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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sun 20 May, 2007 9:20 pm    Post subject: Origin of the (Holy) Roman Eagle         Reply with quote

In reading a book today I uncovered a rather bizarre statement, which asserted that the double headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire was adopted from Turkish armorial devices. This claim is obviously mistaken, since the earliest heraldic images from the empire depict a single, not double, headed eagle, and undoubtedly it was adopted as a symbol of the empire because of its associated with the Classical Roman empire.

My question is: what would lead someone to make an assertion that the eagle was from the Turks? I could find no citation for the claim in the back of the book. Were there actually double headed eagles as part of Turkish imagery or "heraldry", and if so, what century(ies) are they from?
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 12:51 am    Post subject: Re: Origin of the (Holy) Roman Eagle         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
In reading a book today I uncovered a rather bizarre statement, which asserted that the double headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire was adopted from Turkish armorial devices. This claim is obviously mistaken, since the earliest heraldic images from the empire depict a single, not double, headed eagle, and undoubtedly it was adopted as a symbol of the empire because of its associated with the Classical Roman empire.

My question is: what would lead someone to make an assertion that the eagle was from the Turks? I could find no citation for the claim in the back of the book. Were there actually double headed eagles as part of Turkish imagery or "heraldry", and if so, what century(ies) are they from?


AFAIK the double headed eagle originated in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Sultan Salaheddin (Saladin) did use a double-headed eagle blazon in the 12th century, It's carved on the walls of the citadel he built in Cairo. I doubt very much though that it predates the Byzantine eagle.
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David Wilson




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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 9:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But are we talking about the Eastern Roman Empire/Byzantine Empire, or the "Holy Roman Empire", a loose confederacy of Germanic states which were, as the cliche goes, "Neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire"?
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David McElrea




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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 11:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to voice agreement with much of what has been said above. Both the Byzantines and the Holy Roman Empire made use of this device. When the Empire was divided between East and West the imperial eagle became two-headed-- one Empire divided. Both East and West looked to a day when the Roman Empire would be restored to its original glory and unity... East and West had different ideas as to what this might look like, though. Both Emperors (Byzantine and, later, the Holy Roman) used the symbol to signify their "rightful" claim to both East and West.

In re: the Turks-- they only appear on the scene in the 10th century, so they couldn't have been the originators.


Last edited by David McElrea on Mon 21 May, 2007 11:26 am; edited 1 time in total
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The HRE adopted the symbol of the Eastern Roman Empire as it saw itself as the successor of the Roman Empire. Before the fall of Rome in the 5th century, the Empire was united although it warred between the western and eastern centers of power after St. Constantine the Great split the empire on his death between his sons as co-Caesers (stupid idea!). Even saints can apparently make mistakes, it seems! The symbolism of the double eagle was twofold: (1) it symbolized the second Rome (Constantinople) and it looked both east and west. The HRE adopted the symbol for its Imperial symbolism when the actual symbolism was lost. The actual, legitimate successor to this symbol was the Russian Empire who (according to Orthodoxy) is the Third Rome and the direct heir of Byzantium due to the marriage of Prince St, Vladimir the Enlightener of Rus to a Byzantine Princess in the 10th century - i.e. before the fall of the Eastern Empire in 1458. The Two-headed Eagle remained the standard of the Russian Empire until 1917. It is still the standard of the Patriarch of Constantinople as the "successor" of the Byzantine synodal-spirit of synergy between church and state. The HRE hijacked the symbol to legitimize its pseduo-imperial pretensions.
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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 12:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ooooh-Kaaay.

Firstly, Saint Constantine? You are talking about the emperor who began the move to make Christianity the state religion of the Empire, thus uniting Christianity with the power of the state? I would say that we are still trying to escape that trap and would hardly call him a saint.

Secondly, Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the last vestige of the old Roman authority remaining in the West, the Pope. The use of the eagle by the HRE is a reflection of this claim to an historical continuity with the ROman Empire which was viewed at that time as a sort of lost glory. Remember that the knowledge of Byzantium had largely faded in the West as it had been reduced to one or another level of barbarism. When the authority of the Western Roman Empire collapsed, the only unifying authority that remained was that of the Church.

Finally, it was not Constantine who initally split the Empire, it was Diocletian. He had divided it between two Augusti, each with his own named heir or Caesar. The reason for this was that, with barbarian incursions all along the Rhine/Danube border and all along the North Sea and Channel coasts of Britain and Gaul, it required a constant presence of Roman Imperial authority at the highest level. The Augustus in the West was Maximianus who was forced into retirement by Diocletian when Diocletian retired in 305 CE. Maximianus' successor was Constantius, Constantine's father, and he had been sent to Britain in 296 CE to deal with the usuper, Allectus. He remains there to deal with the Picts, the Scotti, and the Saxon raiders who have been all but destroying the very rich province of Britain. When he dies unexpectedly at Eboracum (York) in 306, his troops declare his bastard son, Constantine, Augustus in opposition to one of several that have arisen in Rome, Milan, and Nicomedia. By 312, Constantine had eliminated all of the Western rivals but Maxentius, whom he defeated and killed at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, leaving Constantine in control of the West.

After much back and forth, Constantine wins out and eventually has his Eastern rival, Licinius, executed in 324. It is at this point that he begins the move away from the exposed West to Byzantium which he renames Constantinople. While Constantine may or may not have been a real believer in Christianity, he was a believer in a strong centralized government and he saw Christianity as a possible unifying movement for his splintering empire. You do need to remember two things at this point, the first being that Christianity had just come out of the most severe persecutions that it had ever known, those of Diocletian, and had thrived. Also, the Empire, East and West, had gone from being a veiled military dictatorship to a very open and obvious one with the army basically forcing the local populations to pay heavier and heavier taxes to support it. Constantine wanted to get people's minds off of that latter problem and to get them to focus on a less problematical issue, or so he thought. The result was his move to make Christianity the state religion and most of the Church was willing to accept the compromise with state authority that this entailed, that the Emperor would also be the primary authority in the Church.

Hugh
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Michael Eging




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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 2:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a quick note on Charlemagne. Charlemagne did not go to the Pope to be crowned as the last vestage of the Empire, nor were the traditions all lost or gone. Whether or not he was in on the Pope's actions is a matter of historical debate.

Charlemagne was in negotiations with the Byzantine empire as he understood the hierarchy in which the Roman emperor conferred titles on the rulers in the West. It just so happened that this was a tricky period for the negotiations as the ruler in Constantinople at the time was a woman and an Iconoclast. The kings in the West would petition the Emperor for titles to legitimize their rule within a greater Imperial "commonwealth," not by grant of God (ie. the Pope). The pope did, however, attempt to usurp this order in 800 as he was trying to break ties with the Eastern Empire. Prior to 800, the office of Bishop of Rome had also at times been ratified by the Roman emperor in Constantinople (when the Byzantines controlled the city, the Bishop was also removed by some emperors). Charlemagne, after being crowned emperor, did not use the highest imperial title until he completed negotiations with a future Byzantine emperor.

However, as the Middle Ages progressed and the "Holy Roman Empire" evolved, this tension between the Emperor and the Pope grew and became very bitter, with Popes and Emperors looking back at the events surrounding Charlemagne's crowning for legitimacy of the position as to whether the emperor or the papacy had primacy in confirming, and even selecting, the emperor.

One final point. There was a fairly vibrant exchange of commerce, military contact, etc. with the Eastern Empire during the time of Charlemagne. Of course, this broke down over time for a number of reasons.

Cool

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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael, I am aware that future Holy Roman Emperors were not happy with the tradition of the Pope crowning Charlemagne, but the fact that Henry IV had to bow down to Gregory VII at Canossa and hated it does not change what happened.
Hugh
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 4:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Mr. Fuller,

St. Constantine (as well as his mother St. Helena) was canonized by the Orthodox Church as a result of his embracing of the Orthodox faith and the formal conversion of the Empire to Christianity. In the Eastern Church, we do not look with the same skepticism as the West on the union of church and state. For us, the proper state of affairs is the syngergy of the state and church both united in their various spheres without conflict and a common goal. While St. Constantine obviously was a human being, he was still a great leader and the church is indebted to him, for among other things, the calling of the Fist Oecumentical Council in 325. As I remarked earlier, St. Constantine's division of the Empire was occasioned by his moving of the capital to the East, thus hastening the decline of Rome, something not accomplished or contemplated by Diocletian. The Bishop of Rome's place as the "head" of the Empire in the West was bestowed on Gregory by the Huns to sacked Rome who needed someone to treat with and this, in fact, is the de facto beginning of the caesero-papism much abused and decried in the West. This abbrogation of temporal authority was symbolized by the triple-tiara of the Popes, a key element in the Papal attire until Paul VI retired it and presented it to the UN. Never figured that one out, frankly!

The point of my post was about the symbolism of the Two-Headed Eagle, not intending to create a religious debate on an arms forum. However, I would sincerely appreciate it if you have any inappropriate comments to make about someone's else's faith to take it off line where it can be ignored in private.

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Michael Eging




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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 4:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was keying off this statement:

"Secondly, Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the last vestige of the old Roman authority remaining in the West, the Pope. The use of the eagle by the HRE is a reflection of this claim to an historical continuity with the ROman Empire which was viewed at that time as a sort of lost glory. Remember that the knowledge of Byzantium had largely faded in the West as it had been reduced to one or another level of barbarism. When the authority of the Western Roman Empire collapsed, the only unifying authority that remained was that of the Church. "

At the time of Charlemagne, papal authority was not recognized as Roman authority. Byzantium had not faded from the West due to fading into barbarism. Byzantium was part of a complex hierarchy of authority and recognition of authority. Use of symbols and titles in the West at this time were linked with recognition from the Eastern Empire. It was a legal structure that the pope sought to usurp. He also sought to separate the supremacy of the Roman church from the Eastern Church as represented by the Iconoclasts. Charlemagne recognized Eastern authority and in an attempt to reconcile the title the pope had bestowed, offered to marry the Empress Irene and unify the titles and authority once again under Roman law.

Use of the eagle is a reflection of Roman tradition, but I was offering some clarifications. And you are correct that a few centuries later the precident became a cause of friction in the Holy Roman Empire which kept the Empire from developing a powerful central politcal figure (as opposed to England and France). The Holy Roman Emperor showing up in sack cloth and ashes to regain his standing at the hands of a pope illustrates this, but it was a few centuries in the future. Charlemagne did pass the imperial title to his sons and family for a time. But it was a title negotiated from the Byzantines, not the one granted by the Pope as a stand in for Roman authority.

Anyway... just my observations...

Cool [/quote]

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David McElrea wrote:
In re: the Turks-- they only appear on the scene in the 10th century, so they couldn't have been the originators.


9th century, actually--the Abbasids began recruiting ghilman cavalry at that time, partly to fight the Byzantines. But yes, they most probably weren't the originators of the symbol.
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Mon 21 May, 2007 9:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Origin of the (Holy) Roman Eagle         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
My question is: what would lead someone to make an assertion that the eagle was from the Turks? I could find no citation for the claim in the back of the book. Were there actually double headed eagles as part of Turkish imagery or "heraldry", and if so, what century(ies) are they from?


Here's an explanation from Renaissance-traditionnelle:

I. The double-headed eagle originated in Mesopotamia

A. Creation of the heraldic position of the double-headed eagle among the Hittites

Have double-headed figures existed since time immemorial? A double-headed female figure (a Mother-Goddess?) was discovered at Ctal Hüyük, one of the world’s oldest cities. It was dated to the sixth millennium B.C. The first representations of the double-headed eagle are also extremely old. They have been discovered in archeological sites of the Hitties, who lived throughout Asia Minor from the twentieth to the thirteenth centuries B.C.
They first appeared on cylindrical seals unearthed in the excavation of Boghazköy, the former Hittite capital. They clearly portray a double-headed eagle with widespread wings. A quest for a certain aesthetic led to this “heraldic” position, which can be explained by a natural inclination for symmetry and the likely religious nature of the entity represented. Scientists have dated them to between 1750 and 1715 B.C.; given the context, they were probably used for commercial purposes.
The image of the double-headed eagle reappears in the same region in two monumental works, in Alaça Hüyük (dated to circa 1400 B.C.) and in Yazilikaya (1250 B.C. at the latest).
The context in this case is different and the image seems to be exclusively religious. The eagle has become a symbol of divinity. The eagle from Alaça Hüyük appears on the inner surface of the orthostat relief supporting the sphinx, situated at the monumental entrance to this city. At Yazilikaya, it is found in the middle of a procession of divinities, arranged as an open-air sanctuary.
The image of the double-headed eagle seems to have dropped out of favor in the final Hittite period, from the ninth to the seventh centuries B.C., and disappeared with the end of this empire.

B. Seldjuk and Turkmen Empires: the rediscovery of the double-headed eagle in the High Middle Ages

The double-headed eagle would reappear in the same region, but two thousand years later. In the year 1000, the Seldjuks—Turkish lords from Mongolia who converted to Islam around 920—invaded Anatolia. In the late eleventh century, the Seldjuks of Anatolia separated from the Grand Seldjuks of Iran to create the Seldjuk Empire known as Rum, as it was situated on Byzantine territory. They set up their capital in Nicea (Iznik), then in Konya.
The double-headed eagle flourished under the reign of the greatest Seldjuk sultan of Konya, Alaeddin Keykübad (1219-1236) and that of his son and successor, Keyhusrem II (1236-1246). The image appeared on fabrics, carved stone, wall tiles and Koran stands. As with any iconographic problem, it is hard to say if the image was borrowed from an earlier depiction or was re-created. Both solutions would have been made possible by the fact that the ancestors of the Seldjuks knew of a double-headed rooster in the fifth century. But it was certainly a borrowed image for the successors of the Seldjuks in the early thirteenth century, the Turkmen. Images of the double-headed eagles were cast on some of their bronze coins, but there were also Sassanid, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Christian motifs, which had clearly been copied from older works.

C. Byzantium: the double-headed eagle as emblem of the Empire

Constantinople aspired to be the new Rome, and as such, the emblem of the eagle was well known as a symbol of power and sovereignty. As did the Cesars and Augustus of ancient Rome, the Basileus, the Byzantine emperor, sovereign of the Eastern Empire, carried the eagle on the coat of arms. How did the imperial Roman eagle become a double-headed eagle? Byzantine’s close relationship with neighboring countries and its enemies, the Seldjuks then the Turkmen, alternated between periods of war and thriving trade. The double-headed eagle very likely arrived in Constantinople on the fabric and coins of a merchant or in the mementos belonging to a soldier. The lecterns in the orthodox churches adorned with this emblem are similar to the Koran stands of the Seldjuks. By its very nature, the image of the double-headed eagle must have been used increasingly in art and symbolism, which gradually altered the design of the imperial eagle. The Basileus Theodorus II Lascaris (1254-1258) was probably the first to make the double-headed eagle the symbol of the empire. Indeed, the two heads of the eagle symbolized particularly well the dual sovereignty—temporal and spiritual—claimed by the Basileus. From this point on, the symbol of the double-headed eagle would be used in the Greek Orthodox Church, and even became its official emblem. The double-headed eagle from the Balkan countries, as well as the same eagle in the Russian empire, were inspired directly from Byzantium.

.......
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 22 May, 2007 7:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gentleman,

Sorry for the misunderstanding, but I wasn't asking about the true origin of the imperial eagle; you'll notice in my first post that I already explained where it came from. I was more interested as to what would lead someone to assert that it came from a "Turkish armorial design".
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Thomas Watt




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PostPosted: Tue 22 May, 2007 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I already explained where it came from. I was more interested as to what would lead someone to assert that it came from a "Turkish armorial design".

Understanding attempts at revisionist history usually requires an examination of motives, sponsors, etc.
Possibly someone or some group would be trying to undermine the historical authority and authenticity of the Holy Roman Empire?

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 22 May, 2007 11:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thomas Watt wrote:
Quote:
I already explained where it came from. I was more interested as to what would lead someone to assert that it came from a "Turkish armorial design".

Understanding attempts at revisionist history usually requires an examination of motives, sponsors, etc.
Possibly someone or some group would be trying to undermine the historical authority and authenticity of the Holy Roman Empire?


I doubt it. The subject of the Holy Roman Empire was purely (and I mean purely) tangential to the main theme of the book. It was more like "Here's an interesting historical tidbit I'll throw in" rather than deliberate revisionist history.
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