Roma and Gadje: Ethnic relations in the Byzantine world and the social imaginary in modern rural Greece
This paper deals with the history of Roma in the Byzantine world as portrayed by written historical evidence . As there exists no written historical evidence from the point of the Roma, the paper deals with the perceptions of Roma in the Byzantine sources. This perception is looked at in the light of the current views held about Roma in rural Greece during the last few years. Therefore, this research is an attempt to evaluate historiography through ethnography in order to fill in some of the gaps created by relying on evidence from literature when dealing with a marginalised people who has only relatively recently started to create its own writings. It is also an attempt to discover a potential historical continuity concerning the position of Roma in Greek society. Furthermore, by adding fieldwork to textual sources, questions may arise which can put both historical and ethnographical sources into a different perspective. According to Levi-Strauss, history tries to grasp the conscious expressions of social life relying mainly on written testimonies, while anthropology grasps its unconscious expressions, based mainly on observed behaviour. (Levi-Strauss and Eribon. 1991. Chicago, London). The historic Byzantine sources seem to indicate peaceful co-existence. They portray Roma as living, both settled and nomadic, on the margins of Byzantine society, yet there was no big gap between Roma and the rest of non-ruling class populations. Ethnography in rural Greece found that Roma, in particular tent-dwelling populations, were excluded from mainstream provisions and involved with the rest of rural society mainly on economic terms only.