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Byzantine Dimension of the Canon Law Corpus of the Orthodox Slavs and Romanians

Victor Alexandrov, Budapest, Hungary, Fellow 2005/06

The primary aim of my work in Dumbarton Oaks has been research into the Byzantine background of the canon law corpus available to the Orthodox Slavs and Romanians in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period (up to the late-seventeenth century). On one hand, I have been reading general literature on Byzantine and Slavic canon law, trying to obtain greater knowledge in this field. On the other hand, I have been concentrating on those two aspects of Byzantine and Slavic legal history with regard to which my research is at an advanced stage. These two aspects are first the history of the Slavic canon law sources translated from Greek and secondly the ecclesiastico-political conflicts in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Balkans.

I am particularly interested in the data on the five Byzantine nomocanones–extensive codes comprising both canon and civil law–that were translated into Church Slavonic: the Synagoge of John Scholastikos, the Syntagma of Fourteen Titles, the Pandectae of Nikon of the Black Mountain, the Synopsis of Stephen of Ephesos with the commentary of Aristenos, and the Alphabetical Syntagma of Matthew Blastares. The editions and secondary literature on these collections are difficult to find in one location, and I have taken advantage of the Dumbarton Oaks Library to study these otherwise poorly accessible materials. The data I have collected during my stay here constitute the basis for writing a historical introduction to the Slavic translations of these Byzantine codes. Such a publication will contribute to the study of Byzantine legal influence upon the Orthodox countries situated north of Byzantium (and subsequently post-Byzantine Greece).

Regarding the ecclesiastico-political controversies in the Balkans, I have been researching the period from the early thirteenth to the mid-sixteenth century. Studying the relations between the Churches of the Balkans, one encounters a long chain of conflicts in which several issues recur constantly. The driving force of these conflicts was the struggle of the local Balkan Churches (namely those of Ohrid, Bulgaria, Serbia, Epirus, Trebizond) to emancipate themselves from the Patriarchate of Constantinople after the dismemberment of the Byzantine Empire, that is, after the Fourth Crusade. I have attempted to follow the recurrent issues of the separate controversies and to study the canon law background of the struggle. Again, the library of Dumbarton Oaks has proved indispensable for orientation in sources and literature related to this chain of conflicts. I expect that this research will also result in an important publication (or several minor ones) clarifying the ecclesiastical and political relations in the Balkans in the period indicated above.

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