The Virtues and Faults of the Latin Christians

Authored by: Kolbaba Tia

The Byzantine World

Print publication date:  February  2010
Online publication date:  December  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415440103
eBook ISBN: 9780203817254
Adobe ISBN: 9781136727870


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The story of how Byzantine Christians related to western European Christians in the Middle Ages is never as straightforward as one would like. There was never a single Byzantine attitude toward westerners, nor did Byzantines see westerners as a mass; they had no idea of “the West” in our modern colonial or post-colonial terms. Bulgars might be a single ethnos, but western Europe was home to many ethne, and the Byzantines knew that. Moreover, Byzantine attitudes toward westerners changed throughout history, and the change was not merely a descent from friendly condescension to hate-filled fear and loathing. Detailed analysis of Byzantium and its western neighbors yields only the most useless of generalizations: different Byzantine people saw different westerners differently at different times, emphasizing sometimes their ethnic other-ness, sometimes their Christian brotherhood and adherence to the councils, and sometimes their religious “errors.” Only rather late in Byzantine history did some people develop something like a notion of “the West” as a tyrannical enemy. Finally, while in some groups friendly condescension gave way to fear and loathing, in others admiration and even emulation of western ways were common. Diplomats and merchants, emperors and courtiers, princesses and silk-weavers, rulers and ruled, went about their business – even their marriage alliances – conscious of ethnic differences without being ruled by them. This chapter will attempt merely to give an outline of the most crucial period for the separation of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, the later period generally, but with emphasis on the twelfth century.

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