- Jan 2016
- Victoria, Canada
Apologies for the late response, I've been quite busy and there's a lot which deserves addressing here (the length of this response may, in retrospect, have gotten a bit out of hand, but I'd hate to hand out speculation and criticism and not support it).
Union was unrealistic at certain times, namely when the Germans were in a position to exert authority in Central Italy, or during a Papal-Sicilian entente, but in others I think i was quite possible -- it was definitely worked towards on both sides at certain times, particularly in the mid-late 12th century, even if to no permanent resolution. Any reconciliation would, of course, likely take the form of a return to something like the pre-1050's status quo, with a more nominal recognition of union (and probably a form of Papal primacy), some kind of solution to the question of Patriarchs, and the working out of some other issues of compatibility, not the imposition on the east of the kind of authority wielded by the Papacy in the west.Was there actually any realistic possibility of a reconciliation with Rome before 1204? I mean, the Byzantines weren't actually desperate before 1204--and even when they became desperate later on, they still refused to reconcile with Rome (even though the Fourth Crusade was no longer in living memory by then).
The central-eastern Balkans were the most diverse permanent possessions of the 12th century Empire, yes (although there were barely any Croats in the Empire), but the Serbs, Albanians, and Bulgarians were ruled (at least above the village level) by Roman, not native, administrators (although many or most Serbs west of the Branicevo-Nis corridor were ruled by largely autonomous vassals), never rose up into the imperial administration in significant numbers, and, despite the size of the region, were a relatively small minority (probably making up less than 20% of the 12th-century Empire's total long-term population, or at most just slightly above that). The 12th century Roman state thus had a broadly mono-ethnic (Roman) population, and Anthony Kaldellis (as well as scholars like Leonara Neville) have convincingly argued for its pretty much exactly fitting the established definition of a nation-state -- see, both in particular and in general, Kaldellis's recent Romanland: Ethnicity and Empire in Byzantium.Also, didn't the Byzantines have ethnic diversity in the Balkans due to their rule over the Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, and Croats? Granted, the Byzantines became more homogeneous shortly before 1204, but still.
It was a factor at the time in a lack of direct high literary exchange (I wouldn't really, with few exceptions, call anything produced in the high medieval period "research" in the scientific sense), but by the mid-12th century translation schools in Venice and Sicily were in full swing, bringing Greek-language texts both ancient and more recent west, and Italian-Greek bilingualism was common among relatively large numbers of people on both sides (the Italian John Italos, slightly earlier, managed to become Consul of the Philosophers, for a high-level example). Additionally, a bit later, the works of contemporary (as well as earlier) Byzantine doctors were increasingly imported west and translated, with the Dynameron of Nicholas Myrepsos (c. mid-late 13th century) even serving as the main pharmaceutical code of the Parisian medical faculty until 1651. Furthermore, elements of culture and technology not related to high literature were transmitted at a very fast rate, particularly in the 12th century -- the 1120's Pantokrator Monastery in Constantinople, for instance, featured figural stained glass very similar to and as sophisticated as roughly contemporary western examples (an exchange so fast we're not even sure which direction it originally went); the Byzantine Bowed Lyra was imported into Italy and other parts of Southern Europe around 1100, eventually spawning the Violin; lance couching, experimented with in certain Roman cavalry units since the late-11th century, became standard in the mid-12th; kite shields and maille chausses, a bit earlier, spread very rapidly through Europe and the Mediterranean in the mid-11th century, again to the point that we don't actually know where they originated with any certainty; Western European art continued to be heavily influenced by contemporary Byzantine work on a number of levels; and flying buttresses, long a preserve of Byzantine architecture, were noted by 12th century French travellers and incorporated into what would become the first Gothic churches.In addition, wasn't one factor that prevented full Byzantine-Western European scientific interactions and exchanges the fact that Byzantines wrote in Greek while Western Europeans wrote in Latin? I mean, it's kind of hard to share one's research if one doesn't even speak a common language.
I meant "important" more in the sense of requiring a large amount of systematic observation/innovation (i.e. being an academic/scientific achievement instead of a random invention) and significantly effecting many people's lives as well as general cultural and even geopolitical trends, less than being extraordinarily useful in and of itself. My point is simply that such historical shifts in culture, technology, and geopolitics would unavoidably be altered on an immense scale had a nation-state of 13+ million Christian Greco-Romans at the main crossroads of the Old World, including the two largest cities in Christendom (and likely the largest city on Earth), remained a major, independent player on the European/Mediterranean scene -- and, conversely, an Islamic, Turko-Persianate, multi-ethnic dynastic empire not risen to take its place and expand far beyond its former borders -- resulting, through innumerable butterfly effects, in an almost unrecognizable modern world. In this case, a Gregorian-style calendar reform originating in 14th century Constantinople could have, among other possibilities, brought Orthodox and Catholic states closer together in comparison to other peoples -- had it been adopted earlier by both -- or, alternatively, driven a deeper wedge between Orthodox Christians and everyone else -- had it been exclusive to the Orthodox -- and that's just a single more obscure example drawn from real history, to which thousands of equivalents would exist in the scenario in the OP.Maybe I'm naive, but this doesn't sound like that much of an accomplishment. After all, Russia wasn't hurt by it failing to convert to the Gregorian calendar until 1918, was it?