Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2.: THE DEMES OF CONSTANTINOPLE — ( P. 20 ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 7
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2.: THE DEMES OF CONSTANTINOPLE — ( P. 20 ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 7 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 7.
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THE DEMES OF CONSTANTINOPLE — (P. 20)
The view of Gibbon that the popular dissensions of the demes (δη̂μοι) or parties (μέρη) which distracted Contantinople, Antioch, and other cities of the East in the sixth century had their root and origin in the exuberant licence of the hippodrome; that the acts and demonstrations of the Greens and Blues were purely wanton outbreaks of a dissolute populace; that the four demes had no significance except in connection with the races of the hippodrome; this view has held its ground till the other day, though it is open to serious and by no means recondite objections. The brilliance of Gibbon’s exposition has probably helped to maintain it. The French historian and politician, M. A. Rambaud, wrote a thesis to prove that the “parties” were merely factions of the hippodrome τὰ μἑρη (nihil nisi hippicas fuisse factiones, op. cit. infra). But on this view the name δη̂μοι is quite inexplicable, and the part played by the Blues and Greens (with the Reds and Whites, who were submerged in them respectively as integral subdivisions) in the Ceremonies of the Imperial Court as described by Constantine Porphyrogennetos (in the De Cerimoniis) points to a completely different conclusion. These considerations led Th. Uspenski to the right view of the demes as organised divisions of the population. He worked out this view in a paper in the Vizant. Vremennik (Partii Tsirka i dimy v Konstantinopolie), vol. i. p. 1-16. The data of Constantine’s Book of Ceremonies show that the demes were divided into civil and military parts, which were called respectively Political and Peratic. The Political divisions were under demarchs; while the Peratic were subject to democrats. The democrat of the Blues was the Domestic of the Scholæ; the democrat of the Greens was the Domestic of the Excubiti; and this circumstance proves the original military significance of the Peratics. That the demes had an organisation for military purposes comes out repeatedly in the history of the sixth century. For example, the Emperor Maurice on one occasion “ordered the demes (τοὺς δήμους) to guard the Long Walls.”1 The Emperor Justinian, when the inhabitants of the country near Constantinople fled into the city before the invasion of Zabergan, is said to have “enrolled many in the demes,”2 and sent them to the Long Wall. It is highly probable that the dissatisfaction of the people of Constantinople with the Emperor Maurice (against whom both Blues and Greens combined, although they were divided on the question of his successor) was due to his imposing upon them increased military duties.
The political significance of the demes is unmistakable in such a passage as Theophanes’ notice of the accession of Justin (p. 165, ed. de Boor): ὸ δὲ στρατὸς καὶ οἱ δη̂μοι οὐχ εἴλαντο Θεόκριτον βασιλεν̂σαι, ἀλ’ Ἰουστɩ̂νον ἀνεκήρυξαν. Here there can be no question of mere Hippodrome-factions. The true importance of the Demes has been recognised by H. Gelzer, who suggests a comparison with the Macedonian Ecclesia of Alexandria under the elder Ptolemies.3 The Deme organisation represents a survival of the old Greek polis.
But the problem how the Demes came to be connected with the colours of the circus has still to be solved. We have no clew when or why the Reds and Whites, which were important in Old Rome, came to be lost in the Blues and Greens. In the sixth century the outbreaks of the demes represent a last struggle for municipal independence, on which it is the policy of imperial absolutism to encroach. The power of the demarchs has to give way to the control of the Prefects of the City. We are ignorant when the Peratics were organised separately and placed under the control of the Domestics of the Guards. M. Uspenski guesses that this change may have been contemporaneous with the first organisation of the Theme-system (p. 16).
[Literature: Wilcken, Ueber die Partheyen der Rennbahn, in the Abh. of the Berlin Acad., 1827; Rambaud, De Byzantino hippodromo et circensibus factionibus, 1870; cp. Friedländer, Sittengeschichte, vol. 2. Uspenski, op. cit.]
[1 ]Theophanes, p. 254, ed. de Boor.
[2 ]ὲδημότευσε πολλούς. I feel no doubt that this explanation of Uspenski (p. 14) is correct.
[3 ]In Krumbacher’s Gesch. der byz. Litteratur, ed. 2, p. 930.