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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The fall of Byzantium

Political and social conditions in the Empire

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The problem of the internal conditions of the Empire under the Palaeologi is among the least studied and most complicated problems of Byzantine history. The sources on this subject, numerous and manifold, have not yet been satisfactorily examined or adequately estimated. Much precious material, especially imperial chrysobulls and monastic and private charters, is still preserved unpublished among manuscript treasures of different libraries in the East and West; in this respect the manuscripts of the Athonian monasteries are of the greatest importance. But the Orthodox monks of Mount Athos were too watchful guards of their libraries, and in the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth, the Athonian manuscripts were practically inaccessible to scholars who were not of the Orthodox faith. For this reason in the earlier study of Athonian manuscripts the Russian Orthodox scholars played a very important part.

In the eighteenth century, a Russian traveler, V. G. Barsky, visited the Athonian monasteries twice (in 1725-26 and in 1744). He was the first to become acquainted with the hidden archives and, through his detailed description, he threw light on a rich mine of historical sources preserved in the Athonian libraries. In the nineteenth century, the Russian scholars, Bishop Porphyrius (Uspensky), P. Sevastyanov, T. Florinsky, and V. Regel, worked assiduously in the monasteries of the Holy Mountain and published a long series of very important documents on the internal situation of the Byzantine Empire. Especially important are the charters published in the supplements to several volumes of the Russian Byzantine review, Vizantiysky Vremennik, which have not yet been thoroughly studied. At the very end of the nineteenth century, a Greek scholar, Sp. Lampros, published a catalogue of the Greek manuscripts on Mount Athos. But owing to circumstances beyond his control, Lampros could not include in his catalogue the two most important collections of manuscripts preserved in the monasteries of the Laura and of Vatopedi. The catalogue of the Greek manuscripts in the library of the monastery of Vatopedi came to light in 1924. In 1915, the French scholar G. Millet was sent on a mission to Mount Athos, where he collected a series of documents from the archives of the Laura, which is, according to a chrysobull, the head and Acropolis of the whole monastic republic.

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/vasilief/political-social-conditions.asp