Byzantine Empire - Legacy


See also: Third Rome

Byzantium has been often identified with absolutism, orthodox spirituality, orientalism and exoticism, while the terms "Byzantine" and "Byzantinism" have been used as bywords for decadence, complex bureaucracy, and repression. In the countries of Central and Southeast Europe that exited the Eastern Bloc in late 80s and early 90s, the assessment of Byzantine civilisation and its legacy was strongly negative due to their connection with an alleged "Eastern authoritarianism and autocracy." Both Eastern and Western European authors have often perceived Byzantium as a body of religious, political, and philosophical ideas contrary to those of the West. Even in 19th century Greece, the focus was mainly on the classical past, while Byzantine tradition had been associated with negative connotations.

This traditional approach towards Byzantium has been partially or wholly disputed and revised by modern studies, which focus on the positive aspects of Byzantine culture and legacy. Averil Cameron regards as undeniable the Byzantine contribution to the formation of the medieval Europe, and both Cameron and Obolensky recognise the major role of Byzantium in shaping Orthodoxy, which in turn occupies a central position in the history and societies of Greece, Bulgaria, Russia, Serbia and other countries. The Byzantines also preserved and copied classical manuscripts, and they are thus regarded as transmitters of the classical knowledge, as important contributors to the modern European civilisation, and as precursors of both the Renaissance humanism and the Slav Orthodox culture.

As the only stable long-term state in Europe during the Middle Ages, Byzantium isolated Western Europe from newly emerging forces to the East. Constantly under attack, it distanced Western Europe from Persians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, and for a time, the Ottomans. From a different perspective, since the 7th century, the evolution and constant reshaping of the Byzantine state were directly related to the respective progress of Islam. Following the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II took the title "Kaysar-i-Rûm" (the Turkish equivalent of Caesar of Rome), since he was determined to make the Ottoman Empire the heir of the Eastern Roman Empire. According to Cameron, regarding themselves as "heirs" of Byzantium, the Ottomans preserved important aspects of its tradition, which in turn facilitated an "Orthodox revival" during the post-communist period of the Eastern European states.

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Famous quotes containing the word legacy:

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