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Were the Byzantines Greeks?

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    Posted: 13 Mar 2013 at 08:41
So I have been studying about the Empire lately and I have seen some weird things in the internet. People claiming that the Greeks are not the descendants of the Byzantines and that the Russians, Turks or even the freaking Bulgarians are the heirs.

So, what is your opinion on this? 

-)So the most typical anti-Greek opinion is that they are Romans.

Well, technically yes, it was the continuation of the Roman Empire and the Empire was called Ρωμανια BUT so did the Germans, the Russians and even the Turks. Does that make them Roman?

-)An other thing that is mentioned is that they consindered themselves Roman and not Greek.

Well, once more, it is true that they called themselves Ρωμηοι and not Hellenes but the only people who did that were the Greek speaking Orthodoxs of the Empire. Hellene at that time meant pagan. And the term Ρωμηος was actually used up to this day in various areas of Greece and they did not consinder themselves different from the other Greeks.

Actually if you think about it, the modern Greek (the ethnogenisis of the 19th century) is exactly that. The Greek speaking, Orthodox Christian. Not to mention that up until the late 20th century the motto of the Greek people was to make Constantinople the capital. This was the dream of the Greek revolutionaries (who called themshelves Ρωμηοι).

-)An other point that is being given is that they were christians, not pagans.

Well this argument is the worst one of them all. A short answer would be this: All European nations turned Christian sooner or later, did they become new people? Not to mention that the worship of the Greek Gods was already crumbling since the time of Alexander.

-)An other one is that, since the Empire was so big, it was multicultural.

Well it was a big Empire (at some points) but thats the point of an Empire. The Brits were also the minority inside their own Empire, does that mean that the Zulu or native americans can claim the Empire's history? Also the Emperor, in a time that the Slavs were christians but had occupied Greece, sent Greeks from Asia Minor to repopulate the place and increase the Greek culture in the area.

So, what proves that the 'Byzantine Empire' was actually a Medieval Greek State.

1) The majority of the ruling class was Greek speaking
2) Most of the Emperors were Greeks. Of course there was mixing (Macedonian dynsasty POSSIBLE has Armenian roots) but these happens in all Empires. Their culture was Greek.
3) They never claimed to not descend from Ancient Greeks and after the 11th century there are plenty of scripts where the byzantines are acting like nationalists. This is not to say that they did not consinder themshelves the heirs of Rome.
4) Where are all the Romans after the Empire fell? Where are the Romans during the Greek revolution? All the 'Roman' majority areas suddenly became Greek. Not to mention that the Turks called the Greek communites 'Rum'
5) The heart of the Empire was Constantinople, a huge city where the Greeks were the majority, and the Empire's lungs were Asia Minor and Salonika (Greek populated areas)

In sort the Byzantine Empire was the Roman Empire that later on got hellenized and was continued by the Greek people. Dominant language and cultrue were Greek and even the freaking Armenians were consindered barbarians by Anna Comnene.
After 470, when western Rome fell, the Empire was left to the Greeks to handle and they did a damn well job.

So by all means it was: "The Christianised Roman empire of the Greek"



Edited by Drakoblare - 13 Mar 2013 at 08:49
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Mar 2013 at 11:18
you are sooooo boring. consider that as a personal insult and a violation of CoC.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Mar 2013 at 11:47
The question has no clear answer, because the Byzantines were and were no Greeks. You need to narrow it down to a specific subject to discuss it; otherwise it will be really hard to talk about it.
"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 Drakoblare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Mar 2013 at 22:28
Originally posted by Anton Anton wrote:

you are sooooo boring. consider that as a personal insult and a violation of CoC.

CoC? Sounds nasty LOL

Originally posted by Harburs Harburs wrote:

The question has no clear answer, because the Byzantines were and were no Greeks. You need to narrow it down to a specific subject to discuss it; otherwise it will be really hard to talk about it.

What?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Harburs Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Mar 2013 at 06:16
Narrow it down to something like military tactic, trade, costume, etc. Something more specific.
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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: 15 Mar 2013 at 17:45
The Byzantines are definitely Roman, but after about 800 they had lost all their non-Greek lands.

The Russian claim to be heirs of Rome is religious, after the Turks took Constantinople the Russians refused to recognise the Patriarch as head of the church and refused to recognise the Sultan as Roman Emperor.

The Turks claim is geopolitical. They ruled the same land mass, they controlled the church, they have The City.

Most of the ethnicities of the Balkans have been invented or totally redefined in the last 300 years (ongoing in Yugoslavia). Modern Greeks are no different. Greeks and Turks are basically the same people separated by nothing other than religion, and recently, language (don't kill me)
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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 00:51
Lol this is just lies. Yes it is true that we are similliar but these is cause when Turks came to Anatolya they made the Greeks of the area muslims. If you turned muslim you were no longer consindered Greek. And this 'after 800 years' oart is also lies. Look at the map of the empire in 700 AD: http://history-world.org/e700.jpg

Back then the Greeks were the majority in most of these areas. And dont give me the 'Identities in the balkans are redefined' you are telling me that people suddenly chose to be Greek? The Greek identity (we used to call ourshelves Romioi) was always existent. The Byzantines never denied being descendants of the ancient Greeks, they just consindered themselves to be the heirs of Rome
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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 10:13
Quote Lol this is just lies. Yes it is true that we are similliar but these is cause when Turks came to Anatolya they made the Greeks of the area muslims. If you turned muslim you were no longer consindered Greek.

What's a lie? You just said exactly the same thing I did.
"Greek"ness has been defined by religion. All the Greek-speaking muslims were forced to become Turkish during the 20th century, as were all the Turkish speaking christians.
Quote And this 'after 800 years' oart is also lies. Look at the map of the empire in 700 AD: http://history-world.org/e700.jpg

Back then the Greeks were the majority in most of these areas.

800 AD is what I meant.
But your map is basically the same, Sicily being the main difference, these are the precisely what I mean by Greek lands. The non-Greek lands that were lost were Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Southern Italy, modern Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. The Roman Empire had lost everything except it's Greek areas.
Quote And dont give me the 'Identities in the balkans are redefined' you are telling me that people suddenly chose to be Greek? The Greek identity (we used to call ourshelves Romioi) was always existent.

Yes, I am telling you exactly that people chose - or were forced - to be Greek. Yes, the Greek identity and language always existed. But under the Ottoman Empire all the ethnicities merged and intermarried. They blended only to be separated again once nationalists took over in the decline of the Empire. Even today, a census in Montenegro has the characteristics of a vote to chose ethnic identity, people campaign for people to "vote serbian".

Quote The Byzantines never denied being descendants of the ancient Greeks, they just consindered themselves to be the heirs of Rome

But equally the Turks, and the Greeks (and the Bulgarians, Romanians, Egyptians, Syrians and others) are all descendents of the East Roman Empire. The only thing the Greeks have that the others don't, is language, and as I said above, that's because after the non-Greek lands were lost the Empire's official language changed to Greek from Latin.

The Russians have neither language nor ancestory in common with the Empire. All they had (until 1919) was the Emperor of the Orthodox Church.
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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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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 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 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
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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 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 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 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.

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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 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.

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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 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: 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 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 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 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: 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 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 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 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: 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 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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