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Greek Identity in the Middle Ages

Greek Identity in the Middle Ages

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Published by Makedonas Akritas
Vryonis Greek Identity in the Middle Ages by Spyros Vryonis
Vryonis Greek Identity in the Middle Ages by Spyros Vryonis

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Makedonas Akritas on Jan 31, 2013
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02/20/2013

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GreekIdentity
in
the Midd
le
Ages
Speros
VRYONIS
TheSperosBasilVryonis Centerfor the Studyof Hellenism, California
 
------------------GREEKIDEN'!lTYINTHEMIODLEACES
..
---
"'~~to-\~
~Q,
,..,~~'-"\J
The identity,
and
more generally the origins, history
and
fates
of
the Greeks
have been
the subject
of
contemplation
and
dis-
agreement .from earliest times to the present.
What
ismore, they
will
continueto
be
the subject
of
debatesthat,as
in
the
pastand
present,
have
oftengeneratedmore
heat than
light. Given the fact
that
theGreekspeakinginhabitants
of
the traditional Greek
landsof
Greece,
o~
o~Jlo~V'GL)
the isles,
and
large
parts of
Asia Minor
have
been active participants
t,
ll
~'\v<.~
v.ctrow...
in
the history
and
culture
of
theseareas as well as
of
otherregions
~
ft''\~o
lc.A
""""
.from the era before
Homer
and
theTrojan
War until
the present,
1.4~e~..._
""<\~
...
-
theyare
part
of
athree
and
one-hal£
thou
sand
year
agitated
and
-r..~
c..~
1\!f~~;
significanthistory. Thisinvolvement
in
the
long
-term history
of
astrategic area brings
with
it exposuretohistorical analyses which
most
oftenproceed.froma
parti
pris position
of
oneside
or
another.Further, the Greek adoption of a Semitic alphabet, the Phoenician,
in
thefirst two centuries
of
the
last
pre-Christian millennium,
and
the
rapid
spread
of
literacy
in
th
ef
orm
of
written
literature
and
recorded archives
have
markedtheGreeklanguageas
the
language
with
the longest history
of
a European literatetradition.
Though
only
a
very
small
proportionof
this
ancient Greek
written
corpushassurvived,
it
has,
nevertheless
been
sufficient
not
only to recordthe historical
and
cultural experiences
of
the ancient Greekspeakers,
it
has
been
sufficiently
rich
and
influentialtoaffect later generations, especially
in
the eighteenth-nineteenth century
when
this
corpusbecame, for the
next two
centuries abasiccultural reference
and
foundation for the educational systems, literatures
andart
of
the
}I I
U\~~"t
~LQ~<o...
~
!S·-~'J·-.(,.~
.,o)
t
t.l.~
"-"'
r1cu-
S
t..:
o~
Z--t5
!)0
"~
West.Byzantine literature
and
records, the majority
of
whichwas
~):uf
~
also recorded
in
the Greek language, likewise playedacrucial role
in
~
1
the
medieval
formation
of
much
of
eastern
and
south-eastern
~~~t,.;<:>..
tA~-4.-1\
'~
--
--
~~"Wl~
.
21
~
EA~~-'1
~
CbUID>~'~
-4-
l/o~~';lu4
f~"\
t.c.
.cl,.
~~"C.tf
o
e.a,9+.e
'-ePV
~~1..-c.O
N>~
.
:
t.•.J.f"o
 
- - - - - - - - S ~ V R ~ ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
--------------
----------------~
Europe
(and
also
in
classical Islamic civilizationtoalesserdegree). I
do
not
enter
intothemore impoverished historical
and
literarytextswritten
in
Greek,
during
thelongera of Ottoman rule.
In
summation
the written Greek texts
of
theancient
and
Byzantine eras
have
been
so
extensive as to
permit
a substantial analysis ofthequestion
in
·1
hand,
but
withone
veryserious limitation. Undoubtedly rich as
this
"t.cl.
(»"l"'-~
long
written
record,fromtheMycenaeanto
present
timesis,
it
enables
us
toascertain primarily the thought,emotional
and
cultural
world
of
a limited(innumber)literate
cl
ass whichwrote these texts
,1
forthe literateelement
in
society.
1his
must be
sup
plemented
by
the
"i~
0
~
1
f;P"v
C . C . .
~"\
written
productions
of
those
neighboringp
eoples
and
socie-
-:-1-'~
.
L-
l';J
li.Q.
tA.
ties/culture which
knew
the ancientGreeks
and/or
Byzantines
and
\ ' .
"'&-'~
~
"'
~
~
who
though theywere influencedbythem,
had
neverthele
ss
their
~o
,
vw
'"
-
1\~
t.(.~
~-
own
views ofthe Greekspeakers,their identity,
and
culture.
Not
as
~
rvc.v-
~cu.
Q>..
~'<.!~
much
reference has
been
made,grossomodo,to
this
secondliterary
(UI~~-uu
'fb.tpJ•~'
1 £ .
0
1..1/vJv~./
font forreconstructingthe
identity
ofthe Greek,especially for the
~
8):)~
"
-->1
.,.._,
E).
'/..
QJ./
Lt\.~f(lt't!:>
~
period
of
the Middle Ages.
Much
has
been written
and
said
about
<4<>
utc.o.l-"1"-
.
'C::f;l
~
~
~
g-.~"1wu._,....l.>
theview(s) which·
the
Romans
had
of
theGreeks,
and
a
certainamount
aboutthe Papal
and
Crusading views of the Greek-speakingOrthodox Christi,ans
in
theMiddle Ages. A gooddeal less
has
beenarticulated aboutArab,Ottoman,Persian,Slavic,Syriac,Armenian,
and
Jewish views
of
theculture
of
the medieval Greek-speakers.
In
either casehowever,
we
arestilltalking
about
the formalviews as expressed
by
the
language
and
values
of
theliteraterepresentatives of the
patrons
of
theformal culture of these societies.The
majonty
of sooety, however,consisted of rustics living
in
their., ..
~
E-.
0
._,;t..,~
villages,
where
education
and
literacy,
es~cially
in
Byzantine
and
;.
~~~
Ottomantimes, were minimal.TheeffOrtto
evaluate
theirself-identity
is
much
more difficult
and
has
todependonacarefulsifting
of
literary texts that
speak
tangentially
of
the
rural
populations
and
of
evidence (both
modern
and
medieval)
of
the
folklore
and
practices
of
therusticsas occasionally recorded
or
as
they
have
survivedinto
modern
times.The disciplines
of
anthropology
and
folklore
have
b
een
particularly
useful
in
this
matter
of
cultural
identity.
ll\A.Ow=•~;
The European Enlightenment,nationalism,national revolu tions themselves
mark
a
turning point
in
theevolution
and
intensification of self-identification
with
all their political,economic,
and
social consequences.These movementswhich
ha
ve
so
quickenedand
intensifiedlife
in
these three critical domains
would
little
by
littlelessen the
gapbetween
formal
and
popular culture
and
the
differences
in
self-identificationbetweenthe elite
and
rural
popu-
lations.
22

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