A Tale of too Many Romes: Competing Byzantine and Medieval Claims to Roman Legacy
Paper by Anthony Kaldellis
Given at Texas Tech University, on October 7, 2015
The Roman legacy has changed its meaning often in modern times. Once upheld as a model for free republican states, Rome is today seen more commonly as an imperial colossus that must inevitably “fall.” Its culture is consumed mostly in popular entertainment, even if its language remains in sacred use. Likewise in the Middle Ages, Rome’s legacy was contested among many powers and interested parties. The eastern (Byzantine) and western (German) emperors insisted that each was the sole legitimate owner of the title “Emperor of the Romans.” Rome and New Rome (Constantinople) also competed in the arena of church politics and doctrine. This talk will explain the contours of these debates. What did the Byzantines mean when they said that they were Romans? And why was there so much competition and so much confusion in the medieval west over who or what was Roman?