On the Romans & Byzantines. Is Western Rome and the Byzantine Empire different thing or continuation?

Thank you for such a long and insightful text!

There are a few things I disagree with.

The eastern part of the Roman Empire speaking Greek does not mean that eastern part of the Roman Empire has always been culturally Greek. It’s a misconception that the West spoke Latin and the East spoke Greek. In fact, The Roman civilization only cared that you convert to their Roman culture, Latin was the official state language, but a lot of “Roman citizens” (for lack of a better term) spoke Celtic, Illyrian, Thracian, Greek and others.

But when it comes to culture, the Eastern Roman was as Roman as it gets. At the time of the split & at the time of the Fall of Rome, there was virtually no difference between West Rome and East Rome. But East Rome continue to evolve (like any civilization) while West Rome “stood in time” because it was already dead by 476 so that’s the “timestamp” people remember it by.

The Romans changed a lot. City State Period, the 7 Kings of Rome, the Early Republic, the Punic Wars, the Civil Wars, the Early Empire, Pax Romana Period, the Late Empire, the Early Byzantine, the Middle Byzantine, the Late Byzantine. All were gradual and continuous changes, like it’s normal in any civilization.

It’s weird to say that the Late Byzantine are not Romans because they are not Romans like the Romans in the Late Empire period anymore. Because, well, the Romans in the Late Empire are not Romans like in the Punic Wars period anymore either. It feels random to pick the death of West Rome and say “this is the point where what it means to be a Roman stops, you have to be like that to be a Roman”, that’s not how civilizations work.

Funny how in the West Rome & East Rome period, East Rome was the rich relative while West Rome was poor.

And then, things just naturally evolved. For the Eastern Roman Empire. While the Western one had died out.

I have yet to see an argument why the Byzantines aren’t Romans. So far you talked about language, culture and ethnicity. Language is the only one with merit but even that one has an explaination.

Culturally? yes, they were Romans.

Ethnically? what does that mean? only the people in Latium were the original Romans. The rest were conquered and converted to the Roman culture. Were the people in Hispania Roman? they were as Roman as the people in Greece were Roman.

Well, are your mother and father martians and do you come from mars? If you do, then I’d have a hard time not calling you martian.

It depends how you look at it.
Does Romania come from the cultural descendents of the people who used to be the Romans? Yes.
Is the State Romania a direct/uninterrupted succesor of the Roman Empire? No.

Let’s try for the Byzantines:
Does Byzantium come from the cultural descendents of the people who used to be the Romans? Yes.
Is the State Byzantium a direct/uninterrupted succesor of the Roman Empire? Yes.

Let’s try for HRE:
Does HRE come from the cultural descendents of the people who used to be the Romans? No.
Is the HRE a direct/uninterrupted succesor of the Roman Empire? No.

It’s a rather ironic point you make. Because the concept that Byzantines are Romans and that Rome fell only when Constantinople fell, is intuitive and would keep being intuitive in the Anglo-Saxon sphere as well if we were not convinced by the opposite through ideological means since at the time Rome/Byzantium became more an opponent of the west. And you cannot have an opponent that is actually that Rome that we value, even though it was exactly that, Rome.

I cannot take the ethnic groups argument seriously… the Romans did not care about ethnicity, they cared about culture, a Roman culture that kept changing, and changing, and changing. That’s what it did from 753 BC to 476 AD, it kept changing, and that’s what it did from 476 AD to 1453 AD, it kept changing. The fact that some would rather assign “not Rome” to the half of the Empire that survived because it was doing what Rome was always doing, changing (In fact, that’s how Rome managed to survive so many centuries, it always reformed itself) hardly has any factual basis and is more out of the western feudal state’s desire not to have Rome as an enemy, since they praised Rome so much. And you can’t fight the same people you praise who survived. So the Byzantines shouldn’t have been true Romans.

They did not only outlive the Western Roman Empire in spirit but in lives. The Romans kept being Romans, but only on the Eastern half, which became the only half so there was no point calling it “Eastern” anymore. All the “not Romans” fantasy was born out of a desire of western kingdoms to become ‘the true Rome’ and the view presisted especially in the Anglo-Saxon point of view.


As far as I’m concerned (this isn’t a historian viewpoint or anything), to be truly Roman, they would have to meet two criteria: Use Legions/early Republic style military, and follow Roman polytheism as the main state religion. Once it splits, the western Roman empire just doesn’t have the same coolness factor as earlier Rome, and the eastern Empire just really doesn’t have the same feel to it. So I really consider “true Rome” to have been from the republic until shortly after the Empire split, after that it was still Rome, but never in the way it had been.


There is another point to contend. The early Byzantine Empire was rarely referred to as the Byzantine Empire. It was called the Eastern Roman Empire. The way the current Byzantine Civ is built up, it is clearly meant to represent the Byzantine Empire in the later part of the medieval period, which was very clearly different than the proper original Romans, both eastern and western as the culture and society changes overtime.

By the time historians referred to it as the Byzantine Empire it was basically Rome in name only.
Why do I say that? Because they had nothing to do with Rome or Latin cultures for centuries. As the name implies, Roman means from Rome. It is a specific culture group.

Nonetheless, to me at least, a criteria to be Roman requires that you are part of the Roman culture in some form.
The Empire incorporated many cultures but never assimilated them, nonetheless, Roman continued to be central. Give it a few more centuries and assuming it survives, I guarantee that Taiwan will not be seen as China in spite of it being legally the government of China. Even now a distinct Taiwanese culture is forming.

The Byzantines on the other hand, did not even own Rome. The center of their civilization was Byzantium/Constantinople, hence the name future historians used for them.

For this reason, I think the Byzantine civilization being referred to in that way is fine. If you need to portray the early East Roman Empire, you can just use the Roman civ.

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Yeah, having looked it up, it seems essentially to be a derogatory/dismissive term for this. I’m not that interested in the topic of this thread anyway, but especially uninterested given the OP’s apparent attitude towards people who disagree with them.

Yes, I know this one.

Then even the unified Roman Empire was not truly Roman for a long time before it splits.


You’re right that ethnicity was a poor choice, specially after Caracalla, maybe identity is better. Roman identity faded in the west around the 8th century, someone says even 9th or 10th but even if that was the case it would be meaningless by then. At one point it started to address just Italy and then just the city of Rome.

You’re also right that one could talk about Romans in the east as well until Muslim conquests. But in this case I feel we’re speaking more about the administrative and territorial integrity and continuity to the Mediterranean Roman empire. Last account of a legion we have is the V macedonica stationed in 636 in Egypt, so after the last Persian war but before the Muslims, who probably destroyed it while conquering the province. We could imagine some legions being there in Africa at the latest but in the east the themata system was being introduced which to me mark the shift from Diocletian and Constantine style of administration (very rigid, dividing militar and civilian) to the classic Byzantine one (maybe even more rigid, just one “boss”).
All of this is mainly about military and administrative or political (Heraclius shift from Augustus to Basileus, Latin to greek) and finally aesthetical since after the column of phocas and few other examples like the (never found) equestrian statues of nicetas nothing “Roman” survive anymore about it (but point it out if I’m missing something specifically). Leo the wise even abandoned Latin for greek in imperial coinage and another Leo abolished the office of Roman consul (which was just nominal by that time anyway as everything still Roman related). Constans II was the last emperor to visit Rome, mainly to sack it again (lol), and the last to have coinage in the old style where the emperor typically appear by profile (which was out of vogue since the 5th century anyway) instead of the front.
So I’m turning you the question now: what was Roman specifically about byzantines in the 8th century?

About every identity changing indeed that’s the point. So if our disagreement is just on the fact that the change for you is not enough to justify a name shift, I think we could just agree to disagree, since we’re just seeing the same argument from different perspectives. Or we could go deeper in what is “enough” to justify a change but that would go far away from the topic.
Also I don’t know if byzantines were uninterrupted, I consider the sack of Constantinople in 1204 the end of the Byzantines as an empire and the beginning of byzantine principalities and city states. I really don’t know what was “imperial” about byzantines after that but again it depends on how attached you are to certain names. Emperors of Nicea, having lost the last link to ancient Romans (Constantinople), even tried to reinvent an Hellenic identity calling byzantines Hellenes even if romaioi was still in use by the population as you said. But this to say how a matter of power and politics all of this was (as it was in the west with hre) by that point.

About having different Romans for republic, empire, late empire etc I in fact agree! Probably I’ll say something controversial but to me having franks and french in aoe2 wouldn’t be a bad idea and the same for republican Romans or early imperial in aoe1. Yes I’m very specific, that’s why I said that’s probably where it comes our disagreement. I’m very interested in language (I’m a philosopher and mediocre writer lol) so to me is very important to say what I mean, that’s why the more I research into a subject the more it seems ham-fisted to just call “Romans” everything from Romulus to Constantine IX. I mean the point of words is to point out things and be understood so what’s the point of having such a wide term for something you could be so specific about (if you studied the subject)? It’s like being crusaders and calling all Arabs Saracens or being Chinese and calling Europeans franks… There’s no point in doing that if not to cling to a tradition I guess. But as you said things evolve so why language shouldn’t?
But my argument may be unattractive since we live in an age language is taken very seriously in itself without trying to contextualise it anymore (baudrillard anyone?). The point is what’s the point of calling a table a table if a table can be by extension a chair, an armchair and so on? Language is not made to be inclusive but the opposite and not because is evil but because it has to be useful for people who speak it.

Idk man to me it doesn’t feel very intuitive to think that Rome fell only when Constantinople fell but maybe I’m being too literal and it depends on pov… I don’t know what you mean by Anglo Saxon perspective but I usually don’t like that in philosophy, don’t know if it’s the same for history ahah.
I’m currently imagining Rome ideally falling at the milvian bridge since massentius was the last culturally Roman emperor in the sense of trying to keep the city important when it was anymore (also Roman heritage Vs new god). Again speaking about culture. But this is a scenario I still have to research better. I’m the typical contrarian thinking nothing relevant happened in 476 ahah. I’d say the relevant aspects for Romans culturally are either before or after that date, the middle being what we call “late Roman empire” or early Byzantine.

Finally about the HRE I agree, “not holy not Roman not an empire” like some guy used to say. I think similar of byzantines after the 7th century. For sure holy, not Roman and at times an empire at times not lol.
So I don’t know why I should be victim of medieval western propaganda when you have people of Roman descent in the west until the 8th century while in the east the last important one was Justinian as you said (who btw I consider the tombstone of the possibility of a Western Roman empire, ironically, but this may lead to other discussions). Flavius Paulus was a rebelling dux in Visigoth Spain in the 670s. Then you have Latin literature in Africa like with corisippus, pope Gregory of the anicii in Italy, beda in sub Roman Britannia, nennius mammulus Roman patrician of the franks etc.
In the east the landscape was different, Procopius and simocatta were maybe the nearest you can get to something Latin and arguably the last of the “classic” historians but everyone bore greek names by then and wrote in Greek as early as Maurice (the strategikon). Yes eastern Romans always wrote in Greek even by Augustus times but after Athenian neoplatonic academy being closed, pagans persecuted, olimpic games being no more, gladiator schools shut down, Delphi’s Oracle abandoned, the shift from classical Romans (and in turn Greeks) was definitive. Once hellenism and paganism, which were the funding ideology of Romans were gone, you have something else. You can still call them Romans if you wanna have a broader term sure but since our knowledge is way more specific than that, it feels insufficient imho.

And about the eastern empire becoming the richer part by late antiquity, that’s true and indeed was the beginning of the separation and the two empires gradually setting apart and running towards different fates. To me this seems to go in my direction but tell me if I’m reading it wrong.
We evolved from other organisms but we’re humans, which is its own thing right? It may be hard to decide a precise point in shift but we’re not monkeys, gorillas etc. Even if there are enthusiast about primates (less enthusiast about humans) that tend to put the accent on that common ancestry… So at a certain point to each his own I guess…

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Somehow yes, at least it was not the classical Roman empire but the late one. There are good articles on Wikipedia that separates the two (principatus and dominatus) with Diocletian as watershed. Late Roman empire is told to go from 284 to 640 in its page, curiously ignoring the geographical division, which I agree with in political and military terms!

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I don’t know till now he’s been ok with me.

Why not? They still had Legionaries, and the state religion was Roman polytheism right up until the split (Diocletian, who split the Empire, was the last emperor who followed the old religion).

I interpreted his first post as being an essay about why anyone who disagrees with him is wrong and biased and has a point of view ~1000 years out of date (“Anglo-Saxon”). But the later discussion (which I hadn’t read before) does seem to be civil, so maybe I’ve misinterpreted.


I imagine by “Anglo Saxon” he means the modern Anglosphere (but I don’t know in the specific what that means for the discussion) and well we all think we’re right in our own way lol while at the same time for sure this topic is partly a matter of pov but until the discussion goes on with arguments is fine.

Principatus and Dominatus are just way of ruling the state… those romans were not less romans than republican romans or the old monarchy romans… Is like french from the Napoleonic Empire are less french than the Republic of France.

Legions are not legions anymore since the III century crisis, they already had a new structure with smaller groups… although some may still call them Legions, for me is a big change.

Also, the roman empire splitted several times from the triumvirates in the late republic to the fall of Rome… Dioclesian was not the first or the last to split the empire

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It is the same empire until the tetrarchy of Dioclesian in 284 or at the latest the division of Theodosius in 395…the Romans are the Western Romans (395-476) which would later be the kingdom of Italy (476-554)… The Byzantines are the Eastern Romans (395-1453)… you have a single Roman Empire (27 BCE-395 CE) and after the Theodosian division you have two Roman empires with two distinct emperors…




The term Western Roman Empire is used in modern historiography to refer to the western provinces of the Roman Empire, collectively, during any period in which they were administered separately from the eastern provinces by a separate, independent Imperial court—-and particularly during the period from 395 to 476, in which there were separate, coequal courts dividing the governance of the empire in the Western provinces from that of the Eastern provinces, with a distinct imperial succession in the separate courts. The terms Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire were coined in modern times to describe political entities that were de facto independent; contemporary Romans did not consider the Empire to have been split into two empires but viewed it as a single polity governed by two imperial courts as an administrative expediency. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476, and the Western imperial court in Ravenna was formally dissolved by Justinian in 554. The Eastern imperial court lasted until 1453.

Though the Empire had seen periods with more than one emperor ruling jointly before, the view that it was impossible for a single emperor to govern the entire Empire was institutionalised with reforms to Roman law by emperor Diocletian following the disastrous civil wars and disintegrations of the Crisis of the Third Century. He introduced the system of the tetrarchy in 286, with two senior emperors titled Augustus, one in the East and one in the West, each with an appointed Caesar (junior emperor and designated successor). Though the tetrarchic system would collapse in a matter of years, the East–West administrative division would endure in one form or another over the coming centuries. As such, the Western Roman Empire would exist intermittently in several periods between the 3rd and 5th centuries. Some emperors, such as Constantine I and Theodosius I, governed as the sole Augustus across the Roman Empire. On the death of Theodosius I in 395, he divided the empire between his two sons, with Honorius as his successor in the West, governing briefly from Mediolanum and then from Ravenna, and Arcadius as his successor in the East, governing from Constantinople.

In 476, after the Battle of Ravenna, the Roman Army in the West suffered defeat at the hands of Odoacer and his Germanic foederati. Odoacer forced the deposition of emperor Romulus Augustulus and became the first King of Italy. In 480, following the assassination of the previous Western emperor Julius Nepos, the Eastern emperor Zeno dissolved the Western court and proclaimed himself the sole emperor of the Roman Empire. The date of 476 was popularized by the 18th-century British historian Edward Gibbon as a pivotal event for the end of the Western Empire and is sometimes used to mark the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Odoacer’s Italy, and other barbarian kingdoms, many of them representing former Western Roman allies that had been granted lands in return for military assistance, would maintain a pretense of Roman continuity through the continued use of the old Roman administrative systems and nominal subservience to the Eastern Roman court.

In the 6th century, emperor Justinian I re-imposed direct Imperial rule on large parts of the former Western Roman Empire, including the prosperous regions of North Africa, the ancient Roman heartland of Italy and parts of Hispania. Political instability in the Eastern heartlands, combined with foreign invasions and religious differences, made efforts to retain control of these territories difficult and they were gradually lost for good. Though the Eastern Empire retained territories in the south of Italy until the eleventh century, the influence that the Empire had over Western Europe had diminished significantly. The papal coronation of the Frankish King Charlemagne as Roman Emperor in 800 marked a new imperial line that would evolve into the Holy Roman Empire, which presented a revival of the Imperial title in Western Europe but was in no meaningful sense an extension of Roman traditions or institutions. The Great Schism of 1054 between the churches of Rome and Constantinople further diminished any authority the emperor in Constantinople could hope to exert in the west.

By convention, the Western Roman Empire is deemed to have ended on 4 September 476, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus, but the historical record calls this determination into question. Indeed, the deposition of Romulus Augustus received very little attention in contemporary times. Romulus was a usurper in the eyes of the Eastern Roman Empire and the remaining territories of Western Roman control outside of Italy, with the previous emperor Julius Nepos still being alive and claiming to rule the Western Empire in Dalmatia. Furthermore, the Western court had lacked true power and had been subject ## Germanic aristocrats for decades, with most of its legal territory being under control of various barbarian kingdoms. With Odoacer recognising Julius Nepos, and later the Eastern emperor Zeno, as his sovereign, nominal Roman control continued with Syagrius, who had managed to preserve Roman sovereignty in an exclave in northern Gaul (a realm today known as the Domain of Soissons) also recognized Nepos as his sovereign and the legitimate Western emperor.[86]

The authority of Julius Nepos as emperor was accepted not only by Odoacer in Italy, but by the Eastern Empire and Syagrius in Gaul (who had not recognized Romulus Augustulus). Nepos was murdered by his own soldiers in 480, a plot some attribute to Odoacer or the previous, deposed emperor Glycerius,[87] and the Eastern emperor Zeno chose not to appoint a new Western emperor. Zeno, recognizing that no true Roman control remained over the territories legally governed by the Western court, instead chose to abolish the ######### division of the position of emperor and declared himself the sole emperor of the Roman Empire. Zeno became the first sole Roman emperor since the division after Theodosius I, 85 years prior, and the position would never again be divided. As such, the (eastern) Roman emperors after 480 are the successors of the western ones, albeit only in a ######### sense.[88] These emperors would continue to rule the Roman Empire until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, nearly a thousand years later.[89] As 480 marks the end of the ######### division of the empire into two imperial courts, some historians refer to the death of Nepos and abolition of the Western Empire by Zeno as the end of the Western Roman Empire.[86][90]

Despite the fall, or abolition, of the Western Empire, many of the new kings of western Europe continued to operate firmly within a Roman administrative framework. This is especially true in the case of the Ostrogoths, who came to rule Italy after Odoacer. They continued to use the administrative systems of Odoacer’s kingdom, essentially those of the Western Roman Empire, and administrative positions continued to be staffed exclusively by Romans. The Senate continued to function as it always had, and the laws of the Empire were recognized as ruling the Roman population, though the Goths were ruled by their own traditional laws.[91] Western Roman administrative institutions, in particular those of Italy, thus continued to be used during “barbarian” rule and after the forces of the Eastern Roman empire re-conquered some of the formerly imperial territories. Some historians thus refer to the reorganizations of Italy and abolition of the old and separate Western Roman administrative units, such as the Praetorian prefecture of Italy, during the sixth century as the “true” fall of the Western Roman Empire.[85]

Roman cultural traditions continued throughout the territory of the Western Empire for long after its disappearance, and a recent school of interpretation argues that the great political changes can more accurately be described as a complex cultural transformation, rather than a fall.[92]

As the Western Roman Empire crumbled, the new Germanic rulers who conquered its constituent provinces maintained most Roman laws and traditions. Many of the invading Germanic tribes were already Christianized, although most were followers of Arianism. They quickly changed their adherence to the state church of the Roman Empire. This helped cement the loyalty of the local Roman populations, as well as the support of the powerful Bishop of Rome. Although they initially continued to recognize indigenous tribal laws, they were more influenced by Roman law and gradually incorporated it.[93] Roman law, particularly the Corpus Juris Civilis collected on the orders of Justinian I, is the basis of modern civil law. In contrast, common law is based on Germanic Anglo-Saxon law. Civil law is by far the most widespread system of law in the world, in force in some form in about 150 countries.[132]

Latin as a language did not disappear. Vulgar Latin combined with neighboring Germanic and Celtic languages, giving rise to modern Romance languages such as Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and a large number of minor languages and dialects. Today, more than 900 million people are native speakers of Romance languages worldwide. In addition, many Romance languages are used as lingua francas by non-native speakers.[133]

Latin also influenced Germanic languages such as English and German.[134] It survives in a “purer” form as the language of the Catholic Church; the Catholic Mass was spoken exclusively in Latin until ########################################################### As such it was also used as a lingua franca by ################ It remained the language of medicine, law, and diplomacy (most treaties were written in Latin[citation needed]), as well as of intellectuals and scholarship, well into the 18th century. Since then the use of Latin has declined with the growth of other lingua francas, especially English and French.[135] The Latin alphabet was expanded due to the split of I into I and J, and of V into U, V, and, in places (especially Germanic languages and Polish), W. It is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world today.[citation needed] Roman numerals continue to be used in some fields and situations, though they have largely been replaced by Arabic numerals.[136]

A very visible legacy of the Western Roman Empire is the Catholic Church. Church institutions slowly began to replace Roman ones in the West, even helping to negotiate the safety of Rome during the late 5th century.[73] As Rome was invaded by Germanic tribes, many assimilated, and by the middle of the medieval period (c. 9th and 10th centuries) the central, western, and northern parts of Europe had been largely converted to Roman Catholicism and acknowledged the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. The first of the Barbarian kings to convert to the Church of Rome was Clovis I of the Franks; other kingdoms, such as the Visigoths, later followed suit to garner favor with the papacy.[137]

When Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as “Roman Emperor” in 800, he both severed ties with the outraged Eastern Empire and established the precedent that no man in Western Europe would be emperor without a papal coronation.[138] Although the power the Pope wielded changed significantly throughout the subsequent periods, the office itself has remained as the head of the Catholic Church and the head of state of the Vatican City. The Pope has consistently held the title of “Pontifex Maximus” since before the fall of the Western Roman Empire and retains it to this day; this title formerly used by the high priest of the Roman polytheistic religion, one of whom was Julius Caesar.[47][139]

The Roman Senate survived the initial collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Its authority increased under the rule of Odoacer and later the Ostrogoths, evident by the Senate in 498 managing to install Symmachus as pope despite both Theodoric of Italy and Emperor Anastasius supporting another candidate, Laurentius.[140] Exactly when the senate disappeared is unclear, but the institution is known to have survived at least into the 6th century, inasmuch as gifts from the senate were received by Emperor Tiberius II in 578 and 580. The traditional senate building, Curia Julia, was rebuilt into a church under Pope Honorius I in 630, probably with permission from the Eastern emperor, Heraclius.[141]

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It’s a little more complex than that. There was a huge cultural ideological aesthetical and religious change during the 3rd century crysis that has very little comparisons in western history I think. The dominatus institution being just the natural outcome and while being only administrative it reflected a great cultural break from classical antiquity and practically put the basys for middle ages along with Constantine. 2nd century Romans are not by any means the 4th century ones yes. Can’t speak for Napoleonic France but I doubt the shift was so culturally abrupt. I can see more in common between republican and early imperial Rome than with early and late imperial one. Looking just at the political miss the point of what I’m stating like with the Byzantines / Romans issue.

Actually if I recall correctly legions increased in number with Diocletian and Constantine, the Roman army was as big as ever under them, sign of the militarisation of Roman society. Until the 7th century is technically correct to still talk about legions while tagmata were created after that. But yes with gallienus Roman tactics and army composition changed dramatically, another sign that was not classical Rome anymore.
Oh and the point is clearly not the split, as you said splits always happened, it’s the cultural shift abandoning Hellenism to go towards the middle ages.

Well stated. You have my agreement.

People tend to mix the meaning of the admin language with the language of the population.

The population in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, never spoke latin ever. In 610 was just the admin language change from Latin to Greek, “fixing” it in a way. So, the example with the Mexicans does not apply.

And there were also other similar admin actions earlier than 610, like Leo I’s (reigned 457-474), who was the first Eastern Emperor to legislate in Greek rather than Latin.

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Just a remark, on a post I agree with the most:

This would be the case, only if the opposite had happened.

Life in Greece continued under the Roman Empire much the same as it had previously. Roman culture was highly influenced by the Greeks; as Horace said:

Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit (“Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror”).

The epics of Homer inspired the Aeneid of Virgil, and authors such as Seneca the Younger wrote using Greek styles. Some Roman nobles regarded the Greeks as backwards and petty, but many others embraced Greek literature and philosophy. The Greek language became a favorite of the educated and elite in Rome, such as Scipio Africanus, who tended to study philosophy and regarded Greek culture and science as an example to be followed.


Agree, Romans being highly influenced by Hellenism and classical Greece is clear by just a superficial look but there were differences nonetheless. Romans philosophy was more pragmatic, stoic and tended towards very practical rationalism, until Plotinus and the third century when pagan traditions declined in favour of the last wave of ancient neoplatonism and later Christianity. Greece has always been more theoretical, indeed Plotinus was from the Greek sphere and early Byzantine culture was a “revenge” over Roman materialism: compare late pagan writers like Julian or zosimus to platonic Christian authors like Augustine where his “city of god” is not the city of Rome but the one in the afterlife (Rome may fall but not the city of god, that was written after the sack of Rome by Alaric to contrast pagans blaming Christians for the death of ancient Roman virtues of strength and sense of the state).
That’s just to say that it’s still legitimate to talk about two different “civilizations” despite sharing a lot in roots.


Roman identity can mean one of 2 things:

  • I identify myself as Roman (true for Byzantines up until 1453)
  • I am legally a citizen of the Roman Empire (true for Byzantines up until 1453)

Although you may mean culturally, but I disagree here because culture changes. As I made the point above, the Rome of the Roman Republic was very different from the Rome of the Roman Empire. That doesn’t make either of them less Roman. I apply the same standard to the Byzantines.

I don’t think “having legions” is what makes one a Roman or not. Going back to the Roman Republic ↔ Roman Empire example, there was a long time in the history of Rome when the Romans didn’t have legions, that doesn’t make them less Roman.

And the same time, for the Greek-speaking argument of the Byzantines, the Greek language never died in the east. Through all the history of the Roman Empire (although we don’t really talk about the Greek-speaking Romans during the Pax Romana and such), Greek was spoken in the East, that doesn’t make those people officially citizens of the Roman Empire, less Romans than the Romans in Italy. Either legally or culturally. They weren’t considered as such by the Romans at the very least.

What was Roman specifically about Byzantines in the 8th century?

  • The military.
  • The administration.
  • The politics.
  • The fact that they are direct uninterrupted continuity from the founding of the City-State of Rome.
  • The fact that they are the half of the Empire that survived and changing the language won’t change that.

It’s not like after they adopted a new language they are a totally different people. England in 1300 was very very different from England in 1900, in both language and culture, but if you tell someone “the English of 1900 are not the same English of 1300, it’s a different thing” most people will think it’s absurd, because yes, the culture and language of 1900 doesn’t look like anything like 1300 but they are still the English.

Fair, the 1204 did destroy continuity, but then again, Constantinopole was recovered by the part of the Byzantine Empire that survived. It’s like you lose your capital in a war and then take it back.

I think the root of our disagreement is that you tend to view Table/Roman as a fixed point in time (probably 476), but I don’t. By “Roman” I don’t mean the Romans of year X, I mean the whole process, of Romans from 753 BC to 1453 AD. If I want to speak about the Romans from a specific point in time I will point out that time. It’s like saying French or English as mentioned previously. When I say “the English”, I don’t specifically mean the English of 1500 or 1700, but if I want to, I can be more specific with what I mean.

By Anglo-Saxon perspective I mean roughly perspective from the West. I think another word for it is “Eurocentric” but that doesn’t encapsulate it well since it implies Eastern Europe as well which is often overlooked in “Eurocentric” views, it’s more like “Western Eurocentric & Post Columbus American” view than anything.

I kind of summed it up here:

Western history posits a default Anglo-Saxon view of the world, centered on the Christian world of Western & Central Europe. From the Anglo-Saxon point of view, the Dark and Feudal ages are seen from a perspective of “Rome is over”, focusing exclusively on the feudal structures of the west, with kings and crusades, to the detriment of the history of the east. Byzantium is an obstacle, the Abbassids are an opponent, countries and cultures in Eastern Europe only exist when they come into contact with the west. Thus the role of the Byzantines is downplayed to… not be Romans.

Having Byzantines be Romans is “bad” for the west, both in the past:

  • Because everyone wanted to be Rome and there could only be 1 Rome, and I couldn’t be Rome if I agree that the Roman Empire still existed, so the Byzantines are a fraud, not the real Romans, otherwise I can’t take their place.
  • And because we praise these Romans so much, they had such a huge Empire and build amazing things, they are a model for us in the future. Now, if the Byzantines would be the Romans would be very hypocritical for us to hate them while we praise and look with admiration at their past, so to solve this cognitive dissonance we claim that they were not the Romans.
    And in the present:
  • The west was the greatest thing ever, we just couldn’t have a Roman Empire that survived in the east.

The issue I have with “culturally” is because culture changes all the time. As I made my point about things evolve, and the same thing was true before the Empire split.

So it’s very counter-intuitive to me the argument that "the Byzantines weren’t the Romans because they didn’t have the same culture as in 476. Yes. Of course they didn’t have the same culture. Just like they didn’t have the same culture in 476 as in 1 AD, or the same culture in 1 AD as in 400 BC. It’s exactly the same thing, so why is one “more Roman” while the other is “less Roman” ? the langauge, but not even in 400 BC all Romans spoke Latin, and according to the Romans all you had to do to be Roman was to be officially a Roman citizen, that was it. And the Byzantines, all of them were, in an uninterrupted line not like HRE.

It depends how you view “Roman descent”, I see the Greek-speaking Byzantines no less of Roman descent than the ones in the west in the 8th century. If the criteria is language, I’ve made my point about language previously.

Well, yes, my point about the split was that they were still Romans, that it was clear they were still Romans. You probably read it as “they distanced from the Romans of 395/476” which I addressed above.


I just want to say to the OP that I completely agree with your points. I think you summarize my impressions about the new civ very well.