God's design for mankind, at once fixed point and all-encompassing skein, was widespread among eastern Christians from Egypt to northern Rus. And it was something which Muslim powers had to accommodate within their own spectrum of political thought.
A rather different stance was taken by eastern Christian leaders seeking to acquire the foundations of law and a divinely sanctioned order from the empire and to adapt and enlist its authority-symbols to their particular needs. As has been seen, their aim was to strike out and form their own fulcrums of legitimate authority, while aligned with the creed and most ofthe church ritual and discipline of the Constantinopolitan church. They sought from Byzantium means of convincing their subjects that they, too, constituted a nation under God, who had allocated a particular dynasty or individual to protect them. Cults venerating members of the ruling family among, for example, the Serbs may have infringed the basileus's claim to be the one true 'Godsend' among earthly rulers, but neither in theory nor in practice could they ignore or belittle the ideal of Christian rulership on display in Byzantium. There was a sense that the true faith overarched local power structures. While this emerges most clearly in relation to patriarchal authority,79 Byzantium's exquisite symbols of legitimate rule spoke to those in charge of developing political structures. Among the Georgians as among the Rus, the motif of inverted hearts on cloisonne enamels associated ruling houses with Old Testament figures and military saints, as it did in Byzantium. Leaders of and apologists for such houses had an interest in representing their rule as part of cosmic harmony, in key with the basileus.
If this holds true of political and social elites and of churchmen, there remains the question of what, if anything, the populations in the regions under review made of a world-emperor residing on the Bosporus: how far did the axioms of written law emanating from the empire impinge on their religious observances and everyday practices? For myriads of rural communities strung across the Balkans and in the forests north of the Black Sea steppes, one's homestead or village was 'the world', and persons or notions from outside tended to evoke suspicion. Few opportunities or encouragements for longdistance travel were available, making pilgrimages to Tsargrad or Jerusalem a minority pursuit. And while Byzantine political culture abounded in visual imagery, beaming out messages of divinely sanctioned hierarchy that even illiterates could grasp, the proportion of rural populations directly exposed to it was finite. But remoteness and a reputation for mystifying yet efficacious
79 Eastmond, '"Local" saints', 746-7.
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