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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Justinian the Great and his successors (518-610)

The problem of the Slavs in Greece 


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Page 2

In the first volume of his History of the Peninsula of Morea in the Middle Ages, which appeared in 1830, Fallmerayer wrote:

The Hellenic race in Europe is completely exterminated. The physical beauty, the sublimity of spirit, the simplicity of customs, the artistic creativeness, the races, cities, and villages, the splendor of columns and temples, even the name of the people itself, have disappeared from the Greek continent. A double layer of ruins and the mire of two new and different races cover the graves of the ancient Greeks. The immortal works of the spirit of Hellas and some ancient ruins on native Greek soil are now the only evidence of the fact that long ago there was such a people as the Hellenes. And were it not for these ruins, grave-hills and mausoleums, were it not for the site and the wretched fate of its inhabitants, upon whom the Europeans of our day in an outburst of human emotions have poured all their tenderness, their admiration, their tears, and their eloquence, we would have to say that it was only an empty vision, a lifeless image, a being outside the nature of things that has aroused the innermost depths of their souls. For not a single drop of real pure Hellenic blood flows in the veins of the Christian population of modern Greece. A terrific hurricane has dispersed throughout the space between the Ister and most distant corner of the Peloponnesus a new tribe akin to the great Slavonic race. The Scythian Slavs, the Illyrian Arnauts, children of Northern lands, the blood relations of the Serbs and Bulgars, the Dalmatians and Moscovites those are the people whom we call Greeks at present and whose genealogy, to their own surprise, we have traced back to Pericles and Philopoemen ... A population with Slavonic facial features and with bow-shaped eyelashes and sharp features of Albanian mountain shepherds, of course, did not come from the blood of Narcissus, Alcibiades, and Antmous; and only a romantic eager imagination can still dream of a revival in our days of the ancient Hellenes with their Sophocleses and Platos.

         Elpenor's note : Fallmerayer's theory has been rejected since long ago; yet it would be interesting to observe its racist overtones, and even more interesting to see how the author, living in a humanist-utopian 'renaissance' is unable to understand a living culture as such, and expects "Sophocleses and Platos" as if we should always produce the same thinking, in a void indifferent to the general context of history (or thinking outside history and without changing the history). How can a new Plato be born, when the questions of Plato have been asked and answered by the Greek Fathers in the new, Christian, frame? Of course, Fallmerayer's aesthetism would prefer for Christianity not to exist, in order for us to have eternally the thinking-frame of "Sophocleses and Platos", - ignoring or not caring to remember that this great thinking of the past was unable to cover the needs even of the Ancient Greeks, who, contrary to their modern immitators in the West, did not live to produce 'great works of art', but they wanted a meaning, which they ultimately found in Christianity. Vasilief himself, in this and other chapters of his History, although not accepting Fallmerayer's theory, tends to emphasize the presence of Slavs in Greece, maybe just to underestimate modern Greeks. How great such a presence could be, if, as Vasilief writes, when emperor Leo III started his iconoclastic policy "in Greece and on the islands of the Aegean Sea a revolt broke out in defense of images"? Was it a revolt of Slavs, that "strong reaction on the part of the population", which even "made it impossible for him [Leo] to undertake further decisive measures"? It seems to me that sometimes historians fail to see the broad picture. Besides this, spiritual matters have nothing to do with race. Vasilief's (and Fallmerayer's) racist tendensy insults the very essence of hellenism, which is not in a racial difference but in fundamental virtues and aspirations, primarily expressed in the Greek language.

Cf. David Turner, Byzantium : The 'alternative' history of Europe

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