Inspired from a quote I used in one of my previous answers here, Patriarch Nikolas Mystikos of Constantinople wrote the following letter to Abbasid Caliph al-Muqtadir:

Two Sovereignties, That of Arabs and of Byzantines, surpass all sovereignties in the world, like the two shining lights in the firmament. For this one reason, if no other, they should be partners and brethren. We ought not, because we are separated in the ways of our lives, our customs and our worship, to be altogether divided nor should we deprive ourselves from communication with one another in default of meeting each other in person. That is the way we ought to think and act, even if no necessity of our affairs compelled us to it.

This is cited in Muslim Perception of other religions by Prof. Jacques Waardenburg, available on google books here.

What sticks out as a sore thumb here is the usage of the word Byzantine. The Patriarch was unlikely to use this word to refer to his country or countrymen as the term Byzantium was used only in the west to refer to ERE, that too only since 1555 after the usage in that sense was introduced by Hieronymus Wolf. Note that Empire had ceased to exist a century before that. In times of the Empire, Byzantium referred only to the Capital city of Constantinople.

It is my understanding that the Byzantine Greeks called themselves Romans (Ῥωμαῖοι - Rhōmaîoi ) or Greeks (Γραικοί - Graikoí).

So from this, it is my assumption that the Patriarch must have used Graikoí or Rhōmaîoi in the original letter. It should also be noted that Abbasids and the Caliphs before them called the Byzantines as Romans (رومی - Rumi).

So my question is, What did the Patriarch call his people in his letter? Greeks or Romans? There must be original Greek text somewhere as Prof. Waardenburg managed to find it as well.

2 Answers 2


Just a hint, according to Greek wikipedia entry (which cites this book), the Patriarch wrote Ῥωμαῖοι - Rhōmaîoi in the letter.:

Οι δύο δυνάμεις ολόκληρου του σύμπαντος, η δύναμη των Σαρακηνών και αυτή των Ρωμαίων, ξεχωρίζουν και ακτινοβολούν όπως τα δύο μεγάλα φωτεινά σώματα του ουράνιου θόλου. Γι'αυτόν και μόνο τον λόγο θα πρέπει να ζήσουμε μαζί σαν αδέλφια, αν και διαφέρουμε στα έθιμα, στη συμπεριφορά και στη θρησκεία

Oi dýo dynámeis olóklirou tou sýmpantos, i dýnami ton Sarakinón kai aftí ton Romaíon, xechorízoun kai aktinovoloún ópos ta dýo megála foteiná sómata tou ourániou thólou. Gi'aftón kai móno ton lógo tha prépei na zísoume mazí san adélfia, an kai diaféroume sta éthima, sti symperiforá kai sti thriskeía

I should also add that in Wikipedia the quote also says "των Σαρακηνών" (of the Saracens), not Arabs.

Not sure if this is taken from the original or is just a translation of the English text, however. Couldn't find more info about the original.

  • Cheers +1. Will wait for few days to see if we can attract a better answer, before accepting.
    – NSNoob
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 9:50
  • By better I mean which can assert with certainty that Roman was used in the letter. To make it clear
    – NSNoob
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 12:55
  • I should also add that in wikipedia the quote also says "των Σαρακηνών" (of the Saracens), not Arabs.
    – 8odoros
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 13:09
  • Oh Thanks. I have taken the liberty of adding the quote to your answer and transliteration. Since Wikipedia has this in the Quotations, I assume they are citing it as the original content?
    – NSNoob
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 13:16
  • The Wikipedia citation is a modern Greek translation, but given what I know of Byzantium, there is no doubt the original would have used the word for Romans as well. I will try and get the original for you. Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 23:23

The answer by @8odoros cites Nikolaos Mystikos in Modern Greek. This is the original text, which likewise uses "Romans" as the term rendered in English as "Byzantines":

Ὅτι δύο κυριότητες πάσης τῆς ἐν γῇ κυριότητος, ἥ τε τῶν Σαρακηνῶν καὶ ἡ τῶν Ῥωμαίων, ὑπερανέχουσι καὶ διαλάμπουσιν, ὥσπερ οἱ δύο μεγάλοι ἐν τῷ στερεώματι φωστῆρες, καὶ δεῖ κατ’ αὐτό γε τοῦτο μόνον κοινωνικῶς ἔχειν καὶ ἀδελφικῶς, καὶ μὴ διότι τοῖς βίοις καὶ τοῖς ἐπιτηδεύμασι καὶ τῷ σεβάσματι κεχωρίσμεθα, παντάπασιν ἀλλοτρίως διακεῖσθαι καὶ ἀποστερεῖν ἑαυτοὺς τῆς διὰ τῶν γραμμάτων συνομιλίας παρὰ μέρος ἐντυχίας. Δεῖ μὲν οὖν οὕτω καὶ φρονεῖν ἡμᾶς καὶ ποιεῖν, κἂν μηδεμία τις ἄλλη πραγμάτων χρεία πρὸς τοῦτο προὐτρέπετο.

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