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

Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe
Em. Macron, Rediscovering the Path to Europe

   David Turner is a lecturer in Byzantine Studies and Orthodox Theology at the ‘Study in Greece’ Programme of Beaver College (Philadelphia) based in Athens, and at the ‘Study in Greece and Turkey’ programme of Lake Forest College (Illinois).  There follow select excerpts from a text at greece.org, here published with notes by Ellopos (inside [square brackets], and as footnotes), edited for spelling errors and correct appearance of Greek words, illustrated with images and enhanced with study-links. Bold green is emphasis added by Ellopos (the author's are in italics). If you have more comments, questions to ask, etc., you are welcome to the European Forum. Special thanks to Laellius who suggested this text for the European Prospect pages.

How can the West accept the existence of an "alternative" to European history, a history which it has taken for granted, and with which it thinks itself so intimately acquainted? Furthermore, how can we explain certain radical differences between Eastern and Western Europe, with their respective capitals at New Rome (Constantinople) and Old, given that both appear to be rooted in the very same cultural milieu (the world of Antiquity) that the West has for so long - and so exclusively - called "Mother"?  

If there is an alternative history of Europe, is there an alternative way of interpreting Europe and her broader philosophical, political, social and cultural heritage? In other words, can the study of "Byzantium" constitute a pleasantly subversive activity on the threshold of the twenty-first century? ... 

There is no consensus amongst historians as to how the Christian Roman, or East Roman or "Byzantine" empire, could be said to constitute a "continuity" from the world of Antiquity. But does the continuity debate mask another, more profound question: that of "legitimacy"? For if there are two alternative ways of regarding European history, can we speak of a "crisis of choice", a "crisis" (in the Greek sense of the word) that has influenced the approach taken by the Western historical tradition to New Rome, to "Byzantium"? ... 

We should first ask what "Byzantium" actually was, given that at no time in history was there ever a state that called itself "Byzantium". In fact there was no official name whatsoever for that polity. The term "Byzantium" was invented by 16th-century French humanists. (One is reminded of the primitive idea that if you give something a name, you effectively bring it under your control).  

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         Cf.  3 Posts on the fall of Byzantium, Yeats : Sailing to Byzantium
(1927), Byzantium (1930) * E, Aspects of Byzantium in Modern Popular Music * Berl, The West Owed Everything to Byzantium * Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire * Toynbee, The pulse of Ancient Rome was driven by a Greek heart * * Constantelos, Greek Orthodoxy - From Apostolic Times to the Present Day * Al. Schmemann, A History of the Orthodox Church * Valery, What is to Become of the European Spirit? * Nietzsche, The European Nihilism * Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism * Pope Benedict XVI, The Papal Science * J. O. y Gassett, The Revolt of the Masses  * CONSTANTINOPLE

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