A Diachronic Discussion of the Development of the Relationship Between Basileus and Patriarch in Byzantium
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CitationHatzopoulos, Christos. 2016. A Diachronic Discussion of the Development of the Relationship Between Basileus and Patriarch in Byzantium. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractHistorians have long wondered whether the relationship between the Basileus (temporal) and Patriarch (ecclesiastical) was a truly harmonious relationship as defined by Patriarch Photios in the ninth century in his Epanagoge during the Byzantine Empire’s long reign. This harmonious relationship, if there was one, was mired in conflict between the secular and ecclesiastical rulers in Byzantium. What were these conflicts, how were they worked out between them, and how do these conflicts affect our understanding of the existence of a symphony of powers? Was the Emperor also a priest?
I hypothesize that the concept of a harmonious relationship between the Basileus and Patriarch was more honored in the breach than in the observance. When there was a conflict between the two, the Basileus almost invariably won out. This hypothesis does, however, recognize that there were limitations to this “winning out,” as conflicts with the Patriarch were often tempered by the will and support of the Byzantine clergy and laity. The Basileus often played an important role in controversial theological issues resulting in the growth and expansion of the Orthodox Christian Church in Byzantium. The Basileus, or Emperor, also was given liturgical privileges and special honors normally reserved for clergy in the services of the great Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom (Agia Sophia) Church in the Empire’s capital city of Constantinople.
The Byzantine, or New Roman, Empire was also described by historian Steven Runciman as an “earthly copy of the Kingdom of Heaven.” Just as God ruled in heaven, so an Emperor, made in His image, should rule on earth and carry out His commandments. This empire lasted over one thousand years--from the first Christian Emperor Constantine I (r. AD 313-337) until the Emperor Constantine XI Paleologus (r. AD 1449-1453). According to historian Peter Stearns, the New Roman Empire was renowned for its intellectual activity, culture, wealth, and economy. This was also the first empire structured, primarily from the 6th century and on, and, ideally in design, to be ruled temporally by an Emperor, and ecclesiastically, by a Patriarch. The Emperor Justinian’s (r. AD 527-565) contributions to the Byzantine Empire included codified Roman law, a preservation of ancient Greek culture, art, and architecture. This harmony of church and state could not have survived for more than a millennium without its share of conflict. I am hoping that my research will contribute to our understanding of how the Emperor and Patriarch worked out their differences when the symphony of power was not so harmonious, and will tell us more about what happened when the “symphony” broke down
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