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The Iranian Factor in Byzantium during the Reign of Heraclius

The Iranian Factor in Byzantium during the Reign of Heraclius

By Irfan Shahid

Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 26 (1972)

Introduction: A tripartite formula for the structure of Byzantine history has been suggested and generally accepted-Roman political institutions, Greek cultural elements, and the Christian religious faith, representing Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem respectively. Is this division in the formula accurate, or can it be modified by enlarging the concept of the Orient represented by Jerusalem in order to accommodate such influences as hailed from other parts of it; for instance, Iran? The question is not a spurious one, and its examination is indeed imperative, since Iranian influences and factors in both Parthian and Sasanid times have found such strong advocates among a number of distinguished Byzantinists that a modification of the tripartite formula may become necessary if their views turn out to be correct.

The problem can be solved only by intensive study of the series of claims which have been made; so much has been claimed, so little proved. The theme of this Symposium, “Byzantium and Sasanian Iran,” led me to examine the question during the reign of Heraclius, the period which witnessed the climax of all Sasanid-Byzantine relations and which is associated with two major areas where the Iranian factors have been suspected to exist, namely, the theme system and the imperial titles.

The second of these two areas, the imperial titles, has received less attention than the first; a thorough examination of it is, therefore, called for.

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