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Though commonly used today to identify a polity that lasted for over a millennium, the label “Byzantine empire” is an anachronism imposed by more...

Though commonly used today to identify a polity that lasted for over a millennium, the label “Byzantine empire” is an anachronism imposed by more recent generations. As Anthony Kaldellis explains in Romanland: Ethnicity and Empire in Byzantium (Harvard University Press, 2019), this has contributed to the denial of the ethnic identity that most denizens of the empire had of themselves as Romans. Kaldellis traces the origins of this process of denial to the 8th century CE, with the papacy’s turn to the Franks as their protectors. The efforts by the Catholic Church to de-legitimize the Eastern Empire as the legatee of ancient Rome denied the self-identification of its residents as Romans, one that is reflected in much of the surviving literature from this era. This identity was so widely embraced by the residents of the empire as to make it a largely homogenous state ethnically throughout much of its existence, one that absorbed many of the bands of people from other ethnic groups who migrated to the empire over the centuries of its existence.