The Approach about Essence of Roman Identity in Byzantium


The nature of Roman identity in Byzantium, which is a debate being evaded for centuries, has finally attracted people’s attention. It has been argued before that the Byzantines’ opinion of their own Roman identity was national, making Byzantium efficiently a nation-state1. Being a Roman was premised on common cultural traits including language, religion, and social values and customs, on belonging to the ἔθνος or γένος on that basis, and on being a “shareholder” in the polity of the Romans2. However, this conclusion has been doubted by Ioannis Stouraitis, who offers “a critical approach” to the issue3. It is suggested by him that Roman identity was limited to a tiny elite in Constantinople, and the empire is seen as a system of exploitation of the provincials that precluded meaningful identification between the two. Being part of a misleading homogenizing discourse used by elites, the Roman label implied no horizontal community. Although they are in various methods, both positions are revolutionary.


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