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Anwar Bolshakov
Anwar Bolshakov

The Cambridge History Of The Byzantine Empire C...

The geographical extent of the Byzantine Empire changed over the centuries as the military successes and failures of individual emperors fluctuated. Territories which were held in the earlier part of the empire's history included Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine. Greece was less important in practical terms than it was as a symbol of the Byzantine's view of themselves as the true heirs of the Greco-Roman culture. Italy and Sicily had to be defended, ultimately unsuccessfully, against the ambitions of the Popes and the Normans. The Balkans up to the Danube River were important throughout, and Asia Minor up to the Black Sea coast in the north and Armenia in the east was a major source of wealth, but both these regions would require regular and vigorous defence against various perennial enemies.

The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c...


Throughout their history, the Byzantines rarely controlled Rome and spoke mainly Greek. Despite this, the people of Byzantium continued to refer to themselves as "Romans," Timothy Gregory, professor emeritus of History at Ohio State University, wrote in the book "A History of Byzantium (opens in new tab)" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). Their broader empire was considered to be a "Roman" empire even though it rarely controlled Rome.

Collectively the chapters in this volume also raise interesting issuesabout how to organize an ecclesiastical history for this long period.One issue is the geographical coverage. Most of the chapters focus onChristianity in Europe and/or the Byzantine empire. MedievalChristian communities far beyond Europe and the Near East, forinstance in China, receive barely a mention. Within Europe and theByzantine world the emphasis is on expansion, in particular north tothe Slavs and the Celts. Yet this was also a period during whichChristianity was losing ground. In regions around the eastern andsouthern Mediterranean Christianity became a minority cult or seemedto disappear beneath the surge of Islam. The Christian churches thatsurvived in Syria and Egypt, regions that had once been prominent inthe Roman empire, were now considered to be "beyond empire" (Chap. 3).With the expansion of the Islamic caliphate Christianity in NorthAfrica practically vanished, as "one of the greatest contractions ofthe Christian church in the early Middle Ages" (253). In the Romanempire North Africa had been a theological powerhouse. In contrast,post-Roman North Africa was also post-Christian. After an extendedperiod of expansion during the early and later Roman empires,Christianity in the early medieval period seemed to be contracting.Medieval Christianity was hence both much more global and much lesssuccessful than this volume suggests. 041b061a72


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