Page:Western Europe in the Middle Ages.djvu/58

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WESTERN EUROPE IN THE MIDDLE AGES

commercial cities and scholars who were making original contributions in almost every field of science.

The Eastern Roman Empire was not quite so impressive as the Arab Empire, but it was still an important center of civilization. The wealth of Constantinople, the manpower of Asia Minor, and a sophisticated diplomatic and military tradition gave it unusual strength and resilience. With its rich heritage of Greek and Christian culture it developed a remarkable civilization — conservative but not decadent, orientalized but not oriental, profoundly Christian but not theocratic. It could no longer claim to be a universal empire, and though it kept the name of Rome in official documents, it was the Empire of the Greeks, of Constantinople, or of Byzantium to most outsiders. Its political boundaries were contracted, but its sphere of influence spread far beyond the narrow limits of the Byzantine provinces. The Slavic peoples of the Balkans usually admitted the hegemony of the emperor and took their basic concepts of religion, art, and literature from Constantinople. The Russians were converted by the Greek Orthodox Church and so the stream of Byzantine culture flowed into the great plains of Eastern Europe. Thus the division between East and West, which had begun in the last days of the old Roman Empire, was extended far beyond the limits of the Mediterranean basin.

The Byzantine Empire was not quite as foreign to the peoples of Western Europe as the Arab Empire, but this did not always make for better relations. The Mohammedan countries were outside the Christian world; everyone expected them to be different and strange. But the Byzantine Empire was Christian, though schismatic; it was based on the classical tradition, though modified by influences which had had little effect on the West. The peoples of the West always expected the inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire to be more like themselves than they really were, and were bitterly disappointed when they found that their assumption was wrong. Members of a single family will criticize conduct in their relatives which they find perfectly normal in strangers,