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Héritages de Byzance en Europe du Sud-Est à l’époque moderne et contemporaine

 | 
Olivier Delouis
, 
Anne Couderc
, 
Petre Guran

Receiving Byzantium in Early Modern Greece (1820s-1840s)

Marios Hatzopoulos

Résumé

The paper explores the stance of Greek intelligentsia towards the Byzantine past during the first two decades of Greek independence challenging some of the established views on the issue. Despite the idealization of classical antiquity and the caustic anti-Byzantinism of the 1830s and 1840s, a sizeable part of Greece’s liberal and secularizing elites did mourn and commemorate the loss of Constantinople entertaining not a wholly dismissive but rather an ambivalent view of the Byzantine past. The paper suggests that the Byzantine past within the Kingdom of Greece was rejected as history and embraced as memory. However ostracised from official ideology, the trauma of the loss of Constantinople, regarded as space of utmost sacredness, constituted an age-old legacy in eastern Christianity that few within the newly born state could afford to dismiss. Collective memories and myths had laid a firm basis for the acceptance of the Byzantine past into the frame of reference of Greek national identity on which Romantic historiography came to build.

Texte intégral

If I tell you that the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop. Perhaps while we speak, it is rising, scattered, within the confines of your empire; you can hunt for it, but only in the way I have said.
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, concluding chapter

  • 1 Dimaras Constantinos Th., Ἑλληνικὸς Ῥωμαντισμός, Athens, 19942; id., Κωνσταντῖνος Παπαρρηγόπουλος. (...)

1Until the 1860s, most of Greece’s intellectual elites maintained that modern Greeks were emancipated after two millennia of foreign rule lasting from Roman to Ottoman times. This view treated the Byzantine past as a protracted part of Greece’s subjection to the Romans, that is to say a past marked by foreign rule imposed on an erstwhile free nation. In the eyes of Greek intelligentsia, Byzantium was not a component of Greek national history and identity. It stood, instead, for foreign oppression, moral degeneration, obscurantism and monkishness. All that changed when Romanticism broke onto the Greek historiographical scene with the work of Constantinos Paparrigopoulos. Building on the 1850s work of the folklorist Spyridon Zambelios, Paparrigopoulos developed a new historical theory in his multivolume History of the Greek Nation (1860-1874). This theory allowed him to interpret the achievements of Byzantine Christianity as developments of Hellenic pagan virtue, thereby portraying the eastern Roman empire as a product of the timeless genius of the Greek people. In this way, Byzantium was introduced into the string of Greek national achievements. Paparrigopoulos formulated an uninterrupted account of national identity by supplying a hitherto missing cultural link between ancient and modern Greece. Roughly sketched, this is the prevalent view of the introduction of the Byzantine past into the account of Greek national identity: a view holding that before the second half of the 19th century, Byzantium was nothing but a form of symbolic discourse, of little effectiveness in Greek social communication. It was only with the work of Zambelios and Paparigopoulos that Byzantium found its way into the frame of reference of collective identity in Greece.1

2In this article I argue that this view fails to capture the complexity of the historical record. What I propose is that, from the 1820S to the 1840s, a visible part of Greek intelligentsia viewed the Byzantine past in an equivocal manner. For Byzantium was conceived in early modern Greece in two forms: history and memory. What was wholly despised within the cultural and intellectual climate of the Greek kingdom before the rise of Romantic historiography was Byzantine history, not Byzantine myths and memories.

  • 2 Smith Anthony D., Chosen Peoples, Oxford, 2003, p. 49.
  • 3 Ibid., p. 170.
  • 4 Smith Anthony D., “The Resurgence of Nationalism? Myth and Memory in the Renewal of Nations”, Briti (...)

3Myths and memories are linked to, among other things, territory. According to Anthony Smith, a particular geographical territory or space becomes associated with a specific community over the longue durée through the processes of myth-making and shared remembering. Shared remembering is mainly the product of continual reciting, mostly through legend and myth, those collective experiences of the past that are of crucial importance for the community’s historical course and present status. Myth, for Smith, does not have the meaning of simple fiction: it is rather a cultural pattern with certain social significance. Myth is a symbol-built narrative held by a community about itself with a view to serving present needs and future goals. Myth is defined, therefore, as “a widely believed tale that legitimates present needs and concerns by reference to a heroic collective past that inspires emulation”.2 Whereas communal myths are tales, collective memories have mainly to do with records. Smith defines the sort of memories under consideration as “record [s] of one’s own or another’s personal or shared experiences recorded in a traditional cultural form to enable wide communication”.3 This approach accepts that it is often difficult to draw a clear line between myth and memory, thus Smith in his recent work uses also the term “myth-memories”. Myth-memories are not history in the sense of a disinterested academic enquiry into the past. They are narratives with plenty of loose ends, usually capable of variant readings, and referring to multiple, often alternative, and even opposing, communal pasts. What makes myth-memories sociologically important is their susceptibility to reinterpretation and their moral purpose: thanks to the former, they are capable of fitting into and working in different temporal contexts; and thanks to the latter they become – or at least aspire to be – guides for future collective action.4

  • 5 On the social and political function of the Byzantine myth-memories before and during the age of na (...)

4 My own analysis here is focused on the social and political implications of myth-memories from the Byzantine past in early modern Greece5, while drawing on the theoretical context sketched above. The point of departure is a paradox that the prevalent view on the introduction of the Byzantine past into the Greek national identity account has not dealt with: at a time when the Greek intelligentsia dismissed Byzantium on grounds of obscurantism and/or foreign rule, thereby sanctioning classical antiquity as the Greek nation’s one and only past, notions like the “reconquest of Constantinople” and the “reconsecration of St Sophia” nonetheless abounded in the public discourse of Greece. Those notions were as prevalent in popular discourse as in the halls of intellectual and political power. Indeed, a sizeable number of Greek intellectuals and politicians, who were libelling Byzantium on historical grounds, were quite ready to envisage St Sophia as a Greek cathedral and Constantinople as the future Greek capital at a time before the stars of Zambelios and Paparrigopoulos had risen up in the Greek skies.

Obsessions of memory

  • 6 Koubourlis Ioannis, “Η ιδέα της ιστορικής συνέχειας του ελληνικού έθνους στους εκπροσώπους του ελλη (...)
  • 7 Anonymous the Greek, Ἑλληνικὴ νομαρχία, ἤτοι Λόγος περὶ ἐλευθερίας, ed. ValetasGiorgos, Athens 1982(...)
  • 8 Lesvios Veniamin, Στοιχεῖα Ἠθικῆς, ed. Argyropoulou Roxani, Athens, 1994, p. 230; see also p. 255. (...)
  • 9 Koumas Constantinos M., Οἱ Ἕλληνες. Διαφωτισμός-Ἐπανάστασις, Athens, 1998, p. 518. One of the most (...)

5The enlightened Greek intelligentsia rejected Byzantium, in line with the thesis of Montesquieu, Voltaire and Gibbon on the decline and fall of the ancient world. Even if harsh, this rejection was qualified. Despite his bitter anti-Byzantinism, Korais, for example, would sometimes call “princes of our own kin” (ὁμογενεῖς ἄρχοντες) those he normally referred to as “the Graeco-Roman emperors”.6 His peers, however, took the case to the next level. For the writer of the anonymous 1806 polemic with the title Hellenic Nomarchy, it was clear that Byzantium was a protracted extension of Greece’s Roman subjection, a foreign yoke stretching from the smoking ruins of Corinth in 146 BC to the battered walls of Constantinople in 1453.7 Roughly at the same time the intellectual and teacher Veniamin Lesvios wondered emphatically in a treatise on ethics if “the last kings of Constantinople” should be counted among humans or animals.8 When the war of independence ended, the thesis under consideration became something of a hallmark for Greek historical scholarship. For the educator Constantinos Koumas, it was clear that the Greek nation had undergone twenty centuries of foreign subjection. For all those centuries, Koumas wrote in his monumental History of Human Deeds, the world spoke only of Greek misfortunes, not of Greek achievements.9 This was how the national past was approached by mainstream Greek intellectuals. The teacher Dionysios Pyrros the Thessalian was one of them.

  • 10 Politis Alexis (n. 1), p. 4 and 11-12; Clogg Richard, “Sense of the Past in Pre-independence Greece (...)
  • 11 Pyrros Dionysios the Thessalian, Γεωγραφία μεθοδικὴ καὶ καταγραφὴ ἁπάσης τῆς οἰκουμένης, ἐκ παλαιῶν (...)
  • 12 Ibid., p. 166-167.
  • 13 Ibid., p. 167.
  • 14 Ibid., p. 244.
  • 15 Ibid., p. 199.

6Former archimandrite at the Greek Orthodox church in Livorno and graduate of the University of Padua, Dionysios Pyrros arrived in Athens before the war of independence, in 1813, to teach children at the local school. Kindled with the spirit of Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment, he organized a formal ceremony in wich he changed the Christian names of his pupils to ancient Greeks ones, to the plaudits of the Athenian elders.10 When the war ended Pyrros found it necessary to enlighten the youngsters in the new state. He revised an earlier work, a geographical and historical textbook with the title Methodical Geography, with a view to introducing it into the national curriculum.11 In the relevant chapter, the author expressed contempt for the Roman abuses of Greece: “They” he wrote, meaning the Romans, “razed whole towns and villages […] abolished the laws of our ancestors and set up their own ones”. By saying this, Pyrros was here also alluding to the Byzantine emperors, whom he called “the Roman kings”.12 Remarkably, however, when Pyrros came to the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, his feelings suddenly shifted from contempt to compassion. “That was a terrible drama, for manslaughter was great”, he wrote characteristically, “and the ensuing enslavement was greater than ever. The Ottomans took Constantinople by sword in the reign of Sultan Mehmet II, on a Tuesday, May 27th [sic], in the year 1453, after 55 days of siege”.13 What draws attention here is the author’s care to specify the week, day, date (albeit a wrongly) and year, something that, despite his enthusiasm for Greek antiquity, he did not bother to do in the case, say, of the ruthless destruction of Corinth by the Romans (146 bc). A careful reader cannot resist wondering why the loss of the Roman capital should be “a terrible drama” for those who had been already experiencing enslavement at Roman hands. Yet later on Pyrros repeats once more that the fall of Constantinople “caused the greatest devastation that ever happened to the Greeks”,14 all the while noting, elsewhere, that “when the Turks took the kingdom of Constantinople, Greeks were rendered utterly homeless (ἔμειναν στοὺς πέντε δρόμους)”.15 In spite of his feelings for Byzantium, Pyrros seems to have reserved a separate treatment for Constantinople’s fall to Ottoman hands considering the event a key moment in the history of Greeks. Had this not been the time, as he oddly put it, when the greatest devastation befell Greek community and “homelessness” commenced?

  • 16 Cf. Smith Anthony D. (n. 4), p. 588.
  • 17 Politis was the first to spot this peculiar intellectual trend, tracing it back to the years before (...)
  • 18 Born on the Ionian island of Zante and educated in Padua, Georgios Tertsetis (1800-1874) was one of (...)
  • 19 Tertsetis Georgios, Ἅπαντα, II, Athens, 1954, p. 358; cf. ibid., p. 49.

7Dionysios Pyrros was not alone in considering the fall of Constantinople a turning point in the historical experiences of the Greek national community.16 Curiously, a sizeable part of the otherwise anti-Byzantine Greek intelligentsia deemed the event worthy of commemoration and mourning.17 Take for example the judge Georgios Tertsetis,18 an admirer of the French enlightenment, who would miss no chance to express his aversion to the era “when the kings turned out theologians and the monks turned out emperors”.19 Nevertheless, Tertsetis grieved for the fall of the Byzantine empire regarding it a disaster of nation-wide proportions – and importance:

  • 20 Ibid., p. 353. The quotations under consideration come from the third issue of “Rigas” (1845), a we (...)

“We saw an angel from Heaven marking the foundations of the celebrated city in the eyes of the first Christian emperor, and again we saw the marbles of St Sophia bathing in blood, and we heard the ceaseless wailing of the Greek maidens [therein]; we saw the babies suckling blood and milk from their mothers’ breasts on St Sophia’s stairs.”20

  • 21 Born in the Macedonian town of Siatista, Theodoros Manousis (1795-1858) was a life-long proponent o (...)
  • 22 Karmanolakis Vangelis, Stathis Panayiotis, “Ιστορίες για την άλωση στον πρώτο αιώνα του ελληνικού β (...)
  • 23 The writings of Nikolaos Saripolos contain numerous dismissive references to the Byzantine past. Fo (...)
  • 24 In his own words: “From the battle of Chaeronea on, humbled and enslaved Greece [as it were] fell f (...)
  • 25 Ibid., p. 93; opening verses from the poem Ἡ προωρισμένη ἀνάκλησις written in Paris and dated 18 Ma (...)

8Theodoros Manousis, Professor of History in the University of Athens, affords another example in the same vein.21 Manousis was touched by the fall of an empire he otherwise deemed corrupt and despotic. He would go emotional whenever he lectured on Constantinople’s fall, making his classroom to burst into tears.22 Another case is the Professor of Law at the University of Athens, Nikolaos Saripolos, a convinced liberal who castigated theocracy and regarded Byzantium with a critical eye.23 In public Saripolos shared the fourteen-centuries-Roman-subjection thesis of his contemporaries.24 In private, however, he employed a different view. In a body of poems that came out only after his death, Constantinople is portrayed as holy city, a space invested with sacred qualities conferred by God’s grace and men’s martyrdom: “New Jerusalem, baptized in the blood / of your countless martyrs and holy virgins”.25 Saripoulos, as a poet, mourns the loss of the city, not with distant sympathy, but with an all-embracing affection:

  • 26 Saripolos Nikolaos I. (n. 23), p. 14. Constantinople, like Rome, was built on seven hills, thus cal (...)

“Come, oh my lyre, and bring comfort / to the grief of my soul / come and pitch these elegiac verses / giving some relief to the pain of my wound / […] Why [are] the tearful eyes / constantly focused on this source of pain and misery? Why [do they] see nothing but this? / Like a light-thirsty flower / constantly turned to the Sun / so the eyes of a Greek are cast / on the crumbling towers of this widow, the city of the seven hills.”26

9The “source of pain” here is not Istanbul – the real and tangible capital of the Ottoman empire – but Constantinople, a myth-memory born out of a collective traumatic experience of the past. It was a myth-memory ostracised from Greece’s official ideology, which, as traumatised memories do, carried an introvert emotional freight: in contrast to the extrovert account of Greek achievements that the state put forth, it substituted the anguish of defeat for the self-assertiveness of glory and the pain of loss for the boast of fame. It was this feeling, the pain of loss, what would soon turn, right in the next stanza, the young poet’s depression into aggression:

  • 27 Ibid., p. 15; original emphasis.

“Wretched Constantinople, seat of emperors, / who is the ape now leaping inside the palace / of twelve Constantines? / Who is this impudent, lazy, long-beard dervish / foaming at the place where Palaeologos shed his blood? / They made the City of Byzas home to slaughter and wailing / and from the dome of St Sophia / they toppled the ray-blazing Cross.”27

  • 28 Alexandros Soutsos (1803-1863) and Panagiotis Soutsos (1806-1868), scions of a big and influential (...)

10At odds with the prevalent view of Greek history as well as with their own feelings towards Byzantine history, influential intellectuals in the Greek kingdom like Saripolos, Tertsetis and Pyrros (to whom we could suitably add the Soutsos brothers)28 treated the loss of Constantinople to the Ottomans as one of the most catastrophic events in the history of the Greek nation. Treated this way, Constantinople was raised to higher status: that of the arena of what was a most defining moment in Greek historical experience. By this token, however, the city was acquiring the qualities of a national homeland, both sacred and ancestral, for the Greeks.

Guides for the future

  • 29 Characteristically, Saripolos identifies Constantinople with Jerusalem: “Amid the peoples of the ea (...)
  • 30 See on this, Hatzopoulos Marios, Ancient Prophecies, Modern Predictions. Myths and Symbols of Greek (...)

11Apart from being called “New Rome”, “Queen of Cities”, or simply “the City”, Byzantine Constantinople had also been called “New Jerusalem”. It was, above all, a sacred city.29 Though a plethora of sanctuaries, churches and monasteries were built to hallow its space since foundation, the sacred qualities of Constantinople were intensified after the 5th century because of the massive transfer and reposition of Christendom’s most precious relics in its churches. By the early Byzantine centuries, it had already become the epicentre of legend. After the 15th century, the City could not only boast of laments and dirges commemorating its fall to the Ottomans but also of a prophetic tradition of lore and script promising the heavenly-ordained restoration of its “previous owners” as heads of the empire and the city. Even if of earlier date, the prophetic myth seems to have taken a final shape after 1453. According to this, the defeated and subjugated Christians would recapture Constantinople, reconsecrate St Sophia, and restore the fallen empire, when God sent a redeemer to crush the conquerors.30 Thanks to the processes of collective myth-making and shared remembering, Istanbul, a physical and social arena where the socio-economic arrangements followed the prescriptions of Islamic religion, could be transformed into Constantinople, an imaginary city where cross-cultural conduct followed the prescriptions of memory and myth. Imaginary though it was, Constantinople occupied real geographical space. In the eyes of Orthodox Christians (the vast majority of the Greek population) the geographical space of Istanbul did remain sacred, regardless of its current use or character, because it had formerly staged the deeds of their ancestors and the miracles of the Lord. Reverence had long led those who now inhabited the Greek kingdom to treat a stretch of sacred land far beyond the state border as indispensable communal possession.

  • 31 The exact meaning of the name of this church stands is the “Church of the Holy Wisdom” (Ἁγία Σοφία (...)
  • 32 For more on this, see Hatzopoulos Marios (n. 30), p. 52-57.
  • 33 Solomos Dionysios, Ἅπαντα. Ποιήματα καὶ πεζά, Athens, 1957, p. 224. Originally written in 1823, the (...)
  • 34 Koumas Constantinos M. (n. 9), p. 669.
  • 35 Dragoumis Nikolaos, Ἱστορικαὶ ἀναμνήσεις, I, ed. Aggelou Alkis, Athens, 1973, p. 88.
  • 36 Soutsos Panagiotis (n. 28), p. 112; cf. also p. 138.
  • 37 Oikonomos Constantinos [ὁ ἐξ οἰκονόμων], Λόγοι, I, ed. Sperantzas Theodoros, Athens, 1971, p. 259. (...)

12Attachments to sacred spaces regarded as indispensable communal possessions are not only engendered by holy cities but also by particular localities within. Since the 15th century, when it was turned into a mosque, St Sophia,31 the former cathedral of Constantinople, had been the stage for mythic apparitions signalling the approaching end of the Muslim rule in the imagination of the subjugated Christians.32 Inevitably, when the Greek war of independence broke out, St Sophia found a place in the imagination of the insurgent Greeks. For Greece’s national poet Dionysios Solomos, Constantinople and St Sophia were inseparable entities, as shown by the 113th stanza of his Hymn to Liberty.33 In early 1827, with Ibrahim Paşa campaigning in the Morea, and the Greek cause in dire straits, the dream of regaining Constantinople’s holiest church was floated in order to strengthen Greek morale.34 Later, when things had improved and Kapodistrias was aboard ship on his way to Greece, the most enthusiastic among his staff could not help fantasizing about the war ending with “the banner of Constantine flown atop the dome of St Sophia”.35 In the same year, the same dream was evoked in the poetry of the young Panagiotis Soutsos36 in a piece praising the bravery of Hydriots: “Our cannon will blow away / your crescent / Oh, St Sophia / desecrated temple of ours!” The sanctity imputed to the “desecrated temple” derived from the myth-memory of St Sophia being a most sanctified space conferred by God exclusively on Christians. Another part of this sacred quality, however, derived equally from shared memories of patriarchs, prophets, kings and heroes living and toiling therein. As the intellectual Constantinos Oikonomos reminded the insurgent nation in October 1821, the premises of St Sophia had formerly been the place “where the glory of the Lord was rejoiced, where pious kings were anointed, where the teaching of Gregories and Chrysostoms echoed”.37 The former cathedral of Constantinople recalled not only times of disaster and conquest but also by-gone eras of religious splendour coupled with royal associations.

  • 38 Politis Alexis (n. 17).
  • 39 Constantinos XI Palaeologos was immortalized by Greek popular legend and lore recorded in the late  (...)
  • 40 As the author of Ἑλληνικὴ νομαρχία underlined: “Remember that resistance is the beginning of all vi (...)
  • 41 Tomadakis Nikolaos B., “Ἡ Ἅλωσις καὶ ὁ Κωνσταντῖνος: Μάρτυς καὶ Ἅγιος τῆς πίστεως καὶ τοῦ ἔθνους”, (...)

13The mixture of religious splendour with royal associations was best epitomized by the figure of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantinos XI Palaeologos. It is again remarkable that the last emperor of the eastern Roman empire had essentially been left untouched by the caustic anti-Byzantinism of Greek intellectuals. Right before the outbreak of the independence war, Greek nationalists did extoll the courage and heroism of Palaeologos before the attacking Ottomans.38 Save for his mythic qualities that resonated with the populace,39 Constantinos Palaeologos was capable of meeting current ideological and political needs: he constituted a past model of heroic resistance against the same enemy whom the nation aspired to fight in the present.40 Yet more importantly perhaps for nationalist thinking, the way in which Palaeologos died chimed with a morality of martyrdom and sacrifice. The eyewitness and chronicler of Constantinople’s fall Georgios Sphrantzis was adamant, as were all Greek primary accounts, that the last Byzantine emperor chose to die fighting before the city walls, rather than surrender the city to the enemy.41

  • 42 Needless to say, Skoufos and Zambelios were on the whole critical of Byzantium; see Politis Alexis (...)
  • 43 Oikonomos Constantinos (n. 37), p. 328, n. 1.
  • 44 Ibid., p. 292; see also p. 289, n. 1. Besides Palaeologos, the “later” Greek ancestors included, ac (...)

14The resolve of Palaelogos for self-sacrifice was susceptible to reinterpretation in line with early 19th-century political needs. In the age of nationalism the martyr-king could be seen as a patriot-hero giving his life in defence of his own kin and homeland. It was in this spirit that, in 1816, the student Nikolaos Skoufos prayed to the soul of Palaeologos to guard the Greek nation. A year later, in 1817, the poet Ioannis Zambelios came to link king’s sacrifice to the prospect of national regeneration in a tragedy entitled Constantine Palaeologos.42 By that time, the intellectual Constantinos Oikonomos, whom we came across earlier, finished his own tragedy on the same subject. Though the work did not survive, there exists some evidence as to how the author would have treated the last Byzantine emperor. In a public speech written in 1821 to exhort the Greeks to rise up, Oikonomos referred to the “holy blood of this last Christian king”,43 before casting Palaeologos among the “later”, as opposed to the ancient or “earlier”, ancestors of insurgent Greeks.44 Ultimately the sentiments of reverence Greeks entertained for the Byzantine myth-memories were producing a collective sense of genealogical belonging.

  • 45 Pyrros Dionysios the Thessalian (n. 11), p. 199.
  • 46 Saripolos Nikolaos I. (n. 23); see for example p. 69, 87 and 93-95.
  • 47 Psyllas Georgios, Ἀπομνημονεύματα τοῦ βίου μου, Athens, 1974, p. 212.

15Acting within the politicised context of the Greek kingdom, the sacred myth-memories of the Byzantine past made Greek citizens to view Constantinople / Istanbul as sacred but also ancestral national homeland. Dionysios Pyrros’ earlier assertion about the Greeks losing their home upon losing Constantinople, does make sense in this context.45 The same applies to Nikolaos Saripolos whose poetic work reveal the conviction that the Greek nation had every historical right to take back and reconsecrate Ayasofia mosque.46 In the same spirit, Ioannis Kolletis, one of Greece’s most potent politicians, was quoted to have said, as early as 1833, that the proper capital of Greece could be only the City.47

  • 48 Skopetea Elli, Το “πρότυπο βασίλειο” και η Μεγάλη Ιδέα: όψεις του εθνικού προβλήματος στην Ελλάδα 1 (...)
  • 49 Dimaras Constantinos Th. (n. 1), p. 338.
  • 50 Skopetea Elli (n. 48), p. 274 and n. 3 on the same page.
  • 51 Stephanitzis Petros, Συλλογὴ διαφόρων προρρήσεων, Athens, 1838, p. 171, n. 1. It is not uncharacter (...)

16Faith in the imminent acquisition of Constantinople / Istanbul exercised a hold on hearts and minds in the tiny kingdom of Greece. The national capital issue can sufficiently illustrate the case. In December 1834 the Bavarian Regency transferred the Greek capital from Nauplion, in Peloponnese, to Athens. Many Greeks, nevertheless, held fast to the idea that only the City could serve this lofty purpose. One would expect those who subscribed to this folly to have come from the ordinary folk, yet it seems that the upper strata were not excluded from the trend. Wealthy Greek diaspora members, or even members of the Court, were reluctant to buy and build property in Athens, being confident that the capital of Greece would soon be transferred to over to Bosphorus.48 King Otto himself seemed to have shared the fantasy: as early as 1834, he was quoted as saying that he dreamt of seeing his throne there, “where the last Greek emperor fell”.49 Later Otto decided not to accept an offer of land by the Sultan for the erection of a Greek embassy in Istanbul, lest he thereby acknowledge the Ottoman sovereign rights over the city. Then in 1839, upon learning the news of Mahmoud II’s death, Otto reportedly wondered whether he would have been given the imperial throne, if he had visited the Ottoman capital in person.50 It was just a year before, in 1838, when Lord Byron’s doctor and war veteran, Petros Stephanitzis, had publicly identified the Bavarian-born Otto with the long-prophesied Christian conqueror of Istanbul.51 Evidently, during 1830s and 1840s Constantinople / Istanbul was viewed as a Greek homeland, invested with providential meanings.

17In the light of the above, it is clear that before the rise of Romantic historiography in Greece, the feelings of a sizeable part of the Greek intellectual and political elites towards Byzantium were not really dismissive. They were ambivalent. Shared myth-memories from the Byzantine past, although excluded from official ideology, constituted a legacy that few nationalists of the time could afford to dismiss. Even fewer could pretend the legacy was less than a cultural force engendering powerful attachments in wide and variable layers of Greeks driving them to view Constantinople / Istanbul as a Greek homeland, both sacred and ancestral. Viewed through this lens its fall was taken as yet another Greek tragedy; St Sophia was deemed a sacred space that could only be Greek; Constantinos Palaeologos was viewed as national hero; and the City itself as inalienable national possession. Romantic historiography would come later, in the second half of the 19th century, to draw on those premises.

Notes

1 Dimaras Constantinos Th., Ἑλληνικὸς Ῥωμαντισμός, Athens, 19942; id., Κωνσταντῖνος Παπαρρηγόπουλος. Ἡ ἐποχή του. Ἡ ζωή του. Τὸ ἔργο του, Athens, 1986; Politis Alexis, “From Christian Roman Emperors to the Glorious Greek Ancestors”, in Ricks David, Magdalino Paul (eds.), Byzantium and the Modern Greek Identity, Aldershot, 1998, p. 1-14; Kitromilides Paschalis M., “On the Intellectual Content of Greek Nationalism. Paparrigopoulos, Byzantium and the Great Idea”, ibid., p. 25-33.

2 Smith Anthony D., Chosen Peoples, Oxford, 2003, p. 49.

3 Ibid., p. 170.

4 Smith Anthony D., “The Resurgence of Nationalism? Myth and Memory in the Renewal of Nations”, British Journal of Sociology 47 (1996), p. 575-598.

5 On the social and political function of the Byzantine myth-memories before and during the age of nationalism, see Hatzopoulos Marios, “From Resurrection to Insurrection. ‘Sacred’ Myths, Motifs and Symbols in the Greek War of Independence”, in Beaton Roderick, Ricks David (eds.), The Making of Modern Greece. Nationalism, Romanticism and the Uses of the Past (1797-1896), London, 2009, p. 81-93; see also id., “Oracular Prophecy and the Politics of Toppling Ottoman Rule in South-East Europe”, The Historical Review / La Revue Historique 8 (2011), p. 95-116.

6 Koubourlis Ioannis, “Η ιδέα της ιστορικής συνέχειας του ελληνικού έθνους στους εκπροσώπους του ελληνικού Διαφωτισμού: η διαμάχη για το όνομα του έθνους και οι απόψεις για τους αρχαίους Μακεδόνες και τους Βυζαντινούς”, Δοκιμές 13-14 (2005), p. 137-191, here p. 158-159.

7 Anonymous the Greek, Ἑλληνικὴ νομαρχία, ἤτοι Λόγος περὶ ἐλευθερίας, ed. ValetasGiorgos, Athens 19824, p. 122-124.

8 Lesvios Veniamin, Στοιχεῖα Ἠθικῆς, ed. Argyropoulou Roxani, Athens, 1994, p. 230; see also p. 255. With this pungent remark, Veniamin Lesvios (1759/1762-1824) commented on the inclination of Jean-Jacques Rousseau to speak of Byzantium as “ἡ ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει Βασιλεία τῶν Γραικῶν”.

9 Koumas Constantinos M., Οἱ Ἕλληνες. Διαφωτισμός-Ἐπανάστασις, Athens, 1998, p. 518. One of the most distinguished Greek teachers before independence, Constantinos Koumas (1777-1836) published this multivolume work in 1832 (Ἰστορία τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων πράξεων, XII, Vienna, 1832).

10 Politis Alexis (n. 1), p. 4 and 11-12; Clogg Richard, “Sense of the Past in Pre-independence Greece”, in id., Anatolica. Studies in the Greek East in the 18th and 19th Centuries, London, 1996, p. 7-30, here p. 18.

11 Pyrros Dionysios the Thessalian, Γεωγραφία μεθοδικὴ καὶ καταγραφὴ ἁπάσης τῆς οἰκουμένης, ἐκ παλαιῶν τε καὶ νεωτέρων σοφῶν συγγραφέων συνερανισθεῖσα καὶ συντεθεῖσα…, Nauplion, 18342. Dionysios Pyrros (1774-1853) first published this book in 1818.

12 Ibid., p. 166-167.

13 Ibid., p. 167.

14 Ibid., p. 244.

15 Ibid., p. 199.

16 Cf. Smith Anthony D. (n. 4), p. 588.

17 Politis was the first to spot this peculiar intellectual trend, tracing it back to the years before the outbreak of the war of independence. See Politis Alexis, “La conquista di Constantinopoli: Un caso particolare della ricezione di Bisanzio nell’ ideologia neogreca”, in Bruni Francesco (ed.), Niccolò Tommaseo. Popolo e Nazioni Italiani, Corsi, Greci, Illirici. Atti del convegno internazionale di studi nel bicentenario della nascita di Niccolò Tommaseo, Venezia, 23-25 Gennaio 2003, Roma-Padova, 2004, p. 415-433.

18 Born on the Ionian island of Zante and educated in Padua, Georgios Tertsetis (1800-1874) was one of the two judges who eventually overturned the death penalty, imposed on Theodoros Kolokotronis by the Regency in 1834 on the charge of treason. He was dismissed from service thereafter and took to writing.

19 Tertsetis Georgios, Ἅπαντα, II, Athens, 1954, p. 358; cf. ibid., p. 49.

20 Ibid., p. 353. The quotations under consideration come from the third issue of “Rigas” (1845), a weekly publication of historical, political and patriotic content, that Tertsetis had been publishing in 1843-1845. The image of babies suckling their dead mothers calls to mind the relevant detail in Eugène Delacroix’s painting The Massacre of Chios (1824).

21 Born in the Macedonian town of Siatista, Theodoros Manousis (1795-1858) was a life-long proponent of the Enlightenment. In 1848, Greece’s ultra-conservatives accused him of spreading religious indifference through his academic teaching. The case devolved into a public row named after him, Manouseia. On these, see Matalas Paraskevas, Έθνος και Ορθοδοξία. Οι περιπέτειες μιας σχέσης. Από το “Ελλαδικό” στο Βουλγαρικό σχίσμα, Heraklion, 2002, p. 80-82.

22 Karmanolakis Vangelis, Stathis Panayiotis, “Ιστορίες για την άλωση στον πρώτο αιώνα του ελληνικού βασιλείου”, in KioussopoulouTonia (ed.), 1453: Η άλωση της Κωνσταντινούπολης και η μετάβαση από τους μεσαιωνικούς στους νεώτερους χρόνους, Heraklio, 2005, p. 227-257, here p. 231-232. The authors cite an unnamed source.

23 The writings of Nikolaos Saripolos contain numerous dismissive references to the Byzantine past. For example his inagural lecture on Constitutional Law at the University of Athens (14th October 1846): “Constantine [the Great] turned Christians from being persecuted to being the persecutors. Fourteen centuries would come to pass since then, full of tears [and] human blood […]”; Saripolos Nikolaos I., Τὰ μετὰ θάνατον δημοσιευόμενα, Athens, 1890, p. 311-312.

24 In his own words: “From the battle of Chaeronea on, humbled and enslaved Greece [as it were] fell from Macedonian into Roman hands, and then into the hands of the Venetians and Crusaders, continuously breaking to timars through the Middle Ages, and finally into the hands of the most savage conquerors of all, the Turks”, ibid., p. 326.

25 Ibid., p. 93; opening verses from the poem Ἡ προωρισμένη ἀνάκλησις written in Paris and dated 18 March 1843 (ibid., p. 93-95). The poems of the Cypriot-born Saripolos (1817-1887) were published posthumously (1890) by his daughter Maria at his behest. Poetry was a life-long passion for Saripolos, who sought therein an antidote to life’s sorrows (ibid., p. κγ´-κδ´). Though most of his verses were produced at a young age, they do not necessarily reflect an early stage of thought. Saripolos had imbibed liberal ideas early in life, thanks partly to his studentship in the University of Paris and partly to the enlighted teaching he received, first in his hometown Larnaca, Cyprus, and then in Trieste where his family fled after the outbreak of war in 1821. On this see Kitromilides Paschalis M., “Ο Ν. Ι. Σαρίπολος και η παράδοση των φιλελευθέρων ιδεών στην Ελλάδα”, in Το Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών και η Κύπρος, Athens, 1993, p. 263-270.

26 Saripolos Nikolaos I. (n. 23), p. 14. Constantinople, like Rome, was built on seven hills, thus called Ἑπτάλοφος. The poem Ἡ Κωνσταντινούπολις, dated 3/15 April 1839 (ibid., p. 14-18), was written in Larnaca during what appears to have been a gap year in Saripolos’ studies. In 1839 he had just abandoned medicine for a degree in law.

27 Ibid., p. 15; original emphasis.

28 Alexandros Soutsos (1803-1863) and Panagiotis Soutsos (1806-1868), scions of a big and influential Phanariot family and well-known public figures in the kingdom, were no less ambivalent on Byzantium than the part of Greek intelligentsia in consideration. For Alexandros Soutsos, see for example the poem Διθύραμβος εἰς τὸν λαὸν τῆς ἐλευθέρας καὶ δούλης Ἑλλάδος, especially p. 21-24; see also his comments in p. 28-39; Soutsos Alexandros, Ποιητικὸν χαρτοφυλάκιον, Athens, 1845. In similar vein, see Soutsos Panagiotis, Odes d’un jeune Grec, Paris, 1828, especially p. 112 and 138. See also n. 34, below.

29 Characteristically, Saripolos identifies Constantinople with Jerusalem: “Amid the peoples of the earth the sacred city sits alone! / Amid the nations of the world it sits in solitude”, opening verses from the poem Ἡ Ἔρημος Σιών dated 10 October 1841 and written in Lormes, France; Saripolos Nikolaos I. (n. 23), p. 69.

30 See on this, Hatzopoulos Marios, Ancient Prophecies, Modern Predictions. Myths and Symbols of Greek Nationalism, Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 2005, p. 14-21.

31 The exact meaning of the name of this church stands is the “Church of the Holy Wisdom” (Ἁγία Σοφία in Greek; Ayasofia in Turkish). Historically, however, the church came to be known as St Sophia.

32 For more on this, see Hatzopoulos Marios (n. 30), p. 52-57.

33 Solomos Dionysios, Ἅπαντα. Ποιήματα καὶ πεζά, Athens, 1957, p. 224. Originally written in 1823, the poem Ὓμνος εἰς τὴν ἐλευθερίαν by the Corfiot-born and Italian-educated Dionysios Solomos (1798-1857) became Greece’s national anthem in 1864.

34 Koumas Constantinos M. (n. 9), p. 669.

35 Dragoumis Nikolaos, Ἱστορικαὶ ἀναμνήσεις, I, ed. Aggelou Alkis, Athens, 1973, p. 88.

36 Soutsos Panagiotis (n. 28), p. 112; cf. also p. 138.

37 Oikonomos Constantinos [ὁ ἐξ οἰκονόμων], Λόγοι, I, ed. Sperantzas Theodoros, Athens, 1971, p. 259. Excerpt taken from the written speech under the title Persuasive [speech]: To the Greeks (1 October 1821). The speech was written in Russia where Constantinos Oikonomos (1780-1857) had fled after the outbreak of the war. Formerly a Koraïs’ disciple, Oikonomos became increasingly disengaged from the ideas of enlightenment, yet this process had probably not started earlier than 1823 (cf. Dimaras Constantinos Th., Νεοελληνικὸς διαφωτισμός, Athens, 19936, p. 377). After his arrival in independent Greece in October 1834, Oikonomos became a sort of spiritual leader to circles around the Russian party. Here the reference goes for the 4th/5th-century Greek fathers and archbishops of Constantinople Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom.

38 Politis Alexis (n. 17).

39 Constantinos XI Palaeologos was immortalized by Greek popular legend and lore recorded in the late 19th century: the legend of “The king turned into marble”. According to this, the last Byzantine emperor never died because an angel of the Lord turned him into marble. Ever since, he lies in an underground cavern of Constantinople waiting for the angel to return and rouse him from sleep; on this day he will summon his sword and slaughter the conquerors. The legend was recorded by Nikolaos Politis; see id., Μελέται περὶ τοῦ βίου καὶ τῆς γλώσσης τοῦ ἑλληνικοῦ λαοῦ. Παραδόσεις, I, Athens, 1904, p. 22; for commentary, see ibid., II, p. 658-674. The legend was circulating among rural communities in 19th-century Greece but it seems to have originated much earlier. On the subject, see Hatzopoulos Marios (n. 30), p. 57-64.

40 As the author of Ἑλληνικὴ νομαρχία underlined: “Remember that resistance is the beginning of all victories”; see Anonymous the Greek (n. 7), p. 216. Even Koraïs himself praised the heroic qualities of Palaeologos in 1828; see Politis Alexis (n. 17), p. 431-432.

41 Tomadakis Nikolaos B., “Ἡ Ἅλωσις καὶ ὁ Κωνσταντῖνος: Μάρτυς καὶ Ἅγιος τῆς πίστεως καὶ τοῦ ἔθνους”, Νέα Ἑστία 53 (1953), p. 730-735, here p. 732-733.

42 Needless to say, Skoufos and Zambelios were on the whole critical of Byzantium; see Politis Alexis (n. 17), p. 421-423.

43 Oikonomos Constantinos (n. 37), p. 328, n. 1.

44 Ibid., p. 292; see also p. 289, n. 1. Besides Palaeologos, the “later” Greek ancestors included, according to Oikonomos, another 15th-century emblem of anti-Ottoman resistance, the Albanian hero Skanderberg (Gjergi Kastrioti) to whom 19th-century Greek intelligentsia attributed a Greek origin and a Greek name (Georgios Kastriotis).

45 Pyrros Dionysios the Thessalian (n. 11), p. 199.

46 Saripolos Nikolaos I. (n. 23); see for example p. 69, 87 and 93-95.

47 Psyllas Georgios, Ἀπομνημονεύματα τοῦ βίου μου, Athens, 1974, p. 212.

48 Skopetea Elli, Το “πρότυπο βασίλειο” και η Μεγάλη Ιδέα: όψεις του εθνικού προβλήματος στην Ελλάδα 1830-1880), Athens, 1988, p. 284-285; also p. 274-277.

49 Dimaras Constantinos Th. (n. 1), p. 338.

50 Skopetea Elli (n. 48), p. 274 and n. 3 on the same page.

51 Stephanitzis Petros, Συλλογὴ διαφόρων προρρήσεων, Athens, 1838, p. 171, n. 1. It is not uncharacteristic that Nikolaos Saripolos, in the poem of 1843 with the title Σύνταγμα, repeatedly addresses Otto with the Greek participle πεπρωμένος seeing in him the lawful heir of Palaeologos. See Saripolos Nikolaos I. (n. 23), p. 100.

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