Journal Epohi
“ST. CYRIL AND ST. METHODIUS” UNIVERSITY OF VELIKO TARNOVO - UNIVERSITY PRESS

The Byzantine Attitude Towards the West in the Eleventh Century: Calm Before the Storm


Authors:
Dimitar Dimitrov St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Pages: 95-104

Abstract:

Due to its geographical position, the Byzantine Empire had to deal with enemies from everywhere. According to its imperial ideology, all world outside the Empire was considered as a barbarian periphery. Anyway, the world of Latin Christendom was considered to be an exception of a kind. There were also certain historical realities connected with both the past and the present, which were taken into consideration by the imperial policy. The intellectuals of the 11th century involved in writing or even acting in this world had to be aware of the realities as well. The foreign people living somewhere in the external world escaped the attention of Psellos and Kekaumenos, and were presented in too contradictory a manner in the History of Attaleiates. Worthy of notice is the fact that even the active theological disputes of the eleventh century, following the schism of 1054 (too overestimated in the past), did not provoke a great desire for opposition and confrontation in the most famous historical writings and moralizing tractati of the period. In the writings of the 1060s and 1070s there is relatively little interest in the West and Westerners as well as a lack of emotional zeal so typical for the next centuries. The reason lies in the still not so frequent contacts between Byzantines and Westerners as in the later period. Although there are some traces of hostility (especially in Attaleiates and John Oxeites), the conflict did not become widespread enough to provoke general reaction of such a range as that witnessed later. The sense of unity of Christendom was still alive. Although the gap in the relations with the West was discernible, it was yet far from being an abyss. There is also a contradiction between the (still) conservative and, to an extent, isolationist outlook of the Byzantine intellectuals of the 11th century and the quite realistic policy of the emperors towards both West and East. Byzantine external policy has to be considered more pragmatic than it had been usually thought to be.

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