The establishment of the Metropolis of Patras and of Athens and the Slavs of the Peloponnesus
History (General) and history of Europe
DOAJ:History and Archaeology
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AbstractBy the end of the 8th century, after the expedition of 783 led by Staurakios the imperial forces began the reestablishing of the imperial control over those parts of the Peloponnesus which had previously been in the hands of independent Slavs for about 200 years. The result was the administrative reorganization of the whole of the peninsula. The administrative reorganization was followed by the ecclesiastical one. Thus, in the so-called Notitia 2, written after 805/806 and before the end of 814, we find an entirely new image of the ecclesiastical organization of that part of the Empire. Alongside the old Metropolis of Corinth, there are now two new metropolitan sees - that of Patras and that of Athens. The Metropolis of Patras was founded by the charter of the emperor Nikephoros I, between 1st november 805 and 25th february 806. But, the Church of Patras already existed even before that moment, as an autocephalous archbishopric, subordinated directly to the patriarchical throne of Constantinople, and its existence in that rank was attested as early as 787. The Metropolis of Athens was established sometime during that same period, in the reign of patriarch Tarasios, but after the Council of 787, so the date of its establishment could be placed between 787 and 806. Like the Church of Patras, the Church of Athens also had the rank of autocephalous archbishopric, subordinated directly to Constantinople, before it was elevated to the rank of metropolis. It is not certain when the Church of Athens received the rank of autocephalous archbishopric. What were reasons for the creation of these new metropolitan sees within the old province of the Metropolis of Corinth? The ancient Metropolis of Corinth was the ecclesiastical center of the ancient province of Achaia, which in the later Roman times covered all of the Peloponnesus and Central Greece. But, the province of Achaia existed no more and so the rights and claims of the See of Corinth lost their value. For during the two-century-long rule of the pagan Slavs in vast regions of the Peloponnesus, the ecclesiastical organization in these regions vanished, and the jurisdiction of the See of Corinth was limited only to those parts of the former province of Achaia which remained under imperial control (that is the lands east of the Corinth-Malea line). When the Slavs of the Peloponnesus were defeated and subdued, after 783, the process of their christianization began, but the territory once controlled by them was not placed under the jurisdiction of the See of Corinth. In that territory, the autocephalous archbishopric of Patras was established and subjugated directly to Constantinople. Later, after the emperor Nikephoros crushed the Slavic rebellion, he established an independent Metropolis of Patras, in 805/806 which jurisdiction exclusively covered all of the former Slav-controlled territory of the peninsula. The new theme of the Peloponnesus was created out of the old imperial possessions in the peninsula, cut off from the old theme of Hellas, joined by the newly gained territories of the former Slavic parts of the peninsula. The theme of Hellas was thus limited to the territory that lay north of the Corinthian Isthmus. As a result of the separation of the new theme of Peloponnesus from the old theme of Hellas, which left Corinth in the territory of the new theme, the new ecclesiastical authority was established for the territory which was left to the theme of Hellas, i.e. for the territory north of the Corinthian Isthmus - the Metropolis of Athens. That event occurred after the Ecumenical Council of 787 and before the death of patriarche Tarasios in 806. Thus, as a result of all these changes in the administrative and ecclesiastical framework, the entirely new image of the Peloponnesus and Central Greece appeared at the beginning of the 9th century. Old, now smaller, theme of Hellas got its new Metropolis of Athens. The old Metropolis of Corinth remained head of the new theme of Peloponnesus, and the new Metropolis of Patras was created for the Slavic part of the theme of Peloponnesus. New administrative division caused new ecclesiastical organization. It was not based on patterns of old, late Roman principles, nor they were revived, but it was that new conditions demanded new responses. The Empire found them, in the finest manner of Byzantine oikonomia.
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