Social and Political Thought in Byzantium, from Justinian I to the Last Palaeologus: Passages from Byzantine Writers and Documents

Social and Political Thought in Byzantium, from Justinian I to the Last Palaeologus: Passages from Byzantine Writers and Documents

Social and Political Thought in Byzantium, from Justinian I to the Last Palaeologus: Passages from Byzantine Writers and Documents

Social and Political Thought in Byzantium, from Justinian I to the Last Palaeologus: Passages from Byzantine Writers and Documents

Excerpt

Byzantium is guarded by so small a number of reliable troops that even puerile inroads into its territory may often attain success for a time. There is no monopoly in the world of learning; but some sort of equipment may justly be required of any man who would explore a thorny and obscure region with any measure of success.

THESE are the words of the learned historian of Byzantine literature Karl Krumbacher. They are words of wisdom and warning; and one who is not a Byzantinist, and who comes as a tiro into the field of Byzantine studies, may well ask himself, as he attempts to give some account of Byzantine social and political thought, whether his 'inroad' into the territory of Byzantium is justified, and whether he has the sort of equipment which may justly be required of a writer who attempts to handle the matter of Byzantium. I can plead only two justifications -- or perhaps I should rather say excuses. The first is that I have long been a student of the history of political thought, if not in Byzantium, at any rate in ancient Greece and in Western Europe; and perhaps such study is some sort of equipment for an account of Byzantine political thought, which, after all, does not differ in kind (though it may differ in detail and emphasis) from other forms and examples of political speculation. The second excuse which I would plead is also personal, and even more personal. I recently finished a work on the history of social and political ideas (largely couched in the form of translations from original texts) during the six and a half centuries from Alexander to Constantine; and being blessed (or vexed) by a desire to go on working, I was naturally led to lengthen my cords and strengthen my stakes by a study of social and political ideas after the age of Constantine, as they developed in the Greek lands of the Eastern Mediterranean on the basis, and under the influence, of the ancient Greek inheritance.

To these justifications, or excuses, I would add two other pleas. One is that I have, for some years past, studied Byzantine history and thought in such literature as I could find -- the works of Krumbacher and Ostrogorsky: the works of English Byzantinists . . .

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