The Edinburgh History of the Greeks, c. 500 to 1050: The Early Middle Ages

The Edinburgh History of the Greeks, c. 500 to 1050: The Early Middle Ages

The Edinburgh History of the Greeks, c. 500 to 1050: The Early Middle Ages

The Edinburgh History of the Greeks, c. 500 to 1050: The Early Middle Ages

Synopsis

Florin Curta writes an absorbing account of the social, economic, and political factors of Greek life between the years of 500 and 1050 B.C.E. His interdisciplinary approach relies on archaeological evidence and information gleaned from coins and seals, fiscal documents, medieval chronicles, and hagiographic literature. Several themes connect these chapters: the Balkan context, the social role of the army, and the onset of economic growth. Special attention is paid to the size of the economy in early medieval Greece, and both social and economic aspects are presented as fundamentally overlapping spheres of activity.

Excerpt

Few are the periods in the history of Greece for which continuity is a more sensitive issue than the early Middle Ages. For none is ethnic (as opposed to any other kind of) continuity more important for writing the history of Greece and the Greek nation. Discontinuity was first proposed by the German journalist Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer (1790– 1861), who in the early nineteenth century claimed that modern Greeks were descendants not of ancient Greeks, but of Slavs and Albanians, whose ancestors had settled in Greece during the Middle Ages and had learned to speak Greek from the Byzantine authorities. Writing in the political climate created by the treaties of Adrianople (1829) and Constantinople (1832), which placed the newly created Greek state under the protection of the Great Powers, including Russia, and vouchsafed its independence from the Ottoman Empire, Fallmerayer was not as concerned with the Slavs per se as he was with what he viewed as the catastrophic consequences of their migration into Greece (Fallmerayer 1830, 1835, and 1845; see also Lauer 1993: 140). Driven both by the political liberalism of the Vormärz years and by apprehensions about Russia’s increasing influence in the Balkans, Fallmerayer saw the proclamation of an independent Greek state as a weakening of the Ottoman Empire and a strengthening of Russia. He was therefore enraged by the political naiveté of the European Philhellenes and attempted to prove that the Greeks and the Russians shared not only the same religion, but also the same ethnic origin (Fallmerayer 1830: iii–iv; see Thurnher 1995; Skopetea 1997: 99–132). His ‘Slavs’ were therefore primarily Russians, which may explain the extraordinary popularity of his views at the time of the Crimean War (Lauer 1996).

In Greece, those views had by then already stirred interest in the Slavs, if only to combat Fallmerayer’s increasingly pernicious influence. It was in reply to Fallmerayer that the Greek historian Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos (1815–1891), then only 28 years old, published the first Greek refutation of Fallmerayer’s theories . . .

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