Church and Society in Byzantium under the Comneni, 1081-1261

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This massive work of over pages is an ambitious overview of the inner history and development of the Greek-speaking Orthodox Church during a crucial century and a half in the Middle Ages: the period begins with the accession of the great emperor Alexius I Comnenus and closes with the recapture of Constantinople from the Latins in The title "Church and Society indicates the parameters of the study: the Church is constantly viewed in relation to the civil society in which it flourished. Thus relations with the Emperor, with the government and leading families, and with the bulk of the population are recurring themes.

Indeed the vital question that surfaces throughout the book is that of the Emperor's role in the Church, and students of the Anglican establishment will find much to ponder in this sustained attempt by the Byzantine Emperors to "harness the authority of the Church" by adopting the role of epistemonarkhes "overseeing [supreme?

The missionaries of Manuel I - Persée

Of particular interest are the studies of the writings of several key bishops, the survey of monasticism during this period, an original attempt to assess the influence of canon law on marriage and the role of women, and investigations of the manifestations of popular piety with their pagan overtones and of heretical movements, in particular of Bogomilism.

The methodology is synthetic, solidly based on the primary sources, often effectively summarized, and supported by a thorough and conscientious weighing-up of secondary sources. An unknown error has occurred. Manuel died in , and was succeeded by a regency headed by Maria of Antioch. She relied on the Italian merchants and French aristocrats settled in Constantinople.


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She was overthrown in by Andronicus, and the capital was rocked by riots in which Greeks massacred Latin elites and merchants. Andronicus' reign was a disaster. In the Normans invaded western Greece, taking Thessalonica. Andronicus then executed his generals, after which the urban mob rose, murdering him.

At the same time, Serb tribes rose in the Balkans. Upon Andronicus' death, the Bulgars rose yet again, reestablishing their old kingdom. In order to fight them Isaac Angelos relied on imperial warlords, who encroached on the Emperor's power and on state finances even more. Hoping he would shore up support for his position, he offered to support German Henry VI's impending Crusade with financial and military contributions. His inability to do so combined with Western designs on Byzantium and internal court intrigue to unseat him and pave the way for the Latin sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade from Byzantine rulers were then ejected from their own capital.

Βιβλιογραφία

Baldwin of Flanders became 'Latin Emperor' of Caonstantinople, and was hated by the populace, as a Barbarian usurper. Only in , when Latin defenses were quite diminished and few in the West were concerned with the 'Latin empire', was Michael VII Palaeologus able to reenter the Byzantine capital, after forces under him had captured the city, massacred some Latins, and burned the Venetian quarter to the ground, forcing them to return to Italy.

What stands out most here is the complete disintegration of Byzantine state and society. Good reasons are yet to be provided. Part of it, however, involves the unwillingness of Byzantine elites to unite in support of single emperors, as well as their reluctance to give up any of their prerogatives as holders of lands that oppressed peasants and denied to the state the demographic background of successful Theme armies.

Of course, by the s, this may have been besides he point. The magnitude and speed of Turkic infiltration into Asia Minor by the s--as far west as the Western Anatolian coastal mountains, in spite of Crusades--may have meant that the human and material basis for Byzantine survival was ebbing away.

Increasingly, Byzantine aristocrats were reduced to bargaining for power and alliances with Turkic tribal leaders of the Seljuk state. Indeed, in typically prudent Byzantine fashion, Manuel was able to secure peaceful relations with the Seljuks through treaties in the s and s. Beyond this, though, the process of "De-Hellenization" and "Islamization" of Asia Minor was proceeding, visible in the decomposition of bishoprics, the decay of monastic life's material and human foundations.

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As well, the gradual entry into the region of the institutions of Islam, its clerics and preachers meant that eventually, conversion to Islam was making the region part of the Muslim homeland. Byzantium in quite a short time was becoming less Greek, more Muslim, and more riven by the tensions of a large foreign mercenary army and increasing Latin encroachment. That is the last point of significance in this era. Greek Byzantines had always felt culturally, politically, and even religiously superior to the West, whose kings and even clerics were the descendents of the barbarian tribes who wrecked the Roman society that Byzantium was preserving.

For their part the Latins envied the material and intellectual wealth of the East, yet never trusted Byzantium. She relied on the Italian merchants and French aristocrats settled in Constantinople. She was overthrown in by Andronicus, and the capital was rocked by riots in which Greeks massacred Latin elites and merchants. Andronicus' reign was a disaster. In the Normans invaded western Greece, taking Thessalonica. Andronicus then executed his generals, after which the urban mob rose, murdering him.


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  7. At the same time, Serb tribes rose in the Balkans. Upon Andronicus' death, the Bulgars rose yet again, reestablishing their old kingdom.

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    In order to fight them Isaac Angelos relied on imperial warlords, who encroached on the Emperor's power and on state finances even more. Hoping he would shore up support for his position, he offered to support German Henry VI's impending Crusade with financial and military contributions. His inability to do so combined with Western designs on Byzantium and internal court intrigue to unseat him and pave the way for the Latin sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade from Byzantine rulers were then ejected from their own capital.

    Baldwin of Flanders became 'Latin Emperor' of Caonstantinople, and was hated by the populace, as a Barbarian usurper. Only in , when Latin defenses were quite diminished and few in the West were concerned with the 'Latin empire', was Michael VII Palaeologus able to reenter the Byzantine capital, after forces under him had captured the city, massacred some Latins, and burned the Venetian quarter to the ground, forcing them to return to Italy.

    What stands out most here is the complete disintegration of Byzantine state and society. Good reasons are yet to be provided. Part of it, however, involves the unwillingness of Byzantine elites to unite in support of single emperors, as well as their reluctance to give up any of their prerogatives as holders of lands that oppressed peasants and denied to the state the demographic background of successful Theme armies.

    Sacred Byzantine Chants

    Of course, by the s, this may have been besides he point. The magnitude and speed of Turkic infiltration into Asia Minor by the s--as far west as the Western Anatolian coastal mountains, in spite of Crusades--may have meant that the human and material basis for Byzantine survival was ebbing away.

    Increasingly, Byzantine aristocrats were reduced to bargaining for power and alliances with Turkic tribal leaders of the Seljuk state. Indeed, in typically prudent Byzantine fashion, Manuel was able to secure peaceful relations with the Seljuks through treaties in the s and s.

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    Church and Society in Byzantium under the Comneni, 1081-1261

    Beyond this, though, the process of "De-Hellenization" and "Islamization" of Asia Minor was proceeding, visible in the decomposition of bishoprics, the decay of monastic life's material and human foundations. As well, the gradual entry into the region of the institutions of Islam, its clerics and preachers meant that eventually, conversion to Islam was making the region part of the Muslim homeland. Byzantium in quite a short time was becoming less Greek, more Muslim, and more riven by the tensions of a large foreign mercenary army and increasing Latin encroachment. That is the last point of significance in this era.

    Greek Byzantines had always felt culturally, politically, and even religiously superior to the West, whose kings and even clerics were the descendents of the barbarian tribes who wrecked the Roman society that Byzantium was preserving. For their part the Latins envied the material and intellectual wealth of the East, yet never trusted Byzantium.

    The political culture was much more subtle, and Imperial willingness to engage in negotiations with the Muslims, or to ally with them if it served an Emperor's interests, almost smacked of infidelity to the Cross.