Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Tribes blue and green

AVI has often written about tribes in America; how they show constellations of features that, though not necessarily related logically, signal membership. The signals extend from music to religion to politics.

I ran across a brief description of the Blues and Greens in Constantinople, and the Nike riots that nearly brought down the emperor. The author wrote

For a long time it was thought that the two groups gradually evolved into what were essentially early political parties, the Blues representing the ruling classes and standing for religious orthodoxy, and the Greens being the party of the people. The Greens were also depicted as proponents of the highly divisive theology of Monophysitism, an influential heresy which held that Christ was not simultaneously divine and human but had only a single nature. (In the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., it threatened to tear the Byzantine Empire apart.) These views were vigorously challenged in the 1970s by Alan Cameron, not least on the grounds that the games were more important than politics in this period, and perfectly capable of arousing violent passions on their own.

I think the answer is "all of the above" and probably some other little fashions as well that never made the history books. What caused the tribes to emerge we'll never know, but they collected emblems to brandish against each other along the way: chariot teams, Christologies, and so forth.

I'd never gotten around to reading Procopius before. His Secret History is sometimes called vicious and slanderous. He certainly has an axe to grind, but when I look around I find that his account is much more plausible than I'd been led to believe. (overuse of "all", "trillion", and apparitions of demons aside) We can find people matching his descriptions of Justinian and Theodora without breaking a sweat--they force themselves on our attention. Not together, and not (yet) with the power the antique pair had, but quite similar otherwise.

For a lighter view of Justinian, check Dr. Boli.

Update: forgot the allegations of philtres. Belesarius' behavior makes a little more sense if his wife Antonina addicted him to something.


Texan99 said...

I've been enjoying the Dr. Boli link, including his reference to "Procopius, who, like many a cubicle-dweller since, kept a little notebook in his desk to jot down what he really thought of his employer." And that's a terrific comment from reader Martin the Mess, explaining iotism.

I recite the Nicene Creed most Sundays, but I confess to confusion about the Trinity. My approach is my usual: if God really thought I needed a detailed understanding of how the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are related, Christ would have spent more time talking about it. I just try not to do anything dumb in splitting a hair one way or another on the subject, and it's surprising how seldom it ever matters to what I need to be doing.

james said...

The debate over the dual nature of Christ is even more abstract, and after trying to follow the arguments I concluded that it was a mistake to use the same word "nature" for both human and Divine aspects. Which would have had everybody mad at me...

No wonder apophatic theology got to be popular around then.

Dr. Boli is a favorite. You're reading his history: check out http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/drboli/2012/06/21/world-homeopathy-awareness-week-3/

Texan99 said...

I stayed up way past midnight last night, reading his blog back to 2009. I enjoyed a lot of those Smithsonian history pieces, too.