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Forum LockedByzantine Emperors of Greek Ethnicity?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Patrinos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2009 at 17:00

Well, finding "ethnicity" in royal families is always hard and many times purposeless. 

In Byzantium especially after Justinian-Heraclius(end of 6th beg. of 7th centuries), when the already predominant language, the Greek(Latin never replaced Greek in Eastern Mediterranean) became in almost all the stages of the Byzantine state the official language, ment that any one who would  have ambitions for career in the state had to be hellenized linguistically, in his education and in his dogma...that is the dogma determined in Chalcedon in 451 A.D. where the christians of Middle East(Egyptians,Syrians,etc) and Eastern Minor Asia(like Armenians) disagreed with its decisions and "dissociated".

If we take the risk and try to define ethnicites the emperor of Nicaea John III Doukas Vatatzes (c. 1192, Didymoteicho – November 3, 1254, Nymphaeum) gives us some important information.

It's a letter  letter-response to Pope Gregorius the 9th who has previously asked the first to stop claiming Constantinoupolis back from the Franks(that is after the Capture in 1204):

The letter starts:
Ioannis in the name of Christos the God faithfull king and emperor of the Romans the Dukas to the holy pope of old Rome Gregorius”  in greek “Ioannis en Christo to Theo pistos vasileus kai autokrator Romaion o Dhoukas to agiotato papa tis presviteras Romis Grigorio
and he continues:
I,as king, consider incongruous what you’ve written me and I didn’t want to believe that it was your letter, but a result of the despair of someone who is near you, and has his soul full of badness and audacity. Your holiness is graced with wisdom and differs in proper judgment from many others. That’s why I found it very difficult to believe that it was your letter even if it was sent to me.

So you write in your letter that in our race(genos) of the Greeks(ton Hellenon) wisdoms reigns…that from our race(genos) wisdom flourished and its benefits were spread and to the other people, that’s true . But how it happens to ignore, or if you don’t ignore ,how did you suppress it, that along with the royal(vasilevousa) Konstantinoupolis and the kingship in this world was given to our race from Konstantinos the Great, who accepted the call from Christos and ruled with decency and honesty(Smile). Is there anyone who doesn’t know that his succession(Konstantinos’) passed to our race(genos) and we are his heirs and inheritors? 
You demand from us not to ignore your privileges. And we, too , have the similar request from you to see and recognize our right to rule the state of Constantinoupolis, that started from the age of Constantinos the Great and lasted one thousand years until it reached our reign. The patriarchs(genarches) of my kingship, from the families of Doukas and Komnenos, not to mention the others, come from the Greek race(apo hellenika geni). So these fellow countrymen for many centuries had Constantinoupolis in their authority. And them the Church of Rome and their principals called Emperors of the Romans(Autokratores Romaion). So we declare to your holiness and to all Christians that never shall we stop fighting and struggle against the conquerors of Constantinoupolis. It was like we disrespect the laws of nature, and the institutions of our fatherland, and the graves of our fathers and the holy temples of God, if we didn’t fight with all our power. We have with us the righteous God, who helps those who are wronged and oppose to the wrongful…


Vakalopoulos Apostolos,Piges tou Neou Hellenismou,v.A,p.50-53,Thessaloniki 1965

I suppose Palaiologoi and Aggeloi, also Despots of Mystras and Epiros can be considered Greeks, inthe ethnicity meaning...

Empresses like Irene Sarantapechaina of Athens, Eudokia-Athenais 

The well known historian,philosopher etc Michael Psellus,  lived in the Macedonian dynasty court writes in his Chronography,pub.Agra,p.181:

§36

"...ώσπερ τινά στρατηγόν της εαυτού προστήσας τάξεως, άνδρα το μεν γένος ουχ Έλληνα, το δε ήθος του καλλίστου γένους, ηρωικόν δε το είδος, και το σεβάσμιον εξ αρχαίας ευτυχίας κεκτημένον..."

That is:

"....they aranged as their general one of the "servant" patricians, a man who even though he wasn't Greek in race, he was exellent in mien, heroic in his appearance and respected because he descended from an old family..."

That is an indication that Macedonian court constituted mainly by Greeks in genos,  and the hiring of "barbarians"(this period Varangians held lot of positions) is something that brings reactions, expressed also in Psellos' Chronographia when he writes:

"άρχουσιν ημών ους εκ των βαρβάρων εωνησάμεθα, και τας μεγάλας πιστεύονται δυνάμεις ου Περικλείς, ούδε Θεμιστοκλείς, αλλ'οι ατιμότατοι Σπάρτακοι."

..."...not few times we are governed by individuals whom we've bought from the barbarians, the high offices are not trusted to Pericles,neither to Themistocles(plural) but to lowborn Spartaks..."

And Ioannes Cantakouzenos in his History(2.36) he writes that he addressed to his soldiers like that :

"Άνδρες Ρωμαίοι, μάλλον δε και Έλληνες και βάρβαροι πάντες..." that means:

"Roman men,better Hellenes(Greeks) and all barbarians...", I suppose he didn't consider himself a "Romaios" from the "barbarian" ones...



Edited by Patrinos - 30-May-2009 at 18:12
"Hellenes are crazy but they have a wise God"
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2009 at 22:31
Your examples, Patrnos, are from times when Byzantine Empires were in territories inhabited by Greek speaking people. Before arrival of Slavs and other people situation was different. And also how can you explain appearence of Vlachs if Latin was never substituted Greek in territories of Eastern Mediterranean?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Patrinos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-May-2009 at 08:45

You're right. After the end of the so called "dark ages" of Byzantium(ca 7-8th centuries) the Empire took the "character" that western historiography calls "Byzantine" and the predominance of the Greek language against Latin was almost total. 

Not only the Slavic migrations in the Balkans,as you correctly said, but also the loss of the eastern eparchies(Egypt,Syria, Armenia), the spread of heresies among the "mixovarvarous" populations of central and eastern Minor Asia, were factors that made "Vasileia Romaion"(as it's the correct...), a state that had in majority people that had greek as their mothertongue. Also the christianisation of the Bulgarians played an important role in the shaping of a solider "byzantine" identity, because then, being orthodox didn't automatically mean that you supported the Empire...



About the Latin language...in the eastern mediterranean it never replaced Greek as the language of communication among people, the language of philosophy, science and more importantly as language of the Church, that considered Greek as the only capable language for religious conversations.

Some examples about the position of the Latin:

Themistios in the 4th century addressing to the emperors(obviously latin-speakers) writes:

"Never, o kings, was necessary for me to learn the "ruling" language(the Latin), but I always thought that it was enough( to know) the mothertongue Greek(language)." In his speach Philadelphoi h peri philanthropias-Themistios.71c: Ι, p. 106,1-4.


Pope Gregory the Great "complains" why in Constantinopolis of his time (6th century) none knows to tranlsate de Graeco in Latinum et de Latino in Graecum(Registri Epistolarum, MGH1/1,p. 474.)

Many Westerners,claiming that they have the right of the imperial power, spoke ironicaly about the "Byzantines" because "quia rìdiculum est vos appellare Romanorum imperatores et tarnen linguam non nosse Romanam"(MGH, Epist. VI, p. 459,20-21)..roughly translated...that its ...ridiculus to be called emperors of the Romans if he doesn't speak Latin...this was said by Pope Nicholas I.

As I said many "Byzantines" considered Latin as one of the barbaric languages...It is recorded, for example, that in the Council of Lyon(1273-1277) Byzantines "accepted from Italians, to call Christos as Kristos according to the barbarian language, and we don't abhor the source(of the Holy Spirit) to be called protzedin(procedens)"

In original Greek: "...δεχόμεθα δε και ημείς Ιταλούς, Κρίστον τον Χριστόν δια το της φωνής βάρβαρον ονομάζοντας, και το εκπορεύειν δε προτζέδιν καλούντας ουκ αποστρεφόμεθα..." (V.Laurent-J.Darrouzes, Dossier grec de l'Union de Lyon(1273-1277),Paris 1976,p.275)

About the Vlachs, I consider that in the army latin language was more widespread, and I think that latin speaking groups, especially in the southern Balkans(southern from Dunabe), are related to the Roman military system.

Latin influence in the military is obvious also in the  terminology of the byzantine army, where not few latin words were used: skoutarin, phussaton, tzikourion etc,(words used in modern greek too).



Edited by Patrinos - 31-May-2009 at 08:48
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