From Eastern Roman to Byzantine: transformation of Roman culture (500-800)

  In our discussion of the relationship between Clovis and the popes, we pointed out the political significance of the alliance.  Being the only orthodox Christians among the Germanic tribes, the Franks' close alliance with the papacy and their spread of Christianity where they conquered helped build a kingdom on earth whose population were unified by a Catholic identity.  This cooperation between the Franks and the Roman papacy also showed the two centers of power in the West: secular and religious, in somewhat contrast to the East: where the Eastern Roman Empire seemed to better fulfill the goal of Emperor Constantine's "one God, one emperor, and one empire," and where the emperor was also one of the Patriarchs (leaders of church).  After 600 (7th c.A.D.), Hellenism became the predominant influence in the empire, hence its shedding of the word "Roman" in its title, replaced by the Hellenistic term "Byzantium."

    The Byzantine Empire

The eastern part of the Roman empire completed its transformation from Roman to Greek dominated in the 7th century, when Greek replaced Latin as the official language of the imperial court.

After the downfall of the west, the eastern part of the empire continued to assert cultural and religious influence in the Mediterranean region.

    Emperor Justinian (527-65)

Religious controversy and iconoclasm

The Slavs and Byzantium

The Slavic tribes that congregated around what is todayís Poland for centuries, began to disperse in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Slavic invasion of the Balkans began in the late 6th century. The Slavs successfully occupied all of the Balkans.  They cut off the once-easy communication between the Greek East from the Latin and Germanic West. Initially, the Slavs acted as something of a barrier ó a no-manís land ó between East and West. They helped making Constantinople exclusively Greek-speaking, and Rome exclusively Latin-speaking.

Slavic conversions to Christianity

863, two Byzantine missionaries were sent to convert the Slavs: Cyril and Methodius.  This partly contributed to the conversion of Russia, Bulgaria, and Serbia into Greek orthodox church, and a Greek based alphabetical system.

In Russia, 988, Prince Vladimir of Kiev agreed to be baptized in exchange for both military aid from Constantinople and a wife ó the Byzantine princess Anna, a Greek Orthodox Christian, the beginning of orthodox Christianity in Russia.

The Cyrillic Alphabet: practiced today in Russia, Bulgaria, and Serbia. The earlier version of it is still practiced somewhat in Dalmatia.

Conversion: a religious and political process

Not all Slavic states converted to Greek orthodoxy.  Conversion was often the result of a mixture of factors: marriage alliances, where the early missionaries came from, and political struggles between the Slavs and the Franks.

In 964 or 965, the King of Poland agreed to marry the daughter of the duke of Bohemia, a staunch supporter of Latin Christianity. The princess brought Christian missionaries with her to Poland.

Later: Polandís marriage alliance to stay clear of Frankish control.

Hungary: conversion to Roman Catholicism directly under Rome rather than through Frankish bishops and Constantinople.