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7-08-2015, 20:07

Outsiders within

From the mid-eleventh century on, the foresaid preconditions began to change as the wealth and numbers of outsiders frequenting Constantinople rose, while some orthodox churchmen and, especially, monks took exception to the rites and ways of western Christians. First hints of what was to come include the outbreak around 1042 of violence between Constantinople’s citizens and Arab, Jewish and other non-Roman traders, followed by the emperor’s ban on their residence inside the City; and the popular support PatriarchMichael I Keroularios (1043–58) mustered in taking his stand against the papal legates in 1054. Whether or not Keroularios physically closed the Latin churches in Constantinople, it is likely that an increase in their numbers, itself a register of Latins’ commerce there, made their distinctive rites more of an issue than had previously been the case.94 Ample reserves of authority – material and moral – remained within a manipulative emperor’s grasp, and the Latin west’s multifarious facets could be kept in play yet apart fromone another, asManuel IKomnenos showed.95Nonetheless, western naval capability, martial adventurism and papal aspirations to Christian leadership coalesced in the events culminating in the capture of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204. This was, in part, a matter of long-privileged outsiders who could be deemed ‘insiders’ – the Venetians – vindicating their rights within the empire.96 Intensive intermingling of outsiders’ affairs with Byzantium’s, and emperors’ familiarity with western churchmen would still further characterise the empireMichael VIII Palaiologos restored to Constantinople in 1261. His pressing forward with the Union of Lyons is understandable in light of the threat that Charles of Anjou appeared to pose to his regime, but it earned him execration from orthodox monks and many churchmen.97 In the aftermath of 1204, Byzantine clerical writers were voluble in denouncing their western counterparts and warning orthodox lay folk of the impious conduct and unhallowed rituals of Latin Christians in general. Lists describing ‘the errors of the Latins’ had begun to circulate in the era of Michael Keroularios, and became fuller in the later twelfth century, and more numerous. But it was the thirteenth century that saw the lists lengthen and proliferate.98 This bespeaks a hardening of the line against outsiders. The church filled the vacuum once the emperor proved wanting in the role of upholder of religious orthodoxy. One may therefore view the orthodox church’s anti-Latin stance as a reaction to the experience of, in effect, being colonised by western Christians. This was, after all, the period whenMarino Sanudo expressed concern that populations under Latin rule were still, at heart, given up to ‘Greek matters’ and hostile to their new masters (see above, p. 8). Yet the very proliferation of the ‘lists of the errors of the Latins’ suggests that orthodox writers may then have been engaging in a competition for souls whose outcome was not utterly assured. The faithful might yet succumb to Latin ways out of ignorance or lack of clarity as to the points of difference, or they might be tempted deliberately to opt for a western affiliation, on material or intellectual grounds. The very stridency of the condemnations of the association or marriage of orthodox with Latins in the ‘lists’ suggests that day-to-day contacts between orthodox lay persons and Latins were not uncommon, at least in the towns.99 In other words, dividing lines may not have been so clear-cut or so uncrossable as one might at first sight suppose. One can reasonably treat the ‘lists’ as a sign of new uncertainties and opportunities available following the dissolution of the imperial envelope that had contained the orthodox for so long. Political boundaries were now fluid in the thirteenth century and the empire had anyway long ceased to be more or less coterminous with the faith-zone it had effectively been in the early middle ages. From this point of view the ‘lists’ represent the justified apprehensions of rigorist orthodox churchmen and their elaboration of culturo-religious identity, in default of the taxis provided by the imperially guided state.100 Yet the ‘lists’ also suggest how loose-knit the identity of the medieval Byzantines had actually been hitherto or rather how little was spelled out in writing or tabulated, and how much was a matter of liturgical rituals and ceremonies revolving round a few core values, beliefs and traditions. In other words, even the more or less unthinking ‘conformists’, faithful subjects of the emperor, were perhaps a more variegated bunch than they themselves were fully aware. Beneath the imperial umbrella and the outward and visible symbols of religious orthodoxy, a medley of assumptions, local customs and religious devotions could comfortably co-exist.

 

 

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