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The Byzantine Greeks were the Greek-speaking Eastern Romans of Orthodox Christianity throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.[1] They were the main inhabitants of the lands of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire), of Constantinople and Asia Minor (modern Turkey), the Greek islands, Cyprus, and portions of the southern Balkans, and formed large minorities, or pluralities, in the coastal urban centres of the Levant and northern Egypt. Throughout their history, the Byzantine Greeks self-identified as Romans (Greek: Ῥωμαῖοι, romanizedRhōmaîoi), but are referred to as "Byzantine Greeks" in modern historiography. Latin speakers identified them simply as Greeks or with the term Romei.

The social structure of the Byzantine Greeks was primarily supported by a rural, agrarian base that consisted of the peasantry, and a small fraction of the poor. These peasants lived within three kinds of settlements: the chorion or village, the agridion or hamlet, and the proasteion or The Byzantine Greeks were the Greek-speaking Eastern Romans of Orthodox Christianity throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.[1] They were the main inhabitants of the lands of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire), of Constantinople and Asia Minor (modern Turkey), the Greek islands, Cyprus, and portions of the southern Balkans, and formed large minorities, or pluralities, in the coastal urban centres of the Levant and northern Egypt. Throughout their history, the Byzantine Greeks self-identified as Romans (Greek: Ῥωμαῖοι, romanizedRhōmaîoi), but are referred to as "Byzantine Greeks" in modern historiography. Latin speakers identified them simply as Greeks or with the term Romei.

The social structure of the Byzantine Greeks was primarily supported by a rural, agrarian base that consisted of the peasantry, and a small fraction of the poor. These peasants lived within three kinds of settlements: the chorion or village, the agridion or hamlet, and the proasteion or estate. Many civil disturbances that occurred during the time of the Byzantine Empire were attributed to political factions within the Empire rather than to this large popular base. Soldiers among the Byzantine Greeks were at first conscripted amongst the rural peasants and trained on an annual basis. As the Byzantine Empire entered the 11th century, more of the soldiers within the army were either professional men-at-arms or mercenaries.

Until the thirteenth century, education within the Byzantine Greek population was more advanced than in the West, particularly at primary school level, resulting in comparatively high literacy rates. Success came easily to Byzantine Greek merchants, who enjoyed a very strong position in international trade. Despite the challenges posed by rival Italian merchants, they held their own throughout the latter half of the Byzantine Empire's existence. The clergy also held a special place, not only having more freedom than their Western counterparts, but also maintaining a patriarch in Constantinople who was considered the equivalent of the pope. This position of strength had built up over time, for at the beginning of the Byzantine Empire, under Emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306–337), only a small part, about 10%, of the population was Christian.

Use of the Greek language was already widespread in the eastern parts of the Roman empire when Constantine moved its capital to Constantinople, although Latin was the language of the imperial administration. From the reign of Emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), Greek was the predominant language amongst the populace and also replaced Latin in administration. At first, the Byzantine Empire had a multi-ethnic character, but following the loss of the non-Greek speaking provinces with the 7th century Muslim conquests it came to be dominated by the Byzantine Greeks, who inhabited the heartland of the later empire: modern Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and Sicily, and portions of southern Bulgaria, Crimea, and Albania. Over time, the relationship between them and the West, particularly with Latin Europe, deteriorated.

Relations were further damaged by a schism between the Catholic West and Orthodox East that led to the Byzantine Greeks being labeled as heretics in the West. Throughout the later centuries of the Byzantine Empire and particularly following the imperial coronation of the King of the Franks, Charlemagne (r. 768–814), in Rome in 800, the Byzantines were not considered by Western Europeans as heirs of the Roman Empire, but rather as part of an Eastern Greek kingdom.

As the Byzantine Empire declined, the Byzantines and their lands came under foreign domination, mostly Ottoman rule. The designation "Rûm" ("Roman") for the Greek-speaking Orthodox subjects of the Ottomans and "Rum millet" ("Roman nation") for all the Eastern Orthodox populations was kept both by Ottoman Greeks and their Ottoman overlords[2] and lived on until the 20th century.