Political and Religious Boundaries Essay

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Political and Religious Boundaries

Byzantium historically was the eastern side of the Roman Empire that was the result of the religious, political and cultural schism that occurred between East and West in the 2nd Century AD. The city of Byzantium, or Constantinople, was located in a major strategic trading area between the Adriatic, Black and Mediterranean Seas. As the Western Roman Empire declined, the "New Rome," or Constantinople, became a blend of cultures and viable for about a millennium. Most scholars agree that it was the only long-term stable state in Europe that protected most of Western Europe from the emerging Islamic Empire. It was the most advanced economy in the Mediterranean area until the Renaissance, with trading networks that extended through most of Eurasia and North Africa, as well as the beginning of the Silk Road. Without this economic power, it is unlikely that there would have been funding for the Crusades, which resulted in the revitalization and redevelopment of Europe. Ironically, largely "because of their lengthy common border and shared engagement in the eastern Mediterranean, for almost five hundred years, the histories of Venice and the Ottoman Empire were tightly intertwined" Dursteler, 2006, p. 3).

Eric Dursteler has written a book that moves into the 16th and initial part of the 17th centuries. The work is primarily focused on political and cultural relations, challenging the views that there was only conflict between the Venetians and Ottomans, and finds that much of the writings of della Valle suggest that there was a huge diversity of traders, travelers, and settlers of different faiths and ethnicities that lived and worked together in relative harmony, based on economic gain. While Dursteler does not say as much, one is struck by the immediate parallels to the idea of globalism in the late 20th century. Like the Empires of the time, modern states are finding it far less expensive and more economically, politically and culturally advisable to trade and thus decrease tension on the geopolitical front.

The material is organized both chronologically and by subject matter. Chapter 1 looks at the manner in which the Venetians integrated into Constantinople; Chapter 2 focuses on mercantilism and the rights of Europeans in the Islamic Empire; Chapter 3 looks at the macro-view of the European States during this time, and Venice's bid for Mediterranean power and economic hegemony; Chapters 4 and 5 are more demographically oriented, focusing on the manner in which economic gain allowed for divergent ethnicities and religions to cooperate in business ventures; finally, Chapter 6 argues convincingly that identity during this time was far more complex than we ever imagined. It was not based simply on heritage or culture, but was more fluid and cooperative because there was a mutual advantage to such cooperation.

In this sense, the author presents a social argument that there were official political institutions and then unofficial economic institutions. Both typically operated independently, but each had their own rhetoric that has been part of the political history taught for the last several centuries. Yes, the Venetian Dodge was often power hungry in setting up what he considered an "Italian" sea, and yes, the Islamic rulers…

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