Reply To: defenition of "western civilization"


In general, Western Civ. has included pagan Greece but excluded the Eastern Roman Empire, Russia, and other Orthodox lands. It has been a Catholic/Protestant construct.

Even the term “Byzantine Empire” is symbolic of this. St. Constantine moved his empire’s capital to Constantinople in AD 330. He was a Roman, born in York, England (my mother’s family’s home), and he spoke Latin. He named his new capital “New Rome,” but the people soon called it “Konstantinoupoli” (“Constantine’s City”). They didn’t call themselves Byzantines, ever. In fact, I knew a Hellenophone woman who died within the last decade at age 93. She immigrated from Asian Turkey over 70 years ago, and she told me that in the Greek-speaking village where she was born a subject of the Sultan, the Greek-speaking people still called themselves “Romaioi” (“Romans”)– over 500 years after the Turks’ conquest of New Rome in 1453! Today’s Greeks see the use of the term “Byzantine” as intended to deny them their heritage, which they see as Roman. (Western Europeans and Americans commonly think of Greece as descended from ancient Athens, but Greeks don’t; they think of Istanbul as their captive capital, and of the Roman era — 330-1453 — as their history’s highlight.)

The Papal Claims rest in part on the legitimacy of a pope’s decision in the 8th century to name a Frankish illiterate “emperor.” Besides that dagger to the heart of Christian unity, which was in a sense extorted from the pope, the Franks also imposed the filioque–ultimately the issue over which the papacy would break with the Orthodox — on the papacy. It is from that date that the Carolingian kingdom is “Holy Roman,” the actual Roman Empire merely “Byzantine.”

Although the Varangians were Scandinavian, their Kievan Rus’ lies outside “Western Civ.” in the standard account as well. Why? They accepted Christianity from New Rome, not from old, in their vernacular, not in Latin, with leavened bread in the liturgy, not unleavened, and so on.

The standard account of the Crusades omits the conquest of Orthodox bishoprics in the east, establishment of Crusader bishoprics (which remain there today) alongside the indigenous Orthodox ones in Jerusalem, Antioch, etc. This isn’t important in “Western Civ.,” which is in general an account of the Roman papacy’s cultural and religious dependencies, from the point of view of the Roman bishopric, even now, long since the secularization of modern times set in. This is why even educated American Christians seem to think that the Middle East today is a sea of Muslims with a Jewish island in the middle–and nary a Christian in sight. When roused to care about events in that area, it is usually because of an attack either on Americans or on Israel. (Certainly Israeli bulldozing of 4th-century Christian cemeteries, undermining of medieval churches, etc., does not hit American Christians’ radar.) Right here in Liberty Classroom’s forums, a subscriber named “Charles Martel” objects to the use of the word “Palestine” as a geographic designation! Absent the Muslim conquest of the Middle East, the place would still be three Christian provinces with names based on “Palestine,” and the historic Charles Martel’s significance lies in having prevented Muslims from conquering France. How ironic is that?

This is the way people in Orthodox lands understand these events. These matters are all alive in their consciousness. Even this past week, Russian president Vladimir Putin (named for the prince who converted Russia to Orthodoxy) told the Saudis that he would grant their request to build a mosque in Moscow when they granted his request to build an Orthodox cathedral in Mecca. Of course, the Saudis will never grant such a request, as Putin well knew. He will also never grant the request for a mosque in Moscow. I suppose that in this, he is un-Western, at last.