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«The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh published by Dumbarton Oaks ...»

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This is an extract from:

The Crusades from the Perspective

of Byzantium and the Muslim World

edited by Angeliki E. Laiou and Roy Parviz Mottahedeh

published by

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection

Washington, D.C.

© 2001 Dumbarton Oaks

Trustees for Harvard University

Washington, D.C.

Printed in the United States of America


Byzantine Perceptions of Latin Religious “Errors”:

Themes and Changes from 850 to 1350 Tia M. Kolbaba In 1339 Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos (1328–41) sent the bilingual Calabrian monk Barlaam (ca. 1290–1348) to Avignon. There Barlaam delivered two speeches to Pope Benedict XII (1332–42) about the necessity of a united Christian front against the Turks and the ways in which a reunion of the churches might be achieved. To the pope’s demand that reunion of the churches precede military aid from the West, Barlaam gave the following reply: “It is not so much difference in dogma that alienates the hearts of the Greeks from you, as the hatred that has entered their souls against the Latins,1 because of the many great evils that at different times the Greeks have suffered at the hands of Latins and are still suffering every day. Until this hatred has been removed from them, there cannot be union. In truth, until you have done them some very great benefit, neither will that hatred be dispelled nor will anyone dare to breathe a word to them about union.... Know this too, that it was not the people of Greece that sent me to seek your help and union, but the Emperor alone and secretly. Until help is sent to these parts, he cannot let his people see that he wants union with you.” 2 Barlaam thus highlighted the most obvious impact of the Crusades—especially the Fourth Crusade and the Latin occupation of Constantinople from 1204 to 1261—on religious life and religious literature in Byzantium. Everyone agreed that the union of the churches was, in principle, desirable, because everyone knew that Christ’s body, the church, should not be dismembered. But the violent conflict of the Crusades and attempts to force papal primacy on Greeks after 1204 meant that few Byzantine churchmen could negotiate for such a union with any measure of trust and goodwill. So, too, it comes as no surprise that the most scurrilous, least sophisticated kinds of anti-Latin literature increased over time. When Constantine Stilbes (fl. 1182–1204) connects his seventy-five-item list of Latin errors to a list of the atrocities committed in the sack of 1204, the connection seems natural.3 Such a reaction makes sense. That the Crusades As do most Greek writers of his time, Barlaam uses the term Latin as a general term for Westerners. I use the term Latins throughout this paper to refer to Western Europeans who were members of the church that used Latin as its liturgical language. This does not

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led to an increase in the number of virulently anti-Latin texts and in the number of people who agreed with them has been recognized at least since Barlaam’s time.

This study, then, goes beyond that obvious effect to investigate whether the Crusades had an impact on more moderate religious texts written by churchmen who negotiated or debated with the Latins. Because there are many Byzantine responses to the Crusades in secular texts, from Anna Komnene’s Alexiad to Doukas’ chronicle of the fall of the City, one might expect to find direct responses to the Crusades in theological literature as well. But a survey of religious discussions with and polemic against the Latins from the middle of the eleventh century through the end of the empire unearthed no reasoned refutation of the idea of holy war and no theological discourses against such Western innovations as the crusade indulgence or monastic knights.4 In short, if the Crusades altered religious literature, they did so indirectly. This study attempts to identify such indirect influence by analyzing some characteristics of Byzantine theological material contemporary with the Crusades. The conclusion will return to the question of whether and how these traits are related to the Crusades.

My primary thesis is that Byzantine religious texts that discuss Western Europeans emphasize different issues at different times. To many historians, such a claim may seem obvious, even trite. After all, the cultural gap between Byzantine East and Latin West;

the kinds and degree of contact Byzantines had with Latins; the relative wealth, poverty, military power, and sophistication of the two cultures—all of these things changed immeasurably in a millennium or so. Yet an assumption of eternal verities pervades the history of Byzantine religious disagreements with the Western church. For example, many studies assume that the Filioque5 is always the central issue for moderate, reasonable men. But it was not. Concerns changed as the times changed.

Furthermore, when placed in their historical context, the issues raised are often related less to the explicit targets of the polemic, the Latins, than to the polemicists themselves and their world. An issue becomes one of the crucial issues in the Greek theological literature only when it becomes a matter for debate within the Orthodox world. This connection removes the Latins from the center of the picture and reveals the extent to which debates explicitly about Latins were implicitly about Byzantines. In other words, a difference between Greeks and Latins became a source of anxiety and the subject of numerous treatises and debates only when Byzantine opinion was divided. Debates about Latin practices and beliefs grew fierce and polarized less because of the intrinsic importance of the issue being debated than because of fundamental doubts about what ` ´ Such issues do arise rarely in the unreasonable polemic. See, e.g., Darrouzes, “Memoire,” para. 27, 38, 60, 61.

Starting in Spain in the 6th century, various Western churches added a phrase to the Nicene Creed. Where the creed originally stated, “We believe in the Holy Spirit... who proceeds from the Father,” these churches added “and the Son” (Latin: Filioque). This addition was accepted in Frankish areas by the 8th century and in Rome in the early 11th century. Eastern theologians objected both to the unilateral addition to the creed (which could not, they maintained, be amended without an ecumenical council) and to the theological implications of that addition. Discussions of the theology, including theological polemic from both East and West, can be found easily. Good introductions: J. Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600–1700): The Christian Tradition 2 (Chicago, 1974), 183–98, and J. Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (New York, 1974), 91–94, 180–90.

Tia M. Kolbaba [ 119 ] it meant to be an orthodox, imperial Christian—what it meant to be, as they would have put it, a pious Roman.6 Negotiations and debates within the Empire of the Romans about how to distinguish “us” from “them” were not new in the tenth, or even the eighth, century. From the beginning, Christians were defining themselves against other groups, distinguishing “followers of Christ” from “Jews”; “Orthodox” from Arians, Nestorians, and Monophysites; righteous and orthodox venerators of icons from heretical iconoclasts. None of these distinctions between “us” and “them” was established in a day or even in a decade. All of them took some time and caused some casualties. Some people who considered themselves orthodox Christians had to be thrown out of the church; the tares could not, after all, be allowed to grow with the wheat. In the period of the Crusades, it became important to distinguish “us” Christians of the empire from “them” Latins from the West. But that distinction did not come easily, either. People argued about it for centuries, and their arguments can be partially reconstructed from the materials studied here.

The second part of this study discusses the tone of anti-Latin texts. This, too, changes over time, but the change is not a simple descent from moderate, intelligent discussion to hateful, radical polemic. Moderate works exist and exert some influence down to the end, revealing a growing ambivalence about Latin culture and the western world.

What this study presents as a matter-of-fact outline still has gaps, and other scholars who study these texts will correct and refine it on points of detail and interpretation.

Still, it is time to attempt a survey of the theological literature from these centuries precisely because a great body of work makes it possible to do so with some assurance.

We need to draw together what we already know before we can make further progress.

` The current level of knowledge owes much to the works of Jean Darrouzes, Joseph Gill, and a long list of other scholars. The sources cited below should indicate my debt to ` their erudition and painstaking labor. Darrouzes noted thirty-two years ago that “the history of dogma can only profit from a more exact knowledge of historical context.” 7 He spent most of his life establishing that context, and his work especially has taught us a great deal about which issues dividing East and West were important in which period.

Without it, this study would be impossible.

Changing Issues

The Ninth Century Photios (patriarch of Constantinople, 858–867 and 877–886) introduces this study, but not because anyone accepts that the “Photian Schism” was permanent and irrevocable; Francis Dvornik refuted that idea fifty years ago. Rather, Photios’ era can reveal the Vocabulary is a problem here—these were debates about what it meant to be Byzantine and Orthodox.

Still, we need to keep in mind that these are modern terms; people at the time called themselves “Romans,” ´ “Orthodox,” “pious” (eujsebh")—never “Byzantine,” unless they were distinguishing residents of the capital from other “Romans.” ` ` ´ J. Darrouzes, “Les documents byzantins du XIIe siecle sur la primaute romaine,” REB 23 (1965): 43.

[ 120 ] Byzantine Perceptions of Latin Religious “Errors” possibilities for a relationship between Rome and Constantinople which was, if not exactly peaceful, certainly different in kind from the relationship of the later Middle Ages.

Most importantly, differences with the Western church were not the crucial canonical or theological issues during Photios’ patriarchate. The burning issue was still iconoclasm.

From our perspective, a kind of foreshortening makes it obvious that iconoclasm was dead and not to be resurrected. But Photios and his contemporaries knew how the first “restoration of Orthodoxy” had been followed by a revival of iconoclasm. Most had personal memories of that revival. All were still being dragged into arguments about how to punish iconoclasts—some advocating severe sanctions, while others called for oikonomia and forgiveness.8 The quarrels over this issue affect every other quarrel of the period, including the “Photian Schism” with Rome. Beyond iconoclasm, Photios himself joined many other men in writing about other “heretics”: Paulicians, Armenians, Muslims, Bogomils, Monophysites, and others.9 So the quarrel with Rome is only one issue among many in ninth-century Byzantium.

Moreover, the Photian Schism did not arise from differences over dogma. Nobody claimed that the pope was not qualified to render a judgment because he was a heretic.

Instead, the issue was the canonical authority of the pope within the Eastern church— a question that neither began nor ended with Photios. His predecessor, Ignatios, had had similar problems during his first patriarchate (847–858).10 In the controversy over the legitimacy of Ignatios’ deposition (or resignation) and Photios’ elevation to the patriarchate, both sides appealed to the pope. Photios’ refusal to accept the pope’s judgment was based not on some challenge to the pope’s legal authority, but rather on the pope’s failure to hear any representative of Photios’ side of the case before he made his decision.11 This recognition of Rome’s jurisdiction, with its assumption of Rome’s orthodoxy, is more like the church of the iconoclast period or even of John Chrysostom’s time, than like the church of Michael VIII Palaiologos. In the later period, Rome’s jurisdiction will be challenged on the grounds that the popes, who used to have the authority of a first among equals, lost that authority when they fell into heresy.12 Nevertheless, Photios and some of his contemporaries did object to the Filioque (and other Latin “errors”). Those who maintain that the Filioque has always been the most important issue for thoughtful, moderate men begin with Photios, for he did explicitly state that the Filioque was a heresy and the weightiest issue outstanding between Constantinople and some Westerners: “Moreover, they have not only been discovered transgressing the law in all the above, but they have progressed to the crown of all evils, if there is such a thing.... They have also tried, with spurious reasoning, interpolated argument, and an excess of impudence, to adulterate the divine and holy creed which has its impregnable strength from all the synodical and ecumenical decrees (Oh, the subtle deceptions of the Evil One!), for they have added new words, that the Holy Spirit

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proceeds not from the Father alone, but also from the Son.”13 But before we portray this statement as the earliest example of Byzantine awareness of Roman heresy, we need to look carefully at its context. Photios discussed the Filioque in an encyclical letter to the Eastern patriarchs (quoted above) and in his Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit. These texts were not attacks on the whole Western church, but refutations of the teaching of Frankish missionaries in Bulgaria. The latter had taught the Bulgars the addition to the creed and quarreled with Byzantine missionaries about it. In fact, the Filioque was not yet being chanted in Rome. When Photios wrote his treatises against the double procession of the Holy Spirit, he had good reason to think that the popes did not accept the doctrine.14 Nor did he challenge the pope’s authority on the grounds that he was a heretic. Both of these things differentiate his position from later opinions.

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