Byzantine missions among the Slavs. SS. Constantine-Cyril and Methodius
An important feature of the Byzantine Empire as a political and cultural entity was its transmittal of its own cultural forms to the surrounding barbarians, thereby bringing these barbarians within the orbit of civilization. This it did not so much by force of arms as by its missionary activity. Conversion to Christianity was, of course, the immediate objective of that activity but meant a great deal more than just the exchange of one religion for another. It meant the introduction, among those converted, of the Graeco-Roman cultural tradition as that tradition had crystallized in Christianity, with some additional elements drawn from Judaism. The dissemination of Christianity meant, therefore, the dissemination of forms of art, of literature, of law, even of government.
The missionary activity of the Byzantine Empire is the subject matter of the present book by Francis Dvornik. Dvornik is no newcomer to scholarship; for over forty years he has explored the history of the Slavs and various problems relating to Christianity and the Church. At least three of his books have become classics. Byzantium as the civilizing agent among the Slavs attracted his attention very early. Byzantium, he wrote once, “moulded the undisciplined tribes of Serbs, Bulgars, Russians, Croats even, and made nations out of them; it gave to them its religion and institutions, taught their princes how to govern, transmitted to them the very principles of civilization — writing and literature.” The Byzantine mission has been, therefore, one of Dvornik’s principal objects of investigation. Much of what the present volume contains, Dvornik is saying here for the first time. He has also wisely drawn upon much that he established in earlier work. Thus the book as a whole is an important contribution to Byzantine scholarship. It is important because of its integrating qualities, of the
synthesis which it makes of the missionary activities, of the Byzantines and the political and cultural repercussions that these activities entailed. It is a pleasure indeed to publish it and a further satisfaction to add it to the Rutgers Byzantine Series.
Rutgers Byzantine Series
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