By Aria Socratous
Clearwater, Florida. A Lecture “Byzantium: Hidden in Plain Sight was offered by the Professor of Clemson University Alexander Billinis on March 21st 2019 at Matheos Hall at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. The lecture focused on the everyday ways we encounter the over 1,000 year Byzantine Empire and was sponsored by the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Clearwater, Florida. A well attended event with about 200 attendees where it was discussed the topic of Byzantium: The 1000 Year Long Civilization you never hear about.
Alexander Billinis is a writer and lawyer in Chicago, Illinois. He and his family returned to the US after nearly a decade in Greece, the UK, and Serbia. He is currently a professor at Clemson University in North Carolina. He writes prolifically on Balkan topics. His books, The Eagle has Two Faces: Journeys through Byzantine Europe, and Hidden Mosaics: An Aegean Tale, are available from Amazon.com
“What is Byzantium? Byzantium is the Greco-Roman civilization after the fall of West Rome. From Belgrade to Bagdad they were called Romioi. The Byzantine identity remained frozen in time, it never stopped. At the turn of the previous millennium, Byzantium experienced its apogee, with temporal and spiritual control over the entire Balkan and Asia minor peninsulas…Even the architectural style of the religious buildings may have subtle meaning. The ex-Communist countries of the Balkans, and particularly those parts of Romania and Serbia that were once under Austro-Hungarian rule and absorbed much of their Western culture and norms. The Balkan Peninsula is the least developed part of Europe; neither the Ottomans nor their successors invested much in the creation of physical and civic infrastructure.», Professor Billinis said.
Orthodox states descending from Byzantium live out a complicated existence. Asia Minor was once the heartland of Byzantium, but now is inhabited by the ghosts of the Byzantines.
Answering the question “Why the Bias against Byzantium”, Alexander Billinis mentioned the Fourth Crusade and stated that the Western Christians always resented the Byzantines. He also said that cultural differences were hardened by the Imbalance of Political and Economic Power.
Byzantium remains relevant to this day. A thousand years of History are complicated but worth discovering. All require an understanding and contextualization of Byzantium.