Byzantium: The Emperor's New Clothes?

Alexander Kazhdan considers the influence of totalitarianism and meritocracy in the Byzantine empire – and its relationship to the growth of the Russian and other successor states in the East.

The state of Byzantium, the so-called Byzantine empire, has never existed; the term was invented in the sixteenth century to designate the empire the capital of which was Constantinople, the city on the Bosphorus, which was supposedly founded in 330 and destroyed by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Byzantion (in the Latinised form Byzantium) was the name it held before being renamed by and in honour of the Emperor Constantine the Great (324-37), and throughout the Middle Ages the Byzantines were the citizens of Constantinople only, not the subjects of the emperor who reigned in Constantinople. These subjects did not even notice that they stopped being Romans and began being Byzantines they continued to consider themselves Romans until they woke up under the rule of the sultans.

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