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The Revival of the Hellenic Identity in Late Byzantine Period and

Its Reflections in the Byzantine Religious Iconography

An awareness of the Greekness was awaken in the Byzantine cultural life, after the fourth Crusader’ army taking over the rule in Constantinople in 1204 and the Byzantine state moved to an exile in Nikea.

The empire's association of itself with the Hellenistic tradition and past, which was first seen during this period, supposed to have the message as bringing their superiority over their Western rivals who claim to be “True Roman”. The idea of Hellenism, which gradually intensified in the fourteenth century, achieved a new Byzantine identity with the Orthodox Christian belief.

New tendencies in theology and art left their imprints on the religious iconography. Meanwhile emphasising a Helen-Orthodox Roman Empire as opposed to the Latin West, may be seen as an initial phase of Greek identity to be evolved as a nation in the following centuries.

In this respect, the late Byzantine identity is based on the new reception of Greekness and dominance of Orthodoxy. The Byzantines, obviously the elite, aristocratic class, embraced and adopted their Hellenic past and their present Orthodox religion.

Especially, the spirituality of Hesychasm appeared as a Greek Orthodox reaction towards the Latin Christianity. Also when Byzantium declined as of politically, economically and in military, in front of the Latin west, the Byzantine Hellenic past and contemporary Orthodox religion exposed itself as a political and cultural counter instrument. These issues can be seen in the Byzantine religious painting, especially in the churches at the Balkans.

Novelties in the subject matter, in techniques applied and their iconography, reflect these contemporary world view. Such examples could be found in the iconographies like Tree of Jesse, Zoodochos Pege, or Transfiguration of Jesus. In this paper I will discuss this ideological shift in self reception and I will try analyse the iconographies related to that point.

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