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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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Tia M. Kolbaba [ 141 ] implied that his error came from his origins on Latin-dominated Cyprus.108 He may have been deposed from the patriarchate for entirely political reasons, but a good way to justify such a deposition was to portray him as a “Latin.” At the other end of the spectrum, some intellectuals of the Palaiologan period admired Latin learning and considered it superior to Greek. This shift is symbolized most vividly by the year 1274, for 1274 is not only the date of the Second Council of Lyons but also the date of the death of St. Thomas Aquinas. In other words, Latin theologians were reaching their peak. Popular opposition to the Latins was not significantly changed by this, but the opposition of intellectuals took on a different tone. Unlike Photios, Theophylact of Ohrid, or Peter of Antioch, intellectuals of the Palaiologan period were not certain of their own superior theological reasoning. Some among them even decided that the Latins had surpassed them.109 The Greek delegation at the Council of Florence (1438–39) was not condescending; it was defensive. The complaint used to be Latin barbarism; for the opponents of reunion at Florence, the complaint was that the Latins were oversubtle.110


Byzantine identity was not a simple matter. Modern historians struggle for ways to describe what made Byzantine people Byzantine. Was theirs an “ethnic” identity? a religious identity? an imperial identity? Perhaps, instead of searching for a single definition that works once and for all, we need to acknowledge that our confusion is justified. A group of people defines itself and is defined as much by whom it excludes as by whom it includes. In both senses, the people we misleadingly call Byzantines did not always agree on a definition of themselves. Even where they did agree, the definition had to be refined more than once in their thousand-year history. That refinement of definition was always contested. Despite histories written by the victors, which often pretend that Nikephoros Gregoras, Byzantina Historia, ed. L. Schopen, CSHB 19, vol. 1 (Bonn, 1829), 165. German ¨ trans. and comm., Rhomaische Geschichte, J. L. van Dieten, Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur 4, vol. 1 (Stuttgart, 1973), 148. Hussey, Orthodox Church, 248–49.

ˇˇ I. Sevcenko, “Intellectual Repercussions of the Council of Florence,” ChHist 24 (1955): 294; repr. in idem, Ideology, Letters and Culture of the Byzantine World (London, 1982), no. , with new pagination, 6. Since ˇˇ Sevcenko’s seminal article, a great deal has been published regarding Greek reception of Latin theology in the Palaiologan period. A full bibliography is not possible here, but the interested reader might begin with the fol¨ lowing: H. Hunger, Prochoros Kydones, Ubersetzung von acht Briefen des Hl. Augustinus (Vienna, 1984); F. Kianka’s articles on Demetrios Kydones (note 70 above); R. Flogaus, “Der heimliche Blick nach Westen: Zur Rezep¨ tion von Augustins De trinitate durch Gregorios Palamas,” JOB 46 (1996): 275–97.

110 ˇ ˇ Sevcenko, “Repercussions,” 298 (repr. 10). Demetrios Kydones complained that his fellow Greeks, rather than learn Latin positions and refute them intelligently, said, “‘The Latins are sophists. They attack us with sophistry, and when one refutes their sophisms, then there is nothing left but blasphemy and absurdity. We, however, stand by the folly of the evangelical message and the simplicity of fishermen. We did not receive Divine Revelation clad in worldy wisdom and we do not intend to surrender it to such wisdom, lest we strip the Cross of its Christ’” (ed. Mercati, 388; trans. Likoudis, 53).

[ 142 ] Byzantine Perceptions of Latin Religious “Errors” the challenge came from without, the crucial problems were debates within the empire, among those who considered themselves heirs of Rome and children of Christ.

The iconoclast controversy, for example, despite all efforts to attribute it to Jewish or Islamic influences, seems most likely to have originated within the Christian Roman Empire. Doubts about the use of icons were certainly related to external influences, especially to the Arab invasions that threatened the very existence of the empire in the early eighth century. Still, the earliest iconoclasts were Christian bishops in Asia Minor.

The history written a century later by the victorious iconodules portrays a true church, staunchly in favor of icons, oppressed by a minority of evil men who tried to force an alien doctrine and practice upon the orthodox, but modern historians doubt such an account, pointing to evidence that the iconoclasts were popular and that their beliefs were sincerely held and theologically justified. If iconoclasm had been, as its opponents claimed, an alien and obviously heinous belief, it would not have caused more than a century of strife within the empire. Nor would icon veneration have been enshrined at the center of the Orthodox definition of themselves if it had been uncontested.111 Western European Christians presented another sort of question of identity, for they had been citizens of the Roman Empire as recently as the time of Justinian I (527–565) and they were Christians. Nominally, then, they were included in the Byzantine definition of “us.” Minimal contact with Westerners in the eighth to tenth centuries enabled this status to stand. It was recognized that Westerners were not quite up to Constantinopolitan standards. They were rustic cousins, baptized barbarians—but, then, so were people in other provinces of the empire. Contact with mercenary soldiers from Scandinavia simply reinforced this comfortable semi-inclusion and superiority.

But then these rustic cousins began to penetrate the empire in other ways—not just as mercenary soldiers overawed by the empire’s wealth and as occasional papal or imperial legates, who had contact with few Byzantines. The Crusades and the ambitious ventures of Italian merchants revealed to the Byzantines that their country cousins were strong and self-confident (“arrogant,” the Byzantines tended to say). Sometimes they acted like enemies. Even when they did not, they had ideas above their station: they actually claimed to have their own emperor of the Romans! This awareness of Latin difference brought Latins into the center of the ongoing debates about the boundaries of Byzantine society. It did so at a time when other groups were presenting similar challenges, especially the Armenians and Syrians who reentered the empire with the conquests of the tenth century.

If all Byzantines had agreed that Westerners were excluded from the ecumenical empire and church, there would have been relatively little Greek literature about Latin beliefs and customs. Probably for the average Constantinopolitan going about his daily business, it was taken for granted that Westerners were different simply because they spoke different languages and wore different clothes. For the hierarchy of the church, however, the problem was more profound. They could not merely adduce the obvious ethnic differences. The church, as Christ’s body, is not supposed to make distinctions For a recent account of the iconoclast controversy that involves this sort of analysis, see J. Herrin, The Formation of Christendom (Princeton, 1987), 306–43, esp. 331–43.

Tia M. Kolbaba [ 143 ] based on ethnicity, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”112 Within the church, then, the status of Latins needed clarification. Were they included in the orthodox, catholic Christian church, in spite of their strange customs and odd clothing? Or were they excluded by their own beliefs? Were they, in a word, heretics? It was not an easy question to answer. As a result, the literature for and against Latin heresy began to pile up. Not surprisingly, that literature began with issues and definitions that had been used earlier on other groups, hence the centrality of azymes in the 1050s.

The impact of the Crusades on the evolution of Byzantine attitudes toward Latins was indirect but important. The Crusades made Western Europeans and one’s attitude toward them crucial issues for all Byzantines, from highly educated Constantinopolitan theologians to peasants in the Morea. Eastern hostility toward the Latins, including their status as the favorite target of religious polemic, is a result of the Crusades, a “radicalization” caused by the behavior of their Latin “brothers.” For most people, the Latins became a threat to body before they were a threat to soul; religious aversion followed violent conflict. It is a paradoxical conclusion, but it seems to fit the facts: anti-Latin polemic in the period of the Crusades is intimately linked to the Crusades, and yet it hardly ever mentions them.

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