The loss of Asia Minor is often seen as the most decisive factor in the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Asia Minor was the territorial core of the empire during the Middle Byzantine Era. It was a wealthy and populous country of many millions of inhabitants, the main source of resources, raw materials, human resources, employees and soldiers for the Byzantine Empire. Its loss was, indeed, a major cause for the collapse of the Empire. However, this collapse was due to higher and wider political, social, economic, military, religious, ethnological and other negative parameters which in the first place led to the fall of Byzantine Asia Minor and then to the fall of the other imperial territories and eventually of the capital itself.The military and political events that have brought about the fall of Byzantine Asia Minor are well known. What is not widely known is the process by which the millions of Byzantines of Asia Minor of the 10th century AD “disappeared”, to be limited to a few hundreds of thousands in the 16th century according to the Ottoman censuses of the beginning of that century. This process of the demographic collapse of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the process of Islamization of most of it, during the critical 11th-15th centuries is exhaustively examined in the monumental work of Speros Vryonis originally published in California under the title The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century, UNIVERSI’I’Y OF CALIFORNIA PRESS. Although a lot of Anatolian Hellenic, Armenian and other Christians lost their lives or fled to neighbouring Christian regions and countries during the 11th-15th century catastrophes for Asia Minor, most of them remained and became Islamized.

In the first chapter of the book the author presents a general picture of Byzantine Asia Minor on the eve of the Seljuk conquest. In the Second chapter, he deals with the political and military collapse of the Byzantine Empire in Asia Minor. The beginnings of the transformation of the large peninsula from an extended Byzantine Christian country to a Turkish and Muslim land are discussed in Chapter Three. The Fourth chapter explores the decline of the Church in Asia Minor in the 14th century. In the Fifth chapter the author deals specifically with the phenomenon of Islamization. The Sixth chapter examines the impact and general negative consequences of the loss of Asia Minor on the Byzantine world. In the Seventh chapter, the Byzantine remains in Asia Minor are detected after the Islamization process had been completed. The book is completed with a four-page recapitulation.

As I have described it before, it is a monumental work, a lifetime work for Speros Vryonis who excelled in the US as a historian specialized in the mentioned historical era and space. It is a work to be studied by anyone interested in understanding the painful process of Islamization and demographic collapse of Medieval Hellenism in the very territorial core of the Byzantine Empire.
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Periklis Deligiannis

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