Θέμα: : Η εμφάνιση του νέου ελληνισμού
Απάντηση-Προς: Hellenic Professors and PhDs Electronic Forum <HELLENIC-PROFESSORS-PHDS@HEC.GREECE.ORG>
Dear members of the forum,
A number of additional postings in the forum on this subject have provided certain details that illustrate conclusively they highly confused understanding of the historical evolution of the Neo-Hellenes.
The following statement has been made:
Είναι χαρακτηριστικός ο τρόπος με τον οποίο αναφέρεται ο Βησσαρίωνας στο «Εγκώμιον εις Τραπεζούντα», που γράφτηκε το 1436-37 και βρίσκεται στη Μαρκιανή Βιβλιοθήκη της Βενετίας. Στο κείμενο αυτό, ο Βησσαρίωνας έχει άριστη εποπτεία των ιστορικών γεγονότων και φαίνεται να κατέχει τη μέχρι τότε γραμματεία. Αναφέρεται στην ιστορία των Ελλήνων από την αρχαιότητα και στόχο έχει να εμφυσήσει την πίστη στους σύγχρονούς του Τραπεζούντιους ότι μπορούν να αμυνθούν κατά των Τούρκων, κατά το πρότυπο των αρχαίων Αθηναίων, ως Ιώνων προγόνων τους. Η συνέχεια των Ελλήνων θεωρείται δεδομένη και αδιαπραγμάτευτη. Ο Βησσαρίων θεωρεί ότι ευθεία γραμμή, χωρίς αλλαγές και ασυνέχειες, συνδέει την Αθήνα, τη Μίλητο, τη Σινώπη και την Τραπεζούντα.
I have no problem with the fact that Bessarion instructs and desires the citizens of the Empire to behave like the “Hellenes” of old. As I personally have indicated, Bessarion, belonged to the circle of humanists that introduced the notion of the “Hellenic” identity. However, it would be totally mistaken to try to indicate that the words and the writings of Bessarion had any substantial effect or even anything more than niche following in the world of the 15th century Balkans. The Orthodox Church was almost universally hostile and opposed to the teachings of Bessarion and Gemistos Pletho. It maintained the “Rhomaic” identity of the Church and the population. Not even the Byzantine aristocracy, the Palaeologii and the Catacunzeni, did embraced the teachings of Bessarion. In fact, Constantine XI directly rebuked Gemistos Pletho for his suggestion to be crowned “Emperor of the Hellenes” and, of course, assumed the title of “Basileus of the Rhomaioi”. Let’s also not forget that Bessarion himself became a senior cardinal of the Catholic Church and remained, throughout his life, a despised person by the vast majority of the prelates of the Orthodox Church.
But there is another statement that indicates the totally confused state of affairs in comprehending modern Greek history. The statement has been made
Με βάση αυτή την αντίληψη δεν μπορεί να εξηγηθεί πώς είναι δυνατόν να υπάρχει η θέση περί συνέχεια των Ελλήνων τον 16ο αιώνα, όταν ο Ιέραξ στο «Χρονικόν περί την των Τούρκων βασιλείας» παραλληλίζει τους υπερασπιστές της Κωσταντινούπολης με τους 300 του Λεωνίδα. Φαίνεται ότι υπάρχει εθνική συνείδηση συγκροτημένη σε συγκεκριμένους κύκλους διανοουμένων πριν την εμφάνιση της νεωτερικότητας.
I have no problem that a “Hellenic identity consciousness” had been generated in western Europe among the humanists that escaped the 15th century destruction of the Byzantine state, their descendants and their students. This is what I had discussed before. But myth making was the stuff they dealt with. It is funny to regard the defenders of Constantinople as equivalent to the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae but one needs to be aware that among the approximately 6,500 defenders, the “Greeks” represented a tiny contingent, mostly the members of the imperial aristocracy that were fighting their last desperate stand. The vast majority of the defenders were either Venetians, Genoese, Franks, Serbs and a variety of other ethnicities that served in the Emperor’s bodyguard. In fact, the inhabitants of the City stayed home or went to the Churches to pray, because they were told by Gennadios and other Church prelates that fighting for the Emperor would endanger their immortal soul. There are excellent modern accounts of the siege and fall of Constantinople and one should read them before deciding who these new “300 Spartans” really were.
Overall, the Byzantine humanists who generated the “Neo-Hellenic” identity were either expelled, chased away, or forcibly removed by the very Rhomaic Orthodox Church and had to escape to Western Europe. They had about zero appeal to the masses that remained faithful to the Church and continued adhering to the designation of Rhomaios.
A statement has also be made
The sentiment of being Greek came out repeatedly throughout the 1,000 + years of medieval Greece. This was strong after the 1204 capture of Constantinople by the crusaders and in 1453 after the capture of medieval Greece by the Turks.
This statement is untrue. In fact, the Greek populations strongly rejected the Frankish designation of them as “Graekoi”; this term was an insult to them and the Crusaders, of course, were aware that it was an insult. Nor was there any resurgence of any “Hellenic” identity in Greece, Asia Minor and the Balkans after 1453. In fact, since the Christian population of these areas passed under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church, any use of the term “Hellene” would have been an anathema and immediately punishable. For the vast majority of the Greeks in mainland Greece, the use of the term “Hellene” only became frequent following the Revolution of 1821, although its exact meaning was less than clear. Karaiskakis conflated the term with resistance to the Ottomans; when he was asked as to “who are the Hellenes?”, he replied that the Hellenes are those who are fighting against the Ottomans. Even at that stage, the term had not achieved a “national” significance.
I know that for many, this discontinuity between Hellene – Rhomaios – Neo-Hellene is difficult to process. However, denying it serves no great purpose. We can hide our heads in the sand, but this hardly changes the reality around us
Anastassios D. Retzios, PhD
San Ramon, California