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The God-Protected Empire? Scepticism Towards The Cult Of Saints In Early Byzantium

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Chapter Summary

The last decades of the sixth century saw a concerted effort by the imperial government to tie its legitimacy and prestige to saints' and relic cults. This process led to the increasing incorporation of numerous objects of Christian cult and piety (including icons and saints' relics) into imperial ceremonial. The prominence of religious symbols in expressions of imperial ideology from the reign of Justin II points not to the successful integration of early Byzantine society, but to its increasingly fractious state. This chapter argues that the integration of late sixth-century society around intercessory cults, saints' relics and images endowed the empire with the cultural unity and political-ideological strength to survive the devastation caused by the Persians and Arabs during the seventh century. By the 690s and early 700s, the Arab conquest of the Near East suggest that the benefits of the saints' favours for Byzantium had been few.

Keywords: Christian cult; cult of saints; early Byzantine society; Justin II; saints' relics



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