The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor

Exceptionally (or maybe not?), I’m including an academic book.

For Dimitra Triantafyllidou:

Speros Vryonis: The Decline of Medieval Hellinism in Asia Minor

(Unless she reads it first)

Our first argument on Quora, and it seems, an ongoing one, on whether the Greek population in Asia Minor was discontinuous between the arrival of the Turks (13th century) and internal migrations in the Ottoman Empire (16th century).

Vryonis’ work is the work that historians cite to prove that Greeks had been thoroughly assimilated in Western Turkey. About time I satisfied myself on how strong the proof is.

Why didn’t the reformation spread between Orthodox Christians?

I encourage my followers stumbling on this to read the other answers. (I always do!) My perspective is rather different from theirs.

I’ll speak to Constantinople rather than Moscow, though I suspect it’s the same story.

Under the Ottoman Empire, the Orthodox Patriarchate was two things which would have blocked the Reformation.

  • The Patriarchate was the ethnoreligious authority for the entire Rum Millet, the Orthodox Christian subjects of the empire. If you gave up on being Orthodox, you gave up on being Roman, as far as both the Christians and the Muslims of the Empire were concerned. (And Greek Catholics were not Romans, they were Franks.) So switching denomination was not meant to be a casual thing, it was a wrenching thing with huge implications for you, both politically and socially.
    • It wasn’t really much different in Germany at the time, I guess…
  • The Patriarchate was a deepset force of reactionary conservatism. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh and Voltaire-ish, but it really was. Just the venom heaped on vernacular Greek renderings of the Gospels is enough to tell you that. And Greek nationalists may well not have learned this at school, but the Patriarchate condemned the emergence of nationalism in the 18th century, as an unwelcome Western heresy. Not because the Evil Turks told them to. But because the Millet system worked just fine for them too.

There are only two Patriarchs from the Ottoman Empire that anyone outside a seminary has heard of, and I would love to be proven wrong.

  • Gregory V of Constantinople was hanged at the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. Not because he was a Greek nationalist: he was the guy condemning the emergence of nationalism. But a useful martyr to have on your books.
  • Cyril Lucaris

OK, you may not heard of Lucaris. But plenty of Greek intellectuals have.

Know why people have heard of Lucaris? He was a thinker. He promoted education. He sponsored the first vernacular translation of the Gospels. He was in dialogue with Calvinists and Anglicans. He may have been responsible for a Calvinist-oriented Confession, and of course there was raging controversy, both then and now, about whether he had crossed over to Calvinism himself.

He was the closest the Patriarchate came, in fact, to the Reformation.

He had lots of enemies in the intrigue-ridden Church, he was deposed four times (!), and he was hanged by the Ottomans in 1638, on the pretext of disloyalty.

His legacy within the church?

The Council of Constantinople in 1638 anathematized both Cyril and the Eastern Confession of the Christian faith, but the Council of Jerusalem in 1672, specially engaged in the case of Cyril, completely acquitted him, testified that the Council of Constantinople cursed Cyril not because they thought he was the author of the confession, but for the fact that Cyril hadn’t written a rebuttal to this essay attributed to him.

In my opinion, that’s why the Reformation didn’t spread between Orthodox Christians.

What would you want people to say at your funeral?

This has been in my inbox for a while, and I didn’t know how to tackle it.

I want my brain acknowledged. For sure. I want my publications strewn around me, the children I got to have. But they too will be dust eventually. My plan to have them laminated and sent to Svalbard looks to be a non-starter.

So, what to have them say, what to have them say. For me to know that it has not all been in vain.

And then, Habib le toubib came up with what I’d want them to say. In a confoundingly, grotesquely different context.

Habib Fanny’s answer to If you knew you were about to be thrown into the woods, but could only bring one item, what would it be and why?

I was a decent person who by and large tried not to be a dick

Yes. Yes, that will do nicely.

What will happen if every dog on the planet were turned into a raptor overnight?

Accelerated selection of the fittest. Where being loyal, cuddly, and Neotenous is no longer what makes you the fittest raptor dog. Bye bye labradors.

Dog leash manufacturers go out of business. The civil aviation authorities might need to work out a deal with city councils, in better tagging raptor dogs.

Significant changes in dogfood manufacture.

Significant drop in the popularity of drones. The raptor dogs really will be treating drones like frisbees.

Significant increase in the military’s use of raptor dogs. Helps them deal constructively with the loss of their drone investment.

Une jolie question, Mlle Demoritto!

What was the original language of the Jahwist?

The Jahwist, as in the hypothesised earliest source document of the Torah? I’m dismayed to find from Wikipedia that the documentary hypothesis is now falling apart, and increasingly scholars think there was no one unitary Jahwist document. Doesn’t matter to me if the Jahwist was a bunch of bits; that bunch of bits is still more interested in Judah than Israel, and still features Yahweh as a petty anthropomorphic figure.

The classic documentary hypothesis dates the Yahwist to the 10th century BC, although that too is now out of favour. That would certainly be the earliest date for a Yahwist corpus.

So the question becomes, what was the language of 10th century BC Judah?

Still Hebrew, although you can legitimately argue about how distinct palaeo-Hebrew and Phoenecian were at that early time. It’s the time of the Gezer calendar, discovered 20 miles west of Jerusalem.

What on earth are you doing on Quora?!

Original Wording: What the fuck are you doing on Quora?

Oh yeah? And the horse you rode in on!

(No, Modbot, that was rhetorical. No BNBR violation here.)

Checking my inbox for interesting questions where I can help, in my own small way, to illuminate the human condition.

And chancing on this question instead.


Was it appropriate for the cast of Hamilton to read a statement to Vice President-elect Pence from the stage on November 18th?

Originally buried in a comment at…

In response to:

Well, if you believe what the cast of Hamilton did was appropriate, then you’d be okay that if henceforth every theatrical performance would include the cast’s comments on the political scene.

… When Aristophanes invented comedy? That’s exactly what he did. Using the chorus to do so. That included making fun of Athenian massacres during wartime. And I’m sure people squirmed then.

If it’s a political play (and of course Hamilton is), of course that’s legitimate. And it’s just as legitimate from the right as the left.

Nick Nicholas, why are you so fascinated with Nixon?

I am profoundly grateful to La Gigi, for asking this question, which has brought together three of the most fascinating personalities in living memory:

I am also profoundly grateful to those who have already speculated about why on earth I would be so relentlessly fascinated by Nixon, because if they are, then they’re still talking about me!!

Even if they’re getting it wrong.

Let’s run through the speculations, shall we?


When I was in Atlanta last year, I mentioned my fascination to one of my wife’s former colleagues I met there.

Note: May not be an accurate depiction of my wife’s former colleague in Atlanta.

When I mentioned my relentless fascination, and that my wife and I would like to make the pilgrimage to Yorba Linda one day, the former colleague asked excitedly:

“Are you a conservative?”

No, sir. No I’m not. I’m Australian, after all.

Do conservatives even claim Nixon as one of their own any more?


Benjamin Thomas:

Besides the fact that he was a great bowler?

He’s looking a lot more informal than I gathered; I thought he always bowled in a tie.

But then, I haven’t seen The Big Lebowski yet, where the first pic features.


I’ve started following Tom Ramsay as an echo-chamber antidote, on the recommendation of Clarissa Lohr. I A2A’d him as an icebreaker.

I might need to revisit my choice of icebreakers.

Well this is the first I’ve heard of this particular, um, passion. So I am completely going out on half a limb with this A2A…

Are you the son of Deep Throat? ;P

To the best of my knowledge, I am not related to Mark Felt.

Now, if all the theories are wrong, and Stavros Nicholas was in fact taking time off from running a fish & chip shop in Launceston, Tasmania to meet Bernstein & Woodward in some garage in DC, well, I admire his stamina…


Uri Granta has done his research, bringing up the Greek angles of Spiro Agnew, and the infamous moneybags Tom Pappas (Τομ Πάπας – Βικιπαίδεια; it is so… weird reading about him in the Greek Wikipedia).

Uri has also done his research with the Nixon–Whitlam collision course, a subject I am infuriated that I know less about than I should.

Uri’s third para of course is the right answer, and I’ll come back to that.


Michaelis Maus, welcome to my nightmare. Mwa. Ha. Ha. And thank you for chiming in!

Your vid was by Flight of the Conchords. I definitely should put them on the list, but alas, I stopped consuming popular culture a long time ago. But bless you for including them in your answer. God they’re good. I’ll delight in taking credit for them, as all Australians do with all good things that come out of New Zealand.

Dr Nick appreciates that Michaelis is, to use an infantilising classification scheme, Chaotic Neutral (Alignment (Dungeons & Dragons)), which is why Tricky Dick is a “a real, consistent nihilist after [his] own heart”. (He is also grateful that Michaelis has remembered his little “I’m arrogant enough to demand to be addressed as Dr” aside!) OTOH, I’m Lawful Good, with the Lawful exceeding Good—so much so, that I consciously try to force myself to be Lawful Neutral, all the time.

If you get my meaning.

Dr. Nick, to that effect, seems to appreciate the complexities of oft-caricatured humans.

Yes, Michaelis. You get my meaning. In fact, my first glance reaction was “yeah, but it’s more than that”; but come to think of it, reading your answer again, no, it was that.

Let me though trace my own journey of Nixon appreciation.


I was 3 during Watergate, and living in Launceston, Tasmania. Little knowing that my dad was couriering information to Bernstein and Woodward, apparently.

My earliest political memory of anything involved Reagan. So Nixon is ancient history to me, in a time that already had the Iran-Contra affair. I did not experience the visceral sense of betrayal that Americans did with Watergate; I took it as given.

So Nixon does not viscerally offend me, the way it might someone who lived through his fall.

What I knew about Nixon until I was 17 was Watergate, and he’d occasionally show up on TV as a pundit. That was it.


Stage 1 was hearing the premiere on the radio of Nixon in China in 1988. Nixon in China is an amazing opera, with an amazing libretto, that has stood the test of time.

Thing is, though, that the composer and librettist were both stereotypical Berkeley lefties, so they made a point of overcompensating in their depiction of Nixon. They did not want to make him a villain, so they tried to make him a hero. They didn’t pull it off: the real hero of the piece is Zhou En-Lai.

You see a Nixon comically out of depth in the opera, but also a Nixon strategising and reminiscing and nervous and genuinely hopeful. What you see only in passing, though, is the darkness in Nixon; just a couple of minutes, really—“The rats begin to chew the sheets” in the first scene, “Some men you cannot satisfy” in the last. It’s an interesting depiction, but a little too positive to be fascinating.


1995, I caught Oliver Stone’s Nixon (film) on TV.

That’s what did it.

Nick Nicholas’ answer to What are your favorite movies and why?

I looked high and low for the DVD for years afterwards. Over a decade in fact.

Yes, it’s fictionalised and psychobabblised and operatic and conspiracy-theorised. And having read a lot of Nixoniana since, I still think that artistically, it is essentially true. It’s not a documentary, but that’s not what it needed to be.


Stage 3 was getting together with another Nixon fan. Our bonding over Nixon is mentioned in my answer above. One of Tamar’s first presents to me was Volume I of Ambrose’s biography; and propelled by it, I’ve ended up reading most of Melbourne University’s holdings on Nixon.

Nick Nicholas, why are you so fascinated with Nixon?

He was a multi-faceted, complex man.

  • Was the smartest man in decades in the White House. And turned the White House into a protection racket, with the dumbest enforcers imaginable.
  • Used politics as a cudgel, but genuinely thought he was doing good for the world.
  • Did good for the world with detente and China, but also did evil for the world with using SALT as a political football, and undermining Johnson on ending Vietnam.
  • Had genuine outreach with Martin Luther King as a Vice President, but invented the Southern Strategy.
  • Did great things for Native Americans—by accident, because that was Ehrlichman’s pet project, not his; and Ehrlichman was on his side, so of course he’d defend him against Congress.
  • Nursed lifelong paranoias against the elite, but the elite really was out to get him, because of the excesses his paranoia caused.

He had a bushelful of hamartias, tragic flaws. The tragic hero doesn’t have to be Good. He just has to have potential to be better than his hamartias allow.

And I have the luxury of regarding Nixon from a distance, as a tragically flawed president, rather than as a visceral offence to my own polity and founding myths. Because I was 3 during Watergate, and living in Launceston, Tasmania.

Is it grammatically correct to use “they” as a singular pronoun?

There’s some critical nuance being missed in answers so far (though I strongly suspect it’s come up elsewhere here). The closest is in the sources mentioned by Mark A. Mandel, and the answer given by Matthew Carlson.

  • The old use of singular they is with reference to an non-specific entity, where the use of gender would be misleading (the gender of the non-specific person is not known, and even if it is known, it is irrelevant). Hence, Shakespeare used:
    There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me
    As if I were their well-acquainted friend

    The singular they is not because the gender is not known, but because it’s an non-specific referent: not a man but = every man = any man.

  • The grammaticality of singular they was disputed when the prescriptivists came to town, because “not logical”, i.e. “not how Latin does things”. It’s not how most languages do things. But it is how English does things. And it’s an asterisked logic, as language logic is.
  • The new use of they as gender-neutral, and the even newer use of they as non-binary may take getting used to—although I find that hard to believe for the former (which after all, is still pretty much used in non-specific contexts). The latter is much harder, because it applies to specific referents; that’s not a “logical” constraint, but a semantic constraint. I know that I keep fucking it up in my correspondence with Sam Murray, just to namedrop. But the linguistic extension is straightforward, and it’s really a matter of familiarisation to get over the definiteness block.
  • And as an English speaker, I’m profoundly grateful to those in the genderfluid community who choose to go with they. Singular specific they is nothing. Neologisms like zhe and hu: those are the real linguistic annoyance.
    • And yes, if someone uses them, it is polite to respect that too. But thank you to those who use the resources already there in the language.

See Singular ‘They’ for a nice succinct summary of non-binary they.

Don’t read the comments offered via Facebook if you value human dignity. “Social engineering” my tuchus.

EDIT: Thanks to Clarissa Lohr for correcting me on specificity.