Rhetoric as a Political Tool in Shaping the Byzantine Theocracy
Cominos, Margaret Patrikeos
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The transmission of rhetoric from classical Greece to Byzantium provides a salutary study of the way in which the manipulation of language can shape not only the cultural and political ethos of a civilisation but its Weltanschauung as well. The unique Byzantine world-view was shaped by two major factors: the classical rhetorical tradition which provided the basis for the education system, and the gradual evolution of theological concepts of government derived from pagan elements, chiefly ruler worship, and promulgated by the deliberate use of rhetorical techniques inherited from antiquity. The principles of classical rhetoric were brilliantly applied by both Church and State to manipulate public sentiment to effect a compromise between pagan and Christian elements in an effort to unite the far-flung polyglot peoples of the Empire. Evidence of their success can be found in the thousand-year duration of the Byzantine civilisation, while at the same time providing one of the many examples of the potential of this classical legacy to transcend time and place.