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The Franks, the Papacy, and Byzantium: The Formation of an Ideological Rivalry During the Eighth-Century

posted on 2024-02-12, 19:16 authored by Jeffrey P.A. Berland

This dissertation explores the formation of a common Frankish-papal ideological rivalry towards Constantinople during the decades that preceded Charlemagne’s assumption of a Roman imperial title (800). Chapters 1 to 4 (Part I) address the influence of geopolitical and ecclesiastical developments on the formation of arguments aiming at Byzantium’s spiritual and political delegitimization. In particular, Chapters 2 and 3 focus on the impact of Iconoclasm on the perception of the imperial Church and government as heretics and the affirmation of a shared Frankish-papal orthodoxy. Notably, it is argued that the papacy pursued its own iconophile agenda by adapting in the 760s the scope and terminology of the devotion to images to the expectations of Westerners. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 (Part II) constitute a coherent study of the evolution of the terms Graecus (Greek) and Graecia (Greece) in early medieval Latin sources, most specifically how they came to be used as instruments aiming at denying the political-constitutional Romanness of the Byzantine polity and government – a phenomenon abridged as “Roman denialism.” The survey of some principles (Chapter 5) and exceptions (Chapter 6) allows the original conclusions maintained in Chapter 7. Hence, it is argued that the label “Greeks,” initiated in 757 in papal letters to the Franks, supported the development of Roman denialism in the Latin West. Scholars from Charlemagne’s entourage adapted this label around 790 as part of a Carolingian “politics of integration” of subjugated peoples. Their immediate purpose was to portray the God-sanctioned cooperation of Franks and Lombards in defending Italy against an expedition of “Greeks” (788), despite this expedition initially backing Lombard hopes of overthrowing Charlemagne’s overlordship in the peninsula.


Defense Date


CIP Code

  • PHD-MI

Research Director(s)

Alexander D. Beihammer, François Bougard


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

OCLC Number


Program Name

  • Medieval Studies

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