Western Perceptions of Eastern Romans

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The Ohio State University

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After the reign of Theodosius I the Roman Empire split into two halves: the eastern half and the western half. When barbarian groups threatened the Western frontiers of the empire, the eastern army failed to aid the west in order to salvage Roman territory. As a result, a former region of the Western Roman Empire in North Africa was taken over by Vandals. Even Rome, the capital of the western Empire, was penetrated by the Gothic army, and was forced to integrate them into Roman politics to remain stable. This integration of barbarian groups, or rather non-Romans, into high status positions in Rome stirred up vulnerability of Roman identity in the west. As a reaction to this vulnerability the west sought to define what it meant to be roman, and began to create this definition by comparing themselves against the eastern romans. The side-by-side comparison formed new political rhetoric in which speaking Latin became pivotal in Roman identity, a characteristic that left the eastern Romans at a disadvantage since they were mostly Greek speakers. This thesis will seek to explore the tropes and stereotypes being used from classical authors, or perhaps being invented under late antique authors, in Roman rhetoric during the fifth and sixth centuries. It will engage in a critical analysis of the literary tools being employed against the eastern Romans, and attempt to reveal how this rhetoric reflected the fraught political relationship between Rome and Constantinople.



Late Antiquity, History, Roman history, Classics