The Church in the Eastern Roman Empire 800 - 1453 AD

The Orthodox Byzantine Roman Empire invested in medical care through the development of hospitals, all the way until the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 AD.  Medical and biological knowledge was preserved in books like the 7th century manuscript of Naples Dioscurides, a 7th century Greek manuscript of Dioscurides De Materia Medica (Of Medical Substances). Photo credit:  World Digital Library. Byzantine doctors were the first to surgically separate conjoined twins - in 942 AD.  (Dr. Denys Montandon, The Unspeakable History of Thoracopagus Twins' Separation) The next example was in Germany in 1689.


the church in the byzantine empire 800 - 1453 AD

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel. See also our page on The Narrative of Christian Ignorance, for a distilled list of resources.

Books and Articles on the Church in the Byzantine Empire 800 - 1453 AD: The Church Shaping Empire

Francis Dvornik, Origins of Intelligence Services: The Ancient Near East, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Arab Muslim Empires, the Mongol Empire, China, Muscovy (Amazon book, 1974)

John V.A. Fine, The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century (Amazon book, 1991)

Timothy S. Miller, The Birth of the Hospital in the Byzantine Empire (Amazon book, 1997) from Basil of Caesarea who started the hospital as an institution and urban monasticism to support it, throughout the hospital network and its medical achievements in the Byzantine period. Miller shows one of the most positive interactions between church and government.  It is impressive how much data we have.  This also makes a good case that our science, medicine, and health system should be publicly supported in some form.  See also Andrew T. Crislip, From Monastery to Hospital: Christian Monasticism and the Transformation of Health Care in Late Antiquity (Amazon book, Apr 2005). See also The Cosmological Vision of St. Basil and the First Hospital (Servant of Prayer blog, Apr 8, 2014) and Father Johannes Jacobse, St. Basil the Great and Christian Philanthropy (American Orthodox Institute USA, Dec 20, 2014) and Thomas Heyne, Reconstructing the World's First Hospital: The Basiliad (Hektoen International: A Journal of Medical Humanities, Spring 2015)

Judith Herrin, Women in Purple: Rulers of Medieval Byzantium (Amazon book, 2002) re: Irene, Euphrosyne, and Theodora, who reigned as Emperors. Sometimes ruthless, often courageous, skilled, and pious, these women demonstrated something that Christian faith and church made possible: the overturning of the Hellenistic and Roman prejudice against women in power.

Henry Chadwick, East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church: From Apostolic Times until the Council of Florence (Amazon book, 2003)

Matthew J. Pereira (editor), Philanthropy and Social Compassion in Eastern Orthodox Tradition (Sophia Institute Academic Conference, Dec 2009) an excellent collection of essays ranging from biblical, historical, and modern concerns

Fevronia K. Soumakis (editor), Power and Authority in Eastern Christian Experience (Sophia Institute Academic Conference, Dec 2010) an excellent collection of essays ranging from biblical, historical, and modern concerns

Judith Herrin, Unrivalled Influence: Women and Empire in Byzantium (Amazon book, 2013) not merely a political or institutional history (see Herrin, 2002), but a social history from empresses to rural widows, exploring the lives of wives, mothers, and daughters; women’s land and inheritance rights; roles played in the Orthodox Church

Brian Patrick Mitchell, Byzantine Empire - or Republic? (The American Conservative, Aug 7, 2015)

Adrienne LaFrance, Hearing the Lost Sounds of Antiquity (The Atlantic, Feb 19, 2016) on the architecture of Byzantine churches and the acoustics of chanting

Ashley M. Purpura, God, Hierarchy, and Power: Orthodox Theologies of Authority from Byzantium (Amazon book, 2018) examines the theology of hierarchy - a technical term not identical with power structures - beginning with Dionysius the Areopagite

Mario Baghos, Philosophies of Church and State in Christian Constantinople (International Network for Byzantine Philosophy, Jun 13, 2018) views Mark of Ephesus as last of a long line who saw that Empire and Church were separable; Empire was not worth saving if it meant compromising Church

Books and Articles on the Byzantine Roman Empire from 800 - 1453 AD: Empire Shaping the Church 

Gregory Paul, The Great Scandal: Christianity’s Role in the Rise of the Nazis (Church and State, Oct 11, 2003) traces the Christian alliance with the Roman Empire into anti-semitism and the rise of German Aryan "Volkism" and the German equivalent of "manifest destiny" through the conquest of Lebensraum ("living space").

Judith Herrin, Margins and Metropolis: Authority Across the Byzantine Empire (Amazon book, 2013)

Bogdan G. Bucur, It’s That Time of the Year Again: In Tone Four, “The Murderers of God, the Lawless Nation of the Jews…” (Public Orthodoxy, Apr 6, 2017) a sensitive reading of how liturgical elements of the Eastern Orthodox Church carry a memory of anti-semitism

the church in europe: the church shaping the empires, empires shaping the church

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics