Guide and Index of World History,
Dynasties and Lists of Rulers

Isaiah 2:3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 2:4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

There are many lists of rulers at this website. This page organizes the lists of the philosophy of history index more systematically. There are a couple of reasons why these lists, and the accompanying genealogies and maps, have been compiled. One motivation is that history is often not taught anymore in terms of dynasties and rulers, since this is thought (by an academic elite comfortably supported by the taxpayers, while contemptuous of them) to be too elitist and too removed from the life of the people.

However, a body without bones would be a shapeless sack of flesh (or a Cephalopod). History without the skeletal framework of events centering around rulers is reduced to something similar. A framework for history of rulers, with maps and genealogies, provides a perspective of time and space, and of real individuals whom we know about, that is otherwise hard to obtain -- or at least it was when all I had recourse to were history books that were often innocent of lists, maps (let alone good maps), or genealogies (which, when given, were often poorly proofed or formated). In the last years before the Internet exploded with historical information, some of the earliest historical material at this site, beginning with the Counts of Flanders, I was rooting out from the Firestone Library at Princeton University. Even there, the sources provided fragmentary and frustrating data.

It is one thing to know that it has been a long time from Charlemagne to Queen Elizabeth II. It is another thing to know that one can count forty generations from one to the other, through Baldwin Iron Arm of Flanders, William the Conqueror, the Tudors, the Stuarts, etc., all of whom were living and acting, often vibrant, people -- with almost all of them now dead, mostly long dead. At a time when many college students reportedly don't know which half of the 19th Century the American Civil War took place in, a sense of time and distance uncovers an awesome perspective. And when we don't know about most individuals in the past, intimate knowledge of any is priceless. A Charlemagne who never could quite write his name, while Constantinopolitan courtiers were quoting the Iliad, reveals something about the times that nothing else could -- especially when, in this specific case, many historians seem to be ignorant of the level of culture in Mediaeval Constantinople.

Another motivation, or inspiration, for all this, however, came from James Bryce's classic The Holy Roman Empire [1904]. Bryce was intrigued by the notion of universal authority and rule that was inherited from Rome by the mediaeval emperors, who usually had nothing like an actual authority or rule approaching the universality that the Romans had really enjoyed. Bryce, indeed, did not venerate the absolutism of imperial rule -- he was actually a British admirer of America -- but the ideology of universal authority was a consequence of the growing notion of common humanity. Thus, Romans who cared to think about the meaning of their situation, like the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, saw themselves embodying the Stoic moral ideal of the cosmopolis ("world state/city"), where citizenship is humanity and there is no difference between Greek (or Roman) and Barbarian. When Rome became Christian, the principle that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), as the Prophet Isaiah had once seen all mankind coming to Jerusalem, reinforced the principle of common humanity.

However, the promise of universal humanity was certainly not fulfilled in those days. The Romans really did not see the barbarians as quite equal to Rome (actually, they weren't), and it was a long time before Christians got the notion that common humanity should translate into political equality for, indeed, Jews, or slaves, or women. But the logic of these principles ate its way slowly into Western consciousness, until the concept of common humanity became the basis of the abolition of feudal privilege, the abolition of established religion, the abolition of slavery, and women's sufferage. The dynamic of contemporary politics still centers around the question of whether common humanity entails equality before the law, or the social engineering of equalized material conditions of life ("distributive" or "social" justice -- notions that F.A. Hayek saw as contrary to justice itself). The question is now asked if common "humanity" even morally extends to non-humans -- even as the question was already settled by Kant that morality covers all rational beings, although Kant had not seriously conceived of either ET or AI.

Bryce takes the mediaeval Empire, of Franks and Germans, as the object most worthy of his notice and effectively neglects the fact that the Roman Empire itself did not disappear but continued at Constantinople.

As discussed at length in the essay "Decadence, Rome and Romania, the Emperors Who Weren't, and Other Reflections on Roman History," this bias against the (orignally) Eastern Empire seriously distorts our understanding of history in the Middle Ages. The hertiage of Constantinople combined the traditions of Rome, Greece, and Christianity more fully than we find elsewhere in Europe.

While historians, including Byzantinists, don't like calling the Mediaeval "Byzantines" by their proper name -- Romans -- they obviously don't call anyone else that either -- except residents of the actual City of Rome. In the Middle Ages, the national histories of the French, Germans, English, Spainish, etc. all begin, and they are called that, but an artificial rubric, "Byzantines," is concocted so as not to confused them with real Romans, or with real Greeks. The proper name of the Empire, Romania, or Ῥωμανία, is just forgotten.

The Crusades even represented an attempt of the Frankish West to reclaim all Romania, first at the outlying but religiously significant Jerusalem, but then in Constantinople itself. This relatively brief episode then helped prepare the way, if nothing else, for the Turkish conquest of the area, by which the universalism of ʾIslâm fulfilled the long ambition, conceived by the first Caliphs, to seize and absorb the universality of Rûm, , itself. But then so much of the identity of Romania is dispersed and claimed, not just by major powers like Germany and Russia, but even by the small states of the Balkans, like Serbia and Albania.

Skip Book Review to Index

Byzantium Unbound, by Anthony Kaldellis,
Arc Humanities Press, 2019

Before continuing, let me linger over the problem of the identity of Romania. In this book, Anthony Kaldellis has written a kind of Manifesto for Byzantine and Medieval Studies, and Classics. In four chapters, we have a revisionist challenge to how Byzantium is conceived, regarded, and studied. This is particularly acute for Medieval Studies, where scholars barely notice the Orthodox and Slavic parts of Europe. Thus, Kaldellis cites a shocking incident:

At a panel discussion of this question [i.e. the merger of Byzantine and Mediaeval Studies], one medievalist flatly declared, "I do not want to belong to a field that includes Byzantium and the Slavs." This was refreshingly candid. The unctuous piety of "inclusivity" stifles only the expression of such attitudes, not their existence, and this creates a gap between our rhetoric and the reality of our fields. [p.84]

At the same time, with Classics, where, as Kaldellis notes more than once, multiple dissertations on Homer are produced every year, we have a discipline, supposedly dedicated to the literature and culture expressed in the Classical Greek language, but which almost entirely ignores Mediaeval Greek literature, despite its volume, interest, and even relevance to Homer. I ran into that myself, when I discovered that my Greek professor at UCLA in 1968-1969 was entirely unaware of the many works of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, and he hardly believed some of the examples I quoted to him. Thus, Kaldellis devotes an entire chapter ("Byzantium for Classicists") on what Classicists owe, despite their often hostile attitudes, to Mediaeval Roman scholars, how they are often insensibly following in their footsteps, and how otherwise they ignore masses of material of substantial intrinsic interest.

A key point in all this affirms what I have already put in the diagram at right. Mediaeval Romania was a synthesis of Rome, Greece ("Athens"), and Christianity ("Jerusalem"). This also matches the languages on the Titulus, the plaque affixed to the Cross of the Crucifixion:  Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Kaldellis thinks that Romania accomplished this synthesis more effectively than other Christian lands. Thus, Western Europe, which I call "Francia," had, of course, lost its direct connection to the Roman Empire because of the German invasions and conquests.
Inscription of the
Titulus Crucis
Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum

Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος
ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων

ישׁוּע נצריא מלכא דיהוּדיא

Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, Rome; said to have been brought back by Saint Helena from Jerusalem, 325 AD

A culture was imposed there that, among other things, impoverished the area for centuries. Trade collapsed, not because of the influence of the stars, but because of the Germans. The illiterate German conquerors, unlike the later Arabs, had no interest or respect for commerce, business, or physical labor. Or learning. This is why Baghdad flourished, but London and Paris languished. The barbarian attitudes curiously persisted into modernity, where parvenu English businessmen aspired to nothing better than enough money to leave "trade" and settle down as rentier landed "gentlemen."

Roman institutions had been destroyed in Francia; and, we might especially note, Roman law had mostly vanished. Part of the genuine revival of the Renaissance was the reintroduction of Roman Law -- although anyone in the English speaking world is liable to be aware that English law is largely the indigenous product of the Common Law. The characteristic forms of government in Francia, in turn, with the distinction between nobility and commoners, reflected the original difference between Germanic conquerors and the conquered Roman subjects. This was an ethnic difference, which was later inflated by writers like Nietzsche into a racial difference -- the blonds (eine blonde Rasse) set over the black-haired (schwarzhaarigen). Romania, in turn, did not have serfs or legally privileged, ethnicly distinct aristocrats, even as the authority of Roman Law and Roman Courts continued uninterrupted over the centuries.

Simiarly, the Greek language and its literature were mostly unknown in Francia, while Classical education continued in Romania, beginning, as it always had, with Homer. What was available in Latin in the West did include some translations from Greek, but no one had the chance to read Plato, or Homer. They had to wait for Arabic translations to arrive, and then the Greek originals (sometimes at the same time). In turn, the Greek language also gave direct access to much of the history and theology of Christianity, including the New Testament itself. Some Byzantinists, Kaldellis notes, have liked the idea that Romania was entirely absorbed in Orthodox Christianity, which replaced, not only the terms of its Roman origin, but even the spirit of Classical Greek civilization. Kaldellis can sharply deny the truth of his. Indeed, we have his whole book on the subject, Hellenism in Byzantium [Cambridge, 2007, 2011].

Meanwhile, in Francia, Christianity became the house doctrine of the Papacy, whose irresponsible authority eventually drove the Protestants out of the fold -- much as the Papacy had previously alienated and repudiated the Christianity of the Orthodox world. Catholicism later invaded the Eastern Churches, with some success, but these Latin and "Uniate" churches remain relatively isolated. Merely titular Latin Patriarchates were eventually abolished.

The first chapter of Kaldellis's book, "A History of Byzantophobia," begins well:

For a civilization that did relatively little harm, prized humility and compassion, preserved its existence and integrity against overwhelming odds, and contributed in captivating ways to the diversity of human culture, Byzantium is oddly one of the most maligned and misunderstood civilizations of the past. [p.1]

This is quite true, although the use of the word "diversity," which has been ruined by the recent ideology of the Left, might put us somewhat on guard. But "Byzantophobia," or what I have called "'Byzantium' Derangement Syndrome," is real enough. Kaldellis comes to its roots quickly, as "Roman Denialism":

This was the (successful) attempt to leaders, institutions, and writers in medieval Europe to deny that the eastern empire was what it always claimed to be -- i.e. the empire of the Romans -- and to deny that its majority population were who they claimed to be, i.e Romans in an ethnic and not just a formal legal sense. [p.2]

The motivation for the "denialism" is simple and clear enough: (1) the Papacy, the Bishopric of the City of Rome, would claim authority, not only over the entire Christian Church, but over secular rulers also, whose legitimacy derived from Papal countenance, (2) the German Emperors claimed Roman legitimacy from Papal recognition and styled themselves "Emperors of the Romans," although, as Kaldellis points out more than once, it was always a little obscure just who these "Romans" were who were subject to German rule (while "Romans" of the City of Rome were under the rule of the Popes, not of the German Emperors), and (3) the later pretentions of the Renaissance, where, despite benefiting from the learning and baggage of refugees from the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, nevertheless were dismissive of Romania:

In fourteenth-century Italy, the proto-humanist Petrarch condemned the Greeks for deviating from the teachings and discipline of the Roman Church and also daring to call themselves "Romans." [p.13]

Thus, at the dawn of the Renaissance, we get an enthusiastic promotion of Papal claims and perspectives -- although Petrarch might not have thought of the German Emperors as proper "Romans." On the other hand, Dante had little use for the Papacy, but invested his futile hopes in the power of the German Emperors -- despite Romania still existing in his lifetime. Since the German Empire was already a "crushed reed" at the time (after the fall of the Hohenstaufen), he was doomed to disappointment. Romania may have been in little better shape, but we don't notice that Dante considered its legitimacy.

The period, after a fashion, culminates in 1557 with the introduction of the word "Byzantium" by Hieronymus Wolf (1516-1580) to characterize the Empire, its people, and its Civilization. Although alert to the substitution of this for "Romania," Kaldellis curiously goes easy on it. Indeed, "Byzantium" is used throughout the book, as in its title, unproblematically, even though its status truly embodies all the "denialism" and phobias identified by Kaldellis. "Romania" comes up, but its explanation occurs rather late in the book:

Byzantium even had a proper name that was widely used by its people from the fourth century to the fifteenth: Romanía. [p.78]

Kaldellis doesn't discuss how standard Byzantine histories avoid even mentioning "Romania," or how its use in historical texts is even suppressed by people like the otherwise respected Byzantinist Cyril Mango.

This is, to be sure, an awkward matter, since "Byzantium" is familiar and unambiguous, while "Romania" isn't -- easily confused with the modern state of România, as "Roman" is with the City of Rome. We do not have the benefit of the Greek differentiation of Ῥωμαῖος, "Roman" meaning the Roman Empire, and Ῥωμανός, "Roman" meaning the City of Rome -- or of Modern Românian, where Roman means "Roman" and Român means "Romanian" (they are pronounced differently). But the absence of a critique of "Byzantium" undercuts Kaldellis's entire project. This is why I have considered a book title that would be an entirely different challenge.

An indication of where we are with "Byzantium" at the moment may come from a book, The Greeks, A Global History, by Roderick Beaton [Basic Books, 2021]. Endorsed by Kaldellis himself, this is a history of Greek speakers from the earliest days to the present, with reasonable detail for the Mediaeval period. However, Beaton says:

In the language of today, the Greek-speaking Roman Empire after the death of Heraclius in 641 had turned into the Byzantine. Out of this process a new Greek civilization was emerging. From this point on, we too, must bow to modern usage and call the people who created this new civilisation Byzantines -- even though they themselves never did, and their descendants would continue to think of themselves as Romans for more than a millennium to come. [p.289]

This sounds like a "microaggression" to me, denying a people their own "endonym." And it is not clear why Beaton "must bow" to a "modern usage" from the 16th century age of colonialism that commits this political crime. Indeed, if we are talking about a "new Greek civilisation," I don't know why that didn't begin with the Second Sophistic back in the 3rd Century, when Greek began to become the literary language of the Roman Empire. This process was far advanced by the time of Heraclius.

Indeed, it is not an accident that Frederic M. Wheelock's Latin [Barnes & Noble, 1956, 1966; revised as Wheelock's Latin by Richard A. LaFleur, HarperResource, 2000] marks the end of secular Latin literature by the end of the 2nd Century (after which is the theological "Patristic Period"), or that Cassell's New Latin Dictionary [Funk & Wagnalls, New York, 1959] only gives the vocabulary of classical authors from "about 200 B.C. to A.D. 100." What Wheelock and others then fail to note is that Greek literature grows to fill the cultural space from which they see Latin literature retreating. Indeed, this is rarely noted, even as the oversight adds to the impression and the narrative that Rome in its decline and its "decadence" means a cultural and literary decline also.

It is not surprising here that Roderick Beaton uses the name "Romania" only once in the whole book [p.426]; and that is for the modern state of România, and not for the Roman Empire. He thus contributes to the sort of suppression of "Romania" that is so conspicuous in standard "Byzantine" histories, and especially and outrageously so in Cyril Mango. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium [edited by Alexander P. Kazhdan & Alice-Mary Talbot, Oxford, 1991, p.1793] does have an entry for "Romania" [Volume III, p.1805], which is unusual for Greek or Latin lexicons. It fails to give the Greek version of the name, Ῥωμανία, which is anomalous, given its practice to give words in Greek, including the Greek name of Ravenna, Ῥάβεννα; and we might come away from the entry with the impression that the name was mainly used in Latin. Indeed, other Greek terms, like "Rhomaios," Ῥωμαῖος, listed in transcription, would lead us to expect "Romania" to be listed as "Rhomania." Thus, the endonymic use of Ῥωμανία is suppressed, as we see elsewhere, and I am reminded of Judith Herrin explicitly stating that "Romania" was "a western name for the empire."

And notice the form of the language we see here. Our Byzantines "continue to think of themselves as Romans." Well, if they were to "think of themselves" as Martians, or unicorns, we would be free to call this absurd. This language thus leaves a well founded suspicion that modern scholars have a similar reaction to the "Byzantines" thinking of themselves as "Romans." Indeed, a few pages later Keaton uses "scare" quotes to refer to "'Roman' rule" restored in the Balkans by Basil II [p.305]. He wants to put some distance between himself and the "Romanity" of the Mediaeval Greeks. I suppose he "must bow to" this usage also. He never uses scare quotes for "Byzantines," not even, as in the quoted paragraph, where grammatically this would be appropriate.

The particular animus of the Renaissance only got worse during the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, what Kaldellis even calls the "Polemics of the Enlightenment." He gives a nice, long quote from Hegel, who, although at the end of the period, reflects the attitudes of Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Gibbon, etc.:

A millennial series of uninterrupted crimes, weaknesses, basenesses and want of principle; a most repulsive and consequently a most uninteresting picture [...] persisting in blind obedience to the patriarchs and the priesthood... wretched, insane passions stifling the growth of all that was noble; rebellion on the part of generals, and assassinations or poisoning of the emperors by their own wives and sons. [p.18, from Hegel's The Philosophy of History].

This sort of analysis, which might have well have been written by Voltiare, Kaldellis nicely characterizes as "outright insult." It is certainly a tissue of falsehoods and distortions. Hegel was no conscientious historian.

The Colonialist "War of Civlizations"

I could continue at some length with the many edifying issues covered by Kaldellis, at some danger of producing something as long as his book. What I might do instead is take the occasion to note, however, where Kaldellis goes more than a bit wrong. The problem is when Kaldellis seeks to assimilate "Byzantinophobia" to contemporary political issues. One might, indeed, wonder what Donald Rumsfeld is doing in this book. He is here, naturally, because the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein is somehow the equivalent of the Fourth Crusade.

The key to the root of this surprising matchup comes early in the book, as we get a reference to the Fourth Crusade in Chapter 1:  "...eventually a Crusade was 'diverted' to Constantinople" [p.13]. One might come to wonder about the passive voice here, which conceals the agent of the "diversion." Given the attitudes we have seen, we might suspect the Papacy, but Kaldellis himself precludes that with the admission that the looting of Constantinople "was seen by the pope as an unfortunate accident" [ibid.]. An "accident" seems to understate the severity of the event, but it does mean, if anything, that it was unintended. So what is concealed by the passive voice? And why is it concealed?

The reader will hunt in vain through Byzantium Unbound for the answers to these questions, because they do no help the narrative the Kaldellis wishes to promote. As it happens, the diversion of an army to Constantinople was something solicited by Alexius Angelus, a son of the deposed and blinded Emperor Isaac II. Alexius wanted his father restored. In Venice, he found an army and a willing facilitator.

The army was the Fourth Crusade, which needed transportation to the Holy Land but couldn't quite pay the Venetian fee. The Venetians had been helping out by having the Crusaders do little jobs for them in the area. Since the jobs involved attacking other Christians, and had nothing to do with their Crusade, they had already been excommunicated by the Pope, on both grounds. For Alexius, the faciliator was the Doge Enrico Dandolo, already 96 or 97 years old, who put it to the Crusaders that their whole bill could be paid by another little job, this time in Constantinople. What else could they do? It was a little late to just march off on their own, and that would have taken them by Constantinople anyway.

With minimal effort in 1203, the Emperor Alexius III was deposed and Isaac II was restored, with his son, now Alexius IV, as co-emperor. Unfortunately, the monies that Alexius had promised to Venice and the Crusaders didn't exist; and meanwhile the locals were not happy with the attitude and behavior of the Franks in their midst. In 1204 Issac and Alexius were now deposed and killed by the citizens, and the Franks were ejected.

This meant war, and the Crusaders, as we are reminded by Kaldellis, break in and loot the city -- having previously docked in the Golden Horn, as ostensible friends. In the aftermath, Venice and the Crusaders, the actual Crusade forgotten, divided the Empire up between them (Venice took 3/8 of the territory, mostly islands). The (very) aging puppet-master of all this, the Doge Dandolo, did not live much longer (d.1205) and was buried in, of all places, Sancta Sophia.

We would know none of that from Byzantium Unbound. What Kaldellis presents is:

This is all totally tendentious and anachronistic; and Kaldellis explicitly invokes "colonial historiography or post-colonial theory" [ibid.], by which, of course, terms of analysis, largely from Marxism and Leninism, are retroactively applied to the very different conditions of the 13th century. They don't fit.

Big problems are with Marxism itself. Lenin's Imperialism wanted to explain how Capitalism forestalled the revolution of the workers by buying them off with the loot of colonial empires. Unfortunately, there was no Capitalism in 12th century Europe. Nearly all Crusaders were from feudalistic lands where trade, cities, and money scarcely existed. There was no proletariat. At the same time, where there was trade and a cash economy was developing, as in Venice, the ideology of Popes and Germans, and the insults directed at the "Greeks," had little to no traction. Italian cities sometimes scandalized Europe by even hiring Muslim mercenaries.

The behavior and intentions of Enrico Dandolo were entirely owing to a level of cynicism and opportunism whose existence Kaldellis does not acknowledge, and which was nearly as outrageous to the Popes as it would be to any self-righteous, virtue-signaling modern academic.

And we ought not fail to note that otherwise Venice was more an outpost of Byzantium than almost any place else in Europe. Loot from Constantinople came to decorate St. Mark's Cathedral, which had been built by Byzantine architects in the Byzantine style, not many years earlier. It may be our best clue what the Church of the Holy Apostles, demolished by the Turks, looked like in Constantinople.

Enrico Danolo was, after a fashion, a son of Romania. This means that the whole project was less "an act of aggression between one civilization against another" than a more intimate betrayal. Almost all in the family -- like, say, Venice being solicited by Alexius Angelus.

Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus tells us how, once upon a time, the Venetians repudiated the suzerainty of the Franks:

So then King Pipin [the Short], at a loss, said to the Venetians: «You are beneath my hand and my providence, since you are of my country and domain.» But the Venetians answered him: «We want to be servants of the Emperor of Romans, and not of you.» ["Story of the settlement of what is now called Venice," De Administrando Imperio, Greek text edited by Gy. Moravcsik and translated by R.J.H. Jenkins, Dumbarton Oaks, Center for Byzantine Studies, 1967, 2008, pp.120-121].

Therefore, the whole fiasco of the Fourth Crusade is not well explained by the hostility of Latin Europe for Romania. Ideology, not even the ideology of the Crusades, made much difference in the matter. The Crusade, however, did so much damage and is such a crime against civilization itself, that we can sympathize with Kaldellis for making it mean more than just an example of Venetian betrayal, cynicism, and opportunism. As such, it all just seems so pointless. But, unfortunately, it was pointless, and blame must fall no less on Alexius Angelus as on Enrico Dandolo. The Crusaders had their share of greed and hostility, but they were mostly putty in the hands of Dandolo.

Kaldellis gets a lot of mileage out of a scholar giving a talk comparing the Fourth Crusade to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. This was absurd, and so we might wonder why Kaldellis dignifies it with this attention. But the problem is that Kaldellis agrees with this thesis, mocking some quotes that apparently are supposed to apply to both actions, like "welcomed by the liberators" or "good intentions gone wrong." Of course, while Americans in Iraq were not welcomed by Sunnis, who were losing power, and were often attacked by Shiʿites, whose graditude for liberation was compromised by their adherence to the anti-Americanism of Iran, the Kurds were both jubilant and grateful, as they remain until today -- after having done most of the fighting to liberate Northern Iraq and parts of Syria from ISIS. The Kurds even ran "Thank You" ads on American television -- hopefully aware that, as political tides shift, they could be abandoned at any time, the way the British abandoned the Assyrians in 1932 -- or the way Joe Biden abandoned American citizens and Afghan supporters, whom we had pledged to protect, in Afghanistan in 2021.

At the same time, "good intentions gone wrong," while it might possibly apply to the American project in Iraq, or even to the determination of the Fourth Crusade to go on Crusade, certainly had nothing to do with how the Fourth Crusade ended up at Constantinople. As we have seen, the Crusaders were hopelessly in hock to Venice, whose own purposes were irrelevant to Crusading, and for whom Alexius Angelus himself merely provided a pretext to further Venetian interests, whether he would act as Emperor for Venice or, once he was gone, his overthrow was a pretext for Venetian and Frankish seizure of much of Romania.

But, to Kaldellis, the Crusaders in Constantinople were "a colonial occupation, smaller in scale but no different in kind from the later western colonial conquests of other parts of the world" and "The Crusader occupation was part and parcel of broader processes of western colonization that were kicking off in his period" -- while, of course, the American occupation of Iraq, we are left to gather, was itself an example of "later western colonial conquest." Each action, at the same time, was "an act of aggression between one civilization against another." That seems to mean that Saddam Hussein represented some kind of "civilization," which I would regard as a stretch, although he did have his admirers and apologists.

So, as I have noted in relation to Spanish and Portuguese colonialism, little details of historical accuracy can be neglected when the real target of one's critique is the United States. With Kaldellis, this is not surprising, as it would not be for any modern academic, nor should we discount the influence of the lunatic fringe Leftism of Modern Greece, Kaldellis's native country. The Greeks should count themselves lucky that they have not yet voted themselves into the condition of Venezuela, where 20% of the population, starving, has fled the country. But it is a shame; and this compromises the appeal of the Cause of Romania, for which Kaldellis is a rare but resolute and conspicuous advocate.

We cannot have a critique of colonialism without Marxism, but then Marx himself was relatively unconcerned about colonialism, since colonized lands were economically backwards and Marx expected the action to take place where there was a proletariat in Capitalist countries. When that didn't happen, it was Lenin who tried providing an explanation; and it is the echoes of that we see in Kaldellis's treatment:

The Frangokratia [Φραγκοκρατία] was in fact a colonial occupation, smaller in scale but no different in kind from the later colonial conquests of other parts of the world... the locals, who were mostly reduced to a serf-like status and made to serve in foreign economic regimes of exploitation. [p.90]

One wonders how much "exploitation" benefited the Crusader states when most people were engaged in little better than subsistence agriculture. The Latin Emperors were so hard up for money that they melted bronze statues and stripped buildings of their roofs. They had nothing, in their small domain, of the productive tax base previously enjoyed by Romania. The Kings of Thessalonica hardly survived long enough to do much in the way of "exploitation." The Princes of Achaea lasted longer, but early on they lost Laconia to the "Greeks," which was a large part of the Morea. The Duchy of Athens lasted until the Turkish Conquest, but it was also a small domain whose value for "exploitation" seems questionable. As the Spanish enslaved Indians to work the silver mines of Mexico and Peru (still the largest producers of silver in the world, with China), the Dukes of Athens might have reopened the Laurion silver mines of Attica. But they didn't. Yet the mines could have been productive, and they were reopened in 1864.

We do not see the phenomenon of latter European colonialism where large populations emigrated to the new lands, founding actual "colonies" in the original Greek sense. We do not find a lot of displaced Irish, say, in the middle of the Peloponnesus -- although I still have fantasies about Monty Python having a traveler find native Irishmen in Ankara, Turkey (Ottoman ), which was originally the capital, Angora, Ἄνκυρα, of the Hellenistic state of Galatia, founded by Celtic invaders in the 3rd Century BC.

If we want real "exploitation," we have one really good example: We find a silk industry in Sicily in the 11th century; and this was expanded when the Norman King of Sicily, Roger II, attacked Corinth and Thebes in 1147. Silk workers were kidnapped and deported to Sicily and Calabria along with mulberry crops and production machinery. This was well before the Fourth Crusade, although, to be sure, silk weavers even arrived from Constantinople after the sack of the city in 1204. Perhaps the Princes of Achaea benefited from the native silk industry in their lands, but we don't hear much about it.

Leninist ideas of "exploitation" were always a little vague. When King Leopold II (1865-1909) of Belgium enslaved the population of the Congo and tortured and worked the people to death, this sounds like proper "exploitation." But it also became the scandal of Europe. Meanwhile, the cocoa industry in the British Gold Coast was owned and run by Africans, whose businesses were destroyed once independence was gained, as "Ghana," under the clueless and thieving dictator Kwame Nkrumah (d.1972). Many former colonies, even the ones that didn't suffer from civil wars or dictators, were less prosperous after independence than before. This was evident by the 1980's -- enough to give colonial "exploitation" a good name.

A lot of "post-colonial theory" is a rationalizing apologia (of "wretched, insane passions") to patch up this disaster and conceal the failures of socialist "development economics." The prosperity of the "Four Tigers" -- Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore -- sealed the argument, as does the prosperity of "persons of color" from India and East Asia (formerly the "Orient") in the United States, whose children the Ruling Class endeavors to penalize for their achievement, violating anti-discrimination law to exclude them from advanced high schools and elite universities. Unfortunately for them, San Franscico School Board members engaged in insulting "Asians" as benefiting from "white privilege" were voted out of office early in 2022. Some of them were vicious enough to continue the insults even after losing the election. Yet they call others "racist."

So, one might wonder what Anthony Kaldellis is talking about. Apart from Leninist ideologies of colonialism, we also may gather some sense of Kaldellis's conventional regard for the Crusades, which rarely rises above the classic assertion of Sydney Greenstreet (1879-1954) in the Maltese Falcon [1941]:

"They [the Hospitallers of Malta] were rolling in wealth, sir. You've no idea. None of us has any idea. For years they had preyed on the Saracens, had taken nobody knows what spoils of gems, precious metals, silks, ivories -- the cream of the cream of the East. That is history, sir. We all know that the Holy Wars to them, as to the Templars, were largely a matter of loot. [Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon,1929, 1930, Vintage Books, 1984, p.141]

However, while the Templars, like the Italians, were wealthy off of banking, this was at the expense of Crusaders and pilgrims, not Sacacens. Indeed, it is not even clear where this "loot" would have been taken off the Saracens. After the initial conquests of the First Crusade, attempts to expand Outremer, or even preserve its holdings, generally failed. The Second Crusade, lauched to regain Edessa, and then to take Damascus, failed in both efforts. Several invasions of Egypt came to nothing, including that of St. Louis IX of France, whose defeat even led to his capture, and the need to ransom him. Not a money making proposition.

We get the disapproving comment by Kaldellis that "a decades-long movement has taken place among some medievalists to rehabilitate the Crusades as acts of deeply sincere piety that were not motivated by worldly concerns" [p.87]. Apparently, we know better that they were so motivated.

I might wonder, of course, how Peter the Hermit's "People's Crusade" of 1096 or the "Children's Crusade," of 1212 served any "worldly concerns." They both resulted in the massacre or slavery of the poor, clueless "Crusaders." At the same time, the self-evident truth voiced by Sydney Greenstreet was false. Crusading was mostly expensive and thankless, and bankruptcy (or death), rather than wealth, was more often the result. Some, indeed, grew rich; but this was mostly the Italian cities whose services, like transportation and banking, soaked up the monies that most pious Crusaders could barely scrape up from their poor, feudal domains. The experience of the impecunious Fourth Crusade at Venice was characteristic.

"Deeply sincere piety" was often the only thing that could justify the difficulties Crusaders would face, although younger sons, to be sure, might feel they had nothing to lose. But Kaldellis seems to view all this through lenses that convert everyone, absurdly, into rapacious capitalists. Even without the Marxist tinge, we can see how bad this can get with what Robert Hughes says about the Crusades, with little but ignorance, distortions, and dishonesty. At least Hughes saw delusion and racism more than greed, dismissing economic determinism.

It is always nice when you can tell a simple story. The Franks hated Romania and wanted its wealth, so they sent Crusaders to loot and destroy it, pretending this had something to do with religion. The Americans hated the Arabs and wanted their wealth, so they sent armies to loot and destroy Iraq, pretending this had something to do with human rights. This is more or less the story that Anthony Kaldellis presents to us, pretending that this will restore Romania to the dignity that it deserves.

Unfortunately, even as Socrates said of his accusers, καίτοι ἀληθές γε, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, οὐδὲν εἰρήκασιν, "And yet for truth, to use a word, they said nothing," Kaldellis's simple story says virtually nothing that is true, some of which, at least, I have explained here. This does not help the Cause of Romania, and it is a shame to see Kaldellis wander off into irrelevant political issues that introduce distortions into his presentation of history. He is otherwise able to write whole books that are not thus compromised, although we have gotten the occasional political aside spit out before, usually with no relevance to the argument at hand and often stated too obscurely for the uninitiated (in academic political arcana) to understand. In this case, however, he has tried to make it a central point in the story, at grave cost, not only to an understanding of recent history, but to a serious distortion of his account of the Fourth Crusade, which is a critical event in Roman history.

There are other issues that come up in Byzantium Unbound, and perhaps I will return to their consideration. For for the moment I think that all this is quite enough, except for two brief points: One about Late Antiquity, the other about the very character of Western Civilization.

First, Kaldellis seems worried that the growth of the historical speciality of Late Antiquity, or the "Late Roman Empire," will result, or is resulting, in a subtraction of the period from the time and speciality covered by Byantine Studies. We have seen the worry expressed elsewhere.

However, when Peter Brown published The World of Late Antiquity [1971], the problem was that this period shared in the neglect experienced by "Byzantium" itself. Thus, I see that book as a blow struck against that very neglect. When we add to this the extraordinary statements by Brown that "the empire itself was now called Romania" [op.cit., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1971, p. 41] and then elsewhere that the term "Byzantine Empire" is "a modern misnomer redolent of ill-informed contempt" [Late Antiquity, A Guide to the Postclassical World, Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 1999, p.vii], we should come away with the sense that any use of "Late Antiquity" to continue the neglect of Romania is contrary to the original conception.

I have pointed out myself that the name "Romania" is missing from the actual Festschrift for Peter Brown, Transformations of Late Antiquity, Essays for Peter Brown [edited by Philip Rousseau and Manolis Papoutsakis, Ashgate, 2009]. This means that Brown's own students and colleagues, while wishing to acknowledge his contribution, have missed the point about "Romania" and "Byzantium." Indeed, there is nothing in Byzantium Unbound that condemns expressions like "Byzantine Empire" as strongly as Brown's own "modern misnomer." Because of that, we could accuse Kaldellis himself of not having gotten quite the right point about "Late Antiquity."

Byzantinists have always had the difficulty about the "elusive" point where "Roman Empire" ends and "Byantium" begins. That can go anywhere from Diocletian to Leo the Isaurian (717-741). We see similar uncertainty about the end point for "Late Antiquity," which can stretch all the way to the Fall of the Omayyads (750) -- already implied by Peter Brown himself. Yet it is hard to imagine that Leo, with the Arab Siege of Constantinople (674-677), Iconoclasm (730), etc., could be somehow formally subtracted from "Byzantine Studies." So I don't think that Kaldellis really has a complaint here, except for those who have failed to recognize that "Late Antiquity" was a blow struck by Peter Brown for Romania, not against it. Whether Brown has himself always maintained the sense of that through the rest of his career, is, of course, a different question.

The second point I want to address is about the very character of "Western Civilization." In recent writing, some have tried to "problematize" the very idea that there is a "Western Civilization," claiming that this was a propaganda tool used no earlier than World War I. The motive and purposes of such writers is unclear, but they certainly cannot be said to be advocates for Western Civilization. Anthony Kaldellis, who sees the Fourth Crusade as "an act of aggression between one civilization against another," is probably not going to see Francia and Romania as part of a united culture. At the same time, he also notes that some have wanted to draw the boundaries of Western Civilization no closer than the Hindu Kush -- which, of course, would include ʾIslâm as part of the "West."

There is, however, a simple way to define the boundaries of a "civilization." As we see with Jean-Noël Robert, "one of the most permanent cultural traits in the written cultures of Eurasia... is precisely the phenomenon I am calling hieroglossia." In simplier terms, this means that a literate "civilization" seems to always possess a Classical language, whose literature is regarded as foundational in religion, culture, and politics. In Europe, these languages are Greek, Latin, and, to a lesser and specialized sense, Hebrew. Otherwise, in China we find Classical Chinese, whose core literature is, naturally, called the "Classics," , Jīng. In India, the Classical language is Sanskrit.

With ʾIslâm, in its youth, it owes a great deal to the earlier civilizations, Greece, Rome, Persia, etc., and to the earlier religions, Judaism, Chistianity, and even Zoroastrianism. However, it does not formally trace its derivation and legitimacy to any of these. Its Classical language, Arabic, is regarded as eternal and, at root, legitimized independently by Revelation. Thus, Muslim scholars do not study Hebrew or Greek, the way Christian scholars do, to understand better the nature of their religion. The Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament, while regarded as ultimately matters of Revelation also, are nevertheless accused of being "corrupted." Only the Qurʾân is the pure Revealed Word and thus is alone true, where Jewish and Christian scriptures may disagree with it, having themselves fallen into error.

The following map shows the four "World Civilizations" as defined by their Classical languages, with the areas of the map proportional to the populations of the world, as of 1969 [Fontana Pocket Atlas, Fontana Books, William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1969, p.114-115]. This gives a prominence to India and China that may not be obvious in conventional atlas maps.

The unity of European Civilization is compromised for Anthony Kaldellis by the division between the Catholic and the Orthodox, between Francia and Romania. In the terms just proposed, while both areas acknowledge Greek and Latin as their Classical languages, for much of the Middle Ages, Latin alone was active in Francia, while Greek alone was active in Romania. As I will examine as follows, a third part of Europe develops during the period: Russia. This derives from Romania and shares a particular Classical language of its own, namely Old Church Slavonic, which was foundational for Slavic speaking Orthodox Churches, beginning with Bulgaria. For the problem of the Fourth Crusade, however, Russia is not immediately relevant.

Thus, while the Fourth Crusade wasn't quite a "clash of civilizations," it did cross an internal boundary of European history, one that involved what could be very tense religious, political, and culural differences. This is all that counted in the conflict, according to Kaldellis, although, as we've seen, the actual causes of the diversion of the Crusade to Constantinople actually had nothing to do with those differences. But what we see in Kaldellis's treatment may be something else, with a lingering hostility towards Francia, Catholicism, and the Latinate heritage of Europe.

The tendency to problematize "Western Civilization" may be essentially Greek distaste at the thought of sharing a civilization with the Latins. I have even suspected that Kaldellis's rejection of the Latinate forms of Greeks words may reflect that, even though such practice has more to do with German nationalism, for which neither Greeks nor Latins have any reason to respect, rather than with Romania. But this hostility is contrary to Kaldellis's own program of uniting "Rome and Byzantium" in the single story and civilization of Romania. This calls for some straightening out, if the goal is really more like "Romania Unbound" rather than just "Byzantium Unbound."


It Was Not Called “Byzantium,” by Kelley L. Ross

  1. Pre-Roman Rulers
  2. Rome and Romania
  3. Successors of Western Rome:
  4. Successors of Eastern Rome:
  5. Empires Outside Rome, Middle Eastern
  6. Empires Outside Rome, Far Eastern

The arrangement of these lists follows James Bryce's principle of universalist ideology, centering on Rome but extending to similar to ideas outside of the Roman world. The table below and right, which links to the main list below, lays out the largest categories.

ʾIslâm of course formlated its own independent sense of universality, based on the heritage of Judaism, Persia, Rome, and Christianity, as Christian Ethiopia had done earlier. Far away from the mediterranean world, Confucian ideals of common humanity similarly produced the universalist ideology of classical China, where China, represented the world, or at least the universality authority of the Emperors, encompased everything , i.e. "under Heaven." India, though with more of a patchwork tradition, overlapping Islâm, also evidenced universal claims, with a special word for a universal monarch, the cakravartin, . Around China, the countries in China's cultural sphere of influence, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Mongolia, tended to reproduce China's own universal pretentions, rather than see themselves subordinate to Chinese universality. The original title of the Chinese Emperor was , "August Emperor," while the Japanese use a slightly different version, , "Heavenly Emperor."

A similar phenomenon occurred in Europe. The Frankish and German Emperors thought of themselves as the "true" Roman Emperors, with the blessing of the Popes in Rome itself. The Roman/Byzantine Emperors in Constantinople only grudgingly acknowledged the Germans as Western colleagues, and their sense of being the true heirs of Rome was then passed on, in Christendom, to the Russian Tsars, and, in Islâm, to the Ottomans who conquered Constantinople and reestablished their own version of Romania -- Rûm and Rumelia, the Asiatic and European sides of the Empire.

In Western Europe, Latinate and Catholic, a different dynamic occurred. Although the kingdom of the Franks, sanctified by the Pope, became the repository of Imperial pretentions, a kind of sibling rivalry arose between the Western Franks (the future France) and the Eastern Franks (the future Germany). Although Germany became the permanent Mediaeval "Empire," France never did acknowledge that the French King was actually subordinate to the German Emperor. Then, flush with de facto imperial power, Napoleon took back, Pope and all, the Imperial Crown, and made his son, like the Mediaeval Emperors, King of Rome.

The fall of the German Empire, however, still left a line of Emperors:  The Austrian Hapsburgs, having been Emperors for so long, figured that they had the right to continue in that dignity, so they did. Wilhelmine Germany, fresh from the defeat of Napoleon III, also claimed Imperial status as the continuation of what had been, de facto, a German Mediaeval Empire.

This personalization and nationalization of "universal" rule then inspired the odd British variation:  Queen Victoria assumed an Imperial title by virtue of possessing India, though certainly no Englishman took seriously an iota of indigenous Indian, Islâmic or pre-Islâmic, universalist ideology.

During the Middle Ages, there grew around the kingdoms of the Franks an aureola of kingdoms which could not claim, or at least maintain, as Roman Catholics, an Imperial dignity without the authorization of the Pope. The "Empire" of Spain was thus a very brief conceit. Consequently, in recognizing kingship alone among the Scandinavian, British, Spanish, Eastern European, and Southern Italian states, the Popes maintained the potential universal pretentions of the Frankish/German Imperial throne.

This may not have been for the best, as first the French and then the Germans easily interpreted their own militant new modern ideologies as authorization to conquer Europe. Bryce did not live to see how ugly and murderous these pretentions would become in Fascist Germany, where the nationalization of "universality" became a principle, not just of universal human inequality, but of enslavement and genocide. This illuminated most starkly the difference between a claim of authority over all, by virtue of a universal state, and a claim by all to authority over themselves, by virtue of a universal, but individualized, human nature. The latter was more the idea in the United States, where the Roman Republic was venerated rather more than the Roman Empire.

The part of Modern (i.e. post-1453) Christian Europe with an equal claim to Roman pretentions as Francia was Russia. The princes of Moscow saw their city as the "Third Rome," following directly after Constantinople, the "New Rome," fell to the Turks and to Islâm. After Ivan III married a princess of the Palaeologi Dynasty and Ivan IV, the Terrible, conquered most of the remaining Mongol Khântes, the ruler of Russia was the Tsar (Caesar) and Autocrat (from Greek Autokratos, used for the Latin Imperator) of "All the Russias."

This made the Tsar the special protector of all the Orthodox Churches, since the Russian Church itself owed its existence to Constantinople and nothing to the Pope in Rome. For a long time there were only two Emperors in Europe, first the Holy Roman Emperor and the Tsar, later, from 1815 to 1852, the Austrian Emperor and the Tsar. This had consequences in the 19th Century, when the Russians, for strategic as well as ideological and religious reasons, waged several wars against the Ottoman Empire, with the ultimate objective of securing Constantinople and the Straits.

This was resisted by the powers in Francia:  Britain, France, and Austria combined in the Crimean War to defeat Russia. This turned out to be a bad idea when World War I came around, since the Straits were then controlled by Turkey as an ally of Germany, and Russia was largely cut off from aid from its own allies, Britain and France. Largely because of Russia's terrible experience in that war, the Russian Revolution replaced the Tsar and his Christian ideology with Lenin and the even more ambitious universalist pretentions of Communism.

Although owing nothing to Tsarist ideology, Communism provided a much more precise and unique justification for conquest and police state tyranny than Orthodoxy ever did. From 1945 to 1989, much of Eastern Francia and Balkan Romania was within the political and cultural sphere of Soviet Russia. The Fall of Communism reversed that. Indeed, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic (Bohemia) have obtained membership in the essentially Western military alliance of NATO, with Lithuania and others seeking membership also. At the same time, it must be considered that Roman Catholic areas of Belorussia (White Russia or Belarus) and the Ukraine, which had been conquered and proselytized by Lithuania in the Middle Ages (and so for a long time religiously part of Francia), have been permanently returned to the Russia sphere. Vladimir Putin obviously wants to rebuild the Russian Imperium.

Europa est omnis divisa in partes tres,
quarum unam Romaniam, aliam Franciam, tertiam Russiam.
Europa 1. Romania2. ConstantinopleGreek
2. Francia1. RomeLatin
3. Russia3. MoscowOld Church

"Europe" is now a concept with special significance as NATO and the European Union expand to encompass formerly Communist states in Eastern Europe. So far, these have mainly been states of Mediaeval Francia, like Poland, Hungary, and the Baltics. It is conceivable, however, that one or the other organization could end up including the Ukraine, or even Russia itself, and states of Mediaeval Romania, like Serbia, Bulgaria, and the modern state of România. Greece and Turkey are already members of NATO. Turkey's application to the European Union has been postponed because of its human rights record and, apparently, fears of unlimited Turkish/Muslim immigration. It will certainly be an extraordinary event if Turkey, the Islâmic successor of the Emperors of Constantinople, itself is formally admitted to the new super-Europe.

Eastern Europe is still struggling with the cultural and legal aftereffects of Communism. The states from Mediaeval Romania, among the poorest in Europe, struggle, not just with the heritage of Communism, but with the cultural and political puzzles of their own underdevelopment. Thus, Greece, although coming up on two centuries of independence, never Communist, and wealthier than most neighboring states, nevertheless has some Middle Eastern overtones to its politics, with socialist, paranoid, and even terrorist tendencies. Unfortunately, socialist tendencies are reinforced by the very leaders of the European Union, France, Germany, and Belgium -- where the socialist fruit of poor growth and high unemployment are all too evident. A Europe free of Communism thus still hears the Siren Song of pseudo-community, pseudo-compassion, and pseudo-rationality that tempted people towards Communism in the first place.

While "universality" here centers on Rome, and on comparable pretentions in Islâm, China, etc., this site also now has much material on earlier Middle Eastern and Mediterranean civilization. This is all collapsed in the table above into the category of "Pre-Roman Rulers," but it is, of course, a vast subject, beginning with Egypt and Sumer and continuing right up to the kingdoms of the Hellenistic age. The earliest states of the Middle East did not so much have universalist pretentions as they did think of themselves as uniquely real, civilized, and human, as opposed to the chaos of barbarians outside. Ultimately recognizing the numbers and sophistication of the foreigners suggested, as it did until the 20th century in China, that they should be happy and willing to be ruled by "us," just because of our own virtue. When someone developed a real advantage, as did the Assyrians, then the Persians, then the Greeks, and then the Romans (not to mention later Islâmic and European conquerors), pretention could become increasingly factual. The humanity of the ideal depended on the extent to which "us" and "them" merged into the same identity -- a process that hardly occurred at all with the Assyrians but came closer and closer to the truth in the later empires. That the ideal should be equality before the law and voluntary association, and not some specific matter of culture, religion, or ideology, came much later and is still, indeed, a matter of dispute, even in the democracies, where "communitarianism" survives from more authoritarian, collectivist, and even tribal visions.

Treatments of different domains and periods are scattered between different files. The systematic treatment is as follows in the list below, but the list in the box at right simply gives the actual internet files in which basic historical material, with lists and genealogies, is contained. Other files, back at, contain more general and interpretative historical treatments. It is possible to begin with the first file at right, oldking.htm, and by following the links, cover all subsequent history.

  1. Pre-Roman Rulers

  2. Rome and Romania

  3. Successors of Western Rome: Germania, Francia, & the Periphery of Francia, 395 BC-Present

  4. Successors of Eastern Rome:  Ottoman Sulṭâns & Russia

  5. Empires Outside Rome, Middle Eastern

  6. Empires Outside Rome, Far Eastern

Philosophy of History

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Copyright (c) 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2022, 2023, 2024 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved