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De bysantinska barbarerna: Den bysantinska konstruktionen av Barbaricum och dess följder för den bysantinska drömmen
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences. (Religionsvetenskap)
2015 (Swedish)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
The Byzantine barbarians : The Byzantine construction of Barbaricum and its implications for the Byzantine dream (English)
Abstract [en]

According to the orthodox priest John Meyendorff, the Byzantine dream consisted of the establishment of a universal Christian empire spiritually and politically governed by the emperor of Constantinople. This essay intends to shed light on the topic of Byzantine religious and political expansion in the context of Byzantine view on Barbaricum and the barbarians inhabiting it. The fundamental question asked is: how do the Byzantines view the barbarians outside the Byzantine Empire and in what sense, if any, does this view have implications for the Byzantine dream?

To answer the question the essay examines four 6th century historians, namely: Procopius of Caesarea, Johannes Malalas, Menander Protector and Agathias of Myrina. The method being used is a hermeneutical method and the theoretical framework is made up of Edward Said’s Orientalism.

The results indicate that the barbarians in Barbaricum were viewed upon with great distrust. The Byzantines considered the barbarians to be ontologically different from themselves. Furthermore, the Byzantines regarded the barbarians behaviour as uncivilized. The typical barbarian was deemed to be wild, cruel, irrational, mostly religiously backwards, lacking in education and, more often than not, displaying arrogance and boasting. At the same time they were mystified, and thought of as physically impressive beings capable of unnatural strength. Consequently, the barbarians were viewed upon as creatures of lust and physicality rather than, like the Byzantines, beings of rationality and sense. The conclusion can be made that the Byzantines regarded Barbaricum in much the same manner as the postcolonial powers regarded the Orient – through the construction of a dichotomy between the self and the other.

Concerning the Byzantine adherence to the Byzantine dream as expressed by John Meyendorff, to spread the Byzantine Empire beyond its borders and consume Barbaricum by political and religious means, the results indicate that there are reasons to question Meyendorff’s assumption. It’s plausible that there indeed were Byzantine inclinations to transform Barbaricum. Furthermore, the results indicate that the Byzantine view of the barbarians played some part in shaping that inclination. It’s, however, also plausible that while the Byzantines may have strived to transform Barbaricum, it doesn’t neccessarily follow that it had to succumb to Byzantine imperial authority. The investigated sources seem to suggest that the primary Byzantine goal was solely to transform Barbaricum religiously and politically into something that resembled the Byzantine Empire but wasn’t necessarily a full fledged part of it.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 41 p.
Keyword [en]
Orientalism, Constantinople, Barbaricum, Byzantium, Byzantion, Byzantine Empire, Eastern Roman Empire, Barbarians
Keyword [sv]
Bysans, bysantinska riket, Östrom, östromerska riket, romarriket, romerska imperiet, Justinianus, orientalism, Konstantinopel, barbarer, Barbaricum
National Category
History of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-45319OAI: diva2:839781
Subject / course
Religious Studies
Educational program
Lärarprogrammet, inriktning mot verksamhet i grundskolans senare år och gymnasiet
Available from: 2015-08-12 Created: 2015-07-04 Last updated: 2015-08-12Bibliographically approved

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