Byzantine Humor

Byzantium is the name conventionally given to the Eastern Roman Empire, which lasted from 330 CE to 1453 CE. The state's inhabitants called themselves Romans and perceived themselves as heirs to the Roman Empire and Greco-Roman tradition. Their spoken language was Greek and official documents as well as most high-brow literary works used the Attic dialect of ancient Greek or, in some cases, the less refined koine, whose best-known example is Biblical Greek.

Unjustly negative opinions about Byzantium, born during the Enlightenment and reinforced by 19th century historians, projected a vision of a grim society lacking literature, poetry, fiction, or drama. Edward Gibbon's (1737–1794) harsh judgment on Byzantine literature still reverberated almost two centuries later (Jenkins, 1940, p. 57): “The Byzantine Empire remains almost the unique ...

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