Can we find evidence of diplomacy in religious history? A new exhibit in the Smithsonian Reveals the highs and lows of Byzantine interfaith relations:
To Constantine, with his calculated, hands-across the-aisle take on politics, all gods were good. But the diplomatic largess he instituted didn’t last. In 380, another emperor, Theodosius I, declared Christianity the official Byzantine faith, and so it remained for a thousand years, with other Hellenic religions — sometimes called pagan — either absorbed into the new order or forced out.
We see this transition in action in the first of the exhibition’s six galleries. In a fourth-century marble carving, the Greco-Roman poet-hero Orpheus has been demoted from free-standing cult object to furniture, a table support. A fifth-century bust of an old man, probably made in Athens, looks stylistically adrift: he’s part Roman philosopher and, with his enormous, hypnotized eyes, part Gothic saint. Via Social Media, the Spiritual Vision