characteristics, in particular the profession of Orthodox
Christianity and the speaking of Greek as a native tongue. As seen in
the case of barbarian subjects of the emperor, this understanding, which
will be termed the ethnic Roman identity, allowed for the selection of some
subjects of the empire as truly Roman whereas, in the political Roman
identity, all were theoretically equally Roman. In the sixth century, cer-
tain groups could be called barbarian or Roman purely on the criterion
of loyalty to the empire.· By the twelfth century, however, the growing
in¬‚uence of the ethnic Roman identity had made such liberal naming less
acceptable, judging by the naming of Bulgarian subjects of the empire
as mixob†rbaroi (mixobarbaroi “ ˜semi-barbarian™), and also by the eth-
nically speci¬c names of ˜foreign™ squadrons within the army. Political
status as an imperial subject was, while not necessarily irrelevant, thus of
comparatively minor importance in the ethnic Roman identity: at the end
of the twelfth century it presents as a necessary but not suf¬cient condition
of being Roman.
The cultural criteria for this ethnic Roman identity will be examined in
more detail below, but Anna Komnene™s critique of John Italos can serve
as an illustration which will further lead on to an insight into the growing
strains on the political Roman identity. Writing in the mid twelfth century,
Anna deprecated the unfortunate John Italos, an intellectual Sicilian who
had made his career in the imperial capital, saying that his accent was the
kind that might be expected of a Latin arriviste who had studied Greek
thoroughly but was far from a native speaker: he therefore seemed vulgar
to those who had had a decent education. For Anna and her educated
peers, Italos™ style of Greek irrevocably marked him as an outsider, and
there are clearly also issues of education and class here. In such responses to
mistrusted foreigners within the Byzantine Roman state, there was direct
con¬‚ict between the political and ethnic understandings of Rhomaios, such
that an individual or group could be considered Roman in one sense,
as citizen(s) of the empire and subject(s) of the emperor, but not in the
other sense which came with all the cultural baggage of language use,
faith, physical appearance and so on. Italos™ case also shows that by Anna™s

 · 
Magdalino ±±: . Greatrex °°°: ·°“. Haldon ±: ±µ“, .
 Cf. Sewter ±: ±··.

Byzantine identities
time there was a very clear hierarchy within the state, whereby those who
ful¬lled all the political and ethnic criteria of Roman-ness saw themselves
as naturally superior, and indeed were in reality socially and economically
of the ¬rst rank: the elite of the empire were Greek-speaking, Orthodox
and imbued with the centuries of tradition of imperial Constantinopolitan
rule. For this Constantinopolitan elite, in fact, there was little difference
between ethnic others and provincial Romans.µ° The result was that, by
the end of the twelfth century, the empire was seriously out of balance in
many respects and not least in the division of sentiment between capital
and provinces.
It is easy to ¬nd examples of twelfth-century Constantinopolitan con-
tempt for provincials “ Michael Choniates™ ironic implication that the
Athenians are really barbarians, Constantine Manasses™ disdain for smelly
Cypriots and so on.µ± It is true that this outlook was not universal, and
also that individual writers were not always consistent in their approach
to provincials. Margaret Mullett has shown that Theophylact, Bishop of
Ochrid in the late eleventh century, was far from uniform in his approach
to his Bulgarian ¬‚ock. The contempt shown in some of his letters is noto-
rious, but his works (including some letters) also show a scholarly interest
in the Bulgarians and a concern for their welfare and interests.µ However,
there were solid reasons for an archbishop to show interest in his see “ it
was part of the established role “ and the dominant tone of contempt in
the letters written by one educated Constantinopolitan to others of his ilk
is typical and revealing, notwithstanding Theophylact™s occasional more
positive approach to Bulgarians.
It is further abundantly clear that this dislike was not one-sided. In the
epic Digenes Akrites, clearly written from an eastern Anatolian perspec-
tive and probably re¬‚ecting twelfth-century attitudes, there is no affec-
tion for Constantinople or imperial rule, to which the hero professed his
allegiance ˜even though I get nothing good from it™.µ Leonora Neville
has described how the relationship between capital and periphery was
typically one of little understanding or appreciation on both sides. The
empire ruled most of the time with a fairly light hand and encouraged the
development and implementation of local solutions; however, the empire
had to be able “ and be perceived to be able “ to enforce its will if
required and to provide adequate defence. If the empire could not show

µ° Magdalino ±±: ·. µ± Kolovou °°±; Horna ±°: .
µ Mullett ±·: “··; cf. Kazhdan and Epstein ±µ: ±, ±.
µ Digenes Akrites, Grottaferrata version, iv.; Sevˇenko ±: ·“µ; Galatariotou ±·: °“.
ˇc
µ° Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
that it had this ˜capacity for effective violence™, then there was the dan-
ger that it might not be able to maintain its sovereignty against local
alternatives.µ
This was precisely the situation as the twelfth century drew towards
its close, with a growing dissatisfaction with Constantinopolitan rule all
around the periphery of the empire.µµ Lack of interest from the centre,
combined with oppressive and corruptly gathered taxation with little vis-
ible return in the way of social justice or protection from external attack,
had carried an inevitable price. At one level, the loyalty of a provincial com-
munity to the empire depended on the quality of the protection available
from the imperial administration, counted against the burden imposed
by that administration; the reputation and charisma of the administration
might also play a role in enabling communities to bear ¬scal and other
burdens. Towards the end of the twelfth century, the imperial government
lost both authority and respect and seemed incapable of providing ade-
quate defence to the periphery of the empire. Faced with the incursions of
the Seljuk Turks from the east and with the endemic piracy of the Aegean,
provincial communities began to look to powerful local men, rather than
relying on imperial assistance. For some time, the central government had
depended on regional men of in¬‚uence to deliver the imperial administra-
tion in the more distant provinces, and for long enough this had worked
with successful maintenance of loyalty to the regime in Constantinople.
However, Constantinople could now no longer incentivise or enforce its
authority upon such local leaders as Theodore Mangaphas in Philadelphia
and the Gabras family in Trebizond, as well as Isaak Komnenos in Cyprus
and Leon Sgouros in the Peloponnese. Such men, who had often at some
stage held important positions in local government and defence, were now
effectively independent of the capital and cared little for imperial prestige.
Their rejection of the conventional Constantinopolitan career “ or of the
role of a local imperial middleman “ again bears witness to the failure of
the imperial ideal.µ
This tension between capital and periphery reveals further strains within
the Roman identity. In particular, it would appear that, though all sub-
jects of the empire were Romans in the collective, political, sense, the
Romans of Constantinople viewed themselves as perhaps more Roman
in the individual ethnic sense, for provincials are often pictured as closer

µ Neville °°: ±“·. µµ Cheynet ±°: “µ; Herrin ±·µ: µ“; Ahrweiler ±·µ: “.
µ Cheynet ±°: “·; Ahrweiler ±·µ: “; Angold ±a: ·µ“; Herrin ±·µ: ·µ“; Magdalino
±b: ±µ°“µ, ±“; Neville °°: “.
µ±
Byzantine identities
to alien barbarians than to civilised Romans. Again, in the established
Byzantine Roman ideology, the meat of Roman identity appears to be
political, tied to the proud fact of immemorial imperial rule: if, however,
this had ceased to resonate among the provincials, in what might their
sense of identity reside? Here again it is necessary to separate out political
and ethnic Roman-ness and, indeed, distinguish between elite ideologies
and provincial actualities.
In this context, it is clear that the coming of Franks as rulers had
considerable disruptive potential for the complex of Roman identities. If,
in the dominant political Roman identity, the basic stuff of being Roman
was loyalty to the emperor in Constantinople, what would happen if that
emperor and his court were no longer ethnically Roman? The result might
easily be a disjunction between political and other allegiances. The radically
altered relationship with the Frankish other could thus impel the Byzantine
Romans to rethink their sense of themselves.

In conclusion, then, Rhomaios was the fundamental term of self-
identi¬cation in any Byzantine Roman writer before the Fourth Crusade.
In the use of Rhomaios, the imperial, political, sense was always dominant
while, notwithstanding, it is also possible to discern a parallel ethnic under-
standing.µ· It will be the task here to see how Rhomaios is used, with which
other concepts and concrete items it is associated, and whom precisely it
is used to denote and, in pursuit of this aim, the distinction between the
political and ethnic Roman identities will continue to be utilised. That is,
for clarity, reference will be made to the political Roman identity to des-
ignate cases where the fundamental content of a usage of Rhomaios is to
denote the status of being a subject within the empire, and this may be a
collective plural use or one with reference to an individual. Reference to the
ethnic Roman identity, in contrast, will denote cases where the fundamen-
tal content of a usage is not this matter of political status. It is, however,
important to appreciate that the political Roman identity could remain
as a component of an ethnic Roman identity, that is, that the matter of
political allegiance to the emperor could be one criterion of this ethnic
identity.
In terms of syntax, Rhomaios occurs in two distinct patterns, which it
will be useful to bear in mind. Firstly, it often occurs in the genitive plural
form, thus: x (t¤n) <Rwma©wn (˜x of (the) Romans™), and here it can be

µ· Vryonis argues for the imperial heritage as the primary reference of Rhomaios, Vryonis ±: ±“
and cf. ODB iii: ±·.
µ Being Byzantine: Greek identity before the Ottomans
illuminating to see what (the ˜x™) is being associated with the Romans. This
pattern will be called the genitive formula. Secondly, it frequently occurs
in other cases, generally without anything else directly associated in the
manner of the genitive formula; it is still nonetheless possible to see in
what sense the item is being used, by means of a close examination of
the context. This pattern will be called the plain formula. The adjectival
form <Rwma·k»v (Rhoma¨kos) will also be considered, giving attention to
±
the nouns to which it is applied.
Also associated with Rhomaios are <Rwma¹v (Rhoma¨s) and <Rwman©a
±
(Rhomania). Fundamentally terms of geographical application for the lands
encompassed within the Byzantine Roman empire, these nonetheless have
a more complex and interesting pattern of use. Rhomania had the longer
history, being regularly employed to denote the Roman state ruled from
Constantinople from its earliest days.µ It was not, however, used in of¬cial
imperial documentation until the time of the Komnenoi; imperial of¬cials
spoke rather of the ˆrcž (arche: rule) or ¡gemon©a (hegemonia: hegemony)
˜of the Romans™, using the collective political sense of Rhomaios. Analysis of
Italian archives suggests that from the twelfth century, however, Rhomania
was a term favoured by the Byzantine Romans for their state, with a
possibility that it had special application to the western half of the empire.µ
This is supported by Digenes Akrites, dating back at least to the twelfth
century, where Rhomania is the territory occupied by those called Romans,
and at least nominally ruled by the emperor in Constantinople. Rhoma¨s ±
is rarer but used in much the same way to denote both a geographical and
political entity.°

More on the ethnic Roman identity: ethnic criteria
Christianity
The contrast between the Byzantine Orthodox faith and the western
Catholic faith has been generally perceived as a fundamental factor in eth-
nic hostility between westerners and Byzantine Romans before and during
the Frankish period. Indeed, the Orthodox religion was a central fact of
Byzantine Roman society; the emperor was the thirteenth apostle of Christ
and the protector of Orthodoxy, chosen by God to rule on his behalf,


µ Chrysos ±: ±.
µ Wolff ±: “±; see also Sophocles: ·. For typical usage: e.g. DAI ., .±µ“; the latter has
strong geographical content.
° Melville Jones ±: µ.± and .±; Sophocles: ·.
µ
Byzantine identities
and was given the epithet ˜from God™ on the coinage of the empire.± The
empire of the Romans was in some ways viewed as the earthly equivalent
of the kingdom of heaven and, ideally, the empire was the Christian world.

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