Author: Dimitri Obolensky
Among the events that have shaped the history of Europe a notable one is the influence exerted by Byzantium on the cultural life of Eastern Europe. At different times in their history the peoples who lived in that region--Bulgarians, Albanians, Serbs, Romanians, Ukrainians, and Russians--experienced the lasting impact of Byzantine culture. Through the relations established by these people with Byzantium during the Middle Ages, their ruling and educated classes were led to adopt many features of Byzantine civilization--notably its religion and law, its literature and art--with the result that they were able to share in, and eventually to contribute to, a common cultural tradition. This Byzantine heritage, whose principal beneficiaries were the Greeks and the Slavs, and some of which has survived to the present day, was a significant enough component of their medieval tradition to justify the view that, in some respects, they formed a single international community. This community has been termed the Byzantine Commonwealth.
The essays which comprise this book aim to identify and discuss some salient features of this community. One of its more prominent member-states is known today as Russia. On two occasions, once in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and again in the fourteenth and fifteenth, Byzantium exerted a formative influence on the society and culture of Rus'. Unless this influence is properly appreciated and understood, much in Russia's history will remain unintelligible.
These twelve studies may be divided thematically into three groups. The first comprised of "The Principles and Methods of Byzantine Diplomacy," "The Empire and Its Northern Neighbors 565-1018," and "Byzantine Frontier Zones," is concerned with the general aspects of Slavo-Byzantine relations. The chapters in the second group, among which are "The Bogomils," and "The Cult of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki in the History of Byzantine-Slav Relations," deal with the specific features of the acculturation process and with the reciprocal nature of these relations. The third, which includes among others "Russia's Byzantine Heritage" and "Modern Russian Attitudes to Byzantium," is concerned with the contacts between Byzantium and medieval Rus'.
Posted by Unknown on 31st Dec 2017
My initial impression of the first couple of chapters was not that great. I was even wondering if I wanted to finish it. The first chapter is about Byzantine diplomacy and the next is about the very early history and their northern neighbors. Early history, I realize, is fairly scant as far as good documentation is concerned and that is probably one reason I found it to be mostly speculative in my estimate. However, by the time I got to the third chapter my interest picked up in a hurry. Also, I probably need to point out that these are not really chapters but different essay type writings that the author has done over the years, from my understanding, and has been put into a book format.
The rest of the book I found fascinating and was astonished at what all it made me realize about history as we are usually taught. As you probably well know, Eastern European history is usually pushed into the background and seen as insignificant as compared to Western history. That is the main reason I put the city in quotation marks in the headline. I think it should be either Constantinople or Rome. It may very well be that Byzantium and the Byzantine empire is already looking at that part of history from a Western standpoint, so you would already be taking off on the wrong foot. History was pretty well written by westerners, so if you can't trust those Latins in religion, should you trust them in history? I found the book immensely interesting, except for the first two essays, and it raised many more questions that are unanswered and made me want to delve deeper into those areas where I think the Eastern Church is taking too much for granted in the arena of accepted history just because the Westerners say it is so. The only other negative for me in the book is there is a fair amount of Greek and foreign phrases that are not given English translations. I realize that he is a scholar but I don't know Greek nor any Slavic either.
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