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8-08-2015, 00:25

‘Greek matters’

We have already noted the limited rapprochement between Frankish and Greek social elites. The pursuit of manufacture, trade and shipping by both Latins and Greeks, sometimes jointly, prompted a degree of economic cooperation and social intercourse between them on a daily, practical level in urban centres. These contacts did not, however, affect the deep-seated attitude of the bulk of the Greek population of Latin Romania toward the Latins, largely shaped by religious affiliation and ecclesiastical developments. Few Greeks joined the Roman church in the thirteenth century, most remaining within their own religious community. The Latin conquerors of Constantinople first humiliated the Greeks by desecrating their sanctuaries and seizing their relics, many of which were transferred to the west. The Greek church of Latin Romania was soon subjected to papal authority, and its structure was reorganised on the lines of the settlement in southern Italy and Sicily; this provided for the maintenance of the Greek church wherever Greeks constituted the majority of the population. In fact, however, this church gradually lost its bishops and many of its monastic institutions to the advantage of the Latin church. In addition, the conquerors confiscated large portions of its extensive landed property. The growing activity of the Franciscans and the Dominicans from the 1220s put further pressure on the Greek church of Latin Romania. Nevertheless, this church displayed considerable vitality, illustrated by its continuous presence and activity among the Greeks, especially in rural areas where the Latin church remained largely absent. Already in the first years after the conquest the Greek clergy turned to the patriarchal see of Nicaea and the clergy of Epiros for support and inspiration. To the Greeks of Latin Romania the clergy conveyed at popular level the staunch theological opposition of the Byzantine church to the papacy, fuelling their opposition to Latin lay rule and Roman ecclesiastical supremacy. As a result, it became the focus and promoter of Greek ethnic awareness and collective identity. Its role in this respect was particularly important in areas such as the principality of Achaia, where the archontes refused to oppose the Franks. As noted above, Greek animosity toward the conquerors and their successors contributed to the collapse of the Latin empire, yet elsewhere it had limited practical effect.18 The abiding sense of alienation felt by theGreeks and their affinity for Byzantium were described by the Venetian Marino Sanudo about 1330, more than a century after the Latin conquest: ‘Although these places are subjected to the rule of the Franks and obedient to the Roman church, nevertheless almost all the population is Greek and is inclined toward this sect [i.e. the eastern orthodox church], and their hearts are turned toward Greek matters, and when they can show this freely, they do so’.19