By then, the empire had ceased to exist, so Westerners with no knowledge of Greek or access to the relevant documents had no way of checking the historical reality against the disparaging claims of Edward Gibbon and others, for whom the Byzantines served as a convenient starting point for the Whig writing of history—the primeval nightmare of superstitious despotism out of which the Western world awoke and arose.

Some kinder 20th-century scholars have offered modest corrections to the conventional narrative, denying the accusation of caesaropapism and celebrating Byzantine art and culture, but no one has gone as far as Kaldellis in asserting the secular basis of Byzantine politics or in demonstrating the blindness of Western historians who only understand politics according to Enlightenment categories of thought.