Greek East and Latin West  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Greek East" and "Latin West" are terms used to distinguish between the two parts of the Greco-Roman world, specifically the eastern regions where Greek was the lingua franca, and the western parts where Latin filled this role. During the Roman Empire a divide had persisted between Latin- and Greek-speaking areas; this divide was encouraged by administrative changes in the empire's structure between the 3rd and 5th century, which led ultimately to the establishment of separate Eastern and Western Roman Empires. After the fall of the Western Empire, the terms "Greek East" and "Latin West" are applied to areas that were formerly part of the Eastern or Western Empires, and also to areas that fell under the Greek or Latin cultural sphere but which had never been part of the Roman Empire. In this sense, particular attention is given to differences in Christianity in the two parts, specifically between Western Christianity and Eastern Christianity.

Use with regard to the Roman Empire

In the classical context, "Greek East" refers to the provinces and client states of the Roman Empire in which the lingua franca was Greek.

This region included the whole Greek peninsula with some other northern parts in the Balkans, the provinces around the Black Sea, those of the Bosphorus, all of Asia Minor (in the loosest possible sense, to include Cappadocia and extending to Armenia Minor), and the other provinces along the eastern rim of the Mediterranean Sea (Judea, Syria, and Egypt). These Roman provinces had been Greek colonies or Greek-ruled states during the Hellenistic period, i.e. until the Roman conquests.

At the start of late antiquity, beginning with the reorganization of the empire's provincial divisions during the reign of Diocletian (ruled 284-305), the expression "Greek East" evolved to stand in contradistinction to "Latin West". Thereafter, "Greek East" refers to the Greek-speaking provinces mentioned above (after 395 mostly in the Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire) in contradistinction to the provinces in Western Europe, Italia and North Africa (after 395 in the Latin-speaking Western Roman Empire).

Use with regard to Christianity

"Greek East" and "Latin West" are terms used also to divide Chalcedonian Christianity into the Greek-speaking, Orthodox peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean Basin, centered around the Byzantine Empire, and the Latin-speaking Catholic peoples of Western Europe. Here, "Latin West" applies to regions that were formerly part of the Western Roman Empire, specifically Italia, Gaul, Hispania, Northern Africa, and Britannia, but also to areas that had never been part of the Empire but which later came under the culture sphere of the Latin West, such as Ireland, Scotland, and Germany.

The adjective "Greek" excludes those communities in Eastern Christianity that use languages such as Syriac and, in opposition to Constantinople, form, since the Council of Chalcedon (451), what is now called Oriental Orthodoxy. No such distinction applies to the West, where Latin continued to be the language of culture for many centuries after its breakup into a number of independent states.





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Greek East and Latin West" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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