Horizontal strands in the commonwealth

These considerations go some way to meeting objections that the Byzantine Commonwealth lacked both substance and theoretical formulation. But besides the vertical structures, expressed through hierarchies, horizontal strands served to create a kind of 'force field', replete with positive and negative charges. These circuits were no less important in creating an entity that may be described as a commonwealth. As we have seen, the writings, utterances and itineraries of fourteenth-century Orthodox 'hesychasts' were governed by spiritual preoccupations. They were on occasion prepared to denounce the policies of emperors, as well as one another, and in word and deed they were seldom constrained by earthly boundaries. Yet in envisaging the future, criticising the existing socio-political order or essaying alternative behaviour-patterns, monks and laymen were to a large extent orientated by the range of options deriving from Byzantium.

A few examples may illustrate the workings of this 'force field'. Shared by many senior churchmen in Rus were the expectations of the world's end, which propelled Stefan's endeavours among the Zyrians. Their reckonings about providence and time were likewise in tune with those of other Orthodox communities. The completion of the seventh millennium since the Creation was widely expected to trigger the Second Coming and the end of time. The Byzantine year 7000 from the Creation corresponded to ad 1 September 1492 to 31 August 1493. The leaders of Moscow saw an opening here for their own God-given hegemony, particularly once life on earth continued after that year. South Slav and Greek writers succumbing to Turkish domination were less sanguine, linking up eschatological expectations and calculations with their respective defunct or faltering polities.99

Chronological calculations about the end and ideological inferences from them were mostly carried out by the political and clerical elite, but visions of the future, of heaven and hell, circulated, in the form of texts in Slavonic translation, at humbler levels of Orthodox societies, perhaps being read out at

99 Polyviannyi, Kul'turnoe svoeobrazie, 219-22, 229-31; V Tapkova-Zai'mova and A. Miltenova, Istoriko-apokaliptichnata knizhnina v'v Vizantiia i v srednovekovna B'lgariia (Sofia: Universitetsko izdatelstvo 'Sv. Kliment Okhridski', 1996), 53-9; G. Podskalsky Theologische Literatur des Mittelalters in Bulgarien und Serbien 865-1459 (Munich: Beck, 2000), 472, 482-7.

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