Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Byzantine Art of Persuasion (Part I)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – a message from the New Testament (the Gospel of John, 1, 1). "Words, words, words!" – Pathetically cries Hamlet in William Shakespeare's eponymous tragedy. French writer Andre Maurois warned of power and destructive force that words can have: - “If the people better understood what danger lies in the use of certain words, dictionaries in the windows of the bookstores would have had a red ribbon with the inscription: "Explosive! Carefully Handle!"” Indeed, although they are most impermanent, at the end and after all, only words remain.

It is well known, on the other hand, that artistry in the use of the words is exactly proportional to the level of civilization of a certain society. In the period of the Middle Ages, Byzantium was a good example which confirmed the rule said. Barbarians themselves were aware of the skills of Byzantine diplomacy, that is, their ability to achieve anything they wanted with words and their clever use, which would otherwise been achieved only by the force of arms.

But this is not just about the deep impression that Roman eloquence was leaving on simple and primitive barbarians, but also and about giddiness and sometimes Byzantine perfidy which were in a special way connected with the art of handling words in the intricate political and diplomatic circumventions. In order to understand this, it is necessary to recall the Roman beliefs in their own uniqueness and Byzantines confidence in the sacred right of Byzantine Empire to rule over the entire Christian universe.

From this kind of belief, the Byzantine conception was coming out according to which all other people were less valuable than Romans and as such were worthy of contempt. It is necessary to bear in mind what was issued in order to properly understand the Byzantine attitude toward other nations, but also attitude of others towards Romans.

In order to show this, I will present four cases: two from the early Byzantine history, tied to 6th century and Turkish tribes, one from the final decades of the 10th century, in which, along with the Byzantines, the Russians are the main participants, and, finally, one which is placed in the last years of the 13th century, and it’s turned to the history of the Byzantine-Serbian relations.

To read "Byzantine Art of Persuasion (Part II)", click HERE.
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