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Were the Byzantines Greeks?

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    Posted: 08 Jul 2013 at 12:32

Greek language was a language of business and communication in entire Roman Empire, later in Byzantine Empire. It was a Lingua Franca of that part of the world.

Cleopatra and Mark Antony converse in  Greek language.

The culture was Hellenistic so we can assume that they very close to Greek however the inhabitants of say, Egypt were certainly not Greek in full since of this word.(with exception of Alexandria which was predominantly Greek).

In general, the question could not be answered precisely as the Byzantine Word was very diversified.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jul 2013 at 08:05
The question is so relative and hard to formulate as to ask if French are Spaniards or if Italians are Swiss, or if Brits are Celts. By the way, are the Turks Byzantines? Another good question is to ask if
Coptics are actually the real Egyptians.


Edited by pinguin - 08 Jul 2013 at 08:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Apr 2013 at 06:42
Well yeah. Calling the Byzantine Empire 'Greece' would be wrong. But what can not be denied is that they were Greeks as far as ancestry, language and education mattered.

They called themshelves Romans and called Greek 'Romaika'. This is a sign that what happened here was a change of words. 

I have a realy nice Byzantine source from Porfyrogenitos in his book 'To my son Romanos'

«Ιστέον ότι οι του κάστρου Μαΐνης ουκ εισίν από της γενεάς των προρρηθέντων Σκλάβων, αλλ’ εκ των παλαιοτέρων Ρωμαίων, οι και μέχρι τον νυν παρά των εντοπίων Έλληνες προσαγορεύονται δια το εν τοις προπαλαιοίς χρόνοις ειδωλολάατρας είναι και προσκυνητάς των ειδώλων κατά τους παλαιούς Έλληνας, οίτινες επί της βασιλείας τον αοιδίμου Βασιλείου βαπτισβέντες χριστιανοί γεγόνασιν."

"Κnow that the inhabitans of Catle Maini are not descended from the invader Slavs, but from the older Romans who till this day are called Hellenes by the locals because in the very distant past they were pagans and believed in the 'idols' of the old Hellenes, but under the rule of Basileus they were baptised and became christians."
-------------------------------------------------------------

The people of this area exist today and are said to be descendants of ancient Dorians. They were one of the first to take part in the Greek revolution of 1821 and took part in several others before it. They were still called Hellenes and according to other sources there were still many non-christians after Basileus's rule. Yet, Porfyrogenitos consinders them part of the Empire even though people call them 'Hellenes' (which did not mean the same thing it means today). And even though the Slavs of the area are expected to be Christianised in the same time period as the rest of the people, they are consindered as foreigners by Porfyrogenitos.

So yeah, did they consinder themshelvs as Greeks in the modern sense? I guess not.
Were they 'Romans'? Well their state was the continuation of the Roman Empire but their culture, language and education was from the ancient Greeks and they never denied being their 'descendants'. They just used the term 'Roman' for their name, nation and language



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2013 at 16:22
But did the people see themselves as 'Greeks'? A read of the primary sources will indicate that they saw themselves as something else, at least until the 15th century with thinkers such as Plethon.

To them, the Hellenes were ancient non-Christians and being referred to as one was insulting. Your typical medieval Byzantine staunchly disapproved of all that pagan nonesense, because he was a good Christian whose worldview had little in common with the Olympian gods or the philosophers of the Classical era. They viewed themselves as the inheritors of the Christian Roman Empire, and that they spoke Greek did not change the fact that the Christian/Roman heritage was foremost in their minds.

Westerners certainly took to viewing the Byzantines as Greeks, because Westerners did not share the Byzantine worldview. To the West, Rome had fallen and what was left over in the east was a Greek state ruled by men claiming to be Romans but not actually possessing Rome itself. But then the men of the West were prone to employing a good deal more common sense than the Byzantines.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2013 at 14:34
So you just made a split bewteen the Romans and Byzantines. Nice.

And thanks about the Isaurians, I admit I did not know about them and thought you were talking about the Isaurian dynasty, my apologies.

Once again, I did say that there were foreign kings, who however were hellenized. However I cant see this as a sign of 'non-Greekness' of the Empire. All long lasting Empires at some point had foreign rulers.

The point still stands, the official language was Greek, the populace after a period was majority Greek, its heartland was in Greek speaking areas, they had Greek education and consindered themshelfs the descendants of Greeks but political heirs of Rome.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2013 at 09:34
Quote Isaurian is the name of the dynasty not an ethnicity. Though some say that Isaurian come from the Persian word 'Isaur' which means warrior or something like that.


The Isaurians were a distinct group, and not Greek.

Quote I never denied that non-Greeks held the crown, but this is something that happens in preety much all Empires. And by becoming Christian and being Orthodox they were preety much hellinized.


Tell that to the Russians. And Serbs, and Bulgarians, and etc etc.

Quote After Justinian there are no Emperors who did not have Greek as their mother tongue, hence comes the term 'Justinian the last latin Emperor'


I'm not certain how true that is. Justinian's successors probably spoke Latin as their first tongue. The mercenary general Apsimar may have spoken German.

Quote

By the way, half of Europe was under Roman rule for most of the Roman era, does that mean that half of Europe was populated by Romans? (I guess you gonna bring up that everyone could become citizen? Well that is not the point, they could be Roman citizens and identify as something else)


There were certainly Roman colonies all over the Roman empire, as for north as York. But the Romans were better than the Greeks at ensuring their language/customs/institutions were continued in the centuries to come. Look at how many languages speak a Romance language, and how much of the old Byzantine Empire speaks Greek.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2013 at 08:39
Isaurian is the name of the dynasty not an ethnicity. Though some say that Isaurian come from the Persian word 'Isaur' which means warrior or something like that.

I never denied that non-Greeks held the crown, but this is something that happens in preety much all Empires. And by becoming Christian and being Orthodox they were preety much hellinized. After Justinian there are no Emperors who did not have Greek as their mother tongue, hence comes the term 'Justinian the last latin Emperor' 

By the way, half of Europe was under Roman rule for most of the Roman era, does that mean that half of Europe was populated by Romans? (I guess you gonna bring up that everyone could become citizen? Well that is not the point, they could be Roman citizens and identify as something else)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2013 at 08:26
Your burden of proof must be very light then.

The Serbian, Bulgarian and Cilician parts of the Empire were only Byzantine for a minority of the Middle Ages.

Numerous non-Greeks ended up becoming Emperor. Armenians, a German, Isaurians, and a Slav came pretty close on one occasion. But these men were all Chritians, and specifically Orthodox.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2013 at 06:58
The despotate of Epirus and Empire of Trebizond (or Empire of the Great Comnenus) were a result of the 4th crusade crisis. If anything it was a family and not national/ethnic deal.

And you yourshelf said that it was Isaac Komnenos of Cyprus, not the people of Cyprus. He himshelf fabricated papers to become ruler of the island and according to sources did not treat the people there very well...

The Serbian and Bulgarian kingdoms however had a more ethnic and less dynastic nature. I could say the same for Cilicia, but since I have not studied about that kingdom I cant really say. However the fact that it is named 'The Armenian kingdom of Cilicia' sais a lot.

The above prove that the other Orthodox Christians of the Empire did not think of themshelves as Romans, in the way that the Greeks did, thus disproving the 'Genus of Christians'.




Edited by Drakoblare - 31 Mar 2013 at 06:59
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2013 at 06:13
Isaac Komnenos in Cyprus, Empire of Trebizond, Despotate of Epirus.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2013 at 02:24
Well I agree that the people of Constantinople did consinder people outside of the city barbarians, I dont believe this is what barbarian meant at this time. At first it did mean the one who cant speak Greek but this was the meaning back in antiquity, not in the 11th century.

And please, could you give me sources about Greeks trying to make their own kingdoms? I guess you are talking about the ones created after the 4th crusade? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2013 at 13:45
That's a very good point also, thanks Akolouthos.
 
I will also note that the highly urbane Constantinoplitans often regarded other people within their Empire who were Orthodox Christians and probably fairly Greek as barbarian. Michael Psellus refers to Paphlagonia, a region well within the Byzantine heartland, as 'barbarian' when describing the arrival of the Emperors Michael IV and V.
 
Most likely this was a result of the area being highly rustic, and with it being so far from the Greek heartland that centuries of separate development had made the Greek spoken there to be barely intelligable to those living around the Aegean. Such linguistic drift was the natural result of the agrarian nature of society and the lack of today's modern commmunication technology, and is comparable to the diffusion of Latin into many different languages of today.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2013 at 12:22
It should also be noted that the Armenian Church is miaphysite to this day, having rejected the Christological definition of Chalcedon. As such, far before the time of Anna Comnena, it was no longer in communion with the rest of the Catholic/Orthodox Church.

-Akolouthos
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2013 at 12:02
Originally posted by Drakoblare Drakoblare wrote:

If for the Byzantines the religious adherence was more imporant than culture and ancestry then why did the Bulgarians and Serbians who were also Orthodox and under the rule of the Empire, made their own kingdoms? Why did Anna Comnene call Armenians 'barbarians'?
Because having a religious head who resides in another country does not automatically make you the vassal of that country. If that were the case then all of Europe west of the Carpathians could be part of an empire ruled from Rome.
 
Plenty of Greeks also split off from the Byzantine Empire and tried to create independent states.
 
Anna Comnene was a highly educated princess steeped in the tradition of Hellenistic education, and so the antique racial slur of 'barbarian' came naturally to her. Her perceptions of who her compatriots were are also likely to differ from those of your average citizen. To her, the smallest minutiae of manners and protocol were absolutely important in determining who is and is not one of her own.
 
A barbarian originally meant someone who could not speak an acceptable level of Greek, which is a definition most Armenians would have fit into.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Mar 2013 at 11:44
If for the Byzantines the religious adherence was more imporant than culture and ancestry then why did the Bulgarians and Serbians who were also Orthodox and under the rule of the Empire, made their own kingdoms? Why did Anna Comnene call Armenians 'barbarians'?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Mar 2013 at 11:57
Were the Byzantines Greeks? It's a fair question with a long and complicated answer. And first we would have to answer the subquestions of: Who was a Byzantine? What made someone a Greek?
 
With the formal division of the Empire into east and west halves in the mid 4th century, the Eastern Roman Empire was not a Greek majority nation. Large areas were populated with Greek speakers who observed Greek customs, though the population itself was probably not more than 1/3 Greek. And Greek culture had permeated Roman culture already for centuries, to the point that certain cultural practices could not be distinguished as properly Roman or Greek. The ERE was multiethnic. Greek was an important component, but by no means dominant.
 
With the 7th century the Empire lost so much of its non-Greek territory that very little was left except the Greek part. Armenians made up a significant part of the empire, but were dwarfed by the Greek population in size. Slavs were also incorporated into the empire as some European provinces were recaptured or large bands of Slavs were resettled at opposite ends of the empire. But culturally the Byzantine Empire had become a Greek state by the 8th century certainly. The empire's culture was centred on Constantinople, which was definitely a city mostly Greek in language and culture. The elite had almost entirely abandoned the study of Latin by this point. As the empire underwent a revival it included more ethnic components, but remained a Greek state at its nexus of power and government.
 
In terms of religion, the Byzantine Empire continued with a Caesaro-Papist model adopted by Constantine. Greek in language, subordinate to the Emperor of the Greeks, functioning as a government department in a Greek nation state and continuing down to the present day as the mother church of most Greeks. It resembles Anglicanism in some ways, a religion centred on an ethnic homeland with the head of state also the head of the church, and with numerous overseas faithful who do not belong to the ethnos of the church's homeland. So Byzantium was thoroughly Greek in religion, and in the medieval period that was a critically important component of identity.
 
In terms of world outlook it remained a continuation of the Late Roman Empire.
 
In terms of social and economic development, it lagged behind the developments in the west and at times tried to adapt and copy them. By the 13th century the Byzantine economic model was quaint and weak compared with the better regulated feudal models in the west, and the legal/commercial arrangements which allowed for the formation of corporations to engage in private trade. Byzantium economic/socially was Late Roman in its early period, distinctly Byzantine during its epoch 8th-11th centuries, and haphazardly western thereafter as its unstable absolute despotism tried too little too late to adopt economic models from the west.
 
Byzantium followed a Late Roman political model and outlook of absolute despotism, propped up by a caesaro-Papist church which was Greek in liturgy and tradition, centred on an economic and political heartland which was Greek in culture. To the Byzantines, ethnos was of far less significance than their religious adherence and awareness of their political heritage.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Mar 2013 at 10:46
The point is that a person claiming anything historical is somewhat dubious, and interrelated people who are all descended from a long gone nation fighting over it's ownership is stupid. These arguments are always about imposing a view on the present, not about historical fact
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Mar 2013 at 02:21
Niah, it was just too awesome for you guys :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Mar 2013 at 01:22
Originally posted by Drakoblare Drakoblare wrote:

What does this have to do with the topic anyways?


Nothing. But the topic is soooooo boring,  that people want to discuss something else ;)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar 2013 at 23:20
I dont care about the name, they can call their nation Grand Duchy of New Banania (GDONB) for all I care. It is when they claim stuff they have no right to is where I get pissed (or laugh).

What does this have to do with the topic anyways?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar 2013 at 21:03
Originally posted by Paradigm of Humanity Paradigm of Humanity wrote:


There is a general confusion due modern state of Macedonia (which is landlocked) and historical region of Macedonia (which is bordering Aegan Sea).


Aye. Just don't try telling that to any of the people who enjoy spending their lives interminably arguing over the name.

-Akolouthos
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paradigm of Humanity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar 2013 at 11:44
There is a general confusion due modern state of Macedonia (which is landlocked) and historical region of Macedonia (which is bordering Aegan Sea).

Edited by Paradigm of Humanity - 19 Mar 2013 at 12:31
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Mar 2013 at 09:51
Sorry Omar. I wish I had the time to help, but after you hear this sort of thing enough, you get sick of it. Once the word "Macedonia" was brought up, I lost interest.

-Akolouthos
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2013 at 22:33
Are you guys saying that Maedonians were not Greeks?
And how do you link the Spartans with Macedoslavs?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2013 at 15:12
Originally posted by Drakoblare Drakoblare wrote:

Why would a Turk ever become Christian?

Paradigm gave you a good answer to this.
They are not necessarily ethnic Turks, merely people who over the last 800 years of Turkish rule have adopted the Turkish language for some reason or another. Or they could be ethnic Turks from groups that never become muslim. Both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires were very multicultural places.
Quote The Empire had already become Greek before 800. Borders have nothing to do with it.

Language was not always everything. People sticked to their identity and often fought each other. Intermarrieges are not as common as people think

The East Roman Empire adopted Greek as the official language in 640 more or less after they had lost the middle east to the Arab invasions. Although curiously, Greek was the official language of Government under the Umayyid Caliphate as well. So Greek was probably more useful than Latin in Damascus & Alexandria anyway.
Intermarriages between Greeks and Turks, (or Greeks and Arabs or Greeks and Macedonians) are still very common today in countries like Australia. Under the Ottoman Empire, while I am sure there were a small clump of people who knew whether they were Greek or Turk, I bet there was a far larger group that had no clear idea which one they were.
Quote Claiming that Bulgarians, Turks etc have as much right to the Empire as the Greek is just bull. Would you say the Greeks have as right as Turks have to the Ottoman one? Or that Turks have the same one to ancient Greek one?

Absolutely.
The Ottoman Empire was as much a greek empire as a Turkish one. It's heartland was in Greek land, most of it's landowners - especially in the early days - were Greek. The modern Greek state rebelled from the Ottoman Empire and tried to bring about it's downfall, but the Greek people were essential in setting it up in the first place too.
Consider the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Were they Greek or Turkish?
Osman Ghazi was (arguably) Turkish, but generation after generation of the royal family were mothered by Greeks. After a few hundred years the so-called "turkish blood" is a tiny minority. So is the Sultan Greek or Turkish?
Quote
You are oversimplyfying things. People kept to their identities and heirtage for centuries. Pontus, is a great example.

What about Pontus? In 1910 just before the collapse of the Ottomans, 70% identified as Turks as compared to 25% as Greeks (Christian vs Muslim was different though).

Yes, there is definitely a common and traceable thread all the way through Greek history to ancient Greece. But the actual people adhering to this thread changed and fluctuated. People joined, people left, and many people didn't give a stuff. There are people decendent from the ancient Pontus people in both Greece and Turkey (and lets face it, probably Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Iran too)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paradigm of Humanity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2013 at 15:08
Turks with Slavic ancestry probably accounts more than population of Greece... Same can be said for Greek, Caucasian (especially Circassians and Georgians driven by Russkies) ancestry, given that people most likely have several ancestral origin.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2013 at 14:30
It is a fact that many Greeks, today, have Slavic ancestors. In contrast many Macedonians and Turks who live in coastal areas are descendant of old Greeks! Some may say the closest relative of Leonidas and fellow Spartans are today Macedonians!Wink
"Turn yourself not away from three best things: Good Thought, Good Word, and Good Deed" Zoroaster.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2013 at 13:36
It is curious that ancient Greeks aren't precisely the same people that live in modern Greece. We shouldn't forget that several regions of Italy were Greek, and also in Alexandria (Egypt) the Greek population was important.Even more, many of the most famous Greek cities of ancient times, like Pergamus, Myletus and Ephesus, are in today's Turkey.
Of course there is a linguistic and ethnic continuity between old and modern Greeks, but people change with time. The same situation happens when we compare ancient peoples like the Egyptians with some modern descendants in Egypt, like the Coptic.
To say in another terms, there are many descendents of ancient Greece and Byzantium, who aren't Greeks anymore but Turks and from other nationalities around. On the other hand, I bet there are many people in modern Greece that have origins different from Classical Greece.


Edited by pinguin - 16 Mar 2013 at 13:39
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paradigm of Humanity Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2013 at 12:51
It seems you took a heavy dose of ethnic nationalism and you see history throughout a revisionist perspective. That's one of main pillars of methodology of the history, never judge something at past with your own values of today. Anyway, I saw this kind of debates countless times and some people just insists that etnicity was as important as religion at past despite overwhelming evidence. 

Greek speaking muslims that was sent to Turkey were Cretean muslims and Turkish speaking christians that was sent to Greece were some Karaman Turks of disputed origin. Also Turkic peoples are covered a vast area for one or two thousands years, so it's not something uncommon, likewise some christian Pomaks and jewish Hazars if I remember correctly. But of course, the word "Turk" used in the West as a synonym of "muslim" for centuries. Understandble...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karamanlides

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretan_Turks


Edited by Paradigm of Humanity - 16 Mar 2013 at 12:56
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Mar 2013 at 10:53
Why would a Turk ever become Christian?

The Empire had already become Greek before 800. Borders have nothing to do with it.

Language was not always everything. People sticked to their identity and often fought each other. Intermarrieges are not as common as people think

Claiming that Bulgarians, Turks etc have as much right to the Empire as the Greek is just bull. Would you say the Greeks have as right as Turks have to the Ottoman one? Or that Turks have the same one to ancient Greek one?

You are oversimplyfying things. People kept to their identities and heirtage for centuries. Pontus, is a great example.
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