Michael Angold

One episode presents many of the recurring features of the last phase of Byzantine relations with the west. On 12 December 1452 in the teeth of popular hostility St Sophia witnessed the much-delayed proclamation of the union of Florence. It was the work of the papal legate Isidore of Kiev, whose recent arrival in Constantinople gave new purpose to the unionist cause. He was able to cajole the emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos (1448-53) into staging the proclamation of the union of churches. Isidore understood how little enthusiasm there was among the Greeks of Constantinople for union with Rome. Most preferred to put their trust in their icons rather than in help from the west. Even those who participated in the service of reunion justified their presence in terms of expediency and urged opponents of the union to wait until the present crisis had passed.1 This incident illustrates the popular opposition to union; the reluctant realism among the ruling elite, which dictated lip service to the union as a way of securing western aid; but also the energy and idealism of a Greek convert to Rome, who saw in the union of churches not only a return to the true faith, but also a path to regeneration. It is the final feature that is the most surprising. Why over two centuries should so many of the ablest and most attractive Byzantines have turned to the Latin West, not in a spirit of expediency, but out of idealism? There is no one answer. But it was part of a growing appreciation by influential members of the Byzantine elite of Latin culture.2 This was reinforced by a growing sense of despair about the condition of Byzantium and a conviction that salvation could only come from the west.

1 Ducae, Micha^lis Ducae Nepotis, Historia Byzantina, ed. I. Bekker (Bonn: Ed. Weber, 1834),

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