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There are of course volumes and volumes of questions on Ancient Greek Philosophy and Philosophers; this is to be expected since Ancient Greece was and is still largely viewed as the Fountainhead of Western Philosophical Thought-(and perhaps of Philosophy as a whole).

Yet, I have not found a single question or posting on the Byzantine intellectual tradition and legacy. Why is this the case? Contrary to popular belief, the Byzantine Empire was not just an imperial Power with little or no cultural/intellectual legacy....its contributions to the preservation of Western intellectual thought were central to the survival (and even furtherance), of Western intellectualism.

True, the Byzantine intellectual tradition was centered around Christianity-(keep in mind that the Byzantine Empire was synonymous with The Middle Ages). Yet, both The University and Library of Constantinople-(the Epicenter of the Empire), preserved and even produced Neoplatonic and Neo Aristotelian commentaries, as well as having produced many of the theological ideas of The Early Church-(specifically, "The Eastern Church Fathers"). Theological Writers, such as John of Damascus, Origen, John Chrysostom, as well as Saint Athanasius and Michael Psellus, are obscure sounding names to students of Western Philosophy-(and tend to be only recognized in a Medieval History or Christian Theology class). Yet, their contributions to Christian Theology and Philosophy predate The Western Church Writers of the Late Middle Ages-(with few exceptions, such as Augustine and Benedict).

The Byzantine intellectual tradition lasted for centuries and during much of the Empire's Medieval heyday. Its philosophical and intellectual character were nearly equal to the Great philosophical and intellectual Luminaries of Medieval Islamic Iraq and Spain...yet, not as well known or even appreciated, as Medieval Islamic Iraq and Spain.

So...are there any commentaries on why there is little understanding of Medieval Byzantine intellectualism within the U.S.-(and the West) and should there be a reexamination and greater incorporation of the Byzantine intellectual tradition into the History of Philosophy and Thought?

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  • Nice commentary, and valid point, but your question will generate opinions. A good book is "Writings from the Philokalia: On Prayer of the Heart" translated by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer. Another is "The Way of the Pilgrim" Also "Philosophy East and West: A Critical Comparison of Indian, Chinese, Islamic, and European Philosophy" but its out of print for more than 40 years. Jun 27 at 9:02
  • Thanks for the comment; it is greatly appreciated.
    – Alex
    Jun 27 at 10:45
  • "But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enamelling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past, or passing, or to come" -Yeats
    – CriglCragl
    Jun 27 at 13:05
  • "Sailing to Byzantium"
    – Alex
    Jun 27 at 16:56
  • "Theological Writers, such as John of Damascus, Origen, John Chrysostom, as well as Saint Athanasius and Michael Psellus, are obscure sounding names to students of Western Philosophy" doesn't ring true to me. Plenty of students of Western Philosophy will recognize these names, especially if they're working in the philosophy of religion. In fact, this list is just standard reading for those studying Christian philosophy or related areas.
    – aduh
    Jul 6 at 4:48

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