of the gospel to a new generation. Others find in Byzantine culture a creative synthesis of Greek philosophical searching and Hebrew religious awe, which stands against western individualism.4 The continuing creativity of the Byzantine tradition is shown in many ways, but a good example is the rejection by modern iconographers of nineteenth-century westernised styles of painting in favour of the austere, hieratic forms of Byzantine models. Although the Byzantine Empire was in decline after 1204 when the crusaders captured the city, the imperial dream remained seductive and influential in late medieval Serbia and Bulgaria, and especially in Russia where the idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, succeeding to Rome and Constantinople, encouraged Russian imperial ambitions. The ancient Christian kingdoms of Armenia and Ethiopia, both established in the fourth century, were also Christian kingdoms which shared the ideals of the Byzantine project. The Christian empire of Ethiopia persisted until the military coup of 1973.
Alongside this confident and even triumphalist culture, Orthodox have undergone harsher and more negative experiences. In 1453, after a long decline, Constantinople finally fell to the Ottoman armies and before long a Muslim caliph took the place of the Christian ruler as the head of the eastern empire. Orthodox lands were still part of an empire, but one in which they were the ruled rather than the rulers. For the Orthodox patriarchates of the Middle East, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem, this process had begun several centuries earlier, with the Arab military conquests of the mid-seventh century. More recently, periods of violent persecution have devastated the churches: in Turkey from 1895 to 1925; in Russia from 1918 to 1990; and in Serbia and surrounding areas from 1940 to 1945. These last examples justify us in referring to the twentieth century as that in which more Christians have died for their faith than any other. Thus throughout the Orthodox lands the church has suffered prolonged and destructive oppression. This has included periods of tolerance, as well as discrimination and outright persecution, but throughout all these forms of oppression, a new spirituality developed in which the exemplars were the martyrs, and Christian life became the enduring of suffering. The church had the calling to maintain the purity of the Orthodox faith undiminished. For this the qualities needed were strictness, fortitude and an unbending willpower. This style of spirituality interacted with that of monas-ticism in which the ascetic life was seen as a form of martyrdom. The impact
4 For a negative view of Byzantium, see A. Schmemann, The journals of Father Alexander Schmemann 1978-1983 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000). For a more positive assessment, see C. Yannaras, Philosophie sans rupture (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1986), 7.
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