Byzantine Missions Were Motivated by Politics Term Paper

An exploration of the motivations behind the Byzantine missions to the Slavic world in 862 AD.
# 146691 | 1,916 words | 11 sources | MLA | 2008 | GB

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This paper explores and seeks to understand how political reasoning and spiritual thought were inseparably bound together in the Orthodox missionaries' minds because of the principles upon which the Byzantine Commonwealth was based. The paper discusses the motivations behind the Byzantine missions to the Slavic world, specifically those made by Cyril and Methodius in 862AD into Moravia, which saw the birth of Orthodox Christianity in the Balkans along with the introduction of a new language that still exists today in the Slavic world. The paper also offers detailed analysis into the concept of "oikoumene," which was the fundamental principle of the Byzantine Commonwealth. The paper concludes that the mission to the Slavs was of vital importance to the world of Byzantium, as it not only provided protection to the northern frontier of the empire, but more importantly, it advanced the work of God on earth - the divinely appointed aim of any emperor of Constantinople.

From the Paper:

"Now we reach the whole purpose of the Byzantine mission to the Slavs, because to enter this community of shared beliefs was to put you in subordination to God. Plus, in the eastern world, God had a representative on earth to do his work, namely the divinely appointed emperor of Byzantium. This community, also known as the oikoumene, encompassed all of the Orthodox faith, not in constitutional law but because of a collective commitment to God's appointed being on earth. With a successful Byzantine mission there is an inseparability of conversion to Christianity and obedience to the Byzantine emperor. Since the function of the emperor was to carry out God's plan, then the Byzantine mission was part of this work. To bring the nations of the world into the oikoumene under the protection of the Byzantine emperor was the ultimate purpose of Byzantium and exactly what the mission aimed at achieving. Consequently, how the world is organised politically is of concern to God in that the Byzantine Empire and its oikoumene was the physical instrument with which the Christian faith was to be diffused in other areas. It would be easy to romanticise this whole procedure, but the political benefits would have been obvious to the ruling elite of Byzantium. Also, there is also the issue that it was difficult for Byzantines not to see themselves as superior to the new arrivals into the Christian faith. The theory was, though, that you ceased to be a barbarian once you were converted and were now readily called and accepted as Roman. All the nations of Eastern Europe are purported to have believed in this concept, with the Byzantine emperor as irreplaceable as the head of the oikoumene. This newfound connection to Byzantium and the emperor is commonly expressed as the converted barbarian becoming the "spiritual son" of the emperor. The whole concept and notion of the oikoumene is intrinsically bound within the political and spiritual world of Byzantium, affecting them both. Since the oikoumene was achieved by method of the mission, it is shown that the mission itself was ultimately bound into politics and spirituality as well."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Dvornik, F., 'The Significance of the Missions of Cyril and Methodius', Slavic Review, 23 (1964), pp. 195-211.
  • Dvornik, F., Byzantine Missions among the Slavs (New Brunswick, 1970)
  • Fletcher, R., The Conversion of Europe. From Paganism to Christianity 371-1386 AD (Glasgow, 1997),
  • Jakobson, R., 'The Byzantine Mission to the Slavs. Report on the Dumbarton Oaks Symposium of 1964 and Concluding Remarks about Crucial Problems of Cyrillo-Methodian Studies', Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 19 (1965), pp. 257-265.
  • Obolensky, D., The Byzantine Commonwealth. Eastern Europe 500-1453 (London, 1974)

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