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Wars and rumours of wars: England and the Byzantine world in the eighth and ninth centuries

Jonathan Harris

Mediterranean Historical Review, Vol.14:2 (1999)

Abstract: The early mediaeval inhabitants of Britain felt remote from the centres of civilisation, and looked to Rome and also Byzantium as model Christian powers. Previous writers have dismissed Byzantine influence because of the limited contacts. This paper will argue that the very limited nature of English contacts with Byzantium, along with their belief in their own remoteness, acted to enhance their receptivity to influence from that quarter. This openness remained constant, even in periods of no apparent contact, like the eighth and ninth centuries, and even when there was little tangible Byzantine influence of any kind.

This conclusion will be based on two points: first, on an investigation of the psychological response to the Viking invasions, a response conditioned by the English perception of their isolation, and one which contrasted sharply with that of the Byzantines, who believed themselves to be at the centre of the Christian world; and secondly, on a close examination of the question of the authenticity and significance of the correspondence between Alfred the Great and the Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem.

Click here to read this article  from Royal Holloway, Universtiy of London

(via Medievalists)