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  Item Reference: KCLCAL-1927-1928-473

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SOME DEBTS TO BYZANTINISM Professor of Byzantine and Modem Greek History and Literature may possibly be expected to propound some new theories with regard to the value of Byzantinism or the importance of modern Greek as factor in education have no special theories to advance and propose to confine myself to far humbler task Classical literature and clasical history very properly hold an important position in education in this country and it would indeed be foolish to suppose that Byzantine and later Greek studies would ever take the place occupied by ancient Greek as an instrument of education Yet it has been matter of some surprise to myself that so little curiosity is as whole shown by those who are engaged in teaching or have been taught the Classics as to later Greek history and as to the part taken by the great Byzantine Empire in preserving the Greek tradition in influencing the civilization of the peoples of Eastern Europe and in holding at bay over so many cen- turies forces which threatened to blot out the inheritance bequeathed by ancient Greece and ancient Rome It is surely unsatisfactory that the average classical student should be content to leave the history of ancient Greece and Rome poised as it were in mid air and to remain in ignorance of the ties which connect them with the history of our own times There can be little doubt that in the case of our own country at least the genius of Gibbon has contributed paradoxical as it sounds to this neglect and that his repeated phrase the degenerate Greeks has had its influence in deterring those responsible for teaching from encouraging any study of the fortunes of the Byzantine Empire or those of Greece itself from the time of the Roman sway to the present day Demosthenes said that it is natural for mankind to listen with pleasure to abuse and accusation and this is fear all too true It cannot be denied that Byzantinism lies open to many charges The absolutism of its rulers and the excess of ceremonial so tediously described in the Ceremonies of Constantine Porphyrogenitus the barren theological disputes the absence of creative power the absorption by monasticism of large numbers of the population which might have been more usefully and productively employed the reluctance of the citizens to bear arms and the ever-increasing enrolment of foreigners in the army and the not infrequent exhibitions of perfidy and cruelty have all been pointed at with the finger of scorn We may grant that many of these charges are true but we may also observe that every great Empire is in the course of its history open to grave charges The ancient Greek city-states and the Roman Republic have the great advantage of being institutions which we can study in their youthful
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