French BYZANCE; Greek BYZANTION
"Byzantium" was the ancient Greek colony located near the
site of Constantine's New Rome.
Although the term (and the name of the colony's eponymous founder
Byzas) may be occasionally found in liturgical texts
devoted to the Patriarchs of Constantinople, its sense
was entirely local; inhabitants of the imperial provinces
did not think of themselves as "Byzantines", but as "Romans".
The term "Byzantine Empire" originated in the West after
the fall of Constantinople, and was used by Renaissance
admirers of pagan antiquity to distinguish the Roman
Empire of classical times from its supposedly inferior
(Previously, Western writers had favoured "Greek" as a
pejorative, but for scholars intoxicated with Plato
this was no longer an option.)
Although in a way useful as a designation for the culture of
the Greek East, "Byzantine" has acquired so many racist
overtones that it is probably a term best avoided. Moreover,
its use reinforces the common tendency to
between the "Greek-speaking" and "Latin-speaking" spheres.
The references on this page refer to the concept of "Byzantium"
in the West, not to the city of Constantinople
nor to the actual
civilisation and empire
centred upon her.
Norman Hugh Redington
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