Comparative Studies in Society and History

Research Article

The Transfer of Population as a Policy in the Byzantine Empire*

Peter Charanisa1

a1 Rutgers, the State University

In his account of the revolt of Thomas the Slavonian (820) against the Emperor Michael II (820–829) the Byzantine historian Genesius lists a variety of peoples from whom the armies of the rebel had been drawn: Saracens, Indians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Medes, Abasgians, Zichs, Vandals, Getae, Alans, Chaldoi, Armenians, adherents of the heretical sects of the Paulicians and the Athenganoi. Some of these peoples are well known; the identity of others, despite efforts made to determine it, is by no means certain. But in any case, their listing by the Byzantine historian illustrates vividly the multi-racial character of the Byzantine Empire. This was in the ninth century, but the situation was no different for the period before, and it would not be different for the period after. The Byzantine Empire was never in its long history a true national state with an ethnically homogeneous population. If by virtue of its civilization it may be called Greek, it was never, except perhaps during the very last years of its existence, an empire of Greeks.


* Other studies of population transfer will follow as sequels to this article.—Ed.