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answerable to Him alone flourished, for all the efforts of Byzantine churchmen and monks to qualify it by means of canon law, ritual and denunciations. A commanding role in religious affairs as well as earthly ones appealed to many external potentates, especially those impatient with their senior churchmen. Byzantium offered a working model, dignified yet also efficient, to would-be monarchs without close cultural affinities or traditions of allegiance towards the empire. Some drew unilaterally on Byzantium's stock of visual symbols, seeking neither their bestowal from the emperor nor to efface the old imperial centre. They aimed, rather, at overawing and outshining powerful interest groups in their own realm through borrowed ways of presenting their rule as God-given. For example, Queen Tamara of Georgia reshuffled motifs of Byzantine imagery of monarchy to bolster her unprecedented position as a woman ruling in her own right. Byzantine-derived imagery had long been the means of expressing Georgian kingly power. Tamara modified it in various ways to represent her piety and legitimacy in church portraits of herself, while also highlighting specifically Georgian themes and figures worthy of veneration.4

Dimitri Obolensky believed that such borrowings from Byzantium's political culture, religious rites and visual media formed a pattern. In his magisterial work The Byzantine Commonwealth, he envisaged constellations of potentates and their subjects acknowledging imperial hegemony - whole societies as well as elites. They were, he maintained, joined together in Orthodox faith, in regard for the laws, which church and emperor jointly upheld, and in respect for the emperor. The centre of their Christian universe was Constantinople, for most of these units had initially received Byzantine missions and came under the patriarch's authority. Obolensky postulated that these peripheral rulers usually accepted the emperor's overlordship of all Orthodox Christians as much from pragmatic desire to unify their own realms as from idealistic devotion to the basileus.5

Obolensky recognised that motives were mixed: self-interest could impel Orthodox rulers into hostilities against the emperor, and the commonwealth's composition varied over time. He regarded the adherence to Byzantine normative values of most of eastern Europe's Slavonic-speaking regimes at one

4 A. Eastmond, Royal imagery in medieval Georgia (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998), 39,94,149-53,119-23,181-4; Eastmond, '"Local" saints, art, and regional identity in the Orthodox world after the fourth crusade', Sp 78 (2003), 717-24.

5 D. Obolensky, TheByzantine Commonwealth: eastern Europe500-1453 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), 2-3, 203, 206-8, 272-7, 289-90; Obolensky, 'Nationalism in eastern Europe in the middle ages', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, ser. v, 22 (1972), 11-12.

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