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Intellectual Production in the Byzantine Empire
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One question people sometimes ask is how the intellectual/cultural/scientific output of the Byzantine Empire compared to Western Europe and/or Italy, its most advanced major region for most of the medieval period.

How do we answer this? Quantify! Quantify! Quantify! In this post, I will attempt to provide a short “cliometrics”-based answer.

Manuscript Production in Western Europe

Buringh, Eltjo, and Jan Luiten Van Zanden. 2009. “Charting the ‘Rise of the West’: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries.” The Journal of Economic History.

In Western Europe, there were ~10K manuscripts produced in 6-7C, 40K in 8C, ~200K in 9-11C, 800K in 12C, 1.8M in 13C, 2.7M in 14C, and 5M in 15C.

(Just around the time of the fall of Constantinople, Gutenberg invented his press, and things really took off. There were 12.5M books printed in 1454-1500, expanding to more than 0.2B in 16C, 0.5B in 17C, and 1.0B in 18C.)

What is the length of the average medieval manuscript? (10K words? Might be more, after all, some manuscripts were huge, e.g. the complete Summa Theologica has about one million words. Though I assume those were split off into several manuscripts. But I don’t know, I’m not a medievalist). And what percentage were originals? Probably a small one – <1%?. The article notes that the average print run in the earliest days of the printing press was 100 books, increasing to 700 by 1500. The earliest printers were heavily influenced by their scribal traditions, so let’s assume that the standard “print run” of any one unique manuscript was 25 (after all, the great boon of printing is that it collapses the price of copying, while producing the original is if anything more laborious than with a manuscript).

Now obviously a lot of the following will depend of the accuracy of these assumptions, but even if you were to make them very generous, it is still hard to make out the Byzantine Empire to be an intellectual powerhouse much after the medieval Renaissance.

Manuscript Production in the Byzantine Empire

How much writing from ancient Greece is preserved? Is it a finite amount that someone could potentially read?

Nick Nicholas answers:

While there are 105 million words in the TLG, most of them are Byzantine. I did a count of the words in the corpus in Lerna VIc: A correction of word form counts in 2009; because there is not massive growth in the number of known ancient texts, the counts still apply.

If we define ancient Greece as up to the fourth century AD, and we exclude Christian works and technical works (so just literature, as opposed to writing), it’s 16 million words. If a novel is around 100,000 words, that corresponds to 160 books; so yes, someone could potentially read it. If we cut it down to strictly Ancient times (down to the fourth century BC), it’s 5 million words.

So that’s 90 million words.

Using the above assumptions for Western Europe, that translates into 90 million total words / 10,000 words per manuscript = 9,000 unique manuscripts over the millennial history of the Byzantine Empire.

9,000 * 25 copies = 225,000 over one thousand years. Let’s say 25,000 during a typical century.

Broadly speaking, the Byzantine Empire’s core population was around 10 million from 7C to the Crusader sacking of Constantinople, or ~10% that of Western Europe and about equal to that of Italy. Unfortunately, its socio-demographic collapse happened at just the time when Western Europe began to experience a surge in intellectual production that continues to this day. Indeed, for most of its history, the Byzantine Empire was in unremitting decline (even as Europe gained on practically all dimensions). Assuming those two factors would cancel each other out, let’s make the further assumption that Byzantine manuscript production was basically flat throughout its existence.

Intellectual Output in Western Europe vs. The Byzantine Empire

Consequently, we have the following picture:

  • Byzantine intellectual production > all of the rest of Europe during 6-7C – the very darkest depths of the Dark Ages – with Western Europe as a whole decisively overtaking it as early as 9C.
  • Remaining one of the key intellectual centers during 9C-11C (e.g. France dominated leapt ahead during the 8C Carolingian Renaissance). But it still kept pace in per capita terms with the major regions of Western Europe.
  • Byzantines falling by the wayside from around 12C. Note that Italy’s production had increased to 95K by 12C, 253K by 13C, and 879K by 14C.

This broad sketch estimate seems intuitively correct, though it would be nice if someone could provide better (real) estimates for average medieval manuscript length, average manuscript “copying run”, and century by century data for the Byzantine Empire (as Van Zanden et al. did for Western Europe).

Consider the following:

1. Yes, there were some real Greek innovations. The Empire was militarily strained throughout its history, so a lot of its aggregate mind power must have went into the military sphere (e.g. Greek fire! still unsure how to exactly replicate it today. Byzantine military theory was also probably the world’s most advanced at the time). Though much less famous than Anna Comnena, Michael Psellos was arguably a precursor to Leonardo da Vinci.

2. However, it had no real science as in the Arab (or rather, Arabized) regions of the Middle East, no technological dominance as in Song China, no 12th century medieval Renaissance that spawned the West European university system and the Paris law school, the Oxford Calculators, and eventually, the most famous Renaissance.

3. The Byzantine Empire was indelibly cut off from these exciting European developments for reasons stretching back to the bifurcation of the Roman Empire.

Here is a telling extract about this from Timothy Ware’s The Orthodox Church:

The cultural unity lingered on, but in a greatly attenuated form. In both east and west, people of learning still lived within the classical tradition which the Church had taken over and made its own; but as time went on they began to interpret this tradition in increasingly divergent ways. Matters were made more difficult by problems of language. The days when educated people were bilingual were over. By the year 450 there were very few in western Europe who could read Greek, and after 600, although Byzantium still called itself the Roman Empire, it was rare for a Byzantine to speak Latin, the language of the Romans. Photius, the greatest scholar in ninth-century Constantinople, could not read Latin; and in 864 a ‘Roman’ Emperor at Byzantium, Michael III, even called the language in which Virgil once wrote ‘a barbarian and Scythic tongue’. If Greeks wished to read Latin works or vice versa, they could do so only in translation, and usually they did not trouble to do even that: Psellus, an eminent Greek savant of the eleventh century, had so sketchy a knowledge of Latin literature that he confused Caesar with Cicero. Because they no longer drew upon the same sources nor read the same books, Greek east and Latin west drifted more and more apart.

We can essentially consider Western Christendom world to have been one intellectual world, where the cognitive elites spoke and wrote in Latin. Multiple nodes comparable in demographic scope to the Byzantine Empire bouncing ideas off each other, while the latter’s scholars did not even have the language skills to participate.

Consequently, it is logical that Western superiority in intellectual output must have emerged rather early, and the above rough calculations would seem to confirm that.

 
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  1. inertial says:

    Byzantine Empire in the last few centuries was basically one town. Certainly when it concerned the intellectual output.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    , @melanf
  2. @inertial

    For its last ~125 years. It still had a reasonable population base in 13C, and there was a limited cultural flowering under the Latin Empire.

    My assumption was that the tendency of manuscript production to increase over time was, in the Byzantines’ case, countered by their shrinking demographics.

    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
  3. What is the length of the average medieval manuscript? (10K words? Might be more, after all

    I’m not sure there’s a way of answering that; it would be hard to come to a reliable estimate even for the Western manuscripts they use for their data base in the article, given that

    First of all, the ms in question should be handwritten, furthermore it is regarded as a codicological entity (the intended end product of a writers scribal activities, Mostert, 1989), which means that its size could range from a surviving fragment to a wholly intact ms as well as any fraction of a ms in between

    (from the appendix about the construction of their data base).

    How would one estimate the original word length of a fragmentary codex (whose full contents might be unknown)?
    10 000 words intuitively seems low to me, but it’s not clear to me that one can arrive at any number that isn’t highly speculative (same for “copying run”), or that this could simply be assumed to have been static over centuries and the same for Byzantium.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
  4. Nzn says:

    What type of battle plan would have won Yarmouk for the Byzantines? What should Vahan have done? Did Justinian make a long term strategic error by trying to conquer the West?

  5. Asagirian says: • Website

    East Romans(Byzantines) buried the own pagan culture with heavy dose of Christianity.
    Western Romans also destroyed much pagan culture. But then, it was utterly destroyed by Germanic barbarians.
    Since Eastern Roman Christians themselves destroyed Greco-Roman pagan culture(as wicked), it would have been inconvenient for them to revive it. It would have been a confession of wrong-doing.

    But since Germanic barbarians destroyed Western Rome, the destruction of Greco-Roman pagan culture could be blamed on the Germanics and ‘gothicism’. Western Christians could revive Greco-Roman paganism as part of lost high civilization laid wasted by vandals.

    Also, in the West, the triumph of Christianity all across Europe(even converting the barbarians) resulted in an extended civilization united by common spiritual theme. This made for relative peace. Once northern Europeans were Christianized, they tended to look to Rome with respect and reverence instead of planning more sackings and lootings. Also, almost all people in the West were white and European.

    In the East, Christian Byzantines were at odds with the non-Christian Persians. They bled each other in endless conflicts, and this created a vacuum for a rival universal faith and movement, Islam. So, unlike Italy that had fellow Christians as its neighbors to the north, Byzantines’ neighbors were rivals in faith and themes. And of course, in race as well.

    Renaissance took off in places like Florence. Such a city would have been unthinkable in the Byzantine world because it could never lower its guard and create sanctuary cities. Byzantine was about wars or walls. A fortress mentality took hold. Perhaps, if Islam hadn’t emerged, Byzantine Christianity could have gradually converted the Persian empire as well, and then there might have been long-lasting peace from Southern Europe to the Near East. But the rise of Islam made such prospect impossible. In time, Muslims would conquer and convert the Persian World, and against its growing wealth, manpower, and might, the Byzantines could only play defense. Byzantines went from wars to walls. A people under siege mentality aren’t going to have the freedom and spirit of individuality to be creative, innovative, and expressive.

    There were continuous wars in the West too, but they were among kings and princes; it was not a clash of civilizations because all of Western Europe was Christian. In contrast, the conflict among Christians, Muslims, and Persians was civilizational. Defeat wasn’t only political but total in the spiritual and cultural sense. It was a zero-sum game.

    In a way, Italy lucked out because Northern Europe had been so backward. Even though the Germanics managed to sack Rome, they were like the Mongols who sacked Peking. Culturally zero. So, they could be converted to the higher culture, and they were. As fellow Christians, they learned to behave and get along.
    In contrast, Byzantine empire clashed with peoples and cultures that were equally ancient, prestigious, and proud. It was much more difficult to convert them to the Byzantine way. Persians weren’t a bunch of illiterate barbarians. And Arabs, though relatively backward, also had a sense of history and culture. Unlike northern Germanic barbarians, they were capable of coming up with their own religion: Islam.

    [MORE]

    In those days, for there to be progress, the ideal condition was the city-state. It was difficult to have both freedom and order over vast areas back then due to problems of communication and transportation. In order to keep huge areas under control, individuality and freedom had to be crushed or suppressed. Today, such repression isn’t necessary to maintain order over huge areas due to effective means of communication, transportation, logistics, enforcement of rule of law, and etc. Back in those days, order could only be maintained over vast distances by military might, and that might cracking down on signs of dissent or independence, necessity ingredients for innovation and progress.

    This is why the greatest achievement of the Greeks was during the age of city-states. In those days, the city-state was the goldilocks ideal between too much and too little. In order to control too much territory, freedom had to be constricted. But then, control over too little didn’t provide for sufficient material and wealth to patronize the arts, ideas, and progress.
    In some ways, the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians was the end of True Western Civilization… until the rise of city-states in Italy in the period of the Renaissance. City-states like Florence and Venice had just enough independence, just enough order, and just enough trade-and-communication with the larger world to provide themselves with sufficient wealth/material and freedom/liberty. The result was the second flowering of Western Civilization in terms of arts and ideas. Hellenic city-states and Northern Italian city-states were the high-points of European civilization until modern technology made it possible to both maintain order across vast areas AND allow lots of individual freedom.
    Northern Italian city-states were safe from invasion from above because Germanic had been Christianized and civilized. And it was safely distanced from the Muslim World that managed to conquer parts of Southern Italy but not Northern Italy. Ironically though, the Muslim conquest of Spain did play a role in sparking the Renaissance because Muslims studied ancient Greco-Roman culture and translated it into Arabic, which was translated into Latin. But Muslims failed to make much of it because, when push came to shove, they favored might and order over freedom and liberty.
    Innovation needs sparks. Might blankets the world with force, snuffing out the fire. Also, excessive existential threats(of the clash-of-civilizations kind) are like heavy gusts that blow out the flames created from sparks. If Florence had been situated between Byzantium and Persians/Muslims, the winds of war would have blown out its flames and trampled on its flowerings.

    Some see Russia as the second Byzantium. For one thing, Russian Church is an extension of the Eastern Roman church. Also, Russia is a European civilization bordered by aggressive non-European ones. Like Byzantium and Greek world was taken over by Turks, Russia was once conquered by the Mongols. But for reasons, mainly geographic, it managed to survive and expand. Oddly enough, the Russian empire reached its zenith due to the leadership of non-Russians such as Stalin and the Jews. But then, China expanded way beyond its original borders under Mongols and Manchus who not only conquered the Chinese but conquered way beyond China, with China inheriting all the booty when invaders fell from power.

  6. melanf says:
    @inertial

    Byzantine Empire in the last few centuries was basically one town. Certainly when it concerned the intellectual output.

    Orthodox ethnic groups (in the Balkans and Asia) were quite numerous.

  7. [MORE]

    Shallow article, mostly memes, not history.

    However, it had no real science as in the Arab (or rather, Arabized) regions of the Middle East

    Arabs never had science. The science you speak of was Persian. Moreover, it was done by infidels who were promptly snuffed out by Muslims and Arabs.

    The Byzantine Empire was indelibly cut off from these exciting European developments for reasons stretching back to the bifurcation of the Roman Empire.

    You use the word ‘reasons’ like it’s something nebulous and complex, but really there’s only one one reason: the Byzantine Empire was cut off from the civilized world by Muslim piracy and Islam violence in general.

    Also, vastly important point you miss: the Byzantines started losing Anatolia to Turks and Islam roughly after the year 1000. They were basically on life support for the rest of their history.

    Western Europe and Russia started ascending roughly at the same time when the Byzantines started declining.

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  8. @anonymous coward

    [MORE]

    Arabs never had science. The science you speak of was Persian.

    Hence why I wrote “(or rather, Arabized).”

    Western Europe and Russia started ascending roughly at the same time when the Byzantines started declining.

    Can you read? “Indeed, for most of its history, the Byzantine Empire was in unremitting decline (even as Europe gained on practically all dimensions).”

    • Replies: @anonymous coward
  9. Tom67 says:

    The article is total and utter bullshit. The number of manuscripts extant depends on cultural continuity. There is obviously much less in the Greek East. Furthermore the number of manuscripts doesn´t day anything about their quality. Finally medieval Wester Europe´s intellectual production was largely due to the blooming of Islam civilisation. It is an indisputable fact that Christian Europe had only acknowledged certain writings by a few antique authors. The main one was Aristotle.
    But from the 9th century the Arabs had started to collect and translate EVERYTHING that they could lay their hands on and founded huge libraries. They then took the antique wisdom and developed it further. In the natural sciences chemistry (itself an Arab word), mathematics (Algorithm is also an Arab word) and astronomy (practically all the lesser stars have Arab names like Betegeuze). In philisophy we have giants like Averroes without whom the greatest medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinus is unthinkable. Then there is Avicenna whose book of medicine translated as Liber Primus Naturalium was the preeminent handbook on medicine in Europe into the 18th century.
    Therefore when one talks about the supposed advances of Western intellectual production one really talks about advances taken from the Arabs.

    • Replies: @iffen
  10. @Anatoly Karlin

    Hence why I wrote “(or rather, Arabized).”

    What you wrote is technically correct, if you focus only on the very surface meanings of the words and twist historical trends beyond recognition compared to reality.

    TL;DR – it’s Islam’s fault. Islam
    a) ruined the Eastern Roman Empire, starting from the eighth century or so
    b) destroyed Persian science
    c) cut off intellectual traffic between Western Europe and the Levant/Mediterranean.

    Talking about the history of the Middle Ages without mentioning how Islam turned everything to shit is like explaining the history of the 20th century without even once mentioning the USA.

  11. @Anatoly Karlin

    The disastrous Byzantine civil war after the Battle of Manzikert ( 1071) let the Seljuk Turks into Anatolia and led to the loss of the interior to the Turks. Despite occasional signs of revival, the patient lingered on for over 380 years ( 1453 ), the longest death bed scene in history.
    The Turks have since erased the remaining Armenians from Anatolia as well.
    The Turks mixed with the existing populations, enforcing Islam and the Turkish language.
    The chances of finding new Byzantine manuscripts in Anatolia is minimal. Also, the histories of these areas and cities most likely were destroyed, too. One of the features of the European Middle Ages were the numerous local and national chroniclers, eg Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, to name one of
    many. They greatly aid our understanding.
    There may have been many Byzantine chroniclers and other writers, but the length and extent of destruction make this unknowable.

    • Agree: Swarthy Greek
    • Replies: @Seraphim
  12. iffen says:
    @Tom67

    Wow! Talk about a plunge from great heights. It makes them look even more pitiful today.

  13. “We can essentially consider Western Christendom world to have been one intellectual world, where the cognitive elites spoke and wrote in Latin. Multiple nodes comparable in demographic scope to the Byzantine Empire bouncing ideas off each other, while the latter’s scholars did not even have the language skills to participate.”

    Maybe the cognitive elite of the Byzantine Empire were too oriented toward and therefore too corrupted by serving a singular state and a small set of oligarchs. Their Western peers did indeed have more varied views brought to bear on topics. Operating in Greek cut them out of a lot of exchane with the west, and it also didn’t help the Byzantines with their Orthodox peers, e.g. the Bulgars, who were indeed separated both linguistically and culturally.

  14. I did not expect the author of this piece to be aware of the most significant achievement, albeit entirely unintentional, of the Byzantine Empire relative to all Slavs.

    It is a fact that Byzantine gave all Slavs the most potent weapon possible, and that is literacy. It was this gift that, at least in my opinion, enabled Slavs to not only retain their identity and numbers, but to spread and prosper in all directions mostly by assimilating others, entire nations sometimes, who lacked the power of the written word, be it on the Balkans, to the West, East or to the North.

    Of course, that was not something that Byzantine did out of any altruistic motives. The Empire did that to augment itself in its geopolitical struggle of the era against the Western Christendom.
    True, Slavs must have been the right candidate for something like that because, to quote one movie character “help is given to those who deserve it”.
    But, boy, talking about unintended consequences.

    Anyway, when trying to fulfill an ambitious task such as gauging an entire civilization one should be a lot less superficial.

    • Replies: @melanf
    , @Seraphim
  15. melanf says:
    @Simpleguest

    I did not expect the author of this piece to be aware of the most significant achievement, albeit entirely unintentional, of the Byzantine Empire relative to all Slavs. It is a fact that Byzantine gave all Slavs the most potent weapon possible, and that is literacy.

    In this case, it was a very controversial gift.

    Language Catholic Church was Latin (which in theory should have known any priest), on this in Catholic countries (by necessity) built system schools where have studied Latin. This created an elite that knew a universal language, and had access to ancient literature.

    In the Orthodox Slavic countries the language of the Church was Church Slavonic, which isolated these countries from ancient literature, and made it useless to study Latin. The result is known-the Slavic countries that escaped the Byzantine “gifts” (Czech Kingdom and Poland), in the field of education were centuries ahead of the Orthodox Slavic countries.

    • Replies: @Simpleguest
    , @AP
  16. David says:

    Gibbon digresses on the learning of the Byzantine world. He mentions a few high lights like “the celebrated Photius” and a few others by whose “munificence the treasures of antiquity were deposited in the Imperial library; by their pens, or those of their associates, they were imparted in such extracts and abridgments as might amuse the curiosity, without oppressing the indolence, of the public.”

    {snip}

    “They held in their lifeless hands the riches of their fathers, without inheriting the spirit which had created and improved that sacred patrimony: they read, they praised, they compiled, but their languid souls seemed alike incapable of thought and action. In the revolution of ten centuries, not a single discovery was made to exalt the dignity or promote the happiness of mankind. Not a single idea has been added to the speculative systems of antiquity, and a succession of patient disciples became in their turn the dogmatic teachers of the next servile generation. Not a single composition of history, philosophy, or literature, has been saved from oblivion by the intrinsic beauties of style or sentiment, of original fancy, or even of successful imitation.”

    It’s in vol 5 on Gutenberg if you want to read all Gibbon has to say on the subject.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/735/735-h/735-h.htm

  17. @melanf

    “In the Orthodox Slavic countries the language of the Church was Church Slavonic, which isolated these countries from ancient literature, and made it useless to study Latin. The result is known-the Slavic countries that escaped the Byzantine “gifts” (Czech Kingdom and Poland), in the field of education were centuries ahead of the Orthodox Slavic countries.”

    How can someone be so blind is perplexing.
    Are you saying that it was better to be forced to read Latin and assimilate then to write and read the Gospels in your own mother’s tongue?

    Because, Latin alphabet and literacy were the most powerful tools of Germanic priests in assimilating others, including many Slavs, just like Church Slavonic literacy was the most powerful “weapon” given to Slavs.

    The Byzantine empire was asked to provide a Slavic alphabet and literacy precisely by the Western Slavic tribal leaders, forefathers of contemporary Czechs and Slovaks, who, at the time, were under intense pressure from Germanic Latin priests to adopt not only the Latin alphabet but the Latin language and thus assimilate.
    For them, for them, having a Slavic written word and literacy was a mean to stay free.

    Don’t despair for missing the chance to be part of the “advanced” Latin world.
    Your own Alexander Nevsky would disagree.

  18. AP says:
    @melanf

    True, but you contradict your claims in posts on another article’s comment section.

    • Replies: @melanf
  19. While AK’s conclusion may very well be correct, it seems to me that the argument is tenuous for at least a few reasons:

    1) My prior is that a more representative sample of medieval Latin literature is extant, since many Western European countries have some degree of institutional continuity going back at least a thousand years and sometimes more. This is much less true for the Byzantine empire (there are a small number of continuously functioning monasteries in the East, but as far as I know, there are no still existing secular institutions).

    2) The premise of the discussion is rather questionable. While I certainly enjoy Chaucer,
    I can’t say that it would be such a great loss to civilization if two scholars of Oxford had not cuckolded the Miller or his wife had not farted in his face. Having worked one summer on the catalogue of a large manuscript research center, it seemed to me that most of the rest of medieval Latin manuscripts concern the properties of urine for the diagnosis of illness.

    The same can be said for ancient literature as a whole. There are a few works of literature that we can still enjoy, some sacred books which still have influence, some mathematics that has been incorporated into modern science, but the rest is simply fodder for more or less interesting socio-historical research.

    3) At some point, the Northern Italians and then Northern Europeans figured out how to do new mathematics and dynamics (not just statics, which was fairly well-understood by architects since ancient times), and that’s when the real divergence begins. One can hypothesize that somehow all that Latin discussion of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin was preparation for a scientific revolution, but the usual explanation is that it was the rediscovery of ancient Greek literature that excited the Italians so much. Admittedly, for that to be possible the Italians had to at least be intelligent and literate.

    4) Rather than comparing numbers of words, it would probably be more fruitful to compare law codes ,architecture, and ship-building. Unfortunately, I know very little of that in general and even less in the context of the Byzantine empire.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Boswald Bollocksworth
  20. melanf says:
    @AP

    True, but you contradict your claims in posts on another article’s comment section.

    I wrote about the relatively high level of education in Poland, not about the Polish colonies. Polish colonies were a disaster (including in the field of education) for the indigenous population of these colonies.

    • Replies: @AP
  21. AP says:
    @melanf

    I wrote about the relatively high level of education in Poland, not about the Polish colonies.

    Richest man in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, with a massive private army, whose son became king of Poland, was a Rurikid prince and native of what is Ukraine. Point out a colony with a similar phenomenon.

    Polish colonies were a disaster (including in the field of education) for the indigenous population of these colonies.

    You claim that, but your claims have been debunked.

    https://www.unz.com/akarlin/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-putin-again/#comment-3042522

    • Replies: @melanf
  22. melanf says:
    @AP

    Polish colonies were a disaster (including in the field of education) for the indigenous population of these colonies.

    You claim that, but your claims have been debunked.

    Quote from AP:

    Great Russians have produced a much larger amount of notable figures per capita than western Rus,

    I don’t dispute this. It is quite true

    ¯ \ _ (ツ) _ / ¯

    • Replies: @AP
  23. I’m skeptical we have good numbers here. When Constantinople fell in 1453, accounts say the price of books plummeted, so flooded was the market with looted books, and this after the Crusaders had presumably done a number on the libraries. If we go by Anna Komnene’s account, Western Europeans had an inferiority complex around the Byzantines, while the Byzantines held westerners in open contempt. This to me sounds like a *stereotype* and thus it must be true!

    The Anglo-Saxons certainly had a highly developed poetry, theology (St. Bede) and sense of curiosity especially considering their relative isolation, but they are the exception in Western Europe in the early Middle Ages. The AS concept of Wyrd is basically an intuition for probability distributions. The French and the French Normans (who were gay and cheated at Hastings) could hardly do much more than copy the Vulgate. They weren’t producing much original (Unlike the Anglo-Saxons) until they STOLE the Anglo-Saxons ideas after 1066, much as “whites” stole computers from Africans. So basically I want to encourage skepticism about the level of manuscript production, and to suggest that only True Western Orthodox Anglo-Saxons and Irish (1066 was a Papist false flag) were doing original work in this period in the west.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  24. @The Big Red Scary

    Byzantine refugees certainly seem to have played an essential role in the Renaissance. The Iliad being introduced to Western Europe in the early 1400s. Late Byzantine Iconography and art seeming to be a starting point for the master painters of the 1400s.

    • Replies: @melanf
  25. AP says:
    @melanf

    Second part is about modern days, not about the times when the Western Rus were all part of the PLC.

    Try not to take quotes out of context.

  26. @Boswald Bollocksworth

    Some good points, though worth noting that Anna Comnena was early to mid 12C, i.e. just about the time when West European intellectual production began to explode.

  27. Seraphim says:
    @Verymuchalive

    The ‘West’ started the chase for Greek manuscripts in the 12th century. From the 15th onward the West recovered all the Greek texts preserved in ‘Byzantium, not only the ‘classics’, but also the entire production of ‘byzantine’ writers up to the fall of Constantinople.

  28. melanf says:
    @Boswald Bollocksworth

    Byzantine refugees certainly seem to have played an essential role in the Renaissance.

    That’s wrong. Italian humanists (with the help of refugees from Byzantium) collected and translated the Greek texts preserved in Byzantium. But the phenomenon of the Renaissance was the result of the internal development of Italy, Byzantium had a negligible impact on this process.

    Late Byzantine Iconography and art seeming to be a starting point for the master painters of the 1400s.

    This is a completely false statement. Renaissance masters were inspired by the preserved samples of Greco-Roman painting in Italy. Ugly late Byzantine icons had nothing to do with Renaissance.

  29. Seraphim says:
    @Simpleguest

    It was not at all unintentional. It was a conscious policy of the Empire to integrate the ‘barbarians’ into the ‘Byzantine Commonwealth’ (as it was called by the great historian Dimitry Obolensky, Professor of Russian and Balkan History at the University of Oxford (+2001) by evangelizing them. It was largely an altruistic endeavour. It did not impose Greek in the Church, but created the language for the cult, laws, administration.

    • Replies: @Simpleguest
  30. @Seraphim

    Interesting point of view.
    The motive and intent, as you describe them, were certainly present, although it did not turn out as intended, hence unintended consequences.

    As always, I think truth is somewhere in the middle. While Byzantium could “afford” to be altruistic when dealing with peoples and lands further away from the empire’s core, like Moravia, Panonia or Kievan Rus, closer to home, on the Balkans, one could actually witness a bitter struggle between Church Slavonic and Greek.

    • Replies: @Seraphim
  31. Seraphim says:
    @Simpleguest

    By and large it did turn out as intended, despite the inevitable frictions between centrifugal tendencies. The Balkans remained Orthodox to this days. Not to say anything about Russia.

    • Replies: @Simpleguest
  32. @Seraphim

    Obviously, we emphasize different aspects of this issue.

  33. Mr. Hack says:

    Yes, there were some real Greek innovations. The Empire was militarily strained throughout its history, so a lot of its aggregate mind power must have went into the military sphere (e.g. Greek fire! still unsure how to exactly replicate it today. Byzantine military theory was also probably the world’s most advanced at the time). Though much less famous than Anna Comnena, Michael Psellos was arguably a precursor to Leonardo da Vinci.

    A friend of mine, a retired professor of sociology who has taken a keen interest in Orthodox religious matters and ancient Greek history in his spare time, offers you this quite cogent explanation to your perplexing problem. He has spent way over 10 years researching this issue, and has offered me a copy of an essay that he’s written, that he does not wish to have published at this time. I hope that you find it satisfying:

    “Who discovered piezoelectricity?

    “The piezoelectric effect was discovered in 1880 by two French physicists, brothers Pierre and Paul-Jacques Curie, in crystals of quartz, tourmaline, and Rochelle salt (potassium sodium tartrate). They took the name from the Greek word, “piezein,” which means ‘to press-out.‘”

    The above explanation, I credit is from the Web Site: “How Stuff Works.” Please Google it. Below is the continuation of my essay.

    These piezoelectricity effects were discovered also, albeit primitively, by engineers of the Christian Roman Empress Anastasia (c 650 – c 720), the mother of Justinian II (669-711). These technicians improved the version of a napalm-like, mainly anti-ship weapon system called Roman Fire, helping to defeat, 40 years before, an Islamic attack (678-683) against the Christian Roman Empire’s capitol, Constantinople.

    The upgraded weapon system was renamed, “Artificial Fire,” for natural but then unfamiliar physical effects (involving what is known today as hydrogen electrolysis out of pressurized steam by piezoelectricity) used by the greatly outnumbered troops of Leo III (717-741) along with Bulgarian soldiers and winter’s very unusual cold to defeat a second Arab Muslim attack by 80,000 men and hundreds of war ships even more decisively in 717, saving the Christian Roman Empire, headquartered in Constantinople, and saving Europe with Jews, and Christians and other faiths.

    An improved, mainly naval weapon system called Artificial Fire achieved this victory by overcoming new defensive measures countering Roman Fire on enemy ships, with exploding hydrogen gas. Animal hides soaked in vinegar, draped over enemy ship hulls could not resist the exploding hydrogen of Artificial Fire.

    In heavier warships, a below-deck pre-fire boiler (πρόπυρον) was used for piping scalding steam, pressurized via force-pump, to an iron tank of volatile petroleum distillates above deck. The tank generated piezoelectricity from piezoelectric natural crystals in its six, marble lined interior walls, also acting as heat shields.

    Super-steam to 250°C pressed upon the piezoelectric crystals in the marble lining the insides of the tank. This steam was held with safety and blow-back valves. Discharge siphons ejected volatile hydrogen gas from piezoelectric electrolysis for break-up of steaming water molecules into hydrogen gas and oxygen, the latter supporting flame ignition.

    Also ejected was exploding hydrogen gas, made by steam electrolysis within the tank, also containing napalm-like, volatile and now, burning petroleum distillates. The inextinguishable, roaring, plasma fire in dense steam, weighted by incompletely burning plasma and sticky resin thickeners spewed downwardly in booming cacophony and smoke to incinerate enemy ships.

    Piezoelectrical effects today in the Holy Light Sacrament on Holy Saturday, along with those which the pious call supernatural support its credibility, now further reinforced by scientists in 2008.

    The ceremony formalized Uncreated Light as concept for St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), in his explanation for Theosis. But the ceremony originated earlier in the late fourth century with the formal prayer of Cyril of Jerusalem (c 368).

    Please see, https://es.scribd.com/document/88593657/Theosis-and-Gregory-Palamas

    The Holy Saturday ceremony has continued annually ever since 368, in the same place, Jerusalem’s battered Church of the Resurrection, battered like that on the image of the Turin Shroud.

    The Holy Light ceremony inspired the original invention of Roman Fire. The inventor, the seventh century chemist and architect, Kalinikos, of Heliopolis, Egypt, escaped captivity in Heliopolis, Syria, with his children after Muslim Arab conquest of Egypt (639-642).

    At the Holy Light Sacrament in Jerusalem, where most pilgrims held up candles hoping for a supernatural lighting, Kalinikos held up a tube with petroleum, a little Jerusalem tomb crystal dust and a wick. It was lit as though supernaturally.

    When he snuffed the flame, he discovered a distillate, “naphtha.” It became a key ingredient of Roman Naval Fire. Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, footnotes it as, “Fire from Jerusalem.”

    The Holy Light manifestations include quantum energy discharges (plasma), in the nearby environment, whereby piezoelectric crystalline components of the granite structure over the tomb of Christ, housing his body for a short time, now experience deformative voltage pressure from a mysterious source (the invisible Holy Light) and change size slightly. These changes release irregular bursts of created, ionized plasma light and electrical energy for a short duration.

    This results in discharge of cool plasma at maximum deformity. The invisible source energy can be hypothesized by pious laity as being supernatural, termed the Holy Light, along with these resulting globes produced partly from plasma discharges from the granite faces of the structure over the empty tomb of Christ and then further developed from their interaction with the source energy.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @AP
  34. Mr. Hack says:
    @AP

    Don’t thank me, thank my Greek friend. There are quite a few videos on youtube regarding the HolyLight ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday – highly recommended! Candles mysteriously light in a miraculous fashion, witnessed by hundreds within. I was hoping that Anatoly didn’t miss this comment, he’s the one trying to figure out the mystery of Greek fire…

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
  35. @Mr. Hack

    I didn’t miss it, thanks. I am looking forwards to the full paper coming out publicly.

    • Replies: @Seraphim
  36. Seraphim says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    There is already a wealth of information on the Holy Fire Miracle, including relations of eyewitnesses
    @http://www.holyfire.org/eng/
    Yours truly was a witness.
    A closely related theme is the formation of the image on the Shroud of Turin at The Shroud of
    Turin Website
    @https://www.shroud.com/

    As an aside, Palamas’ ‘explanation of Theosis’ and vision of the Uncreated Light was not a ‘concepualization’ of the Ceremony of the Holy Fire.

  37. Yevardian says:

    If we cut it down to strictly Ancient times (down to the fourth century BC), it’s 5 million words.

    Did you mean AD here? Or your definition of Ancient Times refers to the pre-Hellenistic era only?

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