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7-08-2015, 21:22

Cultural interaction between byzantium and the west

Diplomatic interaction had cultural ramifications. The several dozen embassies which travelled between Constantinople and western courts constituted privileged intermediaries, and much cultural exchange bears their stamp. Men of great influence led them: for instance Charlemagne’s ambassador Count Hugh became father-in-law of Lothar I. Some, like Amalarius of Metz or Anastasius Bibliothecarius, were distinguished intellectuals. Amalarius, for example, used his experience of the Greek liturgy in his own commentaries and wrote a poem about his trip to Constantinople. 120 The numbers involved are surprising: at least fifty-five diplomats travelled between the Frankish court and Constantinople between 756 and 840. What is more, the structure and size of the parties they led means that the heads of embassies – whose names alone the sources usually supply – were only the tip of the iceberg; thus these ambassadors were probably accompanied by a very large number of attendants of varying status.121 Byzantine gifts were carefully chosen for their impact, as the ceremonial organ presented to Pippin suggests. The manuscript of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite offered to Louis the Pious’ court in 827 was tailored to the pretensions of Louis’ adviser, Hilduin, abbot of St Denis, who identified the Areopagite with his abbey’s patron saint. Diplomatic contacts required translators; we have already noted how the Roman church supplied Pippin the Short with Byzantine experts. One product of such contacts survives in the Latin translation of Michael II and Theophilos’ letter to Louis the Pious.122 In the eighth century, Byzantine relics from the Black Sea area reached the royal convent of Chelles, and it is likely that the shortlived betrothal to Constantine V’s son of Gisela, its abbess, clarifies their unexpected presence there.123 The embassies help explain why transalpine interest in Byzantine culture clustered around the Frankish courts. Because of its diplomatic implications, the Frankish court mediatedwestern discussion about religious images. Launched by the debate on iconoclasm between representatives of Constantine V and the Roman church at Gentilly, the discussion echoed across the sea through the court-produced Opus Caroli regis and the councils of Frankfurt (794) and Paris (825). Frankish theologians joined the Photian fray when, at Pope Nicholas I’s request, Hincmar of Rheims raised the matter before Charles the Bald’s court over Christmas 867. The result was that at Paris and Corbie, Bishop Aeneas and the monk Ratramnus refuted Byzantine objections against the filioque, papal primacy and various disciplinary issues. The East Frankish bishops offered their own response in a council held at Worms in 868.124 So too the Byzantine practice of inviting foreign ambassadors to witness important state rituals explains western court familiarity with some Byzantine ceremonies: Count Hugh and Bishop Haito’s embassy of 811 accounts for Charlemagne’s crowning of his son Louis the Pious in 813 in a manner resembling Emperor Michael I’s crowning of his own son, Theophylact, in 811. Notker the Stammerer claims that a Byzantine delegation’s sweet chanting prompted Charlemagne to obtain an isosyllabic translation, the antiphon O veterem hominem, so that it could be sung in his chapel, and independent Byzantine evidence appears to bear him out.125 Hilduin of St Denis’ and John the Scot’s translations of Pseudo-Dionysius both show court connections and used the manuscript conveyed in 827. Conversely, the eastern missions to the court of Louis the Pious resulted in Byzantine translations of Latin hagiography. Hilduin’s fantastic Passion of St Denis was rendered into Greek soon thereafter, while the Latin Passion of St Anastasia was translated during the Roman leg of the embassy of 824.126 Outside the royal courts, sustained Byzantine cultural contacts north of the Alps were rarer. Two exceptions were Reichenau and, especially, St Gall: religious houses which, not coincidentally, lay where a great complex of Alpine passes met the Rhine, Francia’s main north–south axis.127 Even left to their own devices, Carolingian scholars needed to understand the Greek expressions which littered St Jerome’s letters or Priscian: hence the collection of lists of Greek terms organised by the Latin authors where they occur.128 The drive to comprehend the Bible deepened interest in Greek. Bilingual psalters like those connected with Sedulius Scottus’ circle did double duty. The prophetic character that Christian exegesis recognised in the Septuagint gave its Greek text great prestige, while the fact that the psalms were often known by heart allowed them to serve as a crude dictionary in which Greek equivalents for Latin phrases might be hunted down. Although not every Carolingian crumb of Greek need reflect a personal contact with Byzantines, such encounters may have played a larger role than usually suspected. So Thegan claims that Charlemagne consulted Greeks and Syrians about the text of the Gospels.129 Northern scribes who delighted in spelling their names with Greek letters may strike us as superficial pedants, but they were perhaps inspired by Italians from Byzantine borderlands who had been using Greek letters for Latin subscriptions since the days of Justinian.130 The lists of Greek numbers frequently found in Carolingian manuscripts give the modern rather than the classical names, and so derive from early medieval Greek speakers.131 Linguistic contacts left tangible traces in Lupus of Ferri`eres’ comment on the accent of aGreek loan word or in bilingual phrase collections for travellers. The St Gall–Angers list has useful Greek expressions like ‘do me a favour’; one atMonza in early Italian and Greek may have been connected with an early tenth-century travelling doctor.132 Outside Europe, the Greek-speaking church of Jerusalem offered a privileged place for cross-cultural encounter. Royal involvement with Christians there is documented by an extraordinary Frankish administrative roll indicating revenues, personnel and languages of prayer of the church of Palestine. Alcuin sought a prayer association with the Greek patriarch of Jerusalem and, by Charlemagne’s last years, seventeen nuns and many monks from the Frankish empire had established communities in the Holy City, one of which survived for at least another half-century, when its members were still displaying the splendid bible, presumably from Charlemagne’s court school, sent to them by the emperor. They formed a natural focus for contacts among western pilgrims, Italian merchants and theGreek clergy, which explains why the filioque controversy over the wording of the creed arose there, when Greek monks heard Latins chanting the offending passage.133 But like political ones, cultural contacts between Byzantium and the west pivoted on Italy. As far back as the Lombard court’s Greek jester, the Po basin had channelled western encounters with Byzantine civilisation. Declining shipping to the Rhˆone corridor and the rise of Venice only reinforced the Po’s prominence. Although Ravenna’s gateway role in our period has perhaps been overrated, Agnellus’ historical memory and Charlemagne’s export of Ravennate artwork testify to its enduring Byzantine after-life. If it is genuine, Charles the Bald’s mention of the Greek liturgy to the clergy of Ravenna need not reflect its performance there. Already in 826, a Venetian came to Louis the Pious’ court, promising to construct a Byzantine organ. Across the Adriatic, Carolingian missi grappled with the intricacies of Byzantine provincial administration during an inquest into the Frankish absorption of Istria.134 Some slight evidence for translations in the Po basin anticipates theMonza glossary, and Anastasius Bibliothecarius found a Greek manuscript of the Translation of St Stephen in Mantua.135 The controversial Gottschalk of Orbais drew on his experience in Byzantine Dalmatia and Venice when delineating the semantic fields of key words in his defence of predestination.136 Rome was a propitious place for translations. Pope Hadrian I ordered a Latin translation of the Greek Acts of the second council of Nicaea brought back by his legates.137 The Roman translator Anastasius Bibliothecarius was Carolingian Europe’s pre-eminent Byzantine specialist. He translated the usual fare of hagiography and councils, but Anastasius’ interest in ‘modern’ Byzantine literature is even more noteworthy, since he rendered into Latin the most outstanding chronicle of the period, a sermon by Theodore the Stoudite and a work by his own contemporary and acquaintance Constantine-Cyril.138 A fellow papal emissary, Bishop John of Arezzo – precisely one of the legates who presided over Charles the Bald’s experiment in Byzantine ceremonial at Ponthion in July 876 – may have translated a Byzantine text on the Assumption.139 Rome is virtually unique in so far as it was also a centre for translation from Latin into Greek. Thus Pope Zacharias’ rendering of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues was perhaps intended for circulation at home as well as abroad: a manuscript probably copied at Rome survives from c. 800 (see fig. 29); the Greek translation of the Passion of St Anastasia mentioned above used a Latin manuscript at the saint’s Roman shrine.140 Latin speakers rubbed shoulders with hellenophones in the south. Late ninth-century Taranto, for instance, had Latin bishops but counted many Greeks among its elite.141 The renewal of Byzantine power and culture helps explain the sudden bloom of Latin translations along the Campanian frontier. The church of Naples fostered rather superior translations. For instance, the Neapolitan deacon Paul sought to capitalise on Charles the Bald’s enthusiasm for things Greek by dedicating to the Frankish ruler his translations of the Life of StMary the Egyptian and the Faustian forerunner, the Penance of Theophilus. Both works enjoyed enormous success north of the Alps and fuelled the veneration ofMary as an intercessor for sinners.142 John, deacon of Naples, who wrote a continuation of his diocesan history around 900 and enjoyed the patronage of the bishop and the abbot of St Severinus, also collaborated with a Greek speaker to produce Latin adaptations of hagiographical classics like Cyril of Scythopolis’ sixth-century Life of Euthymios as well as Patriarch Methodios’ Life of Nicholas.143 Not a few instances of apparent western appropriation of Byzantine iconography and style have been challenged. Even when derivation from ‘Byzantine’ style or iconography is uncontested, it is often unclear whether we have a direct appropriation from a contemporary Byzantine exemplar, or a residual rather than recent borrowing from Byzantium. The art-historical problem is only complicated by the scarcity of securely dated and localised surviving eastern items for comparison.144 Some Byzantine models were nonetheless certainly available for imitation in the west: c. 850 a party of Irish pilgrims to Italy jotted down a description of a Greek gospel cycle and left the codex at St Gall. Even its sophisticated Islamic neighbours appreciated ninth-century Byzantium’s outstanding metalwork and locks. Diplomacy documents the dispatch of Byzantine luxury products like the bejewelled gospel book and chalice conveyed to Pope Benedict III (855–8). Nor were such gifts destined only for papal and royal treasure hoards; Constantinople had a shrewd grasp of the power structure at a western court and, as the lists of presents intended for Hugh of Arles, king of Italy (926–47), and his court in 935 reveals, imperial diplomacy distributed its gifts accordingly, placing Byzantine prestige items in the hands of key royal associates who were no less active than the kings as patrons of art. A prominent early ninth-century traveller and diplomat proudly bequeathed to the churches of Grado expensive reliquaries purchased in Constantinople. Nor was the traffic exclusively one way: we have already noted Basil I’s bells from Venice, while the technique of making cloisonn´e enamel may have travelled from the west to Byzantium around the same time, and a high Byzantine official acquired religious art at Rome late in the eighth century.145 Conversely, an important technology transfer in the opposite direction occurred at Rome a few decades earlier, when local kilns started making glazed ceramic of a type that archaeologists believe was inspired by similar Byzantine wares.146 Linguistic evidence yields some tentative insights into technology transfers and material culture, since words could be borrowed with the thing they designated. Of course the problem of residual borrowings is compounded by the potential lag between the borrowing and a word’s earliest attestation in the rare written records. Still, Byzantium’s apparent linguistic impact in this period does not contradict the picture derived from the other evidence.Most securely identified Byzantine loan words relate to expensive items associated with the lay or clerical elite; virtually all of them seem to enter usage through Italy, whether via the Po basin or Rome. Byzantium’s impact on religious life and art is suggested by the Italian Latin loan words olibanum for incense (< [t]o libanon) and icona (Gr. eik ¯on; acc. eikona). At Rome, Byzantium appears as the west’s intermediary with the Islamic world with magarita and magarizare (‘apostate’, ‘to convert to Islam’) from Arabic muhadzhir (‘Muslim Arab settler in newly conquered territory’) via Greek m¯ oagarit¯es or magarit¯es. On the other hand, cendatum, a word from the good life (‘fine silk cloth’, ‘brocade’), probably derives from Persian sundus via Byzantine Greek sendes and shows up almost simultaneously in milieux connected with the Carolingian court and northern Italy.Military contacts such as we have seen in southern Italy can be traced in words for ‘catapult’ which seem to have been borrowed at this time, and the Byzantine term chelandion, perhaps derived from the Greek word for ‘eel’, designated Constantinople’s sleek warships in Latin. Technology is probably represented by the ancestors of the modern English words ‘bronze’ and ‘varnish’.147 Transfers in the other direction seem rarer, but so are the sources. One very likely candidate for our period is kort¯es (Latin cortis) apparently in the sense of ‘royal tent’