Engin Akyürek (Koç University, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center For Late Antique and Byzantine Studies)
Istanbul City Walls Project: A Modal For Documenting And Preserving Cultural Heritage
Byzantine fortifications surrounding the capital of Byzantine empire, today standing as the greatest architectural structure of modern Istanbul and constitute a major part of the cultural heritage of the city. The construction of the walls, parts of which are also included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, started in the first quarter of the 5th century; with various additions and repairs in different eras. The walls are considered among the most important examples of the Roman and Byzantine military architecture surviving to the present day, and a large part of these 24-kilometer-long walls remains today, with 244 towers and 61 gates still standing. However, urbanization and other human activities, along with natural processes and disasters such as earthquakes, have slowly caused the walls to lose some of their original qualities, and thus these threatened monuments are in danger of perishing.
The Koç University – Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for Late Antiquity and Byzantine Studies (GABAM) initiated a project in 2017 to document this important heritage site as it is today and bring together relevant visual and written data to create a digital resource on the city walls. The project aimed to document all aspects of this magnificent defensive system and share this data through a digital platform.
The project was conducted with an international team of approximately 30 experts comprising archeologists, historians, art historians, epigraphists, photographers and other experts in various fields. The 24 km walls were documented with over 10.000 photographs of every curtain wall, tower, gate, spolia sculpture and inscription. About 50 articles on related to the various aspects of the walls, and numerous descriptive texts were written by scholars. All these compiled visual and written materials are shared with the public through an interactive platform. The project opened to public in 2021 and in 2022 won the Silver Award from Anthem Awards.
My paper introduces the Istanbul City Walls Project; how digitalization of archaeological / historical sites help to documentation and preservation of cultural heritage, how scholars and interested parties can benefit from the project? GABAM’s Istanbul City Walls Project provides a good modal for similar attempts.
Emir Alışık (Istanbul University, Istanbul Research Institute)
Breaking the Analogy: Eclectic Byzantinism in Speculative World-Building
Authors of speculative fiction—in its wider sense encompassing fantasy, science fiction, and
its subgenres—have occasionally appropriated Byzantine history. Their adoption of
Byzantine topoi and nomenclature presents a unique Byzantinism in terms of utilization of
history, for these authors’ reception of Byzantine history is not exclusively concerned with
historical accuracy per se. Instead, they are keen on historicizing idiosyncratic speculative
storyworlds that feel authentic. Role of Byzantine history in world-building and the novel
ways in which speculative fiction authors select and appropriate historiography attest to the
impact of evolving historiography on popular culture. Two such authors, Gene Wolfe (1931-
2019) and Jeff VanderMeer (b. 1968) built differing storyworlds imagined in the far future
and alternate reality, in which Byzantine history is put to use in creating idiosyncratic fantasy
and science fiction settings by conforming to a multitude of historiographical traditions.
Wolfe and VanderMeer are analogous in their Byzantinism, which at the surface level is
difficult to grasp, due to the eclecticism and the severe deformity of Byzantine elements
(tropes, nomenclature, art, etc.) in the process of their appropriation for the purpose of worldbuilding.
Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun cycle (1980) imagines a stagnant and hierarchical
society where an emperor-like figure governs the realm along with the bureaucratic elite. The
story takes place in the far future in medieval Byzantine-like society, where the Hellenic,
modern, and a futuristic extra-terrestrial past of humanity mold into myth.
VanderMeer’s Ambergris cycle (2001) relates chronologically wide-spanning stories of a
city-state through a very eclectic selection of literary forms. The weird connection between
Ambergris’ timeline and the actual history makes the city-state prone to arbitrary
impregnation of it by the history—specifically a Byzantine one. These authors’ seemingly
arbitrary choice of historical names, titles, and phenomena, combined with spoliation of
myths, ekphrases, and hagiographies render their storyworlds virtually unrecognizable but
historicized timelines. When it comes to world-building, they are unique in their rejection of
historical fiction and historical fantasy, and in the utilization of historicizing layers, and
spoliation of history to provide an authentic but uncanny bond between history and fantasy.
By examining the topoi and the nomenclature, which Wolfe and VanderMeer derived from
Byzantine sources and historiography on Byzantium, I propose to show varying ways of
corresponding with Byzantine history in speculative fiction. This is revelatory for the
reception of Byzantine history, because, even though these settings are purely speculative
they are submissive to modern ideologies and historiographies. Relevance of historiography
in the speculative testify to a new way of appropriation, one that expanding scope of narration
in accordance with historiography.
Michelle Al-Ferzly (University of Michigan/Metropolitan Museum of Art)
‘Byzantine’ Desert Castles: The Byzantine-Islamic Transition in Archaeological
Excavations and Museum Display
The expansion of the fields of Byzantine and Islamic art in the early twentieth century was
accompanied by a growing number of archaeological excavations in the Levant. Bolstered by
increased institutional support from universities and research centers, as well as colonial
interests, scholars from both fields undertook lengthy investigations across the region.
It is in this period that the field of Islamic art was shaped by the gradual discovery and
documentation of a corpus of buildings and complexes spread across Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Known as the ‘Umayyad Desert Castles’, these seventh- and eighth- century buildings attracted
the fascination of scholars for their architectural forms, painted interiors, and extensive mosaic
Three of these sites, Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi (east), Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi (west), and ‘Anjar,
located respectively in Syria and Lebanon, were excavated in the mid-twentieth century. The
excavation publications heralded these sites as well-preserved ‘types’ of early Islamic palatial
architecture. As a result, their museological treatment, in Syrian and Lebanese museums
highlighted objects and architectural fragments from the sites as belonging to an emerging
Islamicate artistic tradition, rather than a Late Antique Byzantine one. These institutions include
the National Museum of Damascus and the National Museum of Beirut, whose gallery displays
have remained relatively unchanged since the 1970s.
While these sites were undoubtedly inhabited under by the Umayyads, the emphasis on their
‘Islamic’ nature in both publications and museum exhibitions came at the expense of their Late
Antique Byzantine context. Indeed, all three sites are now known to have existed prior to their
Islamic foundation and were located within a network of urban and rural sites that sustained Late
Antique commercial routes. Evidence of monastic communities, church buildings as well as
Greek inscriptions, were in fact uncovered at these sites during the excavations but were
relegated to the margins of academic and curatorial treatment.
In this presentation, I argue that this phenomenon of selective historicization of ‘Anjar and Qasr
al-Hayr al-Gharbi stemmed from the multi-season excavation that noted Islamicist Oleg Grabar
(1928-2011) conducted at Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi in the 1960s. Working under the supervision
of the Syrian authorities, whose nation-state building agenda was predicated upon upholding the
Umayyad state as originators of the Baathist regime, Grabar and his colleagues’ highlighted the
sites Umayyad’ occupation. The team’s emphasis on the Umayyad material, however, was not
only a result of Syria’s mid-twentieth-century nationalist politics. Aiming to demarcate their
scholarship from those of classicists, who had previously dominated the field of pre-modern art
history, Grabar, and his Islamicist colleagues, sought to define the context, art, and architecture
of Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi as fitting within a squarely Islamic typology. This approach, in turn,
influenced the study, and eventual exhibition of the archaeological material found at ‘Anjar and
Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi. In illuminating these historiographic trends, my paper shows how the
curatorial display of the finds from the Umayyad castles could be enriched by further discussion
of their Byzantine contexts.
Diliana Angelova (University of California, Berkeley)
Byzantine Classical Visuality and the Erotic Eye
For more than three decades, visuality has driven scores of scholarly investigations in the
humanities which have uncovered the cultural and historical conditions that structure, focus, and
elicit yearning in the viewing subject; in short, which transform vision into visuality. The
cultured gaze is a desiring one. The totality of the cultural and historical filters that modulate
viewing at a particular time and place are sometimes referred to as a ‘scopic regime’.
In late antique and Byzantine art historical scholarship, studies on desire and the desiring gaze
follow one of two trajectories in an ideological split regarding desire that goes back to Plato’s
Symposium. Most Byzantine art historians study the discursive trajectories of vision as it
intersects with spiritual desire (mysticism) and theology. Carnal desire and its relationship to
figuration has likewise been the subject of sustained attention. Byzantine art historians have
illuminated the desiring gaze as one haunted by guilt, shame, and warnings against the dangers
This paper contributes to the literatures on Byzantine classicism as well as the erotic eye.
Contrary to scholarly consensus, I argue that the Byzantines produced and enjoyed artworks that
posited sexual desire as a positive, if enigmatic and violent, force. I also contend that the largest
category of extant Byzantine secular artworks – bone-ivory-and-wood boxes carved with
Graeco-Roman mythological scenes – evince that point emphatically through their decorations.
The subject of this essay is thus the scopic regime of the erotic eye/desiring gaze in Byzantium,
by which I understand the way in which Byzantine artists guided and seduced the viewers of
Greco-Roman figures on Byzantine caskets. Byzantine classical images were designed to please,
delight, and challenge as well as instruct the gaze in the arts of love.
I demonstrate these points by focusing on an enigmatic tenth- to eleventh-century image: a group
of men aiming stones at the mythological beauty Europa, as she was carried off by the bullshaped
god Zeus. This image, a strange and unique pairing, masterfully carved in ivory, is found
on the lid of the Veroli box, the most famous of Byzantine caskets. By solving the riddle of the
stone-throwing men, I reveal the logic of Byzantine classicism and posit eroticism as its
Nathanael Aschenbrenner (University of California, San Diego)
Byzantine Books Between Past and Future: Egnazio Battista Writes New Roman History
Though largely forgotten today, the humanist and historian Giovanni Battista Cipelli, better
known as Egnazio Battista (1478–1553), dominated Venetian learning and culture during the
first half of the sixteenth century. A founding member of the Aldine Academy, and a profoundly
learned editor and teacher, Battista’ most important contribution to early modern erudition was
his history of the Roman emperors, De caesaribus libri III, published in 1516. This treatise
comprised a series of imperial biographies that attempted to incorporate Byzantine and Western
emperors—from Julius Caeasar to Maximilian I and Constantine XI—in the same narrative
scheme for the first time. This was a revolutionary framework, and Battista’s sources were no
less innovative. The Venetian historian used Byzantine sources extensively to write his histories
of emperors in Constantinople, claiming to have consulted Zonaras, Choniates, Kantakouzenos,
and Pletho, among others. Indeed, Battista took great pride in the broad selection of books he
consulted, insisting that he had surpassed even the great Roman historian Flavio Biondo in the
breadth of his reading.
This paper examines the materials Battista drew on in his research and reconstructs how his
privileged access to Byzantine books both distinguished him from his contemporaries and
informed his account of Roman imperial history. It sets Battista and his history in the context of
humanist historiography; Venetian cultural programs; and the volatile and unstable competition
among Habsburg, Ottoman, French, and Italian competitors in the Mediterranean. Against this
background, the paper illustrates how Battista’s history, despite his innovations in form and
evidence, represented only a partial departure from older accounts of imperial history. In the end,
De caesaribus stood partway between the past and the future of Roman imperial history:
between an approach that subordinated Byzantine rulers to their western counterparts in a moral
hierarchy; and an emerging view of Byzantium that would consider the empire’s achievements
on its own terms.
Heather Badamo (University of California, Santa Barbara)
A Muslim’s Song for an Icon of Mary: Wonder and Cross-Confessional Encounter in Medieval Egypt
This paper investigates the role of sacred images in mediating cross-confessional encounters in
medieval Egypt, considering their capacity to elicit wonder in Muslim audiences. It focuses on a song recorded in al-Shābushtī’s (d. 388/948) Book of Monasteries (Kitāb al-Diyārāt), which
addresses a painting of Mary holding Christ at the Melkite Monastery of Qusayr in Cairo.
Composed by a Muslim poet, it describes Mary through common metaphors for praising the
beauty of the beloved and likens the experience of viewing the image to the pleasures induced by listening to music. Though it is the only known song composed by a Muslim for an icon, it has received scant attention. Here, I contextualize it in relation to contemporary currents of wonder, which translated the foreign into the familiar, aiding Muslim authors in defining the boundaries of the Islamic world. My primarily contention is that the song constituted an act of appropriation, which reconceptualized the Monastery of Qusayr’s icon as a source of ecstasy, inducing the beholder to contemplate the divine. Ultimately, the song presents a way of relating to sacred images that has little to do with contemporary Christian practices. Rather, it transforms the beholder’s experience to synchronize the foreign devotional object with Islamic beliefs. The song thus blurs the boundaries between the foreign and familiar, complicating persistent views of Islam as an aniconic religion and shedding light on the modalities of cross-confessional exchange in medieval Egypt.
Rachael Helen Banes (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Byzantine Pilgrims and their “Epigraphies”: Examining the Informal Inscriptions from Three Ephesian Cult Sites
Informal inscriptions, commonly called “graffiti”, are found engraved in the churches, monasteries and cult sites of the Byzantine empire. These inscriptions, memorialising religious travel and its accompanying worship, provide some of the most vital evidence for reconstructing the sacred experience of pilgrims in the Byzantine realm, be that the casual addition of a personal name to the rocky landscape along a travel route, or the deeply-carved and pre-planned inscription at a major pilgrimage site. In recent years, several studies have been published which attempt to contextualise pilgrimage “graffiti” (Handley 2017, Stern 2017 and Ward-Perkins and Felle 2021).
One religious centre in which many of these inscriptions have been found (ninety-one inscriptions total) is that of Ephesos. Of the many churches and holy spaces found at Ephesos, three emerge as having particularly notable numbers of inscriptions; that of St. John the Theologian, the Grotto of Paul, and the Cemetery of the Seven Sleepers. The usage of these sites varies from the fourth – fourteenth centuries CE, and through examining the casual inscriptions left behind by pilgrims, it is possible to reconstruct much about the lives and experiences of these pious travellers.
This paper examines Ephesian pilgrimage epigraphy from three key perspectives. The first section considers the pilgrims themselves, and what we can infer about their persons from the inscriptions that they left behind, including their social and economic identities, and how far they travelled to pray at the cult site. With this in mind, the second section of the paper examines the text of informal inscriptions themselves, in particular the formulae used to express piety and prayer, and how both similarities and differences in these formulae across three major religious sites inform us about differing usages of the space, and reasons for travel. Finally, the paper considers the physical space within which the inscriptions are found, examining the placement of texts within buildings and on the wall itself, including differences in how pilgrims interacted with the visual culture of the cult space (for example, inscribing personal prayers onto the image of the saint in the Grotto of Paul, whilst pilgrims at the basilica of St. John avoided carving over religious images).
The inscriptions of Ephesos highlight the complexities of pilgrimage “graffiti” in the Byzantine era, with three different cult sites providing a nucleus for the study of the universalities in formulae and pious traveller, whilst also highlighting many of the diversities which existed within the formal epigraphic tradition, such as the placement of inscriptions. Examining these complexities forms the core of this paper, which not only acknowledges the evidence, but establishes methodologies which can be used to study informal pilgrimage inscriptions throughout the Byzantine empire.
Roland Betancourt (University of California, Irvine)
From Plane to Space: The Narrative Arc of Diagrammatic Representation in the Geodesia
The Parangelmata Poliorcetica is a mid-tenth-century treatise on how to lay siege to enemy
cities and how to defend from such attacks. The text was composed for high-ranking military
officials in the Byzantine Empire, most likely during the reign of Romanos I Lekapenos and
Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos. The Poliorcetica surveys, excerpts, and glosses a host of
ancient and late-antique texts on siege craft, artillery, and other military aspects with the hopes of
translating this material into a more succinct and comprehensible presentation of the information,
which has also been updated alongside contemporaneous Byzantine practices and newly
developed military technologies. At the end of the treatise, there is a short manual on
mathematical calculations, known as the Geodesia. While both texts date to the mid-tenth
century, the extant archetype of their manuscript tradition is found in an eleventh-century copy,
now at the Vatican Library (Vat. gr. 1605), which features extensive illustrations of the siege
machines and concepts elucidated in the text.
In its stated methodology, the anonymous author of both texts demonstrates a fixed intent on
making accessible the obtuse military and mathematical principles, representing them here with
simplified and clear language and ensuring their legibility to most readers through the use of
extensive illustrations. While the same impetus is found in the text of the Geodesia, the
challenge of visualizing geometrical models and mathematical calculations presents a fascinating
challenge to the text’s author and illustrator.
What makes the Geodesia particularly interesting is its function as an appended treatise aimed at
explaining the use of a dioptra, a tool akin to a modern surveyor’s theodolite. In other words, the
Geodesia is meant to explain the mathematical practices necessary to construct the machines and
achieve the goals that the Poliorcetica itself details. Nevertheless, despite its didactic
mathematics, the author is always cognizant that this geometric knowledge is to be applied in
practice on the ground. This places an onus on the author (and illustrator) to successively
articulate geometric concepts as they apply to three-dimensional space on land and even in the
heavens. Across the text and its illustrations, we find an underlining narrative arc that moves the
reader from geometric line drawings on to more three-dimensional representations of forms and
concepts, until the insertion of the human figural form.
This narrative arc – from two-dimensional plane to three-dimensional space – is the focus of this
paper. The goal here is to sketch out this progression, demonstrating how the author and
illustrator move from conceptual diagrams to representational drawings, successively moving
from shapes to volumetric depictions with critical shifts that undergird the very methodological
goals of the manuscript itself. Thus, this paper highlights diagrams as partaking in a narrative
structure, akin to other narrative forms in manuscript illumination, one that, rather than tracing
the movement and evolution of characters, charts the iterative development of the concepts and
geometries it seeks to elucidate.
Giulia Anna Bianca Bordi (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia)
Sacred spaces’ construction between Apulia and Dalmatia in the Middle Ages (12th-14th centuries)
Scholars have highlighted numerous artistic contacts between Apulia and Dalmatia during the Middle Ages, which are known thanks to documentary attestations, epigraphic inscriptions, and the material culture which still survives in these territories. They attest to a commonality of visual culture and modus operandi, especially within the large construction sites of ecclesiastical buildings. However, up to now, art-historical studies have mainly focused on iconographic and stylistic issues that seem to connect artistic production between the two Adriatic shores. Moreover, little work has been done on the similarities in the conception and construction of sacred space between the two areas, as can be deduced from analysis of the religious architecture of these territories.
Therefore, from a methodological point of view, this paper re-examine and re-weave the dense web of artistic relationships in the territories of Apulia and Dalmatia between the 12th and 14th centuries in light of updated scholarship. Although there is evidence of contact as early as the 11th century, it increases during the 12th. This paper carries this analysis to the 14th century, a period in which these contacts have been less studied. It does so by incorporating the data from the most recent research on diplomatic, commercial, and cultural contacts in the lower Adriatic to draw an updated historical framework for the evidence of intense artistic exchanges. In particular, I focus on the sculptural production constituting the internal liturgical furniture and the architectural decoration of selected sacred buildings of the Apulian and Dalmatian territories, expanding the chronological times span of previous scholarship. Therefore, iconographic and stylistic comparisons already proposed by previous scholars are reconsidered in the light of a more defined historical-political and cultural context in which the exchanges between Apulia and Dalmatia took place; new and broader reflections are suggested on similarities and divergences between the two areas regarding the form and functions of liturgical furnishings and architectural sculptures in the sacred buildings. Consequently, the paper also advances new hypotheses on the critical issues of the frequency of attestations for master builders and sculptors in some Apulian cities who moved to Dalmatia, the direction and consistency of the flow of artists between the two coasts, the reasons for the greater attractiveness of some ecclesiastical construction sites compared to others, the role of Benedictine monasteries and city cathedrals in this web of relationships, and the extent of the original contribution in artistic terms of the cultures of the two Adriatic areas to this dialogue.
Peter Boudreau (McGill University)
It’s Only Natural: Temporality and the Environment in Illustrated Editions of Imperial Menologia
Among the feasts and saints celebrated within the so-called “imperial” menologion at the Walters (Ms. 521) from the mid-eleventh century is a miniature of Saint Zotikos that is unique to the manuscript. Framed and adorned with gold-leaf, the saint is shown bound to a pair of saddled mules who drag his body through a landscape replete with rocky cliffs, blossoming plants, and a gushing spring that marks the site where his eye fell out. As a genre, menologia were liturgical codices that contained a collection of saints’ lives arranged according to the church calendar. Numerous studies have commented on this manuscript tradition, ranging from imperial ambitions (Tougher, 2021) to scribal practices (D’Aiuto, 2002; I. Ševčenko 1962), and the various illustration strategies (N. Ševčenko, 1990; 1993). Yet despite being a manuscript that is explicitly concerned with the year as a unit of time, how these miniatures participated within this temporally oriented book remains elusive. On the one hand, the coupling of image and text navigates narrative time, providing a grounding image for the written entry. But on the other hand, the sumptuous depictions echo the talismanic qualities of icons, invoking the saint’s heavenly presence. Absent within these discussions, however, is the significance of the elaborate environments which frequently dominate the background and their relevance to a book about holy time.
Scholarship on Byzantine environments is well-trodden territory, but in recent years the topic has expanded in several different directions. Led primarily by the fields of history and archaeology, scholars have been attentive to the experiential effects of transforming the physical environment to connect viewers to expansive pasts, whether political or biblical (Della Dora, 2016; Magdalino, 2007; Veikou, 2012). Art historians, too, have turned their attention to depictions of nature, notably gardens, to consider their symbolic, metaphysical value as representations of a timeless paradisal setting (Barber, 1992; Littlewood, 2013; Maguire, 2012). But beyond serving as lush backdrops for saintly figures, how might these frequent views of the environment orient viewers in time and space within a book concerned with the orderly unfolding of the year? What new kinds of relationships between time and place might be generated through these environmental images?
This paper brings together research on illustrating the liturgical year with attitudes toward the landscape as they were expressed within menologia miniatures. The centrality of the environment in tracking time through legible changes in the seasons and agricultural activities has been readily accepted, but the images of the land within menologia tell a different story. At once delineating a geography of Orthodox Christianity and inscribing its history, the environment within these miniatures frequently suspends or disrupts the annual ordered cycle: Zotikos’s spring miraculously bursts from the ground to commemorate the site of his martyrdom, caves suddenly emerge for refuge, and even transport figures far into the future. Ultimately, through a close examination of menologia imagery and the stories they accompany, I challenge the metaphysical understandings of these evocative landscapes to instead consider their material value in marking earthly and heavenly time.
Samet Budak (University of Michigan)
Fifteenth-Century Platonism as a Global Phenomenon from Persia to Byzantium to Renaissance Italy
Byzantine philosopher Gemistos Pletho (d. ca. 1454) has been praised as the champion of Platonism in the fifteenth century in modern historiography. Renaissance philosophers, such as Marsilio Ficino (d. 1499), considered him as a wise man from the East who brought back Platonic philosophy to Italy. This presentation provides hitherto neglected or unknown material related to Platonic philosophy in the fifteenth century to demonstrate that Pletho was not an eccentric, radical philosopher in late Byzantium. On the contrary, his ideas were in dialogue with various contemporary arguments in the Islamicate Middle East. There are remarkable connections between Islamic Platonism, Byzantine philosophy, and their counterparts in Italy. Additionally, especially Pletho and some of his contemporaries represent a departure from earlier Neoplatonic ideas in a strikingly similar fashion. To demonstrate these communalities, the presentation makes use of works in various languages including, Greek, Arabic, Persian and Italian. It also brings evidence from poorly studied manuscripts in Islamicate languages into discussion. This presentation concomitantly argues that the earliest textual repercussions of Pletho’s oeuvre was not in Italian but in the Ottoman context in Arabic language. This paper’s global perspective enables us to approach certain problems of late Byzantine philosophy in unconventional ways and reconceptualize those problems under a new light. In the final analysis, this presentation aims to demonstrate global philosophical entanglements from today’s Iran to Italy through Byzantium, as their central node. It argues that there was a new wave of Platonism, using the same conceptual language and arguing about similar metaphysical conclusions, as a global phenomenon in the fifteenth century.
Emily Chesley (Princeton University)
Gendered Responses to Military Violence in Early Byzantine Syria
Syrian women suffered in war equally as Syrian men did, though often in different ways. Chronicles, like that of Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite, note that invading armies forced local women to offer both their cooking skills and their bodies to please foreign forces. Even their own side’s soldiers, ostensibly meant to protect them, threatened violence: Roman soldiers garrisoned in the province of Syria sexually assaulted local women in their streets and houses. Towns became battlefields, implicating civilians in the war casualties.
This paper analyzes a spectrum of gendered responses to military violence in Byzantine Syria
within the genre of poetry, from the blaming to the empathizing. By analyzing Syriac metrical
poems—underutilized sources for gender history—this paper demonstrates the variety of ways
that female imagery could serve the literary needs of the male poets. For instance, Ephrem’s
twelfth hymn on Nicomedia blames the city’s siege superficially on local men for having sexual
relations with Arab women. However, the brunt of Ephrem’s ire is directed at these anonymous
Arab women, whom he characterizes as wild beasts. This image of savage and animalistic
women gives Ephrem a xenophobic and Orientalizing “other” upon which to place the blame of
his community’s suffering. His rhetoric masks the lack of control these anonymous Arab women
likely possessed: possibly enslaved, possibly captured and brought forcibly across the Persian
border. These women had certainly suffered in the same siege as the men, and perhaps they were even Christian women sitting in his church. On the other end of the spectrum, Jacob of Serugh’s homily on the sack of Amid uses maternal imagery to comfort his congregation—visualizing and empathizing with their sorrow. He builds upon the accepted role of women as community mourners to lament the great loss of life that has occurred. He summons his congregation to weep for the city, for the many sons who had fallen in her streets “like bunches of grapes,” and for the rivers of blood that flowed. Depending on the social moment and the goal of the preacher, gendered images could both blame and comfort women who had undergone trauma. Rhetorically, women might be included into the mourning community or could be selected out. Such poetry reveals at once the suffering that women endured during the trauma of battle and the further suffering that could be inflicted post facto through gendered rhetoric.
Craig Caldwell (Appalachian State University)
How Not to Be an Innkeeper: Learning from Bad Business Practices in the Book of the Eparch
The tenth-century Book of the Eparch has offered insight into the economy of Constantinople for more than a century since its discovery by Jules Nicole in a Swiss manuscript. Drawing upon its treasury of details about the guild system, scholars have often deployed this text in support of competing theories about the Byzantine economy, either for evidence of state control or for indications of a free market protected by regulation. Looking at the spatial dimensions of the text, Marlia Mango created a commercial overview of the imperial capital with the help of the Book of the Eparch, an approach that emphasizes large-scale “managed commerce” as opposed to smaller-scale businesses. Acknowledging the imperial origin of this source, how might we use it to illuminate or enliven our understanding of the “neighborhood shops” that other economic histories have tended to overlook?
One guild whose regulations suggest several lines of inquiry is that of the innkeepers (kapeloi). These merchants operated both inns and taverns, and their sale of wine was of special concern to imperial officials. In the hierarchy of offenses that innkeepers might commit, the minor ones included violations of what we might call Byzantine “blue laws” that restricted the sale of food or wine on Sundays and feast days. (Such concerns about wine sellers encouraging violence and criminal activity go back at least as far as ancient Mesopotamia, where tavern regulations appear in Hammurabi’s collection of laws.) A more serious transgression was raising the rent of a tavern operating out of an inn in order to compel its sale to the innkeeper. But the worst business practice according to the Book of the Eparch was to sell wine out of unregulated containers, an activity which could result in expulsion from the guild. Why was violating the state system of weights and measures seen as more dangerous than encouraging a drunken riot?
Comparisons with guilds of innkeepers in medieval Europe and the regulation of inns in premodern China, particularly during the Tang dynasty, can help us to think about these commercial offenses in a different way. For example, questions about the quality of wine that concerned the companies of vintners and innkeepers in medieval London are subsumed into the regulations of approved quantities of wine in the Book of the Eparch. Furthermore, the original state origins of the system of inns in China meant that they collected information about their patrons to facilitate official oversight: whom they served was more important than how they served them. These alternative concerns show how the imperial approach to “bad innkeepers” in Constantinople developed out of an existing framework of standards, while regulations in other societies derived from their local contexts.
Ioanna Christoforaki (Academy of Athens)
‘Crusader’ Art, the Acre Triptych, and the Franciscans
The so-called ‘Acre Triptych’ is an artifact of paramount importance for the history of the so-called ‘Crusader’ art. It measures 22.36 x 17.62 x 2 inches and today is kept at the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Sinai. It consists of a central panel depicting the enthroned Virgin in the type of the Hodegetria, holding Jesus Christ in her arms and flanked by two standing angels. The lateral wings are divided into two horizontal sections, illustrating scenes from the Life of the Virgin (clockwise): Christ among the Doctors (or the Finding of Jesus in the Temple) and the Lamentation on the right-hand wing, and the Dormition and the Coronation of the Virgin on the left. When closed, Saint Nicholas, standing and wearing Western episcopal garments, features on the left wing and Saint John the Baptist, also standing and holding a medallion of the Angus Dei with a banner, on the right. The triptych has been dated to c. 1260 and stylistically linked to illuminated manuscripts executed in Acre, during the sojourn of Louis IX and before his return to France in April of 1254. The iconographic and stylistic analysis of the Acre triptych has revealed the intermingling of Byzantine and Western features, a trait which constitutes the trademark of ‘Crusader’ art. Its execution has been attributed to a multicultural workshop in Acre and its commission linked with a lay confraternity active in town in the 1260s. However, although the combination of the four scenes of the Life of the Virgin is admittedly unusual as a cycle, this unique and unconventional iconographic choice has not been adequately explained. The Coronation of the Virgin as the Queen of Heavens is completely unknown to Byzantine iconography and comes from the Western iconographic repertoire. It was first championed by the first Franciscan pope Nicholas IV and it features in the apse mosaic of Santa Maria Maggiore, above the Dormition of the Virgin. The mosaic was completed in 1296 by Jacopo Torriti, a Franciscan friar from Siena, and—apart from the Pope himself—it includes both Saint Francis and Saint Anthony of Padua among the Virgin’s entourage. Similarly, the scene of Christ among the Doctors, another iconographic rarity in Byzantine art, is reminiscent of Giotto’s fresco of Saint Francis Preaching before Honorius III, executed between 1297-1300 at the Upper Church of St. Francis in Assisi. The prominence of Mary Magdalene—a saint strongly favoured by the Franciscans—in the scene of the Lamentation, with her hands raised in mourning and her bright red maphorion, is another link to the most prominent mendicant order of the time. The goal of this paper is to examine both the individual iconography of these four scenes as well as their theological interdependence, in order to interpret the unique cycle of the
Acre Triptych and examine whether its patronage can be ultimately attributed to the artistic activity of the Franciscan Order in the Latin East.
Christina Christoforatou (Baruch College, City University of New York)
Exalting Eros through Logos: Performing Passion and Imperial Power in Byzantine Fiction
From the ancient Greek idea of eros as discordant force to psychological interpretations of desire in Byzantine and post-Byzantine treatises about power and natural law, the concept of eros endures as motivation for action and a force that impels us forward in pursuit of an end. The most satisfying eros, Plato posits in the Symposium, is one that remains unfulfilled. In Phaedrus, erotic desire emerges as the foundation of all communal existence while in Nietzsche’s aphorisms eros is antithetical to social life: “love of one is a barbarism,” Nietzsche posits, “for it is exercised at the expense of all others” (Beyond Good and Evil). Between these two extremes stands a conception of eros as cosmic force, a ruler whose thrall over creation bridges theocratic and political imperatives.
This paper examines the dual nature of eros as tyrannos and basileus in two romances that survive from twelfth and thirteenth-century Byzantium, Hysmine and Hysminias and Livistros and Rodamne. In the former, a novel commissioned by the court of Manuel Komnenos in the late 1140s or early 1150s, eros performs his own political ontology as protector and tormentor of lovers and subjects he brings under his aegis. He is additionally endowed with material and immaterial servants and bears the guise and trappings of Byzantine imperial authority: he comes complete with a court, a throne, a scepter, and elaborate court iconography. In Livistros and Rodamne, a thirteenth-century romance associated with the Nicaean court of John Doukas Vatatzes, the figure’s power is exalted in murals, inscriptions, and halls; it is further lauded in confessions, poems and songs. This stark representation of power blurs the boundary between the lyrical and the quasi-fantastical, and haunts the principal characters in their reveries, poems, and dreams (e.g., Discourse 2, ll. 952-2719).
In piecing together the discourse of power and subjection in the romances, this paper reveals the perils and rewards associated with narrating sovereignty. The emergent figuration of eros affirms the political aspirations of patrons who sought new ways to revive the glory of the imperial image, and the yearnings of a literate aristocracy eager to participate in political discourse. In Hysmine and Hysminias the author establishes a firm connection between the divine ethos of eros as cosmic ruler, and its biblical precedent as punishing force in Paul’s writings, where the Apostle addresses the weakness of the corruptible flesh in response to temptation (1 Cor.). Just as Paul reflects upon the principle of forbearance and the strength required to make the body subject to the moral will (1 Cor. 9.29), Eustathios Makrembolites juxtaposes the emperor’s theanthropic presence in Hysmine and Hysminias with the political hypostasis of all subjects under the will of formidable masters. Similarly, in Livistros and Rodamne, the anonymous author animates concerns with power and subjection in extensive ekphraseis that reveal the dual status of eros as deity and personification and his crucial new role as “living law” (nomos empsychos). The new paradigm of dominance and subjection, the paper argues, sheds light on the role of poets as political propagandists and imperial critics, and court intellectuals as participants and exegetes.
Nikolas Churik (Princeton University)
Life as Drama in Proklos Diadochos
In his Commentary on the Republic, Proklos Diadochos (c.412-485) addresses the value of myths in the education of youths, and, in particular, he evaluates their traditional sources, drama and epic (Baltzly et al. 2018). Drama, as Proklos determines, is a totally mimetic genre (In remp. I 14.20), and, at its best, it presents characters who imitate their station in life appropriately (In remp. I 15.13). Through these considerations of literary genres, however, Proklos dismisses drama as useless for education because it depicts too many varieties of life, making it inappropriate for stable and unified imitation, and because it frequently misrepresents characters.
Despite this dismissal, Proklos readily adopts “drama” for conceptualizing human life. In his de decem dubitationibus (60), Proklos remarks that the whole course of life is analogous to a drama and that fate is analogous to the poet of the drama. Although the Greek text is lacunose and Moerbeke’s translation is obscure here, it provides the basis for further explanation of Proklos’s conceptual use of drama as an analogue for life. Each person has a “role” to play in an appropriate way, as determined by fate. The person must fit into their social category (free/enslaved, woman/man, child/youth/adult) and carry it out to the best of their ability, while not imitating the others. In his Commentary on the Timaeus (II 305.3-25), Proklos returns to this image: the One is like the poet of a tragedy. The poet is able to generate dialogue appropriate to gods and heroes, sometimes in Greek and other times a foreign language. Despite producing this variety, the One remains unitary and simple and can recognize these features even in in the fragmented and conflicted word.
How can Proklos both dismiss drama and use it in his works? This paper argues that, like epic poetry, drama is useful for people who are sufficiently instructed and who can under its truth on a higher level of reality. The deep structures of the genre, when comprehended by a learned person, can lead to truths about the world. When considered from the view of the philosopher, making claims about the abilities of the One, drama becomes a productive metaphor, but when viewed by an unprepared audience, drama confuses its viewers and prevents them from developing a virtuous and appropriate character. These views reflect the protectiveness extended over elite education (and particularly against popular productions of Attic tragedies) and further indicate the social embeddedness of Proklos’s thought.
This paper offers a contribution on several fronts. Although Proklos’s understanding of epic poetry has been well studied, his engagement with drama has received much less attention (Kokolakis 1960; Trouillard 1977). Because other Neoplatonic thinkers use drama as a metaphor (Plotinus: Chlup 2012 67; Sopater: Marcos 2018), Proklos is placed in this intellectual lineage. As a study of reception of drama in Byzantium, this paper considers the reception of a concept, not only borrowings of content and language.
Brian Cluyse (Ghent University)
“Context Tracing”: Making Sensible Use of Byzantine Metalinguistic Data and the Role of the Digital Humanities within This
Modern scholarship has demonstrated that high-register Medieval Greek is a language in its own right, with its own nature and history, and that it cannot be defined in terms of imitation of the Attic language of the 5th century BC. Greeks of all periods aspired to realize the ideal of ‘Attikismos’ in their writings and to write in a way that can stand comparison with the Greek of the classical age; therefore every generation has composed sets of textbooks for the propagation and assimilation of grammatical norms. However, what was considered ‘Attic’ / ‘correct’ and what was not, varied from age to age. Accepting or not accepting a form as ‘correct’ is a process that cannot be explained as a writer’s greater or lesser grammatical education, but must be understood taking into account that, like all languages, high-register (or ‘Atticizing’) Greek is also a language that changes over time.
The aim of my paper is twofold. Firstly, it aims to show that (i) current approaches to Medieval Greek are conceptually and linguistically different from then-current perspectives, and that (ii) we have to play by the grammatical rules of the time, in order to have a less anachronistic understanding of linguistic phenomena such as the creation of linguistic norms. Consequently, I show that the key to achieving this goal is the neglected set of medieval metalinguistic observations, namely the Byzantines’ self-reflections on their own language, mostly hidden in textbooks. Secondly, I discuss how to – rephrasing Labov – “make the best use of good data”, by showing how a database of metalinguistic observations (the work-in-progress outcome of a pilot project) enables us to extract metalinguistic data from medieval sources, preparing them for use for a new linguistics of Medieval Greek.
To this end, I comment on selected, relevant passages in which Byzantine scholars talk about the sources, the basis of linguistic correctness. For example:
John Tzetzes’ Scholion in Chiliades IV, 837: “Κόρυβος] The buffaloes, while not giving any grammatical rule, write Κόροιβος with a diphthong in ροι. And I too, fearing the common opinion, often write it like that.”
Ibid. IV, 844: “Everyone writes Κόροιβος with a diphthong, but they give me neither the rule, nor any reason. Tzetzes writes Κόρυβος, analogically to Πόλυβος, with the simple vowel and teaches everyone to write it so.”
Thomas Magistros’ Ecloga 57.8: “None of the ancient [writers/ reference authors] said βρέχειν (‘to wet’) for rain, but rather ὕειν (‘to rain’).”
These metalinguistics observations raise broader questions. E.g.: How are ‘the canon of reference authors’, ‘analogy’, and ‘common opinion’ sources of grammatical norms? How can we frame and tag these metalinguistic data so as to create a searchable database thereof, practicable for new linguistic research?
While placing in the midst of the debate in linguistics hitherto neglected material and proposing a new approach to it, I hope for feedback and exchange on future research.
Scott Coleman (Carleton University)
Byzantine Cultural Identity and Heritage: A Re-Evaluation of Archaeological Contexts for Byzantine Numismatics
Despite the growing dialogue in Byzantine Studies for the interdisciplinary use of coins, there remains a lack of dialogue on how Byzantine coins are used to represent Byzantine identity within the museum environment. Fleur Kemmers and Nanouschka Myrberg argue that coins have three contexts: Primary, a coin’s creation; Secondary, a coin’s (re)use; tertiary, a coin’s deposition into the archaeological record (Kemmers and Myrberg, 2011). In this paper, I build off Kemmers and Myrberg’s arguments and consider the museum as the fourth archaeological context for Byzantine coins and the only context that scholars have influence over. I argue that the inconsistent archaeological documentation of coins directly affects how a coin is curated, represented, and displayed for public consumption in the museum in relation to its history, identity, and cultural heritage. Thus, scholarly dialogue between archaeologists and museum curators about the presentation and representation of Byzantine coins for public consumption is critical to address. The goal of the paper is not to argue for a firm method on how scholars should use coins to represent Byzantine cultural identity in museums. Rather, I intend to promote an introspective dialogue that encourages solutions for more interdisciplinary cooperation between Byzantinists and museum curators that promotes a more dynamic museum environment for coin exhibitions.
I begin the paper with a discussion on what Heritage means both within Byzantine scholarship and for the communities where archaeologists excavate material culture, specifically coins. I focus my research within the modern Greek context and explore the development of the Greek Nation-State in the nineteenth century and how it influenced the idea of Byzantium, subsequently Byzantine identity, as a symbolic link for the Hellenes. I then discuss the effects these narratives have on ideas of what is tangible and intangible heritage, cultural property ownership, and how these debates influence the use of Byzantine coins in museum exhibitions to represent Byzantine identity for public consumption. I demonstrate that Byzantine archaeologists and museum curators have underestimated the impact Byzantine coins have on public perceptions of Byzantine identity in museums. Three case studies of excavations in Greece are used to support my arguments. The first is the Cistercian Monastery of Zaraka, followed by the excavations of Pylos in Elis, and concludes with a brief discussion of the excavations at Corinth. I then briefly explore how museums have inconsistently utilized Byzantine coins in their exhibitions to represent Byzantine identity. I demonstrate that discussions on Byzantine coins have paid little attention to the archaeological contexts in which they come from in conjunction with how they are used to represent Byzantine identity in museums for public consumption. These case studies reveal the need for scholars to consider the museum as a fourth archaeological context in order to develop new methods on how to utilize Byzantine coins to represent Byzantine history and identity for public consumption within the museum context.
Matthew Crum (University of California, San Diego)
Reexamining the Roman Conquest of Crete as a “Liberation”
In 961, a Roman army led by Nikephoros Phokas conquered the island of Crete after an approximately 130-year period of Arab rule. This event is often referred to as a “liberation” not only of the island of Crete, but of its inhabitants. In the most romanticized versions of this event, the island’s Greek-speaking Christians (variably called Byzantines, Greeks, or Cretans) eagerly awaited the arrival of the Roman army and the end it would put to the “occupation” of the Arab-Cretan emirate. Inherent in reconstructing these events as a liberation, is the assumption that both the Roman conquerors and the inhabitants of Crete viewed themselves as members of the same Roman community.
This paper argues that liberation is not an appropriate framework for understanding the events of the Cretan expedition and that the perception of a shared Roman identity was not a motivating factor. It does so through an examination of various ways in which contemporary sources justified the attack against Crete and framed the conflict primarily as a contest of Romanness over the foreign “barbarity” of the island and its inhabitants. Especially important to this study is the Chronicle of Symeon the Logothete as it is preserved in book 6 of Theophanes Continuatus. This text uses Prokopios’ sixth century account of the Roman liberation of North Africa as a model for its own narrative about the expedition against Crete, but it leaves out any such imagery of liberation. Moreover, that these events were not viewed as a liberation is suggested by Nikephoros Phokas’ activities on the island in the aftermath of his siege of its largest city. Before departing from Crete, he introduced new settlers to the island and constructed a large fortification at Temenos – both of which suggest that the Romans were not assured of a favorable reception by the inhabitants of Crete.
Finally, by considering this expedition as a Roman conquest over a predominately foreign enemy instead of as the liberation of Roman co-ethnics, it is possible for some observations to be made about Roman identity during this period. Namely, some insight is acquired into how the Romans conceptualized the loss of Romanness in places that had passed beyond the control of their state. In this case, some authors appear to recognize a process of assimilation of Roman-Cretans into the society of the Arab-Cretan emirate. They categorize these populations as distinct from both Romans and Arab-Cretans, despite any acknowledgement of past Romanness and any potential similarities in their cultural profiles that they might notice.
Mathieu Cuijpers (KU Leuven)
An Ignored Fragment about the Stauroproskynesis on the Third Sunday of Lent: Euthymios Malakes’s On the Veneration of the Cross
Euthymios Malakes was a renowned twelfth century orator and metropolitan of Neai Patrai who is best known for his colorful speeches and letters to officials and friends like Michael Choniates and Eustathios of Thessaloniki. His fame among contemporaries as an orator of great literary competence seems to rest mainly on his secular speeches and letters. Of his religious literary activity as a metropolitan, however, we are far less informed. In an attempt to shed some light on this side of Malakes’s literary activity, this paper provides a detailed study of the largely forgotten work On the Veneration of the Cross, which contains a carefully wrought explanation of the reason why the Cross is presented to be venerated on the feast of the stauroproskynesis on the third Sunday of Lent.
This brief text (unfortunately omitted in the BHG) has survived only in the codex Vat. Gr. 672 (before 1293), which was transcribed in the early 17th c. in the Vat. Gr. 1900. In 1648, Leo Allatius published the editio princeps in appendix to his De consensione, but his text proves faulty at times. In light of a new and edition, I first provide a critical assessment of this overlooked text. On the basis of manuscript evidence and textual peculiarities I argue that this text is indeed authored by Malakes. Moreover, I adopt the (as yet unsubstantiated) position of Michel Le Quien (1740) and Max Treu (1900) that this text must have been a fragment of a homily delivered on the third Sunday of Lent and corroborate this view by comparing it with parallels found in John Zonaras, Michael Choniates and others.
Secondly, I situate the fragment in the stauroproskynesis ritual on the third Sunday of Lent and in the literary tradition that it ostensibly cultivates. A good number of homilies on this important liturgical feast have been preserved, from Sophronius (7th c.) to Damascenos Studites (16th c.). A great deal of the fragment’s ideas and imagery can indeed be traced back to patristic sources, but most elements also recur in the works of Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos and Damascenos Studites. In this way I hope to show how Malakes was able to give himself a place in a long literary tradition.
Merih Danali (Wake Forest University)
Diagrammatic and Pictorial Interplay: Harmonizing Intellect with the Senses
This paper explores the interplay between diagrammatic and pictorial elements in Marc.
Gr. 516 (=904), a scientific miscellany donated by Cardinal Bessarion to the Republic of
Venice. On folio 141r we find a representation of the harmonic-tone system, or the
“canon” attributed to Pythagoras, which appears consistently in Byzantine codices of
Manuel Bryennius’s Harmonics (d. 1300). Fitted snugly between the graph and the outer
edges of the folio are three human figures. They are miniscule, reminiscent of the
marginal figures in medieval codices lovingly studied by Michael Camille. The folio
belongs to a larger image cycle inserted into the codex, which concerns the Pythagorean-
Ptolemaic musical theory.
Notably, the Marciana diagram displays an exceptional pictorial quality and is thus
distinguished from its purely diagrammatic counterparts in other musical treatises. The
application of subtle gradations of color on the arches suggests three-dimensionality, and
the illustrator cunningly transforms the curved lines of the diagram into a string—an
object, the dangling ends of which are secured by two human figures on either side of the
diagonal pole. The seated figure on the edge of the pole is unidentified but may be
Palamedes. His weight, supported by the pole, further underscores the “thingness” of the
image-cum-diagram. These visual strategies convey the illustrator’s desire to suggest
materiality and represent both a diagram and a physical object, namely a monochord, the
instrument used for measuring intervals.
Two figures on the lower margin of the folio flank the diagram. The figure on the right is
“the most wise Pythagoras” (ὁ πάνσοφ[ος] πυθαγόρας) who stands on a large vessel. On
the lower left corner is the personification of sound [ἡ φωνὴ] and (ὁ) τόνος (musical key)
shown cupping his mouth in a way to help extend the voice. The figures portraying
Pythagoras and the personification of Sound, represent respectively the two cognitive
faculties employed in the study of harmonics: sense perception and the intellect. Their
juxtaposition serves as the visual analogue to the foundational theoretical principle that
underlies Ptolemy’s Harmonics, namely, the reconciliation of empiricism and
rationalism: “a commitment to the authority of mathematical principles with a healthy
respect for the data of perception (things that were simply ‘sensed’),” in the words of one
scholar. Therefore, the figures have a semantic function related to, but independent of,
the diagrammatic content.
On the other hand, the center of the folio illustrating musical harmonies simultaneously
serves as a diagram of the canon and the monochord, thereby blending theory with
practice, the act of reasoning (calculation) with the act of sensing (hearing audible
sounds). The relationships between the two modes of representation on this folio, namely
diagrammatic and pictorial, exemplify the interplay between art and science, and the
multifarious ways in which the interaction of images and diagrams may signify in
George E. Demacopoulos (Fordham University)
The Politics of Liturgical Violence in the Akolouthia Before Battle
Despite considerable scholarly interest in Byzantine military history and the related debates
about whether or not the Byzantines had notions of “Just War” or “Sacred War,” few studies
have made use of liturgical evidence to understand the lived religious experience of soldiers.
Christian military chaplains, first introduced by the emperor Constantine, presumably heard
confessions, attended to the sick and wounded, and performed burial rites for those who died
on campaign. These chaplains would have celebrated the routine services (Vespers, Matins,
Eucharistic Liturgy, etc.), but we can assume that they also offered specialized rites that were
suited to the needs of soldiers. Unfortunately, we have little evidence of the content of these
soldier-services prior to the middle Byzantine period.
As George Dennis observed, the first Byzantine military manual to provide any detail about
military religious rituals was the Strategikon of Maurice (emperor from 582-602 CE). The
Strategikon instructs soldiers to recite the Trisagion hymn (Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy
Immortal one, have mercy on us) every morning and every evening. It further instructs
chaplains to perform “other customary practices” but does not enumerate what those are. The
Tactika of Leo VI (emperor from 886-912 CE) offers more detailed information. Among other
things, it instructs commanders and their chaplains that soldiers should offer a confession and
receive the eucharist prior to battle. It also suggests that soldiers should gather for a special
prayer service on the evening before a battle. The manual does not provide the text for the
service, but one such service that dates to the same general period has been preserved in a
manuscript. Known simply as An Akolouthia before Battle, the text was edited and published by
Pertusi in 1948.1
This paper offers an analysis of the presentation of violence that appears throughout the
approximate 50 troparia (hymns) prescribed for the Akolouthia before Battle. The central
argument of the paper is that this Akolouthia represents the most developed expression of a
sacralization of violence that survives from the Byzantine period and that this sacralization
reflects an ecclesiology that was fundamentally intertwined with imperial ideology. Indeed,
many of the hymns in this service do far more than invoke protection for soldiers or the
commonwealth. Not only do they repeatedly ask God to destroy enemies, they specifically
request that God destroy the enemies of the basileus. In other words, the hymns of the
Akolouthia presuppose that those who fight for the emperor fight on the side of God and those
who fight against him war against God. In virtually every troparion, it is the person of the
emperor, rather than community of soldiers or the empire, who signals the “side” for which
God will inflict violence or offer his protection. In these ways, the Akolouthia is fundamentally
different from other Byzantine hymns that engage themes of violence.
1 A. Pertusi, “Una akolouthia militaria inedita del x secolo,” Aevum 22 (1948): 145-68.
Elif Demirtiken (University of Edinburgh)
Searching for Imperial Monasteries in Palaiologan Constantinople, 1261-1453
The Monastery of Chora is mostly associated with its renowned restorer in the fourteenth
century, Theodore Metochites, who was called the founder (κτήτωρ) of the monastery on his
donor portrait. However, it was Andronikos II who had granted the monastery to Metochites,
therefore it is reasonable to assume that Chora had been under imperial authority. It is thus
noteworthy that Chora was never called an imperial monastery (βασιλική μονή) in the
sources during the Palaiologan period. Mangana, Evergetes and Pantepoptes were among
other famous monasteries that had been founded by previous emperors or imperial family
members, enjoyed imperial privileges and submitted to imperial orders, all without ever
being described as having imperial status. As there was an influx of the term imperial
monastery in different genres during the late Byzantine period such as histories, travelogues
and archival material, such a discrepancy deserves a scrutiny. What were the characteristics
of an imperial monastery? Was imperial monastery an honorary distinction or did it have
practical implementations? Why were some monasteries referred to as imperial in some
sources and not in others?
In my talk, I first re-contextualize all the traceable monasteries of the capital functioning after
1261 and show that imperial foundations constituted the majority of the Constantinopolitan
monasteries that survived for more than three generations, which was the average duration of
a monastery’s operation. Sifting through a large body of fragmented evidence, I discuss
different types of imperial monasteries and lay out the key indicators to detect imperial
monasteries in the sources. I argue that understanding explicit and implicit descriptions of
imperial monasteries in Constantinople is a starting point for future discussions about the role
of the emperor as a highly interested party in the vivid scenery of monastic patronage in
Kelsey Eldridge (University of Puget Sound)
On the Origins of the omphalion at Hagia Sophia
When the Russian pilgrim Anthony of Novgorod visited Hagia Sophia in the year 1200, he remarked on the presence of a piece of “red marble” set into the pavement of the naos.
According to Anthony, the marble marked the spot where the emperor was crowned atop a golden throne. On its surface, the account seems to describe a rota (pavement roundel) made from the imperial purple marble porphyry, much like the famed rota porphyretica found at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The fact that nothing precisely matching Anthony’s description can be found in Hagia Sophia today has not stopped scholars from identifying it with the so-called
“omphalion” – a square section of pavement embedded within the south-eastern naos that features interlocking polychrome marble rotae. The history, function and symbolism of the omphalion have been the subject of much debate but little resolution. Recent studies have dated its production to the original Justinianic phase of the church, while others argue that it belongs to the post-iconoclastic period or see it as a pastiche of successive phases of restorations. Using
Anthony of Novgorod’s account as a point of departure, this paper proposes a new dating and interpretation for the omphalion. My inquiry is based on a consideration of the comparative history of porphyry rotae in the Roman and Constantinopolitan churches, as well as a study of the tradition of polychrome pavements from Nicaea and Trebizond. I maintain that the omphalion should not be understood as the “red marble” described by Anthony of Novgorod, nor should it be dated to the Justinianic phase of Hagia Sophia. This paper argues instead that the
addition of the polychrome pavement dates to thirteenth century or later, and perhaps more specifically to the patronage of Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos or John V Palaiologos.
Ariel Fein (Smarthistory)
The patriarchal image after 1453: the Pammakaristos Patriarchal throne and its ekphrasis by Manuel Malaxos (1577)
In the decades following 1453, as the Greek community returned to Constantinople, they encountered a city transforming into the center of the Ottoman Sultanate. Given this time of dramatic political and social upheaval, one might expect an absence of cultural production. And yet, the decades following the fall of the Byzantine Empire are instead marked by the resurgence of cultural output, culminating in a series of renovations on the Pammakaristos Church by the sixteenth-century patriarchs. Patriarch Jeremias II (1572-79) undertook the final and most extensive embellishment of the church, including the construction of a patriarchal throne, preserved today in the Church of St. George in Phanar, which juxtaposes inlaid ornament typical of contemporary Ottoman court culture with a central icon of Christ enthroned. Contemporaneous with the restoration campaign, Manuel Malaxos, a member of Patriarch Jeremias II’s close intellectual circle, composed his Historia Patriarchica Constantinopoleos including an ekphrasis of the throne and encomium of the patriarch. By considering the throne and text in dialogue for the first time, these works provide a unique window onto the new social reality of the Patriarchate in the transitional period of the sixteenth century.
This paper takes this critical political juncture as its point of departure to question how the Patriarchate mobilized Byzantine imagery and artistic hybridity in the face of ongoing uncertainty and instability. Confronting longstanding interpretations of Post-Byzantine art as inherently derivative and unoriginal, this study instead attends to the ways in which the crises of 1453 generated new patterns of patronage and yielded creative engagements with and transformations of Byzantine and Ottoman cultural and artistic traditions. I argue that the Pammakaristos Church functioned both as a witness to the contemporary crisis and as a medium through which the Patriarchate could refashion itself. By attending to the relationship between text and image, I contend that it is precisely in the interstices of the two works, particularly in their discrepancies, that the history of the Patriarchate is rewritten. Together, throne and chronicle assert the relevance of Byzantine traditions and authority in a post-Byzantine age, fashioning a new image of the patriarchal institution.
Evan Freeman (University of Regensburg)
Object and Ornament: Ancient Vessels in Justinian’s Hagia Sophia
Two-handled vessels adorn the sixth-century bronze narthex doors of Justinian’s Hagia Sophia.
Serpentine vegetation springing from the vessels once terminated in crosses, although these were
removed during the Ottoman period. Prominently displayed at the entrances to Constantinople’s
Great Church and positioned near privileged spaces where ecclesiastical and imperial ceremony
unfolded, these vessels would have demanded attention from Byzantine viewers. Similar twohandled
vessels appear in an opus sectile frieze at the opposite, eastern end of Hagia Sophia, high
on the north and south walls near the altar where the liturgy was celebrated. Vessels appear
again, albeit on a smaller scale, over doors on the western wall of the nave. While all these
vessels in Hagia Sophia are now visually overshadowed by monumental figural mosaics from
later centuries, their presence nonetheless challenges common descriptions of Justinian’s Hagia
Sophia as originally aniconic and raises questions about the significance of such decorative
motifs for Byzantine viewers.
Two-handled vessels, evoking the forms of the ancient amphora, kantharos, and krater, were
widespread across a variety of media in late antique visual culture. They appear in numerous late
antique churches, as well as in Jewish, Islamic, and domestic spaces. The prevalence of such
vessel motifs and their flexible use across a variety of cultural and religious contexts indicates
that they did not carry singular, fixed meanings, but rather served a broadly decorative function.
But the combination of vessels with overtly religious content such as crosses, as seen for
example at Hagia Sophia, suggests that this widespread decorative motif could also be adapted to
convey more particular ideological or religious messages.
This paper considers the function of the two-handled vessels in Justinian’s Hagia Sophia. It
argues that the vessels were understood as kraters, which were associated with the Septuagint
text of Proverbs 9:2 (“Wisdom…mixed her own wine in a krater”) and with the dedication of
Justinian’s Great Church to Christ as Holy Wisdom. But the vessel decorative motif also
remained open to additional associations, particularly when framed by different ritual activities,
such as the celebration of the Eucharist or the blessing of water.
Amy Gillette (The Barnes Foundation)
Living Well with Byzantine Art: A Perspective from the Barnes Foundation
Scholarship on the aesthetics of Byzantine sacred art has traditionally focused, for good reason, on its metaphysical dimension: its participation in divine Truth via a “great chain of images.” Recent studies have introduced new approaches such as phenomenology, prompting further questions about the multiple facets of Byzantine aesthetics. This paper investigates a potential “ethico-aesthetic” dimension. Is there evidence that any monuments were designed to encourage a state of eudaimonia or makaria (happiness in the sense of living well, through virtue), as a distinct goal along the path to theosis (sanctification)? If so, what did that look like? And what happens to their ethical content when brought into new contexts, like when a church is secularized or converted into a mosque, or when an icon goes on display in a modern museum?
One monument that may speak to each point is the Chora Monastery (Kariye Camii) in Constantinople, as restored by Theodore Metochites between c. 1316-21. Metochites arguably reified the style and content of his own literary works, including an ethical treatise. While critics denounced these texts as overwrought, he praised them as “glorious masterpieces of erudition [and] showpieces of euphonious eloquence.” Likewise, in poems celebrating the Chora’s renewal, Metochites rhapsodized its well-composed architecture, golden mosaics “dazzling the eyes with brilliant fire,” bedazzled furnishings and holy icons, and “treasury of countless books of various sorts,” donated from his own library. He then reflected, “Looking upon these things and venerating them we are compelled to remember and think humbly and to act,” as in the monks’ refectory: The joyful construction [is] adorned with diverse and multiform flowers…and the Mysteries and Miracles of Christ; wherefrom the monks…derive delectation as soothing to the heart as food to the body [so that] they treat their bodies to only so much food as is absolutely necessary [and] turn their minds toward great immortal God.
Metochites’s remarks suggest that yes, he meant for aspects of the Chora’s aesthetics to stimulate wellbeing, by giving delight, comfort, and models of virtue to the mind and heart together. So noted, this study considers a possible dialogue—however limited—between the Chora, its echoes in churches in Mystras, and the emergent qualities of affectus and habitus in Gothic visual culture, brought about by Latin churchmen’s simultaneous embrace of Byzantine icons and Aristotelian ethics in the wake of the Fourth Crusade. And lastly, I explore the fortunes of Late Byzantine ethico-aesthetics from three overlapping angles. The first is the Chora’s conversions into a mosque and museum. Second, the historiography of the Chora and Mystras vis-à-vis Western visual and intellectual culture. And third, the installation of Post-Byzantine and modern paintings, inspired by these sites, at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, where they are now inscribed into a pragmatist ethos of “art as experience.” By way of conclusion: in what ways might an understanding of their original ethical content enrich viewers’ experience of them at the Barnes, and the other way around?
Franka Horvat (UCLA)
The Elaphiti Islands (Croatia) and their maritime connections
This paper examines Adriatic and Mediterranean connections from the perspective of the Elaphiti Islands, a small archipelago located off the coast of Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik); one of the most important commercial centers in the medieval and early modern periods. The three islands in focus — Koločep, Lopud and Šipan — are rich in material remains and well-attested in documents from the Archive of Dubrovnik. They preserve abundant archaeological, architectural, sculptural and painted remains. Traces of settlements, including secular buildings, cisterns, agricultural facilities and paved paths, are still scattered around the islands. Moreover, fifteen churches with phases from the ninth to the thirteenth century survive on the islands, featuring architecture and decoration that fuse Byzantine, Western, and local elements. In this paper I situate the islands’ visual and material remains within a broad art-historical and archaeological context, with a particular focus on the churches’ remaining painted cycles which are entirely Byzantine in their subject matter. They contain a pantheon of Orthodox saints, as well as themes such as the Deesis and Christ flanked by the Archangels, painted in a way that is neither typical nor unprecedented in Byzantine monuments. Looking at the churches through the lens of Eastern Mediterranean artistic trends facilitates a reexamination of the role of these islands on the broader maritime stage. Analogies can be found in various sites of the Mediterranean, while the south of Italy and the Aegean and Ionian seas offer the most fruitful iconographic and stylistic parallels. Moreover, the Elaphiti churches share an unusual ornamental motif with at least fourteen other churches in the Mediterranean and Balkans: eleven of them in Greece, and one each in Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Italy. The painted material provides ample evidence of connectivity, which manifested itself in the movement of merchants and merchandise, and alongside them on the same ships people from different walks of life — craftsmen, priests and pilgrims — and their cargo. This is confirmed by the 13th – century documents from the Archive of Dubrovnik, which paint the picture of the islands’ vibrant communities and their inhabitants’ interrelations, as well as their business endeavors both in and outside the region. This paper, therefore, has a two-fold aim. On the one hand, it contradicts the long-lasting narrative of destitution and exploitation of small islands, reinvigorates them and restores their agency. On the other, it reevaluates the position of the Adriatic in broader Mediterranean networks.
Scott Kennedy (Bilkent University)
When Philosophers are Cardinals: Bessarion’s Platonism and Reforming the Basilian Monasteries of Southern Italy
In his Comparison of Aristotle and Plato (1458), George of Trebizond infamously attacked
Plato, claiming that Plato and his laws had ruined Byzantium; now the neopagan George
Gemistos (Plethon) and his disciples threatened Western Christendom. As scholars have long
recognized, George’s target here was the powerful cardinal Bessarion, Plethon’s former student.
While modern scholars have generally seen George’s claims as the product of resentment and a
conspiratorial mindset, this paper shows that George’s fears were not unfounded. While no
neopagan like Plethon, Bessarion arguably used his position as cardinal to implement Platonic
law. As is well known, Plethon had sought to apply Plato’s laws to save Byzantium, believing
Plato’s principals were universally responsible for the success of a people. Bessarion had later
echoed these sentiments and other Plethonic reforms in his letter to the despot Constantine
Palaiologos (after 1444), urging, for example, Byzantium’s ruling class to put aside manual
trades and money-making and pursue one and only one profession: governing a city. Bessarion’s
exhortations to implement Plato are well known, but almost no attention has been paid to his
actions as an actual legislator. As a case study, this paper offers his incompletely published
Basilian ‘rule’ written in 1457-8. As the protector of the Basilian monasteries of southern Italy,
Bessarion undertook to reform them. As a legislator, Bessarion made minimal claims to
originality, composing his rule from excerpts of Saint Basil’s writings, but his selection of
passages reveals a Platono-Christian influence. For example, the Italian translation of his work
reject the pursuit of money-making and forbid monks from adopting manual crafts, much as
Plato does for his citizens in the Laws. Other monasteries in the Greek tradition such as Saint
Athanasios’ rule for the Lavra on Mount Athos had allowed such trades. We can potentially see
Bessarion’s hand at work here, seeking to create a monastic life like that of the Republic’s more
divine politeia where “Everything is common: souls, minds, bodies, whatever nurtures and
supports bodies.” This paper thus shows how Bessarion sought to impose his own Platonic
tendencies on the Basilian monks of Italy, shedding light on one of the possible ways in which
George might have believed that Bessarion’s Platonism could corrupt Western Christendom
Young Richard Kim (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos on Constantine
This paper is about the portrayal of the emperor Constantine by Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos in
his monumental History of the Hellenic Nation, published in a series from 1860-74. Regarded by
many as the father of modern Greek historiography, Paparrigopoulos wrote in a time when the
fledgling Greek nation was still struggling to establish its national sovereignty and forge its
modern identity. His grand narrative of the history of Greece, its people, and their culture,
challenged prevailing views of his day, which espoused a discontinuity between ancient and
modern Greece and regarded the Byzantine period as one of decadence and decline.
Paparrigopoulos championed a history of Greece characterized by continuity and change, of
Hellenic culture and language, from antiquity to the present.
Paparrigopoulos imagined distinct ages of Hellenism, and even if at times foreign powers ruled,
nevertheless, Hellenism persisted and persevered. He resolved the inherent tensions of the pagan
origins of Greek religion with monotheistic Christianity by cleverly dissolving the polytheism of
his ancestors into an intermediate, amorphous monotheism, embodied in the godlike person of
Alexander of Macedon, which in turn laid the fertile ground for the inception of Christianity. The
proclamation of the Gospel, emphatically accomplished in Greek, was the culmination of this
providentially-guided historical process, which ushered in a new age, much of which unfolded
under the domination of the Romans.
But Roman rule and Christian faith, with their contrasting moral frameworks, set upon divergent
paths, ultimately resulting in the persecution of the latter by the former. This conflict was only
resolved with the conversion of Constantine. In his presentation of the first Christian emperor,
Paparrigopoulos initially emphasized the Roman identity of Constantine, but as he unfolded his
historical narrative, we find that Paparrigopoulos imagined Constantine’s thought and actions
reflecting more and more a Hellenic one. His was thus in some sense a “double” conversion,
from paganism to Christianity, from Roman-ness to Greekness. But upon closer examination,
Paparrigopoulos was ultimately making the argument that it was a singular change, because for
him, Christianity and Hellenism had become one and the same.
Constantine remains a polarizing figure, always subject to reimagination and reinterpretation.
Nineteenth-century Greek intellectual life was shaped as much by Enlightened as by Romantic
European thought, but Greek thinkers were also finding their own voice, especially in resistance
to the controversial theory that the Greeks of their Greece were not the same as those of old. But
what to do with Byzantium? For many, it was a middling middle age, the legacy of the Church.
But for Paparrigopoulos, Byzantium was an integral part of the Greek story, preserving and
propagating a Christian Hellenism and its ancient language. In order to do so, he had to make
sense of Constantine.
Ella Kirsh (Brown University)
Drawing morals in the eastern Roman empire: Stenography manuals as sub-elite social education
“THE TEACHER: Wield the rod to your heart’s content – instruct through chastisements”.
To those familiar with the rituals and rhythms of elite education throughout the early
Byzantine period, this advice harps on a familiar tune. Beatings were an accepted and well
documented part of late antique pedagogy. They were imagined as a critical tool supporting
the formation of a powerful future governing class. However, this nugget of pedagogical
wisdom originates in a source with little relevance to the annals of elite education: it comes
from a sixth-century wax tablet displaying sections from a stenographical instructional
manual (known as the ‘Commentary’). We might fairly assume that violence was pervasive
in non-elite classrooms too, but we need the ‘Commentary’ to substantiate this unremarkable
feature of non-elite educational experience. The Commentary’s readers were overwhelmingly
drawn from society’s lower rungs. Shorthand, an arduous discipline which took years to
master yet carried little cultural prestige, tended to be a pursuit of the enslaved, the recently
freed, the poor and those of low to middling status. Stenographical manuals thus plug an
important gap in the evidence: the intellectual lives and social realities of non-elite people in
the East Roman empire are far less accessible from traditional textual sources than those of
their higher status counterparts.
Enslaved literate workers have been subject to renewed attention in recent years, part of a
wider scholarly effort to include non-elite people within accounts of late antique ‘high
culture’. This paper builds on this approach by investigating how non-elite stenographers
learned to occupy their social role. In this paper, I use the contents of the shorthand
‘Commentary’ to illuminate the late antique curriculum of subordination. I argue that
stenographical students were in the habit of reading their textbooks for moral content as much
as for technical instruction.
Associative thinking lay at the heart of the Commentary’s methodology: each sign designated
not an individual word but rather each word in a short phrase, so that one sign stood for each
individual word of the above quoted pattern-phrase, διδάσκαλος: ἀρέσκων ἐπίπλησσε,
νουθετῶν δίδασκε (ed. Tovar & Worp, 2006). Phrases were artfully designed – and learned –
to communicate basic moral precepts, and shorthand writers internalised the system
thoroughly enough to translate between words and signs instantly. Contemporary observers
imagined that stenographical students memorised shorthand signs so deeply that God could
see them scratched onto their souls. Stenography’s reliance on associative thinking made the
substance of its connections enormously important: my paper brings this out through
explorations of: (i) the handbooks’ messages about the dangers of non-elite speech and (ii)
stenography’s implicit racial categorisations of othered groups.
The results of such an inquiry promise not simply to reveal stenographical manuals as
significant social historical documents, but also to complicate scholarly narratives about the
dimensions of elite self-conception. Ultimately, stenographical textbooks open a window
onto the imaginative resources of sub-elite shorthand writers, whose underrepresentation as
protagonists of historical narratives belie the complexity of their intellectual training and the
importance of the stories they had to tell.
Joseph Kopta (Temple University)
The Gospel Lectionary of Katherine Komnena and New Directions in Manuscript Studies
At present, four leaves of the so-called Lectionary of Katherine Komnena, also known as the
Phanar Lectionary, are deposited in two American collections — the two individual cut leaves
containing evangelist portraits of St. Luke and St. Matthew at the Cleveland Museum of Art
(1942.1511, 1942.1512); and the two leaves at Dumbarton Oaks, containing the evangelist
portrait of St. Mark, as well as the folio with the beginning lections from the Gospel of St.
Matthew (BZ.1979.31.1–.2). As Gary Vikan observed in 1980, this Lectionary is remarkable in
that it preserved a dedicatory colophon assigning it to imperial patronage, and specifying the
precise monastic institution where it was intended to be used. The manuscript’s colophon was
documented in the early twentieth century by Charles Diehl, indicating the patroness as Empress
Katherine Komnena, and the intended recipient as the Monastery of the Holy Trinity on Halki
(Heybeliada), one of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara, in 1063 CE.
In 2021, the author, together with Marissa Bartz, performed analytical investigation of the two
full-folio illuminations of St. Luke and St. Matthew. This involved the in situ non-invasive
examination with X-ray fluorescence (XRF) on particular spots across the two manuscript
leaves. While XRF technology is not able to detect any organic materials which may be present,
such as various lakes, plant-, or insect-based colorants, a variety of inorganic pigments and
materials were identified, including lead white, lapis lazuli, and vermillion.
Of the three extant full-page evangelist portraits from this Lectionary in American collections,
the high quality of the illumination and the technological investigation of the polychromy allow
for a better understanding of the palette as well as the painting techniques of this particular
imperially-patronized manuscript. This paper considers the execution of this deluxe codex in
light of the recent new material data provided from last year’s investigation, and reads in these
materials a model of artistic production for this eleventh-century work. Through a close reading
of pigments, style, and iconography, the paper identifies two different artists at work in the
extant folios of the Lectionary of Katherine Komnena, and considers the hypothetical two artists
as working side-by-side with the same materials in the execution of different folios destined for
the same manuscript. Furthermore, in describing the process of technical investigation of this
manuscript, the paper concludes by suggesting that the type of non-invasive studies conducted
here become more standardized practice in any codicological study of Byzantine manuscripts, in
collaboration with conservators and materials sciences.
Karin Krause (The University of Chicago)
Visual Exegesis in the Palatina Psalter
After mid-twentieth century scholarship disparaged its miniatures as a result of mindless
copying, the Palatina Psalter (Ms. Vat. Pal. gr. 381) has attracted hardly any attention. The large
psalter, dating from the later thirteenth century, once contained four full-page miniatures. In
the early twentieth century, they were cut out of the manuscript and bound as a separate
volume. The four images, three of which find close iconographical parallels in the tenth-century
Paris Psalter (Ms. Paris. gr. 139), were originally arranged in pairs on facing pages. Before their
lamentable removal from the book, one pair was situated at the start of the psalter, and the
other before Psalm 77. The paper focuses the second pair, which juxtaposes two different
pictorial versions of the transmission of the Law to Moses as their main subject. Analyzing their
iconography through the lens of Byzantine exegetical literature, I argue that their painter
cleverly designed these images as a unit conveying a shared message. Viewed together, they
present a sophisticated visual argument showcasing the supersession of the old Law by the new
covenant in Christ, a popular theme in Byzantine literature.
The major iconographic features of the Palatina Psalter’s first miniature find close parallels in
the Paris Psalter (f. 422v), where the image depicting the transmission of the Law serves as a
frontispiece to the Second Ode of Moses (Deuteronomy 32). The second miniature finds no
precedent in the Paris Psalter, and its iconography is indeed unique in Byzantine art. In previous
scholarship, it has been regarded as a pastiche of various details its painter copied haphazardly
from different miniatures of the Paris Psalter, a view that hardly does this image justice.
Particularly the figure of the Ancient of Days, who delivers the Law to Moses in this version,
adds an interpretive dimension that should not be easily dismissed. The figure’s textual basis
(Daniel 7) and its pictorial details suggest an eschatological interpretation of the image that is
tied to the supersessionist claims both miniatures seek to make. Byzantine homiletics and
hymnology convey an interpretation of the vision of Daniel as a prophetic revelation of the Son
before his physical appearance on Earth. Moses, as the Palatina miniature suggests in
accordance with textual exegesis, was privileged to recognize the true significance of the Law as
a spiritual Law given by the preexisting divine Logos.
The shift in the first miniature’s relation to the text—now introducing a psalm that attracted
markedly Christological interpretations among Byzantine exegetes and artists—is likewise
significant. The theological message conveyed by the Palatina Psalter’s pair of images led to
subtle, yet important, iconographical adjustments in the first miniature with regard to its tenthcentury
model. By no means should this miniature be regarded as an example of slavish
copying, as has been the case. On the contrary, the evidence of the Palatina Psalter illustrates
that artists responded to the pictorial tradition creatively and in an informed manner.
Derek Krueger (University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Institute for Advanced Study)
The Destruction of Sodom in Byzantine Exegesis
This paper has two aims: first, to trace the various meanings of the destruction of Sodom in
Genesis 19 in Greek writers, particularly from the ninth to eleventh centuries, as these readings
converged to express opprobrium toward male same-sex relations; and second, to explore the
wide range of evidence for biblical interpretation in the middle Byzantine period beyond the
genre of biblical commentary. Reference in historiography, hagiography, and hymnography to
Sodom and the sins of the Sodomites reinforced disgust toward and condemnation of men
penetrating other man, such that the story of Sodom came to encapsulate God’s hatred of male
homosexuality, a hatred expressed with the appearance of a fiery hell before its time.
John Chrysostom offered divergent interpretations of Sodom’s sin, variously inhospitality and
homosexual rape. Later Byzantine commentators focused on male same-sex penetration, whether
consensual or not. Byzantine exegetes underscored this interpretation when they considered the
writing of Paul, including Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and Jesus’ own mentions of
Sodom in Matthew 11:23-24 and Luke 17:28-30. Thus while New Testament scholars have
rightly demonstrated that none of these passages refers in its historical context to male
homosexuality as such, by the end of late antiquity, they were conventionally understood to
condemn male same-sex behavior, particularly one man’s act of penetrating another. And while
Mark Jordan (1997) posited an “invention of sodomy” in the Latin West to the eleventh century
and the works of Peter Damian, this identification of Sodom and homosexuality was by then long
established in the Greek East although not universal, and often paired with the terms
arsenokoitia (male penetration of men) and paidophthoria (the corruption or rape of [usually
World historians, such as George Synkellos and Theophanes the Confessor, do not identify the
sin of Sodom in their recounting of biblical history, but in his ninth-century Chronography,
George the Monk invokes the destruction of Sodom while relating an episode in Justianian’s
reign in which the emperor accused two bishops of raping boys. The Old Testament History, or
Palaia Historica, a composite work of the ninth-century, condemns the “Gomorrosodomites”
who searched for men to violate. The law code ventured in the fictional tenth-century Life of
Gregentios imposes the death penalty for “the licentiousness of the Sodomites” and provides
rules against boys “meeting unsupervised and playing on feast days” to prevent such behavior. In
the roughly contemporary Life of Basil the Younger, the saint rebukes and publicly shames a
eunuch named Samonas who engaged in “the deeds of Sodomites.” The Life of Niphon bemoans
the persistence of “sodomitical fornication” into the present. Symeon the New Theologian
declared himself to be a “sodomite in deed and desire.” On the other hand, in his Commentary on
Luke, the eleventh-century exegete Theophylact of Ochrid associated the Sodomites more
generally with “shameful pleasures” and the “lewd sensualists” who “abandon themselves to
unlawful pleasure” in the time of the Antichrist. These investigation contribute to a history of
homosexuality in Byzantium.
Charles Kuper (Sapienza Università di Roma & Bryn Mawr College)
“A Wondrous Work Filled with Wondrous Deeds” The Programmatic Relationship between Text and Image in the Menologion of Basil II
Containing more than four hundred golden illuminations, the Menologion of Basil II was certainly a book fit for an emperor. So confident were its makers, in fact, that they did not hesitate to compare their work to God’s creation, though they credited Basil with their success in the dedicatory poem. Just as God had fashioned the cosmos by spreading out the heavens like a skin (δέρρις) and arranging the planets and the stars with his word (λόγος), so had Basil filled his parchment codex with the shining constellations of the saints and circumscribed them with a written account of their pious lives (cf. Vat. gr. 1613, xiii). This striking image reveals the interpretative framework required for understanding the manuscript. The images and the texts must be read in tandem. Because previous scholarly interest has been divided mostly along disciplinary lines and because the texts themselves have received very little attention since the nineteenth century, such an approach to the Menologion is long overdue.
In this paper, I show how the texts and the illuminations are in close conversation with each other, and I argue that interdisciplinary study is essential for advancing our understanding of this multimedia luxury object. I begin with a discussion of the manuscript’s unique format: one page was allotted to each saint (or group of saints), and it was equally divided into two parts, a rectangular illumination and sixteen lines of Greek text, along with the title and date at the top. Then I turn my attention to how this format posed problems for scribe and artist alike, and I demonstrate how collaboration played a key role in overcoming these challenges. The scribes, for example, were required to prepare texts of uniform length for every entry. This meant that the textual traditions of important saints had to be pared down to fit the space, while those for poorly attested saints had to be expanded in some way. During this process of abridgment, expansion, and revision, a favorite strategy was the addition of direct speech into the narrative. Not only does this dialogue enhance the theatricality of the illuminations, but sometimes the spoken words mark the very moment depicted and give a voice to the painted figures. Likewise, the artists were assigned the staggering task of producing hundreds of different images. Examples abound of how they coordinated their work with the texts to add variation and personal detail. To name only two, the clothing of Daniel and the three youths was colored coded to represent the complex series of events described in the accompanying text (251). For the adjacent entries of Saints Philemon, Apollonios, Arrian, and their companions, the artist incorporated events narrated from both texts into a comic strip-like spread of three scenes that span the two illuminations (244–245). I conclude this paper by reviewing how my holistic reading provides new paths forward in the study of the Menologion.
John Lansdowne (Villa I Tatti)
Cardinal Bessarion’s Ecumenical Epitaph
This paper proceeds from a close analysis of the commemorative monument of Cardinal Bessarion:
Latin Patriarch of Constantinople and, to the intellectual and political community of fifteenthcentury
Italy, a living remnant of the lost world of Byzantium. Located at the Basilica dei Santi
XII Apostoli in Rome, the monument includes two short epitaphs, one in Latin and the other in
Greek, which speak to Bessarion’s unique symbolic diplomatic position, his erudition, and the
circumstances of his career. Famously dubbed by contemporary as “the most Greek of the Latins
and the most Latin of the Greeks,” Bessarion, perhaps more than any other figure, was tasked with
bridging—indeed, embodying—the cultural and confessional divide separating Eastern and Western
Christianity, particularly after 1453. Designed by Bessarion himself and set up while he was
still alive, the verbal and visual content of the monument reflect the cardinal’s dual identity and
essential mediating role. More broadly, the monument served to represent the union of Churches—
a union envisioned under the overarching aegis of Papal Rome. This paper recounts the material
history of Bessarion’s monument and compares it with a longer and more elaborate funerary inscription
in Latin, which catalogues the cardinal’s titles and deeds. Finally, the paper contextualizes
the commemorative inscriptions with an examination of Bessarion’s stemma (coat-of-arms),
including examples carved onto the monument itself as well as others found in Los Angeles among
the manuscript collections of the Getty Museum. Set beneath an image of the cosmos and consisting
of two human arms—left always over right—extended to grasp the True Cross, in reference to
the East Christian iconography of Constantine and Helena, the stemma is an ecumenical emblem.
Its charges and their configuration promote the new reality of the Orthodox Church and its Byzantine
imperial legacy: all one, subsumed into Rome.
Christopher Livanos (University of Wisconsin—Madison)
Christopher of Mytilene at the Races
The epigrams of Christopher of Mytilene portray a broad spectrum of activities in the life of eleventh-century Constantinople. Sporting events and the day-to-day life of artisans and laborers figure in his poetic corpus alongside imperial panegyrics and commemorations of religious feasts. As we read his summaries of chariot races, descriptions of fishermen casting nets, or accounts of ecclesiastical and imperial processions, a distinct feature that stands out throughout his work is attention to motion. A sense emerges in Christopher’s poetry that life is a race. He is informed by the Indo-European metaphor of life as a chariot race, in which the athlete must harmoniously integrate the movements of the self, the equipment, and the animals (all of which carry rich symbolic connotations) to reach a desirable outcome. Art, labor, and religious practice combine in much of Christopher’s work into a performative competition that will only be resolved in the afterlife.
As a poet composing epigrams to accompany works of visual art, Christopher often enhances the viewer/reader’s experience by emphasizing kinetic aspects of the scenes depicted in visual art. His description of the Savior looking down from the ceiling of Oaton Hall evokes the sense of Christ’s imminent return. A poem on the bronze statue of a horse at the hippodrome warns the reader to get out of the way so as not to be trampled. The performative context of the Byzantine epigram leads Christopher to emphasize motion as a way to stimulate the audience’s engagement with dynamic aspects of portraiture and sculpture. His epigrams both praise the visual artist’s ability to invoke dynamism in a static image and enhance the quality they praise. It has famously been noted that the Byzantine Empire had the longest and deepest debate on the function and meaning of art. If the debate was largely settled by Christopher’s time, his work shows that the artistic traditions earlier Byzantine generations had analyzed and theorized on so intensely provided inspiration for poetry rooted in the most ancient traditions while also engaged with the everyday events that interested people in his society. A remarkable example is his description of a chariot crash in Poem 6, in which he references Pindaric and Orphic traditions rooted ancient Indo-European cultures, all while giving an entertaining account of contemporary local sporting events.
The paper’s exploration of themes of competition in Christopher’s work will then turn from athletic competition and sports metaphors to competition between rival poets. A reading of poem 36 will examine evidence that eleventh-century Byzantium had a lively tradition of public, competitive poetic performance, usually invective in nature and improvised in colloquial Greek. In this poem, he references Hercules and Meleager’s hunt of the Caledonian boar to call a rival poet a pig and challenge him to a public competition. Again, we see in Christopher’s work the representation of a vibrant society deeply aware of an ancient heritage that it could draw from humorously and innovatively.
Regina M. Loehr (Grinnell College)
Searching the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae® Digital Library
As a digital library of over ten thousand Greek texts, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae® (TLG) contains a large amount of information and continues to expand, now in its fiftieth year. The TLG expansion has added and includes over six thousand texts from the Late Antique and Byzantine periods. This presentation provides strategies for sorting and benefitting from such a mass of information and features the tools and resources available on the online TLG platform. Text searches facilitate a wide variety of research activities, and we demonstrate and explore the range of wildcard, word form, lemma, textual, and proximity searches. In 2019 the new Advanced Proximity text search function became available, which we highlight. We demonstrate tools which enhance browsing of the texts, such as the parallel browse function, morphology, and n-grams. We introduce other, broad resources available such as statistics, vocabulary, lexica, and the searchable canon. Since the TLG corpus of texts grows with each update, search results can change, so we demonstrate how to save and cite searches. Participants are encouraged to bring potential search terms and questions for discussion.
Alex Magnolia (University of Minnesota)
Gene, Ethne, and Christianoi in the Letters of Nicholas Mystikos
Patriarch Nicholas I Mystikos (901-907, 912-925) kept correspondence with missionaries
sowing the faith in the Caucasus, popes in Old Rome, emperors, bureaucrats, and churchmen
within Byzantium, and heads of state—including Tsar Symeon of Bulgaria and Abbasid Caliph
al-Muqtadir. In his extant corpus of 200 letters and a sermon, spanning a quarter-century at the
height of the Byzantine church and state, a rhetorical and philosophical theme of kinship,
belonging, and faith community persists. He repeatedly articulated, particularly in letters to
Symeon, his position as the “father of the Christian folk,” with all the obligations and
consequences of this sense of spiritual paternity; just as Symeon was obliged to obey him as an
errant son would a stern father, so too the caliph was commanded to not mistreat Nicholas’
spiritual children—Christians in the Abbasid domains. Within this paternal, familial thoughtworld
of the genos ton Christianon were the various ethnoi that comprised the “family:”
Romans, Bulgarians, and others, even eastern, non-Chalcedonian Christians. Nicholas viewed
himself as responsible for all of them. The nuances and shades of gray between the ideas of
genos, ethnos, laos, and basileia are illustrated well in the corpus. I use this important familialecclesiastical
language to assess Nicholas’ assertion of the universality of his office and his claim
of pastoral care over Christians well outside his sphere of influence, notably those in Bulgaria
and in the Abbasid Caliphate. It therefore dialogues with ongoing historiographical debates on
the nature and extent of Byzantine missionary activity and the role of the patriarchate within the
Christian world long before the patriarchs of Constantinople claimed the notion of ecumenicity
in their titulature. Additionally, by viewing the intersections of Byzantium, Bulgaria, and the
Abbasids, this paper adopts a regional and Mediterranean view of the phenomenon of spiritual
kinship and paternity.
Georgios Makris (University of British Columbia)
Adorning the Dead: Jewelry and Users in the Byzantine Cemetery
Jewelry was both economically and affectively a highly charged category of artifact in the Byzantine world. The great number and range of extant items of personal adornment, dress accessories and precious small-scale artifacts bear witness to the pervasive importance of jewelry in the lives of the Byzantines. While scholars have systematically addressed issues of manufacture, date, and typology for numerous—typically metal—pieces of jewelry that survive in museum collections around the world, they also acknowledge that most of these artifacts have been detached from their original socio-cultural and historical contexts, which would potentially offer important insights into the objects’ function and acquired meanings. Indeed, recent studies of jewelry items in other geographical and temporal contexts, have demonstrated that jewelry had the capacity to convey values beyond the ornamental; it could contribute to the construction of one’s identity, social status, noble character or actions while participating in social relations. Due to its intimate contact with the body, jewelry attracted the eyes of wearers and viewers alike.
This paper examines the articles of personal adornment recovered from the excavation of a middle Byzantine cemetery near Igoumenitsa, in Epiros, Greece in tandem with museum artifacts, in order to consider what jewelry meant for people in practice. Work on excavated jewelry pieces in western medieval Europe has demonstrated that the meaning of such objects depended on their context in time and space. The archaeological site of my focus produced primarily modest and base metal objects, almost exclusively made of bronze. In highlighting the value of addressing everyday and mundane artifacts worn by non-elite individuals, this paper draws attention to the importance of the funerary context in the study of jewelry in middle Byzantium. Accordingly, the discovered objects provide information about the dead but also their mourning relatives, who were responsible for adorning their deceased. By focusing on an understudied region and a little-known site, the discussion reveals the key role jewelry and dress accessories came to play in the lives, social relations and funerary rituals of the residents of a small settlement in Epiros.
In addition to considering materials from individual graves, on a more theoretical level, I attempt to shift focus from the notion of precious jewelry as “luxury art” toward more ordinary items, including bronze bracelets, rings, and earrings, whose forms are fragmentary and deteriorated. Due to their usage in graves, some of these items tell stories that often included several stages and changes in their original form and function. Tracking these changes can shed light on the objects’ actual users and their lives. Ultimately, this paper aims to disentangle the study of jewelry from an enquiry into consumption patterns or the development of fashion. It instead situates a number of personal artifacts in a discussion about social meaning, self-perception and mortuary practices in the Byzantine countryside.
Svetlana Smolčić Makuljević (Belgrade Metropolitan University)
Mysterious Tombs: Visual Memory of Saints Anchorites in the Interiors of Medieval Churches in Serbia
This paper deals with the visual memory, the architectural structures inside a church –
chapels, ciboria, but also reliquaries, sarcophagi, shrines and painting programs connected to
the cult of relics of saints anchorites in Serbian medieval visual culture.
The phenomenon of miracle and wonder working of bodies of saints’ anchorites influenced
the creation of different visual models in the shaping of sacred space of church interiors in
medieval Serbia. In this paper this will be shown in the selected examples of the cults of holy
anchorites such as Saint Prohor of Pčinja (11th century), Saint Gavril of Lesnovo (14th
century) and Saint Joanikije of Devič (15th century).
In the interior space of the church of Saint Prohor of Pčinja, the space of the cult of the holy
hermit is linked to a small chapel next to the medieval church. Legend has it that in the
western part of this chapel the relics of the saint have been built into the wall. The present
oozing of myrrh from this wall is a constant reminder of the miracles, but the recent
archeological research did not find traces of relics. The cult of Saint Prohor of Pčinja is
traditionally linked with the Byzantine emperor Romanos IV Diogenes (c. 1030-1072) for
whom the holy man, while he stayed on this territory, prophesied that he would become
In the church of Saint Archangel in Lesnovo, the fresco-painting traces and tradition testify to
the fact that there was once a sarcophagus (kivot) containing relics of Saint anchorite Gavrilo
in the church. The cult of Saint Gavrilo of Lesnovo is visually accentuated by a kind of
architectural construction in the altar space that is reminiscent of an arcosolium. In the
tradition the place where the relics stood is a continual locus of miracle and after the
disappearance of relics and sarcophagus.
Within the church dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, which according to
tradition, was built on the site where the little church was renovated by Djuradj Branković
(1377-1456), there is a chapel housing the marble sarcophagus of the Saint Joanikije of Devič,
the place of wonder working till today. Church poetry, hagiographies and services, as well as
the tradition of this saint, are connected to his life in the wilderness and solitude of the Devič
mount. According to them, Saint Joanikije practiced asceticism at the root of a tree, following
the Byzantine tradition of holy dendrites.
In historiography, the cult of holy anchorites of medieval Serbia was researched using written
sources. This paper will investigate the visual dimension and visual memory of a miraculous
cult of anchorites and the changing nature of sacred space connected with their cult in
different time periods.
Ivan Marić (Dumbarton Oaks)
Emperor Constantine V as Dragon-slayer Revisited
An encomiastic tale with a popular flavor surviving in the ninth-century Gesta
Episcoporum Neapolitanorum portrays Emperor Constantine V (r. 741-775) as an epic hero
slaying a giant dragon that was guarding the aqueduct and killing the citizens of
Constantinople. A heroic figure fighting a dragonesque monster belongs to the primordial
combat myth universally told since time immemorial. Within the symbolic universe of the
Byzantine Christian empire, the snake and snake-like beasts most commonly represented the
forces of the devil, or more generally, a spiritual, unseen evil. The dragon-slaying feat was a
property of Christ, who empowered the saints to do the same, and the motif often appears in
hagiographies, but the epic representing an emperor as a dragon-slayer as preserved in the
Gesta is without parallel in Byzantine literature.
Several recent studies treating the epic tried to offer an interpretation of the particular
symbolism behind the dragon. Yet, looking at parallel examples of dragon-encounters in
hagiographies from the same period broadly construed, the symbolism behind the dragon is
seldom anything specific; or rather, almost never anything more than a relatively generic
symbol of evil and a mortal threat. Instead of focusing on what the dragon may represent, I
propose that a broader analysis of the dragon-slaying motif in the Byzantine symbolic
universe may provide us with a better understanding of what such representation makes of
Constantine V. In other words, what were the implications of an emperor being presented as
a dragon-slayer? Seeking plausible answers to this question, I will first contextualize the
main aspects of the legend and show how these relate to Emperor Constantine V. Surveying
broader material/iconographic and textual evidence, I will then trace the motif in the
Byzantine symbolic universe as near to the time of Constantine V as the sources allow and
offer a range of interpretations in conclusion, proposing, inter alia, that such portrayal
brought the emperor into the proximity of and in competition with saintly figures.
Andrea Mattiello (Independent Scholar)
Shared Visual Antiquarianism Across the Adriatic: Cyriacus of Ancona and His Network in the 15th Century
Between the late fourteenth and the mid fifteenth century, during the late Palaiologan period,
scholars in the east and west Adriatic Sea believed that, given the challenges of the time, a
shared appreciation for, and reception of, antiquity could strengthen Greco-Latin polities via
diplomatic, economic and cultural exchanges. Amongst the promoters of this idea were
scholars like Georgios Gemistos Plethon and intellectuals like Cyriacus of Ancona. The first
has been studied in the context of the Byzantine textual production and political thinking of
the period. But he was also an assiduous promoter of the revival of ancient philosophy and, in
particular, of Plato. He turned to antiquity in search of common ground between East and
West, and was in turn admired at the Italian courts. The latter, Cyriacus, has been studied in
the context of the Italian humanist erudition. However, little scholarship has been devoted to
analysing and understanding the artistic and cultural implications of the interactions between
Greeks and Italians across the coasts of the Adriatic, through manuscripts, objects, artefacts,
Cyriacus was an erudite merchant who travelled along the commercial routes of the Adriatic
and the Mediterranean, visiting centres along the coasts of Dalmatia and Morea, islands like
Zante and cities like Patras. In his travels he always found opportunities to discuss, identify
and survey evidence of the ancient past, such as classic texts from antique manuscripts,
ancient gems and coins, epigraphic inscriptions, Greco-Roman sculptures and urban
settlements. This evidence informed how he and other Italian humanists understood the
antique world. For example, when Cyriacus studied the Arch of Trajan in the port of Ancona,
he recognized it as a vestige of Rome, but only understood it as an urban authority after
visiting Constantinople and seeing how Roman artefacts had been incorporated by the heirs
of Rome into the urban fabric of that city.
The paper focuses on a selection of case studies of ancient authorities as diverse as the Arch
of Trajan in Ancona, diary entries by Cyriacus such as the one he wrote after visiting the
ruins and seeing spolia around Cape Tenaro, the manuscripts D.XXVII.2 from the Biblioteca
Malatestiana in Cesena that belonged to Cyriacus and the Eutyches cameo with the bust of
Athena now in the State Museums Berlin. Cyriacus surveyed, studied, and collected these
case studies and discussed them in his writings as well as with his network of Greek and
Italian scholars. The paper reassesses these and other case studies showing how they were
considered sources for establishing authorities based on ancient logos and models by
intellectuals on both sides of the Adriatic.
Hallie G. Meredith (Washington State University)
Shaping Viewer Experience through Images of Unfinished Work: Making in the Fifth-Eighth Centuries CE
Images of labor and laborers were uncommon in classical antiquity, but the early Byzantine period in particular offers a handful of varied depictions highlighting unfinished work as the primary objective. Byzantium marks an important turning point in the visual history of work and working. This may be in part because, as scholars have demonstrated, the sixth century is a watershed moment in the visibility of artisans and merchants in urban centers. Before this period, craftworkers and traders were largely absent from the archaeological record. Despite a dearth of production sites, retail shops or workshops, surviving examples are concentrated between the fourth and eighth centuries CE in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially around the sixth century CE in urban centers.
Scholarship concerning the appropriation of workers bodies in general, on the “othering” of manual work and workers, in particular in the fifth-eighth centuries CE is often overlooked.
This is, in part, due to a dearth of imagery portraying laborers as a central visual focus. For instance, there is an uncertain relationship between the deceased and images of peripheral workers in funerary monuments. Although it is unusual to have images of everyday work as a primary visual focus, in early Byzantium workers are represented in the process of making, using tools (such as hand tools, pulleys, winches), and in various stages of production (for example, assembling, carrying, planing, sawing). However, it is their objective – i.e. the work that they are shown making – that appears to be the primary focus of any image of a laboring body. Whether the identities of workers depicted is known or unknown, they and their unfinished work are vehicles to serve purposes from the moralistic and evangelical in religious contexts to self-aggrandizing in secular contexts. Workers’ bodies and unfinished work portrayed are themselves tools.
Scholars have not yet considered representations of fifth-eighth century CE work produced in scenes of skilled and unskilled laborers – in particular with respect to images of unfinished, potentially parallel narratives and self-referential viewing. The present study analyzes an unprecedented in-process mosaic scene representing the construction of the Tower of Babel from a fifth century CE Jewish synagogue, eighth century CE Ananias ivories and, as well as other examples of unfinished works from the time period, addressing anonymous workers depicted performing unfinished labor contrasted with an identified artisan portrayed engaged in ongoing work. While laboring bodies appear to be at the core of images of work produced by means of in process, unfinished work, representations of workers working serve to highlight the purpose behind the making, thereby focusing attention onto the viewers and their experience. With implications concerning economic theory and servitude, the workers’ highlighted bodies and conspicuous visibility therefore serve a larger agenda. The true focus is contemporaneous viewers, who are turned into witnesses.
Chiara Monaco (Ghent University)
In Search of Lost Ἀττικισμός: Metalinguistic Reflections on the Idea of Attic
This paper provides a frame of reference to investigate which perspectives and approaches the
Byzantines inherited in their conceptualization of the Attic register. Byzantine metalinguistic
views do not stand in a void but reflect on previous attitudes to language that must be taken
into consideration to put medieval approaches in a historical perspective. This shared
theoretical framework for studying Greek metalinguistic observations is only one aspect of
the continuity that characterized the Greek language from ancient until modern times.
In his attempt to promote the use of Attic, Phrynichus, one of the most intransigent purists of
the second century CE, claims: “if anyone gives a choice to people, whether they preferred to
discourse anciently and accurately or in a new and careless way, they would give anything to
become fellow-voters of the better party. For there is no one so wretched to prefer the ugly to
the beautiful.” In the middle of Roman domination, the development of a movement called
Atticism offered the Greek élite a way to present themselves as the heirs of their glorious past
by imitating the language of the classical authors: Attic became the embodiment of the
‘purest’ and ‘noblest’ form of the language and the model for the belletristic production of the
But what do lexicographers and grammarians mean when they refer to Attic? While the
common opinion is to see Atticism as an attempted imitation of the Attic of classical
literature, lexicographical sources and textbooks from the second century tell us a different
story. The interpretation of ‘Attic’ as ‘the appropriate language’, which is constantly defined
according to different parameters – which are not the ones we use as historical linguists –
determines an ideological attitude that shaped Greek self-reflections on language for the
following centuries. Thus, in evaluating the continuity of Greek metalinguistic observations
from ancient to medieval times, one question has yet to be answered: What is ‘Attic’?
The analysis of metalinguistic reflections on language that I propose in this paper focuses on
four works from Imperial and Byzantine lexica (Phrynichus, Orus, Tzetzes and Thomas
Magistros) and, in particular, on passages discussing the presence of hapax legomena in
ancient sources and the authenticity of ancient works. The analysis of these passages will
show that the label ‘Attic’, used as a synonym of ‘correct’, loses any clear linguistic
connection with the Attic of classical literature. Thus, this evoked ‘Attic’ should best be seen
as an abstract concept defined from aesthetic, social, and moral perspectives rather than as a
well-defined body of linguistic rules established on classical sources.
The ideological stances of these metalinguistic sources and their obsession with the idea of
appropriateness (εὐπρέπεια) in the language are the framework within which we should
immerse ourselves in order to achieve a less anachronistic interpretation of this material and
to grasp a continuity in metalinguistic perspectives which is too often overlooked.
Ugo Mondini (Ghent University)
Towards a New Appraisal of Schedography What Greek Was Taught by Longibardos? And How?
Schedography is a method of teaching Greek grammar that consists in the analysis of short
narrative texts in prose, verse, or both (in Greek: schedē). Since these texts are meant to train
students in orthography and syntax, their phrasing is cluttered with syntactical complexities,
uncommon words, and words that are different despite sounding or being written the same
(i.e., homophones and homographs). Students had to restore the correct form of the text.
Schedography also succeeded in familiarizing them both with the use of different registers of
the Greek language and with more advanced rhetorical exercises. This method was used for
more than five hundred years, from the eleventh century to the early modern period, and it
impacted massively on Medieval Greek writing practices. Nevertheless, it is not easily
appreciated as no grammatical rule nor any reference to the historical context are explicitly
This paper deals with an early schedographical text, the Digressions on syntax and antistoicha
by Longibardos. Anna Komnene (1083–c. 1153) only attests that Longibardos was a leading
figure among those schedographers who were active until the first decade of the twelfth
century. What is sure is that Longibardos’ textbook is the oldest text that is explicitly labelled
as ‘schedographical’ by medieval manuscripts; while most schedographic exercises are
gathered in multi-author collections, it is the only extensive schedographical textbook
ascribed to a single author before the one by Manuel Moschopoulos (14th century).
Through this paper, I present the problems and the goals in developing a modern scientific
approach to understand Longibardos’ textbook. The aim is (i) to develop an innovative format
for the (digital) edition; (ii) to understand how Longibardos conceived and taught the Greek
language and its various registers; and (iii) to assess his teaching method.
To this end, I select a relevant passage from Longibardos’ textbook that deals with both
homophones and homographs (in Greek: antistoicha) as well as with an interesting syntactical
construction. First, I show how it is displayed within the surviving manuscripts (main text,
layout, marginal and interlinear notes). After presenting my edition of the passage, I illustrate
my comprehensive linguistic survey, the aim of which is to explain (i) which Greek was
taught and how high-register Atticized Medieval Greek is shaped within the text; and (ii) how
Longibardos conceived the Greek language. In doing so, I also explain how Longibardos’
teaching method works and his didactic strategy.
By providing the audience with my linguistic analysis I aim at fostering discussion about
broader considerations that will be addressed in a later stage of my research on eleventhcentury
schedography. Who were the group of people whose educational needs schedography
was developed to meet? Were they Greek native speakers, non-native speakers, or both? Why
did schedography emerge in the eleventh century?
Robert Nelson (Yale University)
A Byzantine Lectionary and True Cross Relic in Renaissance Florence
A note at the back of a little-known Greek lectionary in the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence
(Med. Palat. 243) describes the purchase of the manuscript and passion relics from a Greek
refugee from Constantinople. Dated August 1454, the entry includes the names of the presiding
magistrates of the city and notes that the manuscript cost 400 florins, a considerable sum at the
time. The lectionary was placed in a new tabernacle at the back of the audience hall of the
Palazzo dei Priori, the center of Florentine government and the present-day Palazzo Vecchio.
The present paper will focus on the passion relics and suggest an origin for them in late
Byzantine Constantinople. Other sources record their cost as 600 florins. The Florentine
government paid for the manuscript; the Duomo and its benefactors, the relics, the most
important of which was a small piece of wood of the True Cross. At the cathedral, the latter was
placed in another tabernacle located above the main altar. That original context was lost, when in
the seventeenth century, a Florence goldsmith set the Byzantine True Cross at the center of an
elaborate Baroque reliquary commissioned by the Florentine ruler Cosimo II and his consort
Maria Magdalena of Austria. This relic is little known to Byzantinists, but of course Florentine
scholars have published it, assigning it to the eleventh century. I will argue instead that its history
is more complicated, because while parts are eleventh century, most of the decoration is
Palaiologan. Thus, it and the other relics can contribute to the history of the passion relics in late
Byzantine Constantinople after the Latins supposed sold everything to King Louis IX of France,
who then built the Sainte Chapelle to house them.
Marthe Nemegeer (Ghent University)
What’s in a Name? Redefining the Concept of Attic through Byzantine Textbooks: The Case of Maximos Planoudes’ Attikismoi
Medieval Greek is a fascinating language. Far from being monolithic, it proves to be extremely varied, whether it is analyzed synchronously or studied diachronically. Analyzing texts of the same period, we note multiple coexisting registers, ranging from high-register/ Atticizing Greek, to the so-called Schriftkoine, to various vernacular forms close to the Greek actually spoken at various levels of society. They contribute to the pragmatic goals of the authors. Looking at Medieval Greek diachronically, one can state that each register, while retaining its own physiognomy, changes throughout the centuries due to several factors, just like any other language.
The form and functional distribution of the various Medieval Greek linguistic registers elicit many questions from modern linguists. Contemporary linguists, for example, have convincingly stated that high-register / Atticized Medieval Greek cannot be regarded as a better or worse imitation of the ancient Attic dialect. Similarly, some ‘non-Attic’ characteristics of Atticized Medieval Greek (such as coordinated verbs in the future depending on a historical tense to indicate an iterative action in the past) should not be considered as ‘deviations from ancient canons’, but rather as accepted norms within a certain moment in the history of high-register Medieval Greek.
Now: if Medieval Greek consists of various registers, each changing over time and used by the authors to communicate; if Atticized Medieval Greek is not an acritical imitation of the 5th cent. BCE Attic-Ionic; if modern Attic-Ionic grammar books and decontextualized linguistic observations cannot decisively enlighten our understanding of Medieval Greek, contemporary historical linguistics should then ask: What was ‘Attic’ for a Byzantine of a certain area and period?
My paper aims to address this question by giving the floor to the Byzantines themselves. This implies studying a neglected set of sources: the Byzantines’ self-reflections on language preserved in then-current textbooks for the teaching of Greek.
I take a textbook as a case study to discuss challenging material: Maximos Planoudes’ Attikismoi, a mysterious list contrasting ‘Koinè’ and ‘Attic’ linguistic features. Firstly, this remarkable source enables me to address one of the reasons that prevented scholars from taking textbooks into adequate account, namely the fact that textbooks are so-far poorly – if ever – edited. The turbulent textual transmission of Planoudes’ Attikismoi (lost manuscripts, abridged versions, etc.) helps me demonstrate the link between philology and linguistics: the way we edit textbooks affects our understanding of Medieval Greek. Secondly, I discuss some cases that reveal how our understanding of ‘Attic’ differs from that displayed in Planoudes’ work. For example, Attikismos 177C affirms: “Instead of using a verb in the indicative, they use the optative. Either with or without ἄν, when it has in no way the meaning of a wish, for example ἐγὼ βουλοίμην ἄν.”
Overall, my paper proposes a new methodology for the study of neglected sources (textbooks), demonstrates the relevance of metalinguistic data therein, and indicates their impact on our understanding of Medieval Greek.
Arie Neuhauser (University of Oxford)
Mass Violence in Byzantine Civil Wars (976-1081)
Eleventh-century Byzantium saw a large number of civil wars and revolts that affected every part of the empire. This paper explores mass violence, that is violence applied against large groups of people on the basis of political, ethnic, communal or other criteria, in Byzantine civil wars. I argue that the norms of conducting civil war in eleventh-century Byzantium limited mass violence against those perceived to be members of the Byzantine-Roman political community.
When Tornikios besieged Constantinople in 1047, a victory in a battle outside the gates afforded him the opportunity to take the capital by storm. But instead he delayed, hoping that his victory would convince the denizens of the city to surrender and thereby peacefully granting him the throne. This gave Emperor Monomachos the opportunity to rally his forces and repel Tornikios, ultimately leading to the rebel’s downfall. Attaleiates argues that Tornikios was motivated by “compassion”, fearing the damage his entry would cause to “members of his own people (τὸ ὁμόφυλον)”. Attaleiates criticises him for it in a rather Machiavellian fashion: “he refused to press the attack, and thereby lost his shot at victory and destroyed his power and even himself” (Michael Attaleiates, History, 6.7).
Similarly, in 1077 the troops of Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder besieged Traianoupolis, a city in the theme of Macedonia that did not support Bryennios’ rebellion. Bryennios was supposedly anxious to prevent his soldiers from fighting the citizens of the city defending their walls, “lest they pollute their hand with familial blood (ἐμφυλίῳ αἵματι)” (Nikephoros Bryennios the Younger, Material for History, 3.9).
Analysing those and other episodes, this paper argues that acts of mass violence towards those regarded as Romans were considered outside ‘the rules of the game’ of Byzantine political culture in the eleventh century. Of course, in a violent political conflict, those norms were always in danger of being broken, but when that happened it was usually to the detriment of the side that broke them. As this paper shows, the dynamics of violence in Byzantine civil wars were intimately related to the political agency of the communities that faced elite figures: emperors, rebels, and generals.
Civil wars and revolts are currently coming into increased study in connection with the issue of ethnic identity in Byzantium. This paper aims to contribute to this conversation, by showing that the dynamics of violence were intimately connected to perceptions of ethnic identity. While the opposing sides in civil wars usually took care to avoid unleashing mass violence on those considered Rhomaioi, those considered outside the political community were not protected by those norms.
Marcus Papandrea (Independent Scholar)
Survival of Byzantine Heritage in Gerace, Calabria
Gerace survives as one of the best examples of unspoiled Byzantine heritage in Calabria and the
world due to its strategic location. As the last western province of the Byzantine Empire,
Calabria was not subject to the destruction or conversion of sites which took place by the
Ottomans in the east or the Arabs in Sicily and North Africa. Situated ten kilometers inland atop
a 500m high plateau, Gerace overlooks the Ionian coast and is a gateway to the rugged and wild
mountain interior of the Calabrian peninsula. It is only connected to the outside world by a single
windy and crumbling road and unfortunately faces serious economic and demographic decline.
Largely due to its isolation, Gerace has remained understudied and under-recognized in a country
which boasts the most UNESCO sites in the world despite its wealth and high density of
Byzantine monuments. In 1995, the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox church, Bartholomew I,
visited Gerace. He re-opened and blessed the ancient Byzantine church San Giovanni
Crisostomo, reviving Gerace’s cultural origins and links to Byzantium. This paper examines how
these links have persisted over a millennium, starting from the community’s humble origins as a
refuge for ascetic monks to becoming the “city of one-hundred churches”. While little is
documented or written about Gerace’s early history, this paper employs archaeological findings
as well as hagiography to present valuable insight into this area which became known as “land of
the saints”. By characterizing Gerace’s early Byzantine society and helping to understand its
strong spiritual roots, this paper creates the basis necessary to understand the endurance of its
Byzantine legacy and appreciate its important cultural contributions to the Italian Renaissance as
a hub of Greek literacy which attracted great humanists from the fourteenth to fifteenth century
such as Barlaam of Seminara, Simone Autumano, Bessarion and Athanasio Chalkeolopus. In
bringing together these characters, this paper propels Gerace onto the world stage as an
important cultural center in medieval Mediterranean history which facilitated cross cultural
interactions between Byzantine Greeks, Sicilian Arabs, Jews, and Normans. From this
intersection developed a syncretism which led to modern-day Calabrian identity culture, society
and is perhaps most visible in some of Gerace’s last surviving monuments from this time. While
emphasizing this unassuming town’s cultural importance and unique Byzantine heritage, this
paper also highlights the criteria which Gerace fulfills for being included in the World Heritage
Arsany Paul (University of Notre Dame)
Three Medieval Christian Arabic Sources on Women’s Eucharistic Reception in Egypt
Scholars interested in ritual purity regulations in Coptic history and theology continue to explore
the persistent taboo restricting women from receiving communion during puerperium and
menses. Studies on Egyptian purification regulations principally emphasize the early
Alexandrian responses of patriarchs Dionysus (r. 248 – 264 CE) and Timothy I (r. 381 – 384 CE)
and what they say about early Christian perceptions of ritual life and regulations.
Medieval Coptic sources, however, and views on principles related to eucharistic reception while
experiencing bodily flux are virtually unknown since they are difficult to access and have mainly
remained untranslated and, at times, unpublished. Therefore, relying on primary sources, I put
into dialogue three Christian Arabic authors, from circa the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries.
These author are ‘Abū Ṣulḥ Yūnus ibn ‘Abdallāh ibn Nānā (ca. 10th/11th century), who is
considered the earliest known nomocanoist in Coptic Egypt; Metropolitan Mīkhāʾīl of Dumyāṭ
(1130/40 – 1208 ce), who was considered one of the authoritative liturgists and apologists until
his canonical works were adopted into the famous compendium of and usurped by Al-Ṣafī Abū l-
Faḍāʾil Mājid ibn al-ʿAssāl; and Yūḥannā ibn abī Zakariyyah ibn Sabbā‘ (ca. 13th/14th century),
who wrote an influential ritual commentary. Together, these works suggest that these medieval
Coptic church sources are ambivalent on ritual im/purity in connection to women’s bodily fluxes
unlike the early Egyptian literature. In other words, no definitive regulation is witnessed across
these sources, and at times, they are at odds with each other. Additionally, this study sheds light
on the transmission of canonical literature within Egypt, marking a distinction between
nomocanons and canons, which are two prominent genres widely conflated.
Sofia Pitouli (University of California, Los Angeles)
A Vlach Nun and Her Thirteenth-Century Monastery
Every year, on the sixth of August, the icon of the Virgin Glykophilousa of Kanaliotissa journeys 30 miles from the Monastery of the Transfiguration at Meteora to Loxada, a small village in Thessaly. The icon, which resides there for one month, is venerated by locals and others who travel to greet the Virgin. According to legend, the icon belonged to the thirteenth-century Lykousada monastery, which written sources attest was founded by a nun named Hypomone, a Vlach woman and wife of John I Doukas, the sebastokrator of Thessaly (r. 1268–1289). Although the monastery faded from written sources after the fifteenth century and was burned by the Ottoman Turks in the seventeenth century, oral tradition and ritual practice revive the memory of the church, demonstrating the influence this foundation still exerts on the local population. Navigating the intertwined narratives of past and present through the exploration of extant written, oral, and material records, my paper investigates the architectural landscape of Thessaly to reconstruct Hypomone’s monastery. The estates of Lykousada prompt my examination of the presence of Vlachs in the region, an ethnic group that is often mislabeled as marginalized. Recognizing the unevenness fabricated among agents in Byzantium, my paper reconsiders the Vlachs––as encapsulated in the story of this elite nun.
A chrysobull issued by Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos in 1289 mentions Hypomone exclusively in terms of her monastic foundation. Hypomone, upon the death of her husband, requested from Andronikos II a guarantee for her landholdings to be passed down to her two sons, suggesting that the lands belonged to her dowry. The chrysobull lists villages, monasteries, vineyards, lakes, mills, and livestock that formed parts of the monastery’s holdings and contributed to its financial stability. The chrysobull provides insight into the complex monastic networks of the period, which I supplement with the study of late thirteenth and early fourteenth-century architectural forms and spolia allegedly belonging to Lykousada. Utilizing textual and tectonic evidence, my paper maps the medieval roads connecting these sites, which outlined the boundaries of Hypomone’s power, and that of her Vlach ancestors.
By focusing on the properties and monastery of Hypomone––the sole example of a Byzantine monastery founded by a Vlach––my study takes a novel approach to the material culture left by the transhumant group that has been largely neglected, despite giving the name “Vlachia” to Thessaly. Engaged primarily in pastoralism, and the moving of flocks from the Pindus mountains to the lowlands, the Vlachs held crucial roles in the region, both economically and in the planning of military campaigns by Byzantine rulers who sought to direct armies through the mountain passes. The imperial chrysobull records eleven estates belonging to Lykousada with five being identified as Vlach settlements. Katholika located within Hypomone’s estates marked and guarded passages through the Pindus mountains, which separated the major Late Byzantine regional powers of Thessaly and Epirus. Thus, this paper understands Hypomone and the nomadic Vlach community as nonnegotiable participants in the landscape and constructed spaces of the Byzantine world.
Mihailo St. Popović (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Doing Historical Geography in a Digital Age: The Case of the Tabula Imperii Byzantini Balkans and its Public Outreach
Since 2019 the frontend of the Tabula Imperii Byzantini (TIB) Balkans has been developed systematically by various third-party funded projects of the TIB Balkans. It is entitled “Maps of Power: Historical Atlas of Places, Borderzones and Migration Dynamics in Byzantium (TIB Balkans)” (https://tib.oeaw.ac.at/atlas), is based on various map layers and draws data from its own TIB Balkans OpenAtlas Database, which comprises manifold data researched via known methods within the Historical Geography of Byzantium.
At the moment the list of map layers in the aforesaid frontend comprises the map layers DPP, DPP modern, the digitised and georeferenced maps of the volumes 1 to 15 of the Long-Term Project Tabula Imperii Byzantini (TIB) on the scale 1 : 800,000, WorldImagery ESRI and a special layer on the roads of the Roman Empire as well as thematic maps. The difference between the DPP map and the DPP map modern lies in the fact that the second one shows features of modern infrastructure like national borders, urban areas, dam lakes etc., while the first has been adjusted by clearing these data sets in order to present and visualise the digital data from medieval sources in the best possible way. Thus, DPP modern helps the user to contextualise the data of the TIB Balkans in the geography of contemporary Europe.
The most important goal of the aforesaid frontend is to communicate the Historical Geography of the Balkans in Byzantine times to fellow scholars and especially to the interested public. Thus, the present paper aims to introduce the audience to the frontend’s features. These are amongst others: Stories / Story Maps, thematic map layers, a 3D model of Montenegro from the years 1916 to 1918, which was 3D captured and embedded into the frontend, GPS tracks of roads from surveys in situ and their representation in the back- and the frontend, etc. We will discuss the steps, which led to the present frontend, its usability, its challenges and limits as well as the very important question of sustainability and ongoing software engineering. Moreover, we intend to give an insight behind the scenes of such a digital project, the results of which are seen, but the digital development of which requires funding, time and especially teamwork.
Earnestine Qiu (Princeton University)
Exilic Imaginations in the Illustrated Alexander Romances of Anatolia
In fourteenth-century Anatolia, the Alexander Romance receives full illustration in two
sumptuous manuscripts attributed to the ‘pocket empire’ of Trebizond (Venice, Hellenic
Institute, codex gr. 5), and to Armenian Cilicia (Venice, Mekhitarist Library of Saint Lazzaro,
ms. 424). Despite the contemporary creation of the two manuscripts in neighboring exilic states
flanking the Seljuk emirates, art historical study has largely examined these objects separately.
Such separation of related materials neglects the interconnected nature of medieval Anatolia and
reflects persistent historiographic tendencies shaped by linguistic limitations and divisions across
This paper examines the Trapezuntine and Cilician manuscripts together in the context of late
medieval Anatolia, which was characterized by overlapping and frequently changing polities.
Recent historical and art historical studies on the region have begun to pursue more integrated
approaches across the various medieval Anatolian states. Scholarship in Byzantine art has
acknowledged the value of artistic production in the Byzantine successor state of Trebizond and
expanded the field to explore exchanges between Trebizond and neighboring kingdoms in
Anatolia and the Caucasus. However, much of the literature on Anatolia continues to center on
narratives of Byzantine decline coupled with the rise of the Ottomans. Close studies of regional
affiliations and complex interactions beyond the Byzantine-Ottoman binary remain limited.
Furthermore, whereas the fourteenth-century Armenian Alexander Romance has received very
little scholarly attention, the slightly better-studied Trapezuntine Alexander still finds itself
viewed in a traditional paradigm focused on imperial aspirations tied to Constantinople. This
paper looks at the social and historical context of these imperially-themed manuscripts to
understand the concerns of two neighboring states established in exilic conditions outside of
Byzantium proper and Armenia proper. Departing also from the primarily iconographic studies
of gr. 5 and ms. 424, this paper examines the nature of transit, foreign encounters, and historical
fiction for states in exile.
This paper offers a new perspective on the illustrated Alexander Romance. Bringing together
previously isolated manuscripts from the same milieu, this study aims to contribute a more
nuanced consideration of the political and cultural conditions of late-medieval Anatolia. I
examine the visual re-imaginings of the adventures of Alexander by two distinct, yet closely
related exilic states shaped by shared conditions of geography, constantly fluctuating regional
power structures, and invasions by the Mongols. The illustration of the Alexander Romance in
this particular context raises new questions about what it means to inhabit and traverse terrain
characterized by shifting borders and politics. I propose that the illuminations of this legend in
the Anatolian context allowed the inhabitants of exilic states to reconfigure space and
understandings of foreignness, when they themselves now occupied foreign regions once
explored by Alexander the Great.
Gabriel Radle (University of Notre Dame)
Hunting for Stefan Radoslav’s Ring: Jewelry, Forgeries, and the Implications for Studying
One of the most prized possessions of the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade is an early
13th-century betrothal ring reputed to have been given by Prince Stefan Radoslav (grandson of
Byzantine emperor Alexios III and later King of Serbia, r. 1228-1233) to Anna Doukaina
(daughter of the ruler of Epirus, Theodore Komnenos Doukas). The style of the ring is
comparable to others of the period and it includes an inscription that clearly connects it to these
historic figures: “This betrothal of Stefan, a branch of the root of Doukas, receive into your
hands, Anna, the sprout of the Komnenoi” (Μνῆστρον Στεφάνου Δουκικῆς ῥήζης κλάδου /
Κομνηνοφυὴς ταῖν χεροῖν Ἄννα δέχου). The ring is the only surviving object of marriage
jewelry that can be associated with specific members of the Byzantine imperial family and it
likewise represents a concrete material witness to the practice of dynastic marriage arrangements
among the ascendant Balkan states during the Latin occupation of Constantinople.
There is, however, one very big problem. There are four other rings with an identical inscription,
two at Dumbarton Oaks, one in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and one unaccounted for
since it was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1937. To date, no scholar has acknowledged the existence
of so many versions of this ring despite several publications on individual examples in which
scholars have assumed such versions to be authentic. This paper reconstructs the history behind
the existence of five different betrothal rings for the same marriage, arguing that one specific
version is likely authentic, while all the others are fakes produced for the European antiquities
market. Furthermore, this paper identifies the likely period in which these fraudulent copies were
made, provides insight into how dealers worked to produce fakes, and points to the ways in
which such jewelry has gone undetected in museum collections to this day. The identification of
multiple rings for the same historic marriage and the hunt to discern if any are authentic
represents a case study that gives pause to consider whether a significant number of other forged
items currently grace museum halls posing as “Byzantine” jewelry.
Jake Ransohoff (Simon Fraser University)
Picturing the Byzantine Past: Jacopo Strada’s Epitome thesauri antiquitatum (1553) and the Politics of Byzantine Numismatics in the Renaissance
In the sixteenth century, the name Jacopo Strada was synonymous with the study of Byzantine coins. Feted by French kings and Italian bankers, the intimate of emperors and popes, this “celebrity numismatist” began his professional life as a struggling goldsmith in Mantua. He pursued various patrons in across Western Europe until the success of his Epitome thesauri antiquitatum (1553) catapulted him to the post of imperial antiquarian at the Habsburg court in Vienna—where he would remain until his death in 1588. This paper is about Strada’s Epitome thesauri antiquitatum and in particular its use of Byzantine coins.
The Epitome consists of short lives of all “Roman” emperors from Julius Caesar to the Habsburg Charles V. Each entry is illustrated with a woodcut portrait taken from an ancient or medieval coin. Strada’s images have been celebrated by modern scholars for setting new standards of accuracy in the representation of Byzantine coinage. But the present paper will not focus on the formal aspect of Strada’s representations so much as their arrangement within his text and their patterns of omission and inclusion. I argue that Strada’s Epitome, often treated as the detached intellectual endeavor of a pioneering numismatist, in fact contains a powerful ideological message. Other Renaissance handlists of Roman emperors—whether illustrated or not—typically record Byzantine rulers down to the coronation of Charlemagne (800). After this point, however, they omit Byzantine emperors from their catalogues and instead list only Charlemagne’s successors as the “true” inheritors of Roman imperium. Strada notably breaks from this practice. In addition to listing “Western” (Holy Roman) emperors, the Epitome includes coins and biographies for “Eastern” (Byzantine) emperors down to 1453.
This paper demonstrates that Strada lifted his information for later Byzantine rulers from the De Caesaribus of Johannes Cuspinianus (d. 1529). But it also shows that Strada altered his source material in revealing ways. I argue that Strada’s Epitome arranges its woodcuts of coins to create a direct link between the emperors of Byzantium and Strada’s own prospective patron, Charles V. This complements a broader political and ideological program current at the sixteenth-century Habsburg court, which looked to the Byzantine past to legitimate present warfare against the Ottomans, and anticipated the future reconquest of Constantinople. Strada’s Epitome thus leveraged the material remains of Byzantine empire—as represented in its coins—to visualize a genealogy that cast his Habsburg patrons as inheritors of Byzantine imperial rule.
Claudia Rapp (University of Vienna and Austrian Academy of Sciences) & Eirini Afentoulidou (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Byzantine Birth and Childbed Rituals: euchologia (Prayer Books) as Evidence for
Byzantine euchologia were made for the liturgical use of priests. In addition to the eucharistic
liturgies and rituals for baptism, marriage and funeral, they contain short prayers that address
a vast array of occasions (‘occasional prayers’).
This presentation will begin with an overview of the manuscript tradition and the
methodologies for the study of euchologia as sources for daily life and social history, as they
are currently being developed by the Vienna Euchologia Project.
It will then discuss rituals related to birth and the subsequent liminal time of childbed, by
examining how the evidence of the euchologia can contribute to a better understanding of
their development over time.
Traditionally, the ritual experts responsible for birth and childbed were women, notably
midwives, acting in the space of the household. Indeed, for many centuries the only priestly
prayers related to childbed were prayers for occasions at which the newborn left the private
space of the household and approached or entered the space of the church for the first time on
the eighth or fortieth day after birth.
In the course of the centuries, further prayers were added to the euchologion, to be said by the
priest on the day a woman had given birth, and in the house where she had given birth. These
have the standard structure of priestly prayers, but they mark a shift from the predominantly
male space of the church space to the private space of female agency. Moreover, as the
priestly prayers expanded their scope to include concerns related to the private sphere, they
also appropriated elements from the non-liturgical traditions that had been addressing and
continued to address these concerns.
Andreas Rhoby (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Between Byzantium and post-Byzantium. Between Greece and Venice. Work and Life of Andreas Arnes (2nd half 15th c.)
Andreas Arnes is one of those Greek intellectuals who normally receive little attention in
scholarship. This is primarily due to the fact that he belongs to an era that has not yet been
adequately researched: it is the second half of the 15th century from which, on the one hand,
the Byzantine scholars who fled to the West are known, but on the other hand, the personalities
who remained in the former Byzantine or Venetian territories receive little attention.
Today, Andreas Arnes, like his father Ioannes Arnes, is known primarily as a scribe. His own
writings remained largely undiscovered and have never been considered from a culturalhistorical
Arnes penned two until previously unknown funeral poems on his father Ioannes, and a funeral
oration on his mother in prose. From these we learn that Ioannes had been sent to Germany and
France on behalf of the despot of the Peloponnese Thomas Palaiologos, probably with the
purpose of requesting money or military help against the Ottomans.
In addition, two likewise unedited prayers by Andreas Arnes have survived, one of which is
cast in the form of a kanon, the other in the form of a diodion. While the funerary texts provide
prosopographical information about the author, his parents and their family background, the
prayers are of a different nature: we learn that Arnes was imprisoned by the Venetians, who
ruled Naupaktos at the time, and taken to prison in Venice, perhaps because he had taken part
in an attempted revolt in Naupaktos. It is a cry for help to the Mother of God to free him from
there. The second prayer is a thanksgiving to the Mother of God after he was released. In both
liturgical texts, Arnes uses the traditional rhythmic schemes, although deviations can also be
found in them. It is impossible to tell if the content is fictitious (which might also be true for
e.g. Michael Glycas’ prison poem) or real; Arnes might have been imprisoned but might have
composed both texts after his return to Naupaktos.
The aim of the lecture is to present the largely unedited texts and their cultural-historical
classification. Arnes is one of those scholars who stand at the threshold: committed to the
Byzantine heritage, deeply involved in the political reorganisation after the end of the Byzantine
Empire. It is these small, prosopographically overlooked authors like Arnes who paint us a vivid
picture of the transformation period in the second half of the 15th century.
Alessia Rossi (Index of Medieval Art, Princeton University)
A World of Byzantine Iconography: Discovering the Index of Medieval Art Maria
For the past century, the Index of Medieval Art has maintained a thematic archive of medieval iconographic subjects dated from early Christianity until the sixteenth century and spanning Europe, the Mediterranean, northern Africa, and west and central Asia. In 2017, the Index of Medieval Art launched a new custom database to better serve twenty-first century researchers of medieval iconography. This paper demonstrates how to use new advanced search options, filters, and browse tools to locate byzantine iconographic subjects. Live searches are performed to introduce the audience to the Index database, share its range and classification of subjects, regions, and dates for works of art, and show some of the best ways to search and access information. The latest updates, including the new subject taxonomy search tool that encourages further discovery of the online collection, are presented. Participants are encouraged to bring byzantine iconographic questions for discussion.
Luis Josué Salés (Scripps College)
Maximos the Confessor: The Queerness of Deification, the Deification of Queerness
Broader interest in Maximos has been accompanied by a more specific interest in his thought on gender, including earlier studies (von Balthasar, Garrigues, Thunberg) to very recent engagements (Costache, Milkov, Blowers, Cooper, Partridge, Mitralexis, Brown Dewhurst, etc.). But these studies have largely failed to engage with gender theory, either in its own right or as developed to study premodern Christianity (e.g., Burrus, Dunning, Martin, Castelli, Cobb, Krueger, Neville, etc.). Thus, this scholarship is often premised on problematic assumptions, such as the belief that the ancients considered the body sexually dimorphic and fixed, or that terms such as “man” and “woman” are both referentially transparent and share a direct line of discursive continuity between then and now.
This paper, therefore, offers what is probably the first sustained queer-theoretical examination of the relationship between deification and gender in a handful of Maximos’ key texts: Difficulties 7.15–22, 41.3, 7, 9–10, among others. Specifically, I will be using a concept I developed out of sustained readings of the body of work of Jacques Derrida, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Judith Butler for this very purpose, which I call deifférance (yes, this is a pun of sorts on Derrida’s différance). Deifférance refers to a theanthropic dynamic of ontological impossibility that I have identified in Maximos’ distinctive doctrine of θέωσις. This dynamic, simply put, is that deification is concerned with the paradoxical impossibility of becoming what one cannot ever truly become. This dynamic, in turn, creates what Anzaldúa calls an identidad fronteriza (borderland/liminal identity) in the God-ward subject, an identity marked by a subject’s asymptotic approximation to a divine futurity that is forever deferred at the exact same time that it increasingly constitutes the self that is oriented to it.
I argue here that deification as Maximos exposits it can be understood as a queer experience that simultaneously destabilizes and affirms the continuity of the subject. My approach is to elucidate how I understand and apply deifférance, followed by a close reading of Maximos’ texts on human ontology in relation to sexual difference. More concretely, I underscore the significance of Maximos’ rejection of the reification of sexual difference as something that is not grounded in nature, but in the “mode” or τρόπος (read: performativity) of human existence (Diff 41.3, 7, 9–10). Next, I examine his most poignant articulation of deification in relation to the hypostasis and human nature (Diff 7.15–22), highlighting especially that hypostatic particularities (ἰδιότητα) remain “inviolate” by deification. Finally, I show how Maximos’ doctrine of deification itself is characterized by a categorical rejection of ontological closure that extends to the human being, with the result that sexual identity, and the whole self, are deified, as Maximos says, “in a way appropriate to each” (ἀναλογικῶς). In this regard, my paper is most relevant for LGBTQ+ individuals in Christian traditions that regard Maximos as a theological authority, and the conclusion addresses the potential implications of these arguments for LGBTQ+ Christian communities more broadly.
Ethan Schmidt (Simon Fraser University)
The Works of Theodoros Hyrtakenos: Rhetorical Commentary and Authorial Self-Presentation in the Corpus of an Early-Palaiologan Man-of-Letters
This paper examines the literary oeuvre of the Byzantine scholar and teacher Theodoros
Hyrtakenos (fl. 1280-1328), with an eye to discovering the strategies of rhetorical commentary
and self-presentation which he deployed in his work. This may be accomplished by
investigating the relationship between the text and commentary within the autographed codex
unicus which preserves his compositions, as well as by examining the various rhetorical
personae deployed therein. This paper attempts to sketch a more complete portrait of this oft
overlooked but nonetheless fascinating figure whose body of work has only recently begun to
be engaged with seriously.
Following a brief introduction to Hyrtakenos’ world and the state of modern scholarship
surrounding him, the first section interrogates the contents of the manuscript more closely;
particularly the relationship between the extensive marginalia and the text. Namely, the
educational dimensions of the manuscript are explored, wherein Hyrtakenos sought to lay bare
the mechanics of his writing through marginal notations indicating different types of
quotations, idioms, and passages and phrases of significance. Such rhetorical commentary is
interpreted as a means by which we can apprehend the purpose of the work, as well as a means
by which we may approach questions of authorial self-presentation, and, indeed, the very
selfhood of the author.
In the final and most extensive section, questions of authorial self-presentation in Hyrtakenos’
corpus are approached. Through a close reading of his letters and his orations, this paper
attempts to delineate four primary rhetorical personae through which we may begin to
approach the question of Hyrtakenos’ character and mentalité. In the first place, this piece
examines carefully Hyrtakenos’ projected ‘persona of poverty’, treating it as a rhetorical topos
which conceals an altogether more comfortable reality elaborated upon in the next section,
which, conversely, concerns Hyrtakenos’ efforts to project good-breeding, prosperity, and
Finally, and perhaps most critically, Hyrtakenos’ advertisement of himself as a
pepaideumenos and a teacher is examined, wherein the author both displays and catalogues his
erudition and literary fluency, as well as his status as an educator and mentor to his students,
shepherding them from callow youth to dignified maturity.
In short, this paper aims to engage deeply with the work of a single author whose works
survive in a manuscript executed by his own hand, and to uncover something of his
personality, attitudes, and strategies of self-representation. It attempts to invigorate serious
scholarly engagement with other such ‘minor authors’, and to approach an understanding of
the culture and social profile of the Constantinopolitan literati during the early Palaiologan
Stephen Shoemaker (University of Oregon)
Mary at Mar Saba: The Georgian Life of the Virgin attributed to Maximus the Confessor and its Palestinian Context
Scholars have recently proposed that the Georgian Life of the Virgin attributed to Maximus the
Confessor should be considered a work of the tenth or eleventh century that depends on the Life
of the Virgin by John Geometres. Nevertheless, such a dating and dependency are highly
improbable. Renewed attention to the manuscript tradition of this earliest surviving biography of
the Virgin provides rather decisive evidence that the text must have been written earlier than this.
Indeed, it was almost certainly composed before the ninth century, most likely at the monastery
of Mar Saba. The manuscript tradition allows us to identify the earliest known copy of this text
in the scriptoria of this monastery, where it would also appear that this Life was translated from
Greek into Georgian. This further means that the attribution of the Life’s translation to
Euthymius the Hagiorite by a single manuscript is almost certainly erroneous and is a
consequence of Euthymius’ widespread fame as a translator, particularly of writings by
Maximus. Not only does the evidence of the manuscript tradition lead us to locate the
composition of this biography at Mar Saba, but certain features of the narrative suggest the
influence of the liturgical traditions of late ancient Jerusalem. This is particularly so with regard
to the Virgin’s lamentations at the Cross in this Life of the Virgin, the first known example of
this genre. The Virgin’s plaints in this text appear to be influenced significantly by the stichera
idiomela for Good Friday that were in use in Jerusalem (and also Mar Saba) from the later sixth
century onward. This close connection with the hymnography of late ancient Jerusalem (among
other features) adds further conformation for the production of this earliest Marian biography in
Palestine sometime during the seventh century, or at the absolute latest in the eighth century.
Katherine Taronas (Dumbarton Oaks)
Instantiating Eden: Natural Imagery and Art in the Stylite Cults
The silver votive plaque dedicated to Symeon Stylites in the Louvre (acc. no. 1952 Bj 2180) is well-known but presents several longstanding difficulties of interpretation—difficulties that can be largely resolved through a fuller exploration of iconographic comparanda and the spiritual exegeses that underpinned these visual traditions. No other ex-votos from the period approach this plaque in size, quality of workmanship, or visual and symbolic complexity, and scholars tend not to move beyond basic description when treating this singular object. Depicted on it we find the saint standing behind a latticed balustrade atop a thick column. An enormous, bearded serpent with scales coils around the column, gazing up at the saint with an indecipherable expression. Energy builds vertically through the composition and culminates in the blossoming scallop form of a free-floating shell with a large pearl in its valve. The precise meaning of the prominent shell and serpent, both marked out in the design with gilding and exaggerated in size, have remained enigmatic despite their evident importance in the pictorial scheme of this substantial work.
This paper takes the silver plaque as a starting point for an investigation of animal iconography and nature symbolism in the visual culture of stylite cults and argues that art played a central role in shaping contemporary sensory experiences of the living Early Byzantine holy man as an Edenic “body of plenitude” (Patricia Cox Miller, “Desert Asceticism and ‘The Body from Nowhere’”).
Discussions of the role of the natural world in stylite practice have so far focused on analogies linking the saintly pillar to a Tree of Life and on the ritual similarities between stylite veneration and ancient fertility cults. Through an analysis of the written sources of the period—especially Ephrem the Syrian’s writings on baptism and episodes from stylite vitae that deal with natural imagery—I suggest that the inclusion of the shell and pearl on the plaque communicates Symeon Stylites’ role as a source of life, healing, and salvation for his community and especially for the donor who inscribed this plaque with a votive formula expressing thanks to the saint. The serpent below simultaneously represents the threat of evil or temptation that plagued ascetic practitioners in animal form and a pacified and mesmerized beast who acknowledges the saint as a new type of Adam. Support for this portion of the argument is made through comparison to the three Late Antique Syrian floor mosaics that allegorize Adam as a Master of Animals in paradise, previously analyzed by Henry Maguire, and to discussions of the holy man as instantiating a vision of paradise on earth (esp. Georgia Frank’s The Memory of the Eyes).
Building on Charles Stang’s analysis of the ‘geometry’ of stylite practice, I assert that the shell and snake on the plaque create a positional frame for the saint that articulates a conception of holiness through animal symbols that bore special resonance in the Syriac context.
Danai Thomaidis (Simon Fraser University)
Icon Display Among the Venetian Working Class
Icons have been one of the most crucial material expressions of Byzantine
religiosity. Following the Fall of the Byzantine empire, these media migrated en masse
towards northern regions. Venice became one of the main receivers of Byzantine and
post-Byzantine icons, which were quickly incorporated into the daily life of the Venetian
population. However, scholarly attention has been mostly attentive to the examination of a
limited number of public icons that were exposed in the city’s churches, or of those that
were included in the private collections of the noble class. On the other hand, the popolani,
despite constituting circa the 90% of the Venetian population, have not yet attracted the
attention they deserve. One of the motives for such neglect lies in the lack of archival
material that could contribute to the reconstruction of their lives, habits and ideals. As is
often the case, the sources are much more generous about lords, nobles and aristocrats,
leaving the lower social strata of society more or less in a mysterious status. However, thanks
to recent archival research, it has been illustrated that the popolani of Venice were no less
active than the nobles in the acquisition and display of religious paintings, among which a
protagonist role was reserved to Byzantine icons. By displaying icons in their houses and
workshops, these workers expressed their needs, hopes and perception of the self. This
contribution examines the exposition of icons in the homes and workplaces of the Venetian
working class, with a focus on the display arrangements that were adopted in these habitats
and the messages they conveyed.
Vessela Valiavitcharska (University of Maryland)
The Chiastic Diagram as Exegesis
The copy of the Hermogenean corpus contained in the tenth-century rhetorical compilation Par. gr. 1983 (Bibliothèque nationale de France) is “prefaced” with a number of large diagrams, illustrating the more prominent rhetorical figures peculiar to Hermogenes. Among them are two drawings of the figure of the “chiastic period,” which receives an extraordinary amount of attention from Hermogenes’ commentators. While the diagrams in Par. gr. 1983 occupy a conspicuous place and are well-executed, they are by no means unusual. X-shaped representations are a frequent feature of marginal commentary material in rhetoric and logic manuscripts.
Chiastic diagrams seem to derive from Aristotle’s concept of the “square of opposition,” as expounded in De Interpretatione, which is intended to represent relations of contradiction and contrariety among four basic categorical propositions. However, in Byzantine logic, the use of the Aristotelian “square” is extended beyond propositions to include single terms and their relationships. In Byzantine rhetoric, the chiastic diagram becomes a vehicle for representing relationships of opposition and complementarity.
For example, the tenth-century commentary of Arethas on Porphyry’s Isagoge and Aristotle’s Categories (Vat. Urb. gr. 35) reflects a mature sense of how to use chiastic visuals in order to sketch out the ways in which numerous terms, such as “animate/ inanimate” and “perceptible/ imperceptible” or “essence/ accident” and “universal/ particular,” relate to each other. Arethas’ diagrams indicate clearly how pairs of terms can be compatible or incompatible, or whether they are (in Aristotle’s terminology) “in the subject” or “of the subject.” In later rhetorical manuscripts, the “twin” relations of incompatibility and accompaniment appear as an exegetical tool. For example, the eleventh-century Cod. Vat. gr. 1340, which contains a copy of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, interprets one of Aristotle’s passages on “justice” and “the good” by placing them within a chiastic relationship with “injustice” and “evil.” This visual interpretive tradition proves remarkably stable, as it is found also much later. The late fourteenth-century Cod. Par. gr. 2986 has a chiastic representation of a passage from Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, in which “flattery” is shown to insinuate itself into “legislation,” “justice,” “cosmetics,” and “medicine.” The customary places of affirmative/ negative and universal/ particular allow interpretive inferences about relations between gymnastics and politics and soul and body. In other words, the chiastic form itself suggests a type of exegesis.
Flavia Vanni (University of Birmingham)
Casting Connections: Artistic Production Between Epiros And Albania In The 13th Century
Under the rule of Michael II (1231-67/68) and later his son, the despot Nikephoros (ca 1240 – ca
1297), the Komnenoi Doukai of Epiros strengthened ties with the Angevins on the one side, and
with the Palaiologoi on the other side. The relationship between the rulers of Epiros and these
powers was contentious, and alliances were quickly shifting. The artistic production of Epiros
mirrors these continuous exchanges and shows how the rulers used monumental architecture to
convey ideological messages. Scholars have addressed these exchanges mainly in two ways. Some
have underlined the distinctive features of Epirote architecture and how these were ‘exported’ in
Macedonia and neighbouring regions. Others have pointed to southern Italian, in particular
Apulian architecture and sculpture as the possible model for Epirote artisans. These two views
have yet to be reconciled, especially regarding the chronology of the Apulian sculptures.
This paper approaches this conflict by examining the evidence of the production of stucco
liturgical barriers made in the mid to the late -thirteenth century for churches mainly located around
Ioannina and Arta (Greece). The presence of consistent stucco production in this period is known
from the studies of Orlandos (1927), Vanderheyde (2005), and Papadopoulou (2001). I argue that
the stucco pieces recovered in 2020 in the church of the Dormition at Episkopi (Peshkëpi e
Sipermë) should be added to this group. The presence of this monument expands the geographical
area of what it seemed at a first glance a very localized stucco production by connecting the area
of and near Girokastër (Albania) to Ioannina and Arta.
The pieces were all produced for buildings sponsored by Epirote aristocracy, except for one which
may have been connected to the ruler’s family. All the stuccoes appear to have been produced by
following the same technical processes and, possibly, even the use of the same stamps for outlining
the decorative elements. The occasion for the commission of the stucco elements in Episkopi
(Peshkëpi e Sipermë) was the addition of an extra nave to the church in the thirteenth century, as
the ceramoplastic decoration of the masonry suggests. The Dormition church’s location and the
thirteenth-century renewal that connects it to the artistic trends of Epiros opens a series of questions
on whether they signal a direct intervention of the Epirote rulers to mark territory at the crossroads
with the Angevins and the Palaiologans. Finally, the paper also problematizes the stuccoes’
technical and iconographical solutions, showing local and Adriatic features. Indeed, stucco
liturgical furnishing thrived in Abruzzo, Apulia, and Calabria in the twelfth century. A century
later, the techniques exhibited in Epiros seem to suggest a local dialect fed by a long-lasting
Adriatic tradition of working stucco that awaits further explanation.
Andrew Walker White (George Mason University)
Citation and Criticism Through Performance: Christopher of Mytilene’s Poetic, Political Balancing Act
While our exploration of orality—as an element inherent to the manuscript page—continues to develop, some attention to the nuances of performance in Constantinople’s highly politically-charged atmosphere is certainly in order. Then as now, the performance of poetic works had to account for a variety of elements, among them the present audience’s cultural heritage.
This paper adopts as its working hypothesis that, in the capitol’s orally-charged culture, it was the nuances of live delivery, not a word’s inert presence in stone or on the page, that determined its reception—as praise, as invective, as partisan, as neutral. And the question of delivery becomes acute when the subject is the notorious assassination of an emperor. Moreover, the choice of model, of style and meter has immense implications for reception as well. Then we are confronted by the conscious, strategic citation of classical works, which elite audiences would have known by heart, rendering every performance of a poetic work a site where ideologies and poesis, past and present, converge and blossom in the mind of the listener.
This presentation will lay out the context and potential strategies for interpretation of Christopher of Mytilene’s poem composed on the occasion of Emperor Romanos III Argyros’ untimely death—and his all-too-hasty replacement by Michael IV. Composed in the immediate aftermath of this traumatic event, which occurred at the height of Holy Week, Christopher’s reliance on Homeric meter and direct quotes from the Iliad and Odyssey raises questions about what signals, latent as well as explicit, lie in the performance of this text.
As in most such regimes, there is the matter of what one can say, at what level of explicitness, and what one simply cannot say without placing one’s own life in jeopardy. Appropriation of past literary tropes, and well-known poetic episodes and imagery, was to be expected; but what use does Christopher make of them on this specific occasion? What potential messages are inherent in this performance text? What potential responses might have been triggered in the minds of his audiences?
Elizabeth Dospel Williams (Dumbarton Oaks)
At Home with Hestia: A Late Antique Furnishing Textile in Context
Although numerous fragments of large-format textile furnishings survive from late antique
Egypt, an example depicting a richly adorned, enthroned woman labeled as Hestia, goddess of
the hearth, stands out as a unique survivor (Dumbarton Oaks, BZ.1929.1). Scholarship on this
work has addressed the image’s ancient mythological sources and its iconographic parallels with
Christian depictions of the Virgin. These arguments have implicitly and explicitly posited cultic
use in a public setting due to its size, monumentality, and current semi-circular appearance suited
for a niche setting.
This paper, however, reconsiders the function and setting for this work in a domestic context.
Recent technical analyses of the textile’s edges reveal that its current, semicircular form is in fact
a later dealer’s intervention, fundamentally recasting what the original artifact might once have
looked like and making a monumental setting less plausible. Another important clue is the
iconography itself, which depicts a domestic divinity and portrays images of household
(particularly women’s) wealth, such as plate, jewelry, and textiles. In this sense, the depiction of
Hestia is better seen as part of a long tradition of mythological figures on furnishing textiles
associated with domestic social entertainment and dining habits, rather than as a precursor for
ceremonial or liturgical furnishings intended for use in church. Lastly, considering
archaeological evidence of extant wall paintings from late antique Egyptian sites adds further
nuance to the discussion, suggesting the range of contexts in which such a furnishing textile
might have once served. By realigning evidence and situating previous scholarly debates in
historiographic context, it becomes possible to instead reconsider this famous textile’s function
and raises the possibility that it may have served many uses over its lifetime. The discussion
highlights the amorphous boundaries between public and private, devotional and other domestic
social practices, and Pre-Christian and Christian belief systems typical of late antique Egyptian
Laura Wilson (Antiochian House of Studies)
The Implausible, Canonical Deaconess in Blastarēs
This brief study examines the internal contradictions concerning the ecclesiastical office of
women deacons contained in the writings of the Byzantine canonist, Matthew Blastarēs (ca.
1335), resident in Thessaloniki during the reign of Andronikos III Palaiologos.
Blastarēs was noted for his Alphabetical Collection (Syntagma kata Stoicheion), the first canon
law encyclopedia, which was highly influenced by the twelfth century canonist Theodore
Balsamōn (ca. 1130/1140 – death after 1195). In his work, Blastarēs presents the received
tradition concerning the office, and then explains its disuse due to the regulation of menstruating
women. Before describing the ordination service for deaconesses, however, he appears to state
that it was implausible for the office to have existed, apparently contradicting himself.
Some scholars deny that the regulation of impurity due to menstruation had anything to do with
the decline of the office, insisting instead that the rank was inconsistent with the Byzantine
church’s theology of the natural inferiority of woman. According to this theory, Blastarēs
recognized the historical existence of deaconesses but was merely explaining the office’s
implausibility due to a developing theology that promoted women’s inferiority. Other scholars
associate the decline of the female diaconate as coinciding with the gradual acceptance of
Levitical purity language in liturgical and canonical writing. The context and syntax of Blastarēs
writing favor the latter position. In fact, influenced by Balsamōn, Blastarēs’s anachronistic
projection of later purity regulations onto the early church made the image of a menstruating
woman serving liturgically like a male deacon seem implausible, leading to his seemingly
contradictory statements. General conclusions are drawn on the implications of purity language
for Byzantine churches and the ministry of women.
Arielle Winnik (Yale University)
Robert Forrer’s Excavations at Akhmim (1894) and the Impact of Orientalism of the Field of Byzantine Art
At Akhmim (ancient Panopolis), in Upper Egypt, the al-Hawawis cemetery served as a burial ground from the first to the tenth centuries C.E., with many of the burials dating from the Byzantine period (c. 330-641 C.E.). In the late nineteenth century, treasure hunters descended on the site, unearthing the bodies and their rich deposits. In particular, they found thousands of garments and shrouds wrapping the deceased. The textiles were removed from the bodies, cut in multiple pieces, and sold to dealers and collectors in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt. The Swiss archaeologist and art historian Robert Forrer (1866-1947), famous for his excavations at the site, arrived in 1894 after it had been extensively excavated. Forrer’s books on textiles from Akhmim were critical publications for scholars of Byzantine art of all media. Indeed, Forrer saw the textiles he analyzed as a microcosm for the stylistic development of Byzantine art generally. He took a formalist approach, aiming to understand how what he termed the “fully developed, colorful Byzantinism” developed from Roman precedents. While his books focused on textiles from Egypt, Forrer referenced arts of various media from throughout the Byzantine Empire, emphasizing the scope of his argument. Based on the Akhmim material, Forrer argued that Byzantine art was mixture between “classical-Roman” style and so called “Oriental” interest in color and brilliance. In this paper, I show that Forrer’s conception of the development of Byzantine art owes more to his own cultural context than to analysis of the Akhmim material. Indeed, Forrer published his catalogs of textiles said to be from Akhmim in 1888 and 1891, several years before he first visited and excavated at the site. He purchased the objects in the antique markets of Cairo and interpreted them without archaeological context. Their provenience was unclear. The chronological scheme he suggested was based on stylistic parallels with objects said to be from throughout the Mediterranean region to Central Asia, many of which themselves had no clear provenience or date. Through a study of Forrer’s journals and letters from Egypt, I show that the scholar was deeply impacted by orientalist notions that were prevalent in his period. His understanding of the textiles—and the development of Byzantine art generally—was strongly guided by common orientalist perceptions, such as a perceived dichotomy between East and West and the timelessness of Eastern culture. Forrer’s works were greatly impactful on the formation of the modern field of Byzantine art in the late nineteenth century. By analyzing the import of orientalism to Forrer’s ideas, I emphasize the effect of the phenomenon on the development of the field of Byzantine art generally, and its continued relevance today.
Elizabeth Zanghi (Sorbonne Université)
Waking up Sleeping Monks: The monastic relationship to time in Byzantium (7th-12th centuries)
The liturgy of the hours, or offices, is one of the most significant aspects of monastic daily life.
Though the offices could vary slightly depending on the monastery, they generally functionned
as a way of organizing prayer throughout the day and night. The importance of studying these
hours in order to understand byzantine monastic life is well-established, but certain aspects of
how they were practiced have been somewhat overlooked. In particular, the actions leading up to
the assembly of the monks in the church, refectory, or other central areas, can be useful in
understanding how monks engaged in the hours and with time in general. For each hour, the
semantron would be sounded as a signal to assemble, but how did the monk tasked with striking
the semantron know when it should be struck? This question is even more interesting when the
signal involves the action of waking up and awakening other monks, such as with the office of
This presentation, therefore, examines the different ways the waker and signaler of a monastery
knew when to signal prayer using both textual and archaeological sources. In doing so, it is
necessary to evoke the different methods of telling time that would have been available to
byzantine monks and the objects they would have used, such as water clocks, sundials, shadow
tables, or time-telling candles, but also mnemonic devices. These methods, along with the fact
that the length of the days, nights, and hours changed throughout the year, as well as the
complicated liturgical organization of days and years laid out in typika and horologia,
demonstrate that the monks in charge of signaling the hours and in charge of waking up the other
monks had a very close relationship with time. These aspects also demonstrate that the monks
understood how to manipulate time in order to conform to their liturgical obligations.
Various typika dating back to the 7th century, but mostly from the middle-byzantine era, offer
valuable information for our task, but the Synaxarion and the Hypotyposis from the Monastery of
the Theotokos Evergetis are particularly useful due to their detail and to their connections to
earlier monasteries and the influence they had on future monasteries. Material evidence of the
objects used in the telling of time and in signaling, such as existing byzantine time pieces or
manuscripts which include shadow tables, are also studied.