Roman identity in ‘Byzantium’

After centuries of denials and evasions, the debate over the nature of Roman identity in Byzantium is finally picking up. The Byzantines’ view of their own Roman identity was a national one, making Byzantium effectively a nation-state. Being a Roman was premised on common cultural traits including language, religion, and social values and customs, on belonging to the ἔθνος or γένος on that basis, and on being a “shareholder” in the polity of the Romans.

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The nation-state proposal breaks from the tradition of viewing Byzantium as a multi-ethnic empire with a “universalist” theocratic ideology, while the elite reading disrupts the assumption of many historians that all or most Byzantines at least called themselves Romans, that it was part of their identity. Most Byzantines were either far more Roman than anyone had thought, or not Roman at all, with the second option leaving their ethnic identity indeterminate.

The evidence is consistent and clear: the Romans of Byzantium were a large ethnic group, the largest by far in the empire, making up the vast majority of its population. Elite, non-elite, and foreign sources agree on this.

The Byzantines used the identity label Roman in an ethnic way, as pointing to an ethnic group, a group moreover that included the vast majority of the population of Byzantium.

For the Byzantines, the term Roman had a valence that covered most of the constituent elements of what modern scholars call an ethnicity. The Byzantines themselves often called it an ἔθνος. Though they certainly did not use that word with semantic consistency as a technical term, we will find many cases of significant convergence and overlap between their terminology and the modern definition of ethnicity.

Class exclusions are usually not a criterion for an ethnic identity. The latter is assumed to be held by a population or people as a whole, including all its classes, professions, and age-groups, and both genders. Thus, its ethnonym must be seen to be applied consistently across all those divisions. That is why it is important to study carefully whom our sources mean when they refer to the Romans: only the elite, or the majority of the provincial population too? As we will see, they refer collectively to the Greek-speaking and Orthodox population of free citizens (not slaves) of the empire.

Elite sources call this entire population Roman and also that it is overwhelmingly likely that the latter too called itself Roman. This is what Byzantinists have meant all along when they say that the Byzantines called themselves Romans.

Thus Roman was the ethnonym of a large population but one that was defined by specific markers that excluded various “others” who were regarded as belonging to foreign or ethnically different groups. All this makes Roman an ethnic identity in Byzantium. Obviously the concept of ethnicity can always be explored in greater depth and analyzed to pieces, but we do not need to do so here because the rival hypothesis that has been set forth is so antithetical to it that the two need to be seen from a distance in order to be compared properly. To argue that Roman was a label used only by (and possibly only for) the social elite would require an equally rigorous definition of the term “elite” in its Byzantine context and how it relates specifically to Roman identity. As Byzantium had no legally defined or hereditary aristocracy, and as its political, military, economic, ecclesiastical, monastic, and literary elites did not always overlap, scholars have found it difficult to provide a unified definition of its elite.

In Byzantium the literary elite did not overlap with the ruling elite, seeing as the former were often the latter’s clients or secretaries.

Many members of the capital elite came from the provinces. Every Byzantine regime drew upon provincial talent, including its authors. The capital also required a steady influx of provincials to maintain its population, given the death-rates of medieval
cities. A surviving Byzantine definition of a native Constantinopolitan hints at this background:

indigenous inhabitants are [people who are] not migrants or colonists from another land, or who, if they come from another land, have lived in this land long enough to be old-timers and in this respect resemble the indigenous inhabitants, like those who resemble the indigenous inhabitants of Constantinople.” (Stephanos (Skylitzes?), Commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric 1360b31, ed. G. Rabe)

The capital cannot, therefore, be surgically detached from the provinces. Moreover, there is no evidence that provincial society was divided between upper-class Romans and lower-class non-Romans.

Let us start with sources that are undoubtedly elite (I will here draw primarily on evidence of the early period, but also from the sixth century, to establish continuity with the middle period). It turns out that the majority of the provincial population are clearly classified as Romans even in elite sources.

It makes a huge difference whether the elites believed Roman was an elite identity, restricted to themselves, or a national one that crossed social class and extended across a large territory. As proponents of the elite reading of Roman identity do not make this crucial distinction, it is important to understand what kind of community elite authors meant when they referred to the Romans.

Prokopios (sixth century) says that “the Gepids held the city of Sirmium and almost all the cities of Dacia… and enslaved the Romans of that region”. He means the general population and not just elites. Likewise, the Slavs raided Thrace “and enslaved many of the Romans there”, one of whom, apparently an average person, he calls “a Roman man” in the singular. He gives a number for the Roman victims of barbarian raids in the Balkans under Justinian: “more than twenty times ten thousand of the Romans who lived there [in the Balkans] were either killed or enslaved.”

Theophylaktos Simokattes (seventh century) claims that Slavic raiders carried away “a great haul of captive Romans” from the provincial towns of the Balkans.

The historian (and later patriarch) Nikephoros (eighth century) notes that provincial “Romans” in Asia Minor were captured by invading Persians.

Elite authors consistently viewed these provincials as Romans and not as ethnically diverse subjects of the empire. The tenth-century diplomat Theodoros Daphnopates used the Roman identity of common prisoners in his argument against the Bulgarian tsar Simeon’s right to bear the title “emperor of the Bulgarians and the Romans”. “Of which Romans exactly are you the emperor?” Daphnopates asked, “of those whom you have captured [in your raids], or those who have been enslaved by faithless nations and sold [to you]? Because you know well what the rest [of the Romans] think and say about you“. In other words, Daphnopates’ notion of the Roman community included provincials downtrodden by foreign raids and even those sold into slavery by infidels, and he viewed them as potentially constitutive of an emperor’s right to bear the title “of the Romans.”

The Bulgarian tsar Kaloyan (d. 1207) styled himself the Roman-Slayer (Ῥωμαιοκτόνος) in imitation of the Byzantine emperor Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer. The thirteenth-century historian who tells us this, Georgios Akropolites, says that the tsar took on this moniker specifically after destroying many cities in Thrace and capturing or killing their Roman inhabitants. The provincials are always and casually assumed to be Romans.

These (elite) historians called provincials Romans in other contexts too, not only military. In a geographical digression on Lazike (Kolchis), Prokopios reaches the border between that non-Roman land and the empire and says that “Romans live in the adjacent land, whom people also qualify (ἐπικαλοῦνται) as Pontians”. In other words, their Roman identity was primary and their provincial one (as inhabitants of the province of Pontos) was a qualification upon it: they were the Romans of Pontos. In the Secret History, Prokopios refers often to the Roman victims of Justinian, frequently giving the impression that they were more than just a few elites. “No Roman man” managed to escape from that emperor, whose evil “fell upon the entire race (ὅλῳ τῷ γένει)”. Prokopios casually describes the Roman people as a γένος, whose primary meaning is family, species, race, or people. Elsewhere in the work, Prokopios refers to Romans “who lived in distant lands”, including “in the countryside”.

Prokopios’ successor Agathias refers to the (distant) Pelasgian ethnic origin of the people of the city of Tralleis in western Asia Minor, “yet”, he adds, “the townspeople (ἀστοὶ) should not now be called Pelasgians but rather Romans“. He means their entire population, not only the elite, and he treats Roman as a categorical equivalent to Pelasgian, an ethnic label.

Numerous (elite) texts from the middle period casually assume that large numbers of imperial subjects, in fact likely the majority of the population, were Romans.

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In the 830s the emperor Theophilos admitted up to 30,000 Khurramite (Iranian) warriors into the empire who were fleeing from the Abbasid armies. To integrate them into imperial society, the emperor enrolled them in the Roman army and also “arranged for them to marry Roman women” in the provinces where they were settled. The court historians who report this (Genesios and Theophanes Continuatus) must have assumed that there were thousands of Roman women of marriageable age in the provinces. Regardless of whether this order was carried out, this is indicative of who they thought was a Roman in their world. In fact, we know one of these women: saint Athanasia, from the island of Aigina, by no means a Constantinopolitan lady. The same sources also explicit label as Romans men from non-elite professions, such as icon-painting monks.

Consider also a decree of Nikephoros III Botaneiates (1078-1081) reported by the contemporary historian Michael Attaleiates. That emperor released from certain debts to the imperial fisc “all Romans, wherever on earth they lived, thereby making them into free Roman citizens”. The ideology behind the passage is that debt is a form of slavery, with the further crucial implication that the Roman community was geographically expansive and included people who were insolvent: they were on the verge of slavery, but the emperor made them “free Romans” again. Elsewhere Attaleiates notes that the elephant paraded in the capital by Konstantinos IX Monomachos (1042-1055) delighted “the Byzantioi [Constantinopolitans] and the other Romans who happened to see it”, the latter obviously being Romans who were not from the capital. For him, therefore, the Roman community extended outside the capital and included poor people. The historian Ioannes Kinnamos (twelfth century) also recorded how the emperor Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180) prevented Romans from taking out loans with their freedom as collateral, for Manuel “wanted to rule over free Romans, not slaves (ἐλευθέρων γὰρ ἄρχειν Ῥωμαίων, οὐμενοῦν ἀνδραπόδων αὐτὸς ἤθελεν)”. These were clearly not elite Romans, at least not for the most part. In the course of his narrative, Kinnamos also casually reports on the provincial origin of the theologian Demetrios: “he was Roman by genos, from the town of Lampe [in Asia Minor]”. We note again the idea that one was a Roman by genos.

These (elite) authors took it for granted that the Roman community of Byzantium extended across the empire, from the capital to the frontier provinces, and it included people from many or all social classes. Their use of the ethnonym Roman implies that their readers –other members of the elite– naturally assumed that there were, potentially, millions of Romans out there. We must, therefore, conclude that, according to the Byzantine elite, the Roman community of Byzantium was not limited to that elite. Whether rightly or wrongly, they believed that they were talking about a whole people, an ethnic group, or a nation. but not to all subjects of the empire: ethnic criteria had to be met.

The evidence shows that Roman identity was emphatically not limited in scope to an elite. The notion of an elite cannot be defined in a way that would distinguish it, in terms of identity, from the general population. Let us consider the authors we have cited so far: most were historians, some held offices in the Roman state, and all were active in Constantinople at some point, but interestingly not all of them were from Constantinople. They came from a provincial cities, including Caesarea, Alexandria, Attaleia, and Chonai. This was typical of the Byzantine elite throughout the centuries: from the imperial position on down, the ranks of the army, Church, court, and bureaucracy were staffed by men who were recruited on an ongoing basis from the provinces. This elite of provincial origin evinces no awareness, in its surviving texts, that they were less Roman than their counterparts in the capital. Consider the eleventh-century general Eustathios Daphnomeles, who denied that he blinded a Bulgarian noble out of a hatred which stems from the fact that “he is Bulgarian and I Roman: for I am not a Roman from among those who inhabit Thrace and Macedonia, but one from Asia Minor”. Daphnomeles, in other words, imagined the Romans as distributed throughout, or even filling up, the core territories of the empire. They were, moreover, to be distinguished from Bulgarians, who were foreigners. The only distinction that he makes among Romans is that those of Thrace-Macedonia would be more likely to hate Bulgarians than those of Asia Minor.

The difficulty in defining the Byzantine elite is exacerbated when we bring more sources into the discussion. Prokopios, an allegedly “classicizing” author, is one thing, but we find the same expressions in his contemporary Cyril (Kyrillos) of Skythopolis, a monk at St. Saba near Jerusalem and the author of saints’ lives. In his Life of Ioannes the Hesychast he says that a Saracen raid against the provinces of Arabia and Palestine seized “as captives many tens of thousands of Romans”, meaning average provincials. A fascinating story about precisely such captives is told in the second collection of The Miracles of St Demetrios of Thessalonike, written by an anonymous priest in the seventh century. The Avar khan took a multitude of captives off to his own realm, where they had children with barbarian women and taught those children “the impulses of the genos according to the customs of the Romans”, so that when the children grew up they wanted to return to their homeland. This ecclesiastical writer calls them “a Roman people” in exile, ready to return like the Jews whom Moses led to the promised land. This story makes sense only if we treat Roman as an ethnic identity, not a class identity.

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It was not only a Constantinopolitan elite (of provincial extraction) who were “projecting” a Roman identity onto the population of the empire. This was also being done by monks in Palestine and priests in Thessalonike who were not engaged in “homogenizing discourse” about Roman identity but just writing edifying stories about saints.

In elite narratives, the army is consistently called “the army of the Romans”, and its soldiers are individually called Romans when necessary (E.g., Theophylaktos Simokattes, History 2.6.1, 7.2.8.).

More strikingly, the soldiers are addressed collectively as Romans! by their officers in battle-speeches, and some of those speeches invoke the glory of the old Roman empire, the early wars of expansion, and even the heroes of the Republic. This happens in speeches reported from all periods, and the Roman references in them are thick. There can be no doubt that Byzantine soldiers responded to the Roman name and to patriotic appeals to defend the Roman land and the Roman people, pointing to a community broader than just themselves.

We have a number of addresses to the soldiers that were not invented by historians but were meant to be delivered to the army as written, two by Konstantinos VII Porphyrogennetos (945-959) and one by the patriarch-in-exile at Nikaia, Michael IV Autoreianos (1206-1212). Konstantinos VII’s speech of 958 calls the soldiers “champions of the Roman genos and advance-fighters of the Romans”. Autoreianos also addresses all the soldiers and subjects of the emperor as Roman men with his first words. Moreover, the practice of addressing soldiers as Romans is attested in the Syriac Chronicle of pseudo-Joshua the Stylite (ca. 506), an Edessan text that is less beholden to the conventions of Greek historiography. More interesting is the text of a religious service honoring fallen soldiers as saints that is preserved in a tenth-century manuscript. It stresses their Christian qualities, but also calls them “the offspring of Rome” and the foundation of the fatherland and the entire γένος. We note again the language of γένος to refer to the larger community that these soldiers died to protect. This text is important because it does not reflect a Constantinopolitan standpoint. The imperial Church most emphatically did not recognize fallen soldiers as saints. This service was probably the product of a local context, likely the camps of Cappadocia, and so it is important that it too reflects a Roman identity and ideology.

Therefore, the evidence indicates not only that Byzantine soldiers had a Roman identity, but that they were Romans in direct succession to the armies of the Roman respublica since antiquity. This adds tens of thousands of Romans, which the elite reading cannot accommodate. Moreover, they do not come alone. In many publications, John Haldon has argued that the armies of the middle Byzantine empire were recruited locally, culturally homogeneous, closely tied to their home communities, and continued to reflect those communities’ concerns and outlook after they had been recruited. If they were Romans and understood their occupation as the protection of the γένος, the πατρίς, and Romanía, as all the texts tell us that they did, then it is likely that these concerns were shared by their families and communities.

There are texts coming from across the empire’s territory, across genres, and across centuries that, whether taken in isolation or together, create a difficult burden for the elite reading of Roman identity to overcome. They strongly suggest that the majority of Byzantines self-identified as Romans and Christians, two labels that pointed to different aspects of their life and were not conceptually homologous, but could easily overlap.

In the fifth- or sixth-century vita of Epiphanios of Salamis, the saint is described as coming from a poor family of peasants in the province of Phoenicia who did not have enough to eat. Yet when the saint comes to the court of the Persian king – a long story there – he warns the king not to fight against the Romans, “for if you move against the Romans you will be moving against the Crucified one”. When he leaves, the king tells him to “go in health, Epiphanios, Glory of the Romans! (ἡ δόξα τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων)”. This provincial production is not written in a high style, but clearly made the point – to us as well as to later generations of Byzantines – that a poor provincial from Phoenicia was naturally a Roman.

In the ninth-century vita of Nikolaos the Younger, a provincial work, the first-person plural pronoun (“we”) is used in apposition to the Romans in reference to a barbarian invasion; the same also happens in the ninth century vita of Petros of Atroa.

Epigraphy provides an interesting specimen from Sirmium, from the later sixth or seventh century. We saw above how Prokopios assumed that much of the population of the town and its surrounding territory was Roman. A local inscription preserves a prayer written in horrible Greek, certainly not written by anyone in the “literary elite”. It says: “Christ, Lord, help the city and stop the Avars, and protect Romanía along with the one writing these words, Amen”. This is merely a provincial expression of the same sentiment that the emperor Herakleios put on his coins: Deus adiuta Romanis, God help the Romans. The Romans in question included both the emperor and his provincial subjects.

A preface to a monastic typikon from ca. 1100 also proves that Roman identity was understood in ethnic terms, linked to specific cultural indicia, and designated a broad territorial population, not a limited social class. The aspiring monastic founder, Nikon of the Black Mountain (active near Antioch), sought to establish his Orthodox credentials in a territory (northern Syria) that had become religiously diverse, including branches of the Syrian and Armenian churches. He states that he himself was never curious about the fine points of doctrine but had received the faith “entire from the start and from his ancestors: these were not people who had been raised and lived in any of the places and lands where the heresies are all mixed up together, but were a Roman root (ῥίζα ‘Ρωμαίων), via the grace of Christ” (V. Beneshevich, Taktikon Nikona Chernogortsa, St. Petersburg 1917, 15). Nikon configures his Romanness as a function of ancestry, i.e., ethnically, and uses this to establish his Orthodoxy. This does not mean that Roman and Orthodox were semantically interchangeable, but Orthodoxy was one of the essential cultural indicia of the Roman γένος, and therefore the latter could be cited as proof of the former. Nikon came from a “land” where the Romans were not mixed up (territorially) with the heresies that one could find in northern Syria (Armenians, Syrians). This is consistent with an ethnic reading in which the ἔθνος is spread out over a particular territory.

The interface between Romans and non-Romans appears as that between Byzantines and foreigners at the border of the empire, and not between elite and non-elite Byzantines within the empire. This supports the national or ethnic interpretation, because within Romanía, in what was a largely homogeneous Roman context, there would have been little purpose to insist on that distinction.

We can use indirect evidence to confirm that provincial and non-elite Byzantines answered to the Roman name (in the relevant contexts). I am referring to the testimony of foreigners or outsiders. Consider the Typikon of the Georgian monastery founded in Bulgaria in 1083 by the Caucasian aristocrat Gregorios Pakourianos. He specifically decreed that no Roman priest or monk should ever be appointed in it, because the Romans are violent and greedy and will seek to take it over. Clearly, he was not referring here only to the imperial elite (of which he was a member); moreover, his stipulations reveal not only that one could easily tell who was a Roman and who not, but that Romans were associated with specific ethnic stereotypes.

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The best foreign evidence comes from the Arabs, who consistently called the Byzantines Romans (Rum), except for the specific ethnic minorities living among them such as Slavs, Armenians, or Bulgarians (depending on the period). The Arabs were excellent ethnographers and named the various ethnic groups that were subordinate to neighboring states. Yet in their detailed testimony about Byzantium, they treat its inhabitants, whether high or low, Constantinopolitan or provincial, as al-Rum.

Arab ethnographers relied on the testimony of visitors to the empire, none of whom formed the impression that the Roman ethnonym was limited in scope to a small elite in the capital. They also traded with, captured, and interrogated Byzantines often, but if they uncovered non-Roman identities among them that fell beneath the horizon of notice in our allegedly elite Byzantine sources, this still failed to shake their view that Rum lands were populated overwhelmingly by self-identifying Romans.

Confirmation of this conclusion comes unexpectedly from a Frankish source. Western European sources generally call the Byzantines “Greeks”, which was a distortion driven by the need of western institutions (such as the papacy and the German empire) to assert exclusive ownership of the Roman tradition. Nevertheless, in the Greek version of the Chronicle of the Morea (early fourteenth century, but reflecting the thirteenth century), the Byzantines are called Romans throughout, including both the subjects of the Byzantine emperor and his former subjects now ruled by the French in the principality of Achaea. These Romans are called a γένος throughout the poem and are defined by traits that were shared by a large population in the Aegean region, for example religion (e.g., 470: to make all Romans obey the pope, for they were Orthodox); ethnic stereotypes (e.g., 593-594: the γένος of the Romans is crafty and faithless); and speech (the language of the Romans –what we call Greek– is called ῥωμαίϊκα: 4130; cf. 5207). Romans and Franks are often juxtaposed as different but comparable types, and references are made to the local Romans of the Morea (e.g., 1424). This was, then, a Frankish text, reflecting the typical prejudice against the Romans / Byzantines, but it was composed in vernacular Greek by a Moreot Frank, who was likely bilingual. In his poem he reflected local usage, including the fact that the Greek-speaking Orthodox population of the empire and its former provinces (such as the Peloponnese) called themselves Romans and spoke ρωμαίϊκα.

Sultan Veled (Walad) was the son of the great Persian poet Jalal al-Din Rumi and lived in Asia Minor in the later thirteenth century. In one poem, he addresses a beautiful woman in Greek, which he calls ῥωμαϊκά, so that she can understand him. Thus, independent Frankish and Persian witnesses, active at opposite ends of the former Byzantine world (in the Morea and central Asia Minor respectively), attest that the language of the Byzantines was popularly called ῥωμαϊκά.

Striking additional proof is provided by the poem Dittamondo written by the fourteenth-century Florentine poet Fazio degli Uberti. This didactic poem takes the form of an exploration of the known world. When the narrator reaches Macedonia he meets a local with whom he speaks in a demotic form of Greek, which is transcribed directly into the poem. “Do you speak Frangika?”, he asks the local. The latter answers “Ime roméos [εἶμαι Ῥωμαῖος, i.e., I am a Roman]“. What he says immediately after that is harder to make out, but this outside testimony should lay to rest any doubt that the Byzantines called themselves Romans and meant by that their demotic, everyday forms of speech, not anything elite.

The Byzantine sources do not attribute a Roman identity to the entire population of the empire or to all who served the emperor. It was not only slaves but other groups, larger or smaller depending on the circumstances, who are pointedly excluded through their ethnic ascriptions.

If Roman identity was a truly imperial identity applied to whoever served the emperor or was subject to him, this should not have happened. But it did, because Roman was an ethnic identity exclusive to other ethnic identities. It is thus misleading or false to say that “any people or group could potentially be included as Roman subjects”. This fails to distinguish between Roman and non-Roman subjects of the Roman empire, and is a mistake made commonly by historians who refuse to accept the reality of Roman identity in Byzantium.

Our sources regularly distinguish between Romans and ethnic foreigners serving in the Byzantine armies, either by naming the foreigners or simply calling them ἀλλόφυλοι (people of another race), ἐθνικοὶ (foreigners), or “barbarians”.

In his speech addressed to the army in 958, Konstantinos VII reminds the men that there are units of barbarians (ἐθνικοί, ἔθνη) fighting alongside them, so the rest should fight bravely to impress the courage of “the Roman γένος” upon both them and the ὁμόφυλοι (men of the same race). The distinction also had legal implications, reinforcing the point made above about the robustness of Roman citizenship as a legal attribute in Byzantium. In a compilation of decisions made by the early eleventh-century judge Eustathios Romaios, we find cases of men in imperial service, holding high court titles, who are designated as barbarians by race (τό γένος), from the foreign nations (ἔθνος), or ἐθνικοὶ who had come to the Roman empire. One of them was a Georgian, so the distinction between him and the Romans could only be ethnic and not religious. The men in these cases had not followed the laws of the Romans when drawing up their wills but rather their own customs, and the judge emended the wills in accordance with Roman law. It would seem that foreigners in imperial service, and likely many non-Romans living in the empire, followed partially different legal regimes than the majority Roman population, and in this case the judge imposed uniformity.

A number of primary sources do suggest that the Romans of Byzantium viewed themselves as an ethnic or national community defined on the one hand by cultural traits such as language, religion, customs, food, and dress, and on the other by belonging to a specific named polity (the πολιτεία of the Romans) in which they were shareholders.

One of the most famous sources is the declaration by Konstantinos VII that other nations do not mix well with Romans because of the specific traits entailed by what he called “the Roman order of things”, which include race, religion, language, and other customs. Many examples can also be given from less tendentious sources. I will give one here. A note appended to the history of Ioannes Skylitzes in the early twelfth century says that the emperor refounded a city in Italy with settlers from the Pontos, “which explains why that city uses Roman customs and dress and a Roman social order down to this day”. The author of this note understood it as self-explanatory. But modern scholars who deny the existence of premodern nations fail to grasp or must deny its obvious implications for the nature of the Roman community of Byzantium and the ways in which it distinguished between insiders and outsiders. One could apparently tell who was a Roman based on customs, dress, and social order.

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In conclusion, the Byzantine sources decisively and consistently refute the idea that Roman identity was held exclusively by the elite in Constantinople, as well as the idea that it was used only by them, even if they projected it onto the rest of the population. Roman identity in Byzantium was neither limited to the capital nor to the social elite. The evidence points to a selfaware national community that extended beneath the threshold of visibility that our texts afford. Socially, all were Romans who were above the level of slaves; ethnically, all were Romans who conformed to the relevant ethnic indicia and who did not belong to another ethnic group; and geographically, Romans could be found from one end of the empire to the other. The elite in Constantinople identified as Roman because it was drawn from this extended horizontal community. That is what the sources say, consistently and coherently. These sources come from all periods and almost all regions of the empire; from all the social classes that left any written record in Byzantium; and from all genres. Their full testimony on this matter is, moreover, corroborated by that of foreigners, especially the Arabs but also Caucasians and even Franks. It is impossible that this testimony was produced by a single over-arching conspiracy to project a “homogenizing discourse” on the identity of the empire’s population who neither knew nor cared that they were Romans.

(Source: “The Social Scope of Roman Identity in Byzantium: An Evidence-Based Approach, by Anthony Kaldellis)

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Research-Selection for NovoScriptorium: Anastasius Philoponus

 

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