According to the Italian Academy of Crusca, the term "Byzantine" comes from the name of the city of Byzantium (currently Istanbul), which was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, otherwise known as the Byzantine Empire.
The term "Byzantine" was first used in the fourteenth century to refer to the culture, history, and language of the Eastern Roman Empire, which lasted from AD 330 until the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
But is the use of the term "Byzantine" an insult to the Eastern Roman Empire?
Edward Gibbon, in his work "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", used the term "Byzantine" to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire, as he believed that the Eastern Empire had evolved into a form of government that was different from that of the Roman Empire. Western.
According to Gibbon, the term "Byzantine" was therefore appropriate to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire, as it was characterized by a culture, language and tradition that were different from those of the Western Roman Empire.
But of a different opinion was Benedetto Croce, Italian philosopher, historian and politician of the twentieth century, who argued that the Eastern Roman Empire should be called by its original name, the "Eastern Roman Empire", and not by the term "Byzantine". which he considered inappropriate.
According to Croce, the term "Byzantine" was coined in modern times to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire and its culture, but was used inappropriately. Croce believed that the Eastern Empire should be seen as a continuation of the Roman Empire and not as a different and separate reality, as the use of the term "Byzantine" suggests.
Moreover, Croce asserted that the term "Byzantine" had a negative connotation, associated with an art, culture and history considered complex and hostile to the simplicity and linearity of the art and culture of ancient Rome and the Renaissance.
For Croce, the use of the term "East Roman Empire" to refer to the Eastern Empire would have allowed to highlight the continuity between the Roman Empire and the Eastern Empire and to emphasize the importance of the Eastern Empire in the history of Europe and the Mediterranean.
Nowadays the opinion of the greatest living philologist, Luciano Canfora, seems to prevail against the use of "Byzantium".
Canfora claims that the Eastern Roman Empire does not represent a separate and distinct reality from the Western Roman Empire, but rather its continuation and evolution in history.
In "The Disappearing Library" (2002), Canfora writes: "It is well known that the term 'Byzantine' is a modern invention. In the Renaissance, the humanists of the so-called 'Byzantine school' were interested in the Greek of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages; it is not certain that they ever used the term 'Byzantine', at any rate not in a political-historical sense, except as a synonym for, for example, 'postclassicism'.
In short, when talking about the 'Byzantine Empire', a completely misleading label is used. It would perhaps be superfluous to say that it would always be necessary to use the term 'Eastern Roman Empire'; but of course it would be necessary, whenever the expression 'Byzantine Empire' is used, to specify the meaning and scope of this term, avoiding giving the idea that it corresponds to a separate historical subject, with its own and original cultural, legal and political, which has never been".