From Adam to Tsar’ Kosmos: Cosmopolitanism in the Byzantine Tradition


Setting out from the short dialogue in which the Cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, upon being asked “Where are you from?,” replied “I am a citizen of the world” (a cosmopolitan), the purpose of this article is to explore cosmopolitanism in Byzantine tradition, which surpasses the actual empire in both space and time and includes even later Orthodox Christian practices. This is done by considering its significance for literary world-making within the framework of languages used in Byzantine tradition, most importantly Greek. Textual examples from the first centuries AD, of importance for later discussions in Byzantium, present Adam, Moses and Christian believers as citizens of the world (cosmopolitans). In subsequent examples from the twelfth century, Orthodox Christian monks are instead called citizens of heaven (ouranopolitans), and the Constantinopolitan writer John Tzetzes records the many languages of the capital of the empire, which often has been described as a cosmopolitan city. Furthermore, examples of hymnography, homilies, and icons from the Orthodox Christian celebration of Pentecost are examined. The Pentecostal miracle offers a multilingual event which unites and enlightens kosmos in contrast to the confusion of tongues in Babel. As a whole, the article is inspired by discussions of cosmopolitanism as a travelling concept and as a controversial concept that encompasses both unity and plurality. It is proposed that cosmopolitanism in Byzantine tradition borders between homogenising (monolingual) and heterogenising (multilingual) modes.

author Helena Bodin

JOLCEL: Journal of Latin Cosmopolitanism and European Literatures 5: 28-51. 

published 2021