My name is Tom Sawford and I live in Basingstoke, Hampshire, England.
In Byzantium, I know that I share with many of you a common passion that includes history, art, culture, the development of Christianity, and a focus on Turkey, a country I have visited often. Byzantium not only has a binding effect for us, but also it brings together a range of people from different backgrounds, and perhaps most importantly offers a common bond for the peoples of Turkey and Europe.
Surprisingly it was former French President Jacques Chirac who first said in November 2004, “We are all children of Byzantium” in connection with Turkey’s application to join the EU. He was addressing a student conference in Marseille, the day after a large demonstration against Turkish membership.
As Professor Judith Herrin said in the 18th Runciman Lecture in London in February 2009 …
“His use of the phrase is interesting on many counts, not least the fact that some Turks are indeed also claiming to be children of Byzantium: They emphasize how firmly the Ottomans maintained imperial traditions into the modern era, preserved Byzantine chancellery habits, tax-keeping methods, and continued the multicultural and polyglot culture of Byzantium. This is claimed in the spirit of inclusivity and cousinhood, not of bickering and competition.
So in addition to the Balkan countries, and states emerging from the Russian and Soviet empires, Georgia and Armenia (distinctly different but orthodox), Syria and Lebanon with their ancient Christian communities, other groups such as the Copts in Egypt, can also claim to be children of Byzantium. In this larger family, Greece is our elder brother and sister. But it is also part of a wider group of siblings that is just beginning to be discovered. By drawing attention to the real, symbolic and imagined children of Byzantium, I think we can expand and enrich our sense of that great civilization.”
I hope that this blog will, in some small way, continue to help our understanding of this wonderful, and often ignored civilisation.
If you would like to help with the blog, contribute an article or anything else, please contact me tsawford[at]btinternet.com.