Veneti And Prasinoi
Veneti And Prasinoi
the main circus parties (demes) in Byzantine cities where, as earlier in ancient Rome, primarily equestrian competitions were organized along with other performances at the circus and hippodrome. Parties of sports fans formed from the ranks of the spectators, and these groups were named for the colors of the chariot drivers’ costumes (thus, “veneti,” or “blues,” and “prasinoi,” or “greens”).
Each deme had its own elected leadership, a staff of servants, chariot drivers, entertainers, and houses, horses, and financial resources collected from their adherents. These demes were originally purely sporting organizations, but after the emperor Constantine (ruled 306-337) issued a decree on acclamations granting the right of the urban population to vocally express its approval or disapproval of government resolutions read in the circus, they began to become near the end of the fourth century distinctive political parties with specific social tendencies. There were four demes, but only the Veneti and Prasinoi, at loggerheads with each other, acquired political significance. The bureaucratic nobility led the Veneti; they stood for centralization, bureaucratic administration, and Orthodoxy. The upper strata of the commercial and artisan population led the Prasinoi; they advocated a strengthening of the organs of local self-government and demonstrated sympathies for the Monophysites. From the beginning of the fifth century both Veneti and Prasinoi were enlisted in the defense of the city, and each had to furnish a specific number of armed men. Because of this they obtained the right to organize their own militias and participate in local self-government (although the government sometimes deprived one or the other party of these rights). In the late fifth century and the sixth century the struggle between the Veneti and Prasinoi intensified; youth detachments called stasiotoi became especially belligerent and arranged battles. Social contradictions sometimes caused the unification of rank-and-file Veneti and Prasinoi, and in such cases they did not obey their leaders and advanced against the government (the Nika revolt in 532). Toward the eighth century the Veneti and Prasinoi lost their political significance and their role was limited to the participation of their representatives in solemn holiday celebrations.
SOURCEProcopius. “Tainaia istoriia.” Vestnik drevnei istorii,1938, no. 4.
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M. IA. SIUZIUMOV