time or another as amounting to membership of an institution, for all their mutability and multiple cultural affinities. Obolensky's theory incurred criticism from some reviewers, who highlighted the difference in circumstances between polities located on the edge of the territorial empire and others further afield. They also questioned why cognate cultures in southern Italy and Caucasia did not qualify for consideration and suggested that the commonwealth was no more than a culturo-religious sphere, lacking any institutional basis or political connotations.6 In the case of Rus, avowals of allegiance to the tsar, or awareness of Byzantium's claim to be Rome's heir, are singularly sparse.7 The texts ultimately of Greek origin circulating in pre-Mongol Rus were mostly of religious content, and many had been translated or refashioned among the South Slavs. Several had been translated in the early tenth century at the Bulgarian court, with the aim of furnishing its rulers with guidelines for Orthodox Christian governance. In the process they helped to create a kind of textual community for Slavonic-readers.8 One might conclude from the study of such texts alone that the Byzantine imperial order provided these rulers with little more than an assembly kit, from which to take what they pleased and set up structures to suit their own preconceptions.
Yet for all the local variations between societies owing their Christianity mainly to Byzantium, certain themes and motifs in their political culture recur. Leaders aspiring to create their own nodes of material patronage, sacral largesse and orderly governance took as a model the offices and honours which Byzantine emperors could confer and retract. This is clearest with thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Bulgarian rulers: most ofthe names oftheir senior officials and dignities were translations, or slavicised forms, of Byzantine ones. Serbian leaders, too, borrowed heavily from Byzantine terminology to create court hierarchy. Offices bestowed in sacral settings and determining rank
6 A. Kazhdan in Vizantiiskii Vremennik 35 (1973), 261-2; G. G. Litavrin in Voprosy Istorii no. 5 (1972), 180-5; R. Browning in English Historical Review 87 (1972), 812-15.
7 S. Franklin, 'The empire of the Rhomaioi as viewed from Kievan Russia: aspects of Byzantino-Russian cultural relations', B 53 (1983), 507-37.
8 The issue of which texts were translated by whom, and when, is highly controversial: see F. J. Thomson, 'The Bulgarian contribution of the reception of Byzantine culture in Kievan Rus': the myths and the enigma', Harvard Ukrainian Studies 12-13 (1988-89), 239-43; A. A. Turilov and B. N. Floria, 'Khristianskaia literatura u slavian v seredine X-seredine XI v. i mezhslavianskie kul'turnye sviazi', in Khristianstvo v stranakh vostochnoi, iugo-vostochnoi i tsentral'noiEvropynaporogevtorogo tysiacheletiia, ed. B. N. Floria (Moscow: Jazyki slavianskoi kul'tury, 2002), 431-3; S. Franklin, Writing, society and culture in early Rus, c. 950-1300 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 101-3, 136-45; A. Nikolov, 'Tsariat bogopodrazhatel. Edin prenebregnat aspekt ot politicheskata kontseptsiia na Simeon I', Annuaire de l'Université de Sofia 'StKliment Ohridski'. Centre de Recherches Slavo-Byzantines 'Ivan Dujcev' 91.10 (2002), 113-17.
appealed to dispenser and recipient alike and texts of Byzantine ceremonies for conferring on individuals such titles as patrikios were translated into Slavic. Judging by the quantity of manuscripts found, they seem to have formed the basis for South Slav court practice. There was local adaptation, however: kouropalates and patrikios were rendered by the more general kniaz ('prince' or 'notable').9 Such allusions to the palace on the Bosporus did not occur in an intellectual vacuum. Stefan Dusan's law-code of 1349 drew heavily on the treatise synthesising secular and church law that Matthew Blastares had composed in Thessalonike some years earlier. Dusan's law-code also adapted novels of fairly recent basileis, such as Manuel I Komnenos, as well as The Farmer's Law in shortened form. The 'charter' accompanying his code avowed his 'desire to enact certain virtues and truest laws of the Orthodox faith to be adhered to', thus subsuming civil regulation within faith. This scheme of imperial order was supposed to apply to Dusan's Slav and more or less recently acquired Greek subjects alike. The code was intended for practical use: an updated version incorporating Dusan's recent edicts was promulgated in 1354. The divinely inspired nature of the ruler's law making and enforcement was simultaneously propounded through visual media. For example, a prominent theme of the wall paintings in Dusan's church at Lesnovo is the 'holy wisdom' that enlightens the ruler, mystically informing his guidance of his people.10 Such depictions of Byzantine imperial attributes dovetail with the predilection of Dusan and his predecessors for terms of rank redolent of the imperial court. The distinction between functional and honorific title was not clear-cut, and bestowal of the more senior offices and titles by fourteenth-century Bulgarian and Serb rulers was akin to a religious ordination, as in Byzantium itself.
Neither Byzantine secular law-codes nor the concept of office transforming an individual's status counted for very much among the Rus, for all Prince Semen of Moscow's flattering avowal in 1347 that the empire was 'the fount of all piety and the teacher of law-giving and sanctification'.11 Yet the Byzantine imperial order, however hazily conceived among the Rus, held out a comprehensive 'package' of concepts, rites and authority-symbols, sealed with the church's blessing. And eventually their leaders took advantage of it. Ivan III of Muscovy had particular reason for making his power-centre redolent of the
9 I. Biliarsky, 'Le rite du couronnement des tsars dans les pays slaves et promotion d'autres axiai, OCP 59 (1993), 94-7, 106-9 (text), 120-2 (trans.); Biliarsky, 'Some observations on the administrative terminology of the second Bulgarian empire (i3th-i4th centuries)', BMGS 25 (2001), 79-80, 83.
10 Z. Gavrilovic, 'Divine wisdom as part of Byzantine imperial ideology', in Studies in Byzantine and Serbian medieval art (London: Pindar, 200i), 5i-3.
Was this article helpful?