Hellene or Romios? An identity conflict

Authors: George Dritsas (Department of Philosophy National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
Speakers: George Dritsas
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2021 Colloquium Session


The Modern Greek Identity, as a conscious complex of self identification, isn’t something that has followed a normal path in the History of Ideas and Concepts. On the opposite, the modern term of “neo-Hellene”, is the word which have domain on other forms of national and local communitarian self description of the common people. More specific in Byzantium, the eastern part of former Roman Empire, the Orthodox Christian faith, which was the official the religion of the state, was in conflict with the old Hellenic Faith, “Patroa Thriskeia”, and his habitants called Romans. The word Romans is the basis of the more byzantine term Romios. These two words took their conceptual meaning from the Latin word “Romanitas”, which had to do with the Romaness, viz the Roman Identity and habits. But this king of Romaness was already, in her core, fluid from the impact of Hellenic Civilization. So, spiritual forms of Hellenism had transferred already not only inside in the Roman Empire but also inside the Dogmas of Christianity, especially the Orthodoxy. For this reason the word Romios, maybe, as a form of Identity wasn’t close to the ancient word “Hellene”, but it had had many close relations with her forerunner. This was the reason why especially in the “middle ages” of Byzantium (from 12th to 15th Century) the word “Hellene” has returned back to the Historical Background of this era and especially after the 4th Crusade, which leaded to the siege and looting of the capitol of Byzantium Constantinople, in the Empire of Nicaea. This returning wasn’t against the term Romios, which remain the main self identification of the Inhabitants of the Greek Orthodox of the Empire. But after the philosophical conflict, which were the product of two “Byzantine Renaissances”(circa 9th and 12-13th Centuries) the term “Hellene”, especially in the 14th Century throughout the academic work of George Plethon Gemistos against the semi-Christian term “Romios”. This conflict will come back after the falling of Constantinople, in the spiritual conflict between the Ecclesiastical Regime, which had gained power after the collaboration with the Ottoman Empire, and the new revival of ancient Greek Spirit throughout the phenomenon of Neo-Hellene Enlightenment, which leaded to the uprising of 1821. So, in this paper we will examine: α) the roots and the conflict between these two words and b) the revival of their conflict in the 18th century.