Thursday, May 20, 2021

Brainy Orthodox Versus Brawny Catholics

In the Middle Ages, the Orthodox Christians of the Middle East and North Africa saw themselves as the brainy people, who were the true guardians of the holy faith and the inheritors of the legacy of the Roman Empire. The Roman Catholics of Europe saw themselves as the brawny people, on whom had fallen the mantle of freeing the Holy Land. The Catholics blamed the Orthodox Christians for being weak, doctrinal, and amoral. The Orthodox Christians blamed the Catholics for being greedy, ambitious, and warlike. 

Anna Komnene, the daughter of Alexius I Comnenus, the Byzantine Emperor who ruled from 1081 to 1118, wrote a biography of her father in which she commented on the pilgrims and warriors who arrived during the First Crusade. She was disgusted by the destructive behavior of the crusaders. She wrote: “Alexius had dreaded [the arrival of the Franks], knowing as he did their uncontrollable passion, their erratic character, and their irresolution, not to mention their greed.” Her comments were colored by hindsight—by the experience of the failures of the First Crusade. 

While the Orthodox Christians (brainy people) and the Catholics (brawny people) shared a common religion and history, the divide between them could not be reconciled.

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