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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantium and the Crusades

Ιnternal affairs under the Comneni and Angeli 


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Ecclesiastical relations. The ecclesiastical life of Byzantium under the Comneni and Angeli is important mainly in two directions: first, in internal ecclesiastical relations which centered in the attempts to resolve certain religious problems and doubts which agitated Byzantine society and were of the most vital interest in that epoch; secondly, in the relations of the eastern church to the western, of the patriarchate of Constantinople to the papacy.

In their attitude to the Church the emperors of the dynasties of the Comneni and Angeli firmly adopted the caesaropapistic view which was so very characteristic of Byzantium. In one version of the History of Nicetas Choniates Isaac Angelus is quoted: On earth there is no difference in power between God and emperor; kings are allowed to do everything, and they may use without any distinction that which belongs to God along with their own possessions, because they have received the imperial power from God, and between God and them is no difference. The same writer, speaking of the ecclesiastical policy of Manuel Comnenus, gave the general belief of the Byzantine emperors, who consider themselves the infallible judges of matters of God and man. This opinion was supported in the second half of the twelfth century by the clergy. A celebrated Greek canonist and commentator of the so-called pseudo-Photian Nomocanon (a canonical collection of fourteen titles), the patriarch of Antioch, Theodore Balsamon, who lived under the last Comnenus and the first Angelus, wrote: The emperors and patriarchs must be esteemed as church teachers because of their holy anointment. Therefore, orthodox emperors have the power to teach Christian people and, like priests, to burn incense as an act of worship to God. Their glory is that, like the sun, they, by the brilliance of their orthodoxy, enlighten the world from one end to another. The power and activities of the emperors concern body and soul (of man) while the power and activity of the patriarch concern only soul. The same author stated: The Emperor is subject neither to the laws nor to the canons.

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