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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The fall of Byzantium

General situation in the Empire 

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Page 3

But if in the sphere of political international life Byzantium under the Palaeologi played a secondary part, its internal life was of great importance. In the epoch of the Palaeologi one may note the interesting fact of the rise of patriotism among the Greek people, accompanied by a turning back to the glories of ancient Greece. For instance, officially the emperors continued to bear the usual title of basileus and autocrat of the Romans, but some prominent men of the time tried to persuade the basileus to take the new title of Emperor of the Hellenes. The former vast Empire, made up of different nationalities, was transformed into a state small in its territorial limits and Greek in its composition. In the manifestation of Hellenic patriotism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and in the profound enthusiasm felt for the glorious Hellenic past one may see, not without reason, one of the elements which in the nineteenth century was to contribute to the regeneration of modern Greece.

Moreover, the epoch of the Palaeologi, when in the Empire the elements of East and West were marvelously interwoven, was marked by a powerful spiritual and artistic culture, which, considering the severe external and internal troubles, is at first sight unexpected. At that time Byzantium produced not a few scholars and educated men, writers, sometimes of very original talent, in the most varied fields of knowledge. And such monuments of art as the mosaics in the mosque of Kahrieh jami (Qahriye-jami, the Byzantine church of the Chora), the Peloponnesian Mistra, and the churches of Athos are the basis for appreciation of the importance of artistic creation under the Palaeologi. This artistic flowering has often been compared with the primitive renaissance of art in western Europe, that is to say, the earlier period of Italian Humanism. These phenomena in the field of literature and art and the most important problems which made their appearance in connection with them in the works of many scholars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries belong to a later section on Byzantine culture in the epoch of the Palaeologi.

To the time of the Palaeologi belong the least investigated problems of Byzantine history. The reason is the extraordinary complexity of the history of the epoch, in external and especially in internal affairs, on the one hand, and on the other, the abundance and variety of the sources, many of which have not yet been published and are preserved in manuscript collections in western and eastern libraries. To date, there exists no complete monograph on any of the Palaeologi which covers all phases of their rule; the existing essays treat of only one side or another of their activity. There is one exception. In 1926 appeared a monograph on Michael Palaeologus by C. Chapman, brief and superficial but of general character.

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/vasilief/fall.asp?pg=3