Dualist sects

The Bulgarian priest Bogomil (whose name is Bulgarian for Theophilus), in the first half of the tenth century, fostered a form of dualism related to the more aggressive Paulicians, a dualistic sect which originated in Armenia in the seventh century. The Paulicians believed that the material world was the evil creation of Satan, with only the soul being created by God. The Bogomils themselves rejected manifestations of non-ascetic life such as sex, marriage and consumption of meat and wine. They denounced much Byzantine theological teaching, including the incarnation, which they replaced with a docetic understanding of Christ. Whilst renouncing sacraments, churches, icons and relics they maintained an elitism of their own, led by 'the Perfect': some of this is reminiscent of Gnostic and Manichaean beliefs and practices.

Driven out of the empire by Empress Theodora in the ninth century, some Paulicians moved into the Balkans, and their converts under Bogomil became a sizable group in Bulgaria, where civil disobedience was a worrying feature of their teaching. They were denounced around 9 72 by Cosmas, a Bulgarian priest whose writings on the Bogomils together with those of a certain Euthymius in the eleventh century, form a substantial part of our knowledge of the sect. The threat they posed to Byzantium peaked in the twelfth century when they found favour among Constantinopolitan nobility, led by Basil the Bogomil, who was burned at the stake by Emperor Alexius Comnenus (10811118) in 1117. However, remnants of Bogomilism continued in Slavic areas of the empire until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Perhaps as a result of the crusades, the Bogomils appear to have been in contact with various dualist sects in the West, most notable the Cathars. We know that Nicetas, a leader of the Bogomils in Byzantium, travelled to southern France and imposed the doctrine of absolute dualism on the Cathar community.

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