Although having developed a science of war, as Runciman observes, Byzantium was not a military state. Obliged in a constant war, no matter how powerful it might have been, no matter how well it knew to combat, obviously it could not resist a global attack – from the East, the South, the North, and even from the West, from the Christian nations. That acknowledged, it is no wonder that Byzantium fell, but that it resisted for 11 centuries.
Beyond these and above all explanations one might give, we can not understand Byzantium if we imagine it to be a ‘nation’. With every province that was lost, especially of the western provinces that signified the start of the empire in the older Rome, Byzantines received not only a political wound, but even more seriously a wound in their soul, in their ecumenical nature. A Byzantium that was getting identified with Greeks, due to the loss of eastern and western provinces, was not losing just power, but its very nature.
The same disappointment can be observed even today in modern Greece. After their Byzantine past modern Greeks suffer a suffocation by the fact they are obliged to live as a nation, having lost an ecumenical vision. Membership in the European Union could serve this aim of transcending oneself towards a greater reality of absolute importance, if Modern Greece and the European Union had understood that a “greater reality” does not mean only political expansion and economical growth. Participating for the first time in their history into a political entity that has and wants nothing to do with Faith, modern Greeks instead of finding a new ecumenical objective are going to suffer from suffocation even more.
Let us also note one more thing. If Byzantium was a nation, its fall would not matter. Germany was ruined after the recent world wars, and in short time gained all the power that it needed. The same happened with Greece, which was under Ottoman rule for centuries. We can not expect the same from Byzantium.
Culturally Byzantium is alive even today, anywhere an Orthodox people live. When we speak about its fall, we refer to the fall of the political power, but that is only a dimension. Even this dimension could re-emerge under certain conditions, but only as a work of a group of nations, not of a single nation. If such a prospect seems irrelevant, it’s not Byzantium’s fault.
Our own ‘ecumenical’ dream, is the multicultural dream of unimpeded global consumerism. Who cares about faith and truth, the values that made Byzantium what it was? These are private matters, these should be left in the private sphere. We don’t want a civilization and political entities based on these values. Inside our houses we can be Christians or whatever, but for the outside, for our World, we want only “peace and prosperity” to ‘unite’ us. We have our homes as oases in an external desert that we ourselves create and share. I don’t know if such a ‘reality’ can last. It is only the beginning of it, but even now seems ready to fall apart by itself. However, no matter how long our desert might last, it has nothing to do with Byzantium, so Byzantium as a political entity can not but stay dormant.