Proskynesis (Greek προσκύνησις) refers to the traditional Persian act of bowing or prostrating oneself before a person of higher social rank. In the Eastern Orthodox Church the term proskynesis is used theologically to indicate the veneration given to icons and relics of the saints; as distinguished from latria, the adoration which is due to God alone, and also physical gestures such as bowing or kneeling (genuflection in the Western church) before an altar or icon.

The emperor Diocletian (A.D. 284-305) is usually thought to have introduced the practice to the Roman Empire, forming a break with the Republican institutions of the principate, which preserved the form, if not the intent, of republican government. However, there is some evidence that an informal form of proskynesis was already practiced at the court of Septimus Severus. The political reason for this change was to elevate the role of the emperor from "first citizen" to an otherworldly ruler, remote from his subjects, thus reducing the likelihood of successful revolt, which had plagued the Empire during the preceding 50 years.


Different degrees of proskynesis, from a slight bow of the head to full prostration.

Proskynesis in the Videssos SeriesEdit

Marcus Scaurus and his "Ronams" caused a scandal in Videssos by failing to performa a full proskynesis when presented to the Avtokrator Mavrikios Gavras as was customary. However, Gavras accepted this as a religious belief and in private was amused by this refusal as he, himself, found all the ceremony stifling.

While a full prostration was required on formal occasions, a bow by men and curtsy by women was all that was deemed necessary on social occasions such as the banquet held in honor of the Ronams' entry into service to the Empire a few days later. This show of respect Scaurus was willing to display.