HELLENISM IN THE SYSTEM OF BYZANTINE IDENTITY
I. Iu. Vashcheva
Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod
This article explores the complex and much debated problem of Byzantine identity through an examination of the relationship between its three main components: Romanitas, Hellenism and Christianity. It focuses primarily on the substantive aspects of Byzantine Hellenism. The analysis is based on material from the Church Histories of late antiquity.
Overall, the church historical works of the fourth to sixth centuries A.D. demonstrate an ambivalent attitude by Christian authors to the Hellenic legacy. Although Christian truth is clearly prioritized, appeals to the Hellenic legacy and allusions to classical education, literature, and events in the ancient (pagan) past are not perceived as something wholly negative. In this framework, the concepts of Hellenic, Roman and Christian did not contradict one another, but rather became well integrated. One particularly important role of Hellenism in Byzantine identity is perhaps connected with the transfer of main identification characteristics to a more cultural than religious sphere. In the early Byzantine period, the core of Hellenism was not geographical, ethno-political, linguistic, or even religious. Instead, it represented a system of paideia that proved generally consistent with the Christian faith, while also consonant with the Christian idea of education for the sake of the salvation of mankind.
Keywords: Byzantium, late antiquity, identity, Hellenism, Christianity, Church Histories.