Byzantium's Role in World History

Cyril Mango

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Byzantium's Role in World History

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Reception
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)



More often than not in the course of its long history, Byzantium found itself in a defensive posture and its most dangerous enemies were Asiatics: Persians, Arabs, and various peoples of the steppe such as the Huns and the Turks. The ‘education’ of the Slavs calls for a more nuanced judgement. It means in effect the spread of Byzantine Christianity from the ninth century onwards to encompass the Bulgarians, Serbs, Russians, and (in part) Romanians, thus forming what Dimitri Obolensky has called the Byzantine Commonwealth, an ideological, not a political grouping, united by a common religion and the acknowledgement of Constantinople as its spiritual centre. Byzantium cannot be equated with Greece, nor is there any evidence that the Byzantine Empire pursued the diffusion of Greek language as a matter of conscious policy. That spoken Greek has survived, even as a minority language, may be considered, however, as one of Byzantium's positive contributions. This article considers Byzantium's role in world history.

Keywords: Byzantium; Byzantine Empire; world history; Arabs; Slavs; Christianity; Byzantine Commonwealth; Constantinople; Greece; Greek language

Article.  2209 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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