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Emmanuel Berl, The West Owed Everything to Byzantium

From The ocean and the steppe (1946) 


     The West owed everything to Byzantium: its life, its safety and its glory; it had rejuvenated it by Venice, exalted by the spectacle of its splendour. And the West could only renounce it by the crusade of Dandolo; and in the days of its supreme distress only a few hundred Genoese could be found to defend it.

Europe is beyond nationalism

The greatness of Europe does not lie in the states it has founded. Its gods are not civic gods, like those of Athens. Its greatest men were not always great citizens: it seems probable that Socrates loved his country more than Descartes loved his; Goethe, at Valmy, did not wish very fervently that the Duke of Brunswick should win the battle.

Emmanuel Berl, Structure and Destiny of Europe,  1946 

    Is this why it insults its corpse, accuses it of "decadence" and traces this decadence back to Justinian, even though the empire survived for nine centuries after him?

    Is this why it accuses it of "futility", forgetting the glorious epochs of the Macedonian emperors and the Comnenus dynasty?

    The people who in turn contained the Khosros and the Ommeyads, the Bulgars, the Turks and the Serbs, whom Attila could not subjugate, whom even the Mongols of Ghengis Khan never attacked, it is quite just if we do not proclaim it devoid of military value.

    This church that was the great creator of Patrology, that was illustrated by Saint John Chrysostom - which built the most beautiful basilica in the universe, it is quite just if we do not represent it as being devoid of Christian virtues, greedy only for theological squabbles.

    Is the rancour of the schism enough to explain such a strange resentment? Or could it be that the West, ashamed of itself, is merely adding insult to injury, as is so often the case?

    Cf.  Helmut Schmidt, Byzantium and the East Is Part of Europe and It Should Be  *  David Turner, Byzantium : The 'alternative' history of Europe  * 3 Posts on the Fall of Byzantium  * A History of the Byzantine Empire  *  Constantinople


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