Empire Forever - Rediscover the incredible people of 9th Century New Rome
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Basil I - pauper to prince of power - fiction vs. history
Launch of Queen of Lies hypertext edition
Riots, economic stagnation and political malaise - what's new?
Is Byzantium a dirty word?
Better the Sultan's turban than the Pope's tiara - Part 2

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Imagine Byzantium!

Dem bones, dem bones, dem ... dry bones!

 
Let's bust up a few bones of contention today. One of my favorite being that the Papacy should think there is historical precedent for its self-appointment to the Vicarage of Christ on Earth.
 
There are several myths supporting this one. Let's take them out one by one. It should become clear by the end of it that theprimacy of the Papacy is based on a pack of lies.
 
This post is also for those of you out there who labor under the misconception that the Church split in the ninth century for purely doctrinal reasons.

A Holy Duality: King and King

By now I hope I have made it clear how I am trying to explore the assumptions on which we build our lives through the lens of Byzantium.
 
Why Byzantium? Because it's a world so alien in some ways that it could almost be something out of a Robert Heinlein or J R Tolkien novel. So it has the virtue of being something we can look at fresh, and use as a mirror of our very twentieth century viewpoints and givens.
 
But it also has the virtue of being the truth - what happened, in many ways, reflects so much of what we are as people - regardless of our backgrounds.

What's (romantic) love got to do with it?

Love, affection, sex, sexuality - how do all these fit into our emerging picture of what Byzantium, indeed most of Late Antiquity was about.  
 
Was sexuality, as I am wont to claim - nothing more than lust and obsession, not fondness or tradition? We know that much of marriage was about political power or contractual agreement in order to seal relationships, frequently involving property or assets of some kind or simply to reinforce political alliances.
 

Better the Sultan's turban than the Pope's tiara.

This was really the sentiment of Byzantines for centuries after the destruction wreaked by the Crusades. Even though the Byzantines looked to the West for military support and affirmation, they were actually far more at home with their cultural siblings in the Near East. It's that Mother Asia thing, I guess...
 
I know - John Paul II issued an official apology for the Crusades. It is about a millenium too late but - hey - at least it came through eventually. So one could argue that there is no point in unearthing old divisions and dwelling on them.

What's in a name?

Practically everything, if you espouse the principles of post-modern thought.
 
By putting labels on things we not only confine them nicely within the box of our (naturally) limited consciousness, but we also take control of them. Sonames define reality.And, by extension, the languages we use to define those names also constrain the way we define reality. What I am also saying is thatyour choice of language goes some way to defining who you are.(Look up Noam Chomsky if you suspect, at this point, that I am going completely bonkers).

The debt we don't owe to Christianity

At the heart of Byzantine and indeed modern Christianity is the strugglebetween between the God archetype and being human.
 
Icon worship is key to understanding both Orthodoxy and Catholicism (although somewhat more muted in modern Catholicism which has gone through the religious art transformation of the Renaissance). The Iconoclasts were a series of Emperors in the first millenium who sought to suppress the worship of images of God and the saints  - and lost.

Christianity gone wrong from an historical perspective

The culture and many of the values ofImperial Rome have endured in one way or another for the last two millenia- and are responsible for the way in which Christianity has embedded itself in the world today, frequently as part of the state. 
 
To take a strictly historical perspective, we have all to remember first and foremost thatConstantine the Great took the Roman court to the north-east Aegean- and this happened simultaneously with him resolving the disputes between the Western and Eastern Roman emperors by destroying them and assuming power over all parts of the Empire himself.