Tuesday, 27. November 2018, 16:00

The “Greek” popes

Formation, Characteristics and Self-Representation of a bilingual Elite in Early Medieval Rome

Lecture by Giandomenico Ferrazza

Between the late 7th and the early 8th centuries, eleven bishops of Rome were perceived as “Greeks”, mainly Greek-speakers born in Sicily or in the eastern regions of the Mediterranean world. Many historians labelled those years as the “Byzantine captivity” of the papacy, assuming that “Greek” popes necessarily were imposed by a Byzantine Emperor. On the contrary, others argued that “Greek popes did not matter”, because the city of Rome was politically already Byzantine and culturally Greek, point of arrival of a considerable migration of Easterners who simply rose through the ranks of the Roman ecclesiastical hierarchy, gradually and without conflict.

In opposition to these simplifying interpretations, I will present an overview of the first 30 years of this period (678-715), trying to show that the “Greek” popes were neither puppets of the Byzantine Emperor nor mere representatives of the Roman clergy, but members of a specific group who successfully managed to maintain the power in the city of Rome for many years. In addition, I will try to show that their “Greekness” did matter, and how it shaped the cultural, political and ideological history of the papacy.