XVIITH Biennial Conference, 20-21 July 2012, Macquarie University
Keynote Speaker: Professor Jonathan Shepard, University of Cambridge
Our understanding of Byzantium’s external and internal interactions has shifted significantly as a result of recent scholarship. The significance of this state to a millennium of developments throughout Eurasia has been examined; more importantly, the nature of contacts between Byzantium and its Eurasian neighbours has been reconceived. Models for understanding Byzantium’s interactions with its neighbours have moved from imperial centre and periphery, to ‘commonwealth’, to ‘overlapping circles’, to parallel and mutual developments in political and cultural identity. The Byzantine millennium now seems more connected, by commerce, diplomacy and common cultural heritage, than before. Artefacts and ideologies were acquired, appropriated or mediated amongst Byzantium and its neighbours in the Latin West, southeastern and central Europe, Iran and Dar al-Islam; even prolonged conflict did not preclude exchanges and indeed sometimes sprang from shared developments. At the same time, what we think of as the distinctively Byzantine milieu of Constantinople also interacted with regional cultures that at various times formed part of its empire. Coptic and Syriac cultures in Late Antiquity, Latin and Arabic regions in later periods, displayed both ambivalence and engagement with the culture of Constantinople and with its imperial and ecclesiastical leaders. As with Byzantium’s external connections, ‘centre and periphery’ models of internal interactions are giving way to more dynamic models seeing metropolis and regions as parts of broader, common developments. The conference aims to explore these developments.
The Conference was held 20-21 July 2012 at Macquarie University in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
This conference was sponsored by the Macquarie University Ancient Cultures Research Centre.
Euripides and the Byzantine Manuscript Trade in the Fourteenth Century
Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides, Monash University, Melbourne
Since the major work of Turyn on the Manuscript Tradition of the Tragedies of Euripides (Urbana, 1957) and that of Zuntz on the Transmission of Euripides’ Plays (Cambridge, 1965), little has been added with regard to Euripides’ rising popularity among the erudite Byzantine circles and their associates in the West. This paper revisits the criticism of Euripides in Byzantium focusing on his bold representations of sexuality and the battle of the genders which typically distressed devout scholars and Church officials. Even when quoted, Euripides was not acknowledged as a source (cf. Baldwin, “Euripides in Byzantium”, The Play of Texts and Fragments, Brill, 2009, pp. 433-45), a trend also followed by western preachers who used pagan sources for their fiery speeches to their congregations, but never admitted them openly. In the fourteenth century Maximos Planoudes and Thomas Magistros paid more attention to the works of Euripides, while Demetrios Triklinios included them in his manuscript editions of Greek tragedians, possibly reflecting the renewed negotiation of the role of women at that time (cf. A. Laiou, “Women in the Marketplace of Constantinople (11th-14th century)”, Byzantine Constantinople, Brill: 2001, pp. 261-76). When eventually these manuscripts passed to the west, they were predictably used to chastise parishioners regarding their sexual ethics, especially at Florence which aspired to be a new Athens/Rome (D. Kent, “The Dynamic of Power in Cosimo de’ Medici’s Florence”, Patronage, Art, and Society in Renaissance Italy, Oxford, 1987, pp. 63-78). The paper argues that the rediscovery of Euripides in the fourteenth century and the emphasis on Euripides in the intensified manuscript trade of the time was closely associated with the evolving gender agenda in both the East and the West.
Incomplete Biography: Plans for the Consolidation of the Byzantine Rule on the Adriatic at the Beginning of the Ninth Century
Mladen Ančić, University of Zadar, Zadar
The author starts from the results obtained through the conservation works on the church of St Donatus (St. Trinity) in Zadar. Thorough research, conducted by the conservators, art historians and historians, has shown that the original rotunda of the famous church (usually compared to Charlemagne’s “palatine chapel” in Aachen and St Vitale in Ravenna) was even more complex than had earlier been assumed. The original building included a flanked structure, torn down by Italian conservators in the 1930s. Such a complex structure was obviously intended to be something more important than a provincial city church. It became clear that those complex plans could not have been devised by some local architect and funds needed for the completion of the project were above the means of the local community.
The author then considers the possibility that the complex building, including the church and its appendices, was built under the supervision from Constantinople as part of what is here presumed to be a plan to consolidate Byzantine rule on the Adriatic after the conclusion of the peace treaty in Aachen in 812. It seems very probable that this plan gave a prominent future role to the city of Zadar (“new Ravenna”), by far the biggest and most important centre of the Byzantine possessions on the Adriatic at the time. Arguments for such a conclusion may be found in the text of “Dalmatian file” (chapters 29 to 36) of De Administrando Imperio as well as in a few stories dating to the second decade of the ninth century recorded by the Venetian chronicler John the Deacon in his Istoria Veneticorum. Such projections are quite in line even with the politics of distribution of saint’s relics – precisely at that time, after the peace treaty of 812, Byzantine authorities from Constantinople sent the relics of St Anastasia, “chief saint of Illyricum”, to Zadar and the relics of St Theodore, patron saint of the border guardians, to the Venetian lagoons.
The whole plan was abandoned probably in the third decade of the ninth century, due to the changed circumstances, while the complex building of St Trinity became part of the Episcopal complex. Plans for the “new Ravenna” were forgotten and the biography of the finished church remained incomplete.
History of the Wars: Narrations of Crises in Power Relations Between Constantinople and Italy in the Sixth Century
Renato Viana Boy, University of São Paulo, São Paulo
The History of the Wars, written by the Byzantine historian Procopius (490-562), is a collection of the eight books that narrate the campaigns of the Byzantine emperor Justinian (527-565) by the resumption of the political control over its former imperial domains in Persia, northern Africa and Italy. We intend to focus our analysis on three books devoted to the Gothic War, in which it’s possible to perceive a context of crises in political relations so far established between the Byzantine’s capital, Constantinople, and the former imperial possessions in Italy. Much of the literature on the subject, which uses the History of the Wars as a source of research, suggests that the wars of Justinian as objective to reconquer or restore the old imperial boundaries. However, we believe that we can relativize this idea. We intend to demonstrate here that in this context of crisis and tensions described by Procopius, Justinian’s military campaigns in Italy had an objective to promote a reorganization of different instances of action of the imperial power in the western Mediterranean and not the conquest or the restoration of political control over territories where the Empire had lost its power to act definitively with the deposition of Romulus Augustus in 476.
Rome and Persia: Rhetoric and Religion
Tim Briscoe, Macquarie University, Sydney
Rome’s complex relationship with its eastern neighbour, the Sassanian Persian empire, has become an increasingly important and popular area of scholarship in recent decades. Most recently, Canepa (The Two Eyes of the Earth: Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sassanian Iran, 2009) has analysed “how Sassanian Persia and Late Roman/Byzantine rulers acted as rivals in securing claims of universal sovereignty while at the same time recognising each other’s right to exist”, which “had profound ramifications for the shaping of images, rituals and discourse of legitimacy at the courts of each power” (P. Edwell, Review of Canepa, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2011.04.16). However, to date, this and other studies of Romano-Persian relations have downplayed or ignored the role of religion in the formulation of Roman responses to their Sasanian rivals.
In this paper, particular attention will be paid to the way(s) in which the emergence and development of Christianity as the official and dominant religion within the Roman empire affected the perceptions and representations of the Persian enemy. Specifically, an analysis of the rhetoric of authors from the third and fourth centuries, such as Lactantius and Eusebius, will be examined and compared with that of their successors, from Procopius in the Justinian age to the chroniclers of the reign of Heraclius. In addition, this paper will compare differing Roman responses to Sassanian Persia during periods of (a) relative religious tolerance (e.g. under the reign of the Sassanian king, Yazdgerd I) and (b) religious tension or outright conflict between the Christian Roman empire and Zoroastrian Persia (e.g. the hostility between Constantine and Shapur II over the Christians of Persia; the ‘crusade’ of the emperor Heraclius).
Saint Nicholas and Byzantine Seafaring Saviour Saints
Amelia R. Brown, University of Queensland, Brisbane
This paper studies the literary and archaeological evidence for Early to Middle Byzantine seafaring saviour saints, especially Saint Nicholas. Hagios Nikolaos, along with Phokas, Diomedes and the Panagia, held special importance for all those who traveled, and sought a safe reception and return, at Constantinople and other Byzantine ports: merchants, soldiers, high officials, sailors, fishermen and itinerant holy men. Despite intensive study of the iconography and hagiography of Byzantine saints, the actual mechanism by which their images and exploits spread abroad remains poorly understood. Though it is clear that transmission happened primarily by sea between, for example, Alexandria, Constantinople and the Crimea, the specific agents of that transmission are often mysterious. Certain saints became very widely-observed throughout the Empire, however, while others retained only local importance. I suggest that the saints credited with salvation at sea would be among the first candidates for widespread carriage and adoption, at the centre and edges of the Byzantine Empire. Thus archaeological and literary evidence for Saint Nicholas as a saviour of seafarers spreads from southern Anatolia first to Constantinople and then to the corners of the Byzantine world: Alexandria, the Crimea and Rome. The rapid translation of iconographic types, texts and then the actual relics of Saint Nicholas between east and west, north and south suggest unexpected levels of communication and trade across the Mediterranean continuing in the seventh, eightth and ninth centuries. The cult of Saint Nicholas and other seafaring saviour saints thus has unexpected importance for interpreting relations between Constantinople and its periphery.
The Monastery of Apa Pamoun at El-Hagarsa
Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University, Sydney
South-west of modern Sohag in Upper Egypt, on the escarpment which rises towards the great desert, lies a hitherto unrecorded monastic settlement, now under survey by a team from the Macquarie University Ancient Cultures Research Centre. After a brief overview of the site, this paper will focus on the ‘monastic genealogies’ in texts from the site, in which the monks at Hagarsa set out their ascetic heroes, revealing the lines of tradition within which they conceived their community, networks of monastic tradition and reputation which stretched through Egypt and beyond into the Byzantine world.
The Life of Isaac: A Coptic Patriarch in Early Islamic Egypt
Jennifer Cromwell, Macquarie University, Sydney
Few contemporary sources survive concerning Egyptian perceptions of their new Islamic rulers that are actually written in Egyptian (i.e. Coptic). Instead, there is a reliance on later Arabic histories, such as the History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria. Of the sources that do exist, one is set during a tumultuous period in the history of the young Islamic state. Mena’s The Life of Isaac is the biography of the eponymous forty-first Patriarch of Alexandria, whose term in office is approximately 689-92 CE. While this coincides with the Second Islamic Civil War, which ended with ‘Abd al-Malik’s triumph over Ibn al-Zabayr in 692, this conflict is not mentioned in the Life. Isaac’s relationship with Egypt’s governor, ‘Abd al-Aziz, does, though, figure prominently.
This paper will examine the portrayal of Coptic-Muslim relations during this period, as based on this Life, in conjunction with recent research on the first century of Muslim rule, both in general and within Egypt. Particular focus will be placed upon a comparison of the Coptic and Arabic literary record, together with the image presented in what documentary evidence exists for this period. In so doing, it will address what measures – if any – were in place at this period to integrate Egypt and its Christian population into the new Empire.
Defining Neighbors Within Byzantium: Calculating the Line of Provincial Borders in Late Antique Palaestina and Arabia
Kate Da Costa, University of Sydney, Sydney
While the centre/periphery model may be losing favour as an explanatory tool for understanding interactions within the late Roman and Byzantine empires, we are no closer to defining a better modelling mechanism for many aspects of late antique life. A not insignificant part of the problem is the lack of data. One critical aspect of the empire, its basic administrative form, is no exception. It is surely difficult to discuss the impact of imperial provincial arrangements on indigenous communities, if we do not know, anywhere in the empire, where exactly the provincial borders ran. We have no ancient source which describes the grounds on which these internal borders were redefined, although we do know that provinces changed size and shape on numerous occasions. In the absence of extensive contemporary literary or epigraphic documentation, historians have largely ignored the problem. A recently published doctoral thesis by Jonas Sipilä outlined factors such as the knowledge available at the imperial court about a province, the influence of provincial elites, the existence of religious tension and economic importance as contributing to the decision to reassign territory. This paper outlines an alternative approach. If the borders of provinces could be more accurately plotted, the changes to them might also indicate factors which lay behind this imperial interference.
Archaeological data is in fact in abundant supply, in contrast to written evidence. As the Customs Law of Asia has demonstrated, customs duties existed on major internal borders and can be shown to distort trade in locally made, low-profit objects, such as common pottery vessels. Over time, ceramic products tend to remain within the province of their manufacture. The Borders of Arabia and Palaestina project sampled twenty sites in north-west Jordan, along the line of the supposed border. Preliminary results suggest that it is possible to use ceramic evidence to better define the line of provincial borders, which, while a small step, is a crucial one in the development of our understanding of the relationship of the imperial centre to the communities it ruled.
Images, Inscriptions and Imperial Ideology from the Tetrarchs to Theodosius
Caillan Davenport, University of Queensland, Brisbane
Roman emperors of the fourth century A.D. looked very different from their predecessors in the third, as even a cursory glance at imperial coin portraits reveals. The close-cropped hair and beard of the soldier emperor was replaced by a clean-shaven and serene image of imperial power. This transformation was a legacy of the reign of Constantine (A.D. 306-37), who had consciously sought to differentiate his public image from that of his Tetrarchic predecessors. Such was the power of the changed Constantinian image that it was maintained even under later soldier emperors such as Valentinian I (A.D. 364-75) and Theodosius I (A.D. 379-95).
Studies of Roman imperial ideology in the fourth century A.D. have concentrated on the unity and consistency of the emperor’s image as expressed through coins, public statues and other artistic media (e.g. R. R. R. Smith, ‘Roman Portraits: Honours, Empresses, and Late Emperors’, JRS 75 (1985) 209-21). But less attention has been paid to the inscriptions in honour of the emperors and their family members, which were carved into the bases of these statues, as well as milestones, altars and public buildings. Many of these inscriptions were not official monuments but represented a response by local communities to the ideological messages of the central administration (C. Ando, Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire, Berkeley 2000; C. Noreña, Imperial Ideals in the Roman West: Representation, Circulation, Power, Cambridge 2011). In this paper I will examine artistic and epigraphic representations of emperors and their family members in different areas of the empire, from Britain and Italy to Greece and Asia Minor. The aim of this investigation is to ascertain the extent of regional diversity in the reception and interpretation of imperial ideals in the fourth century A.D.
‘Local Knowledge’ and Wider Contexts: The Stories of Arrival of the Croats and Serbs in ‘De Administrando Imperio’ in the Past and Present
Danijel Dzino, Macquarie University, Sydney
De Administrando Imperio (DAI) is a work from the tenth century, ascribed to the emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and the intellectual circle around him. Its chapters 29-36 are a very important source for the early history of Slavonic-speaking polities on the eastern coast of the Adriatic and its hinterland. Amongst other things, DAI preserves the stories of the arrival of the Byzantine neighbors, Croats and Serbs, in southeastern Europe. Although contradictory and confusing, these stories were for a long time considered as crown evidence confirming the migration of these two groups into a new homeland from the ancestral lands of White Croatia and Pagan Serbia. Scholarly debate about these stories has raged for quite some time, entering the twenty-first century with renewed vigor. The debate shifted from the attempts to date the migration or to establish a viable historical narrative from these stories, to question whether they have some credibility or should be fully rejected.
While acknowledging that this debate remains wide open, this paper will discuss the relationship of ‘local’ knowledge and general historical narratives in DAI but also in more recent scholarship, focusing the analysis on overlapping discourses of knowledge and identity.
‘Telling Off Justinian’: Undiplomatic Correspondence Between Constantinople and Merovingian Gaul
Andrew Gillett, Macquarie University, Sydney
A complex side-issue in Justinian’s war against the Gothic regime in Italy (535-50) was the involvement of the Frankish kingdom of Gaul. In order to pressure the Gothic regime from the north-west of Italy, Justinian sought assistance from the Frankish rulers and secured a response from the Frankish king Theodebert I (533-47). But Justinian was disappointed in the response: as the narratives of Procopius and Agathias show, the Frankish rulers were seen at best as ineffective, at worst as treacherous, and Byzantine views of Theodebert were negative, even to the extent of fearing Frankish expansion into central Europe.
A small clutch of letters preserved in a ninth-century letter collection, the Epistulae Austrasica, offers a different, contemporary view from the Frankish royal court. Two letters from Theodebert to Justinian show the king compliant and cooperative with the emperor, unsurprising given the conventions of diplomatic correspondence. A third letter to Justinian from Theodebert’s son and successor Theodobald (547-55), however, is quite different. Written in the same diplomatic style as the earlier letters, it nevertheless is stridently critical of Justinian and protective of the memory of Theodebert. The attitude of this letter, and the circumstances of preservation of all three, offer a rare opportunity to observe a western reaction to the perceptions and rhetoric of the Constantinopolitan court, and an alternative perspective provided by a documentary source to the picture we have from narrative texts.
A Late Fifth-century Crisis in Roman ‘Catholicism’?: Contextualising Constantius’s ‘vita Germani’
Stephen Joyce, Monash University, Melbourne
Constantius’s vita Germani, written in the late fifth century, was arguably the most influential vita or ‘saint’s life’ since Sulpicius Severus’s Life of Saint Martin of Tours, written some hundred years before in the late fourth century. Cleverly eliding the aristocratic and organised Rhone Monasticism of Lérins with the common and charismatic Touraine Monasticism of Martin, Constantius had created the ultimate episcopal Christian hero, one that, significantly, took the role of the Saint back within the control of the aristocratically dominated Gallo-Roman Church hierarchy. The effect, arguably, was to place the bishop as confessor-saint at the heart of local episcopal strategies.
The life story of Germanus, both a literal and theological defender of romanitas and orthodoxy, connected ‘Catholic’ (and subsequently partitioned) Britain, Ireland and Northern Gaul to Rome and Ravenna, and from there to the imperial and ‘Catholic’ authorities of the East Romans in Constantinople. The timing of the publishing of the vita Germani, c. 480, was critical: imperial authority had just ceased in the West, and many of the western provinces were dominated by Germanic and Arian aristocracies. Western Europe was on the verge of becoming both ‘barbarised’ and heretic.
It will be argued that the vita Germani, deliberately constructed and widely published, was a direct result of its context – a crisis in late fifth-century Roman ‘Catholicism’ that was not only political and cultural, as defined by a loss of romanitas, but also theological, as defined by a dominant and militant Arianism and the need to construct and support a militant alliance of ‘Catholic’ nationes to combat it.
Faith as a Frontier: The Photian Homilies on the Invasion of the Rus’
Dimitri Kepreotes, Macquarie University
The Russian invasion of Constantinople in 860, while Emperor Michael III was absent on campaign against the Arabs, left Patriarch Photios to paint the vivid picture of desperation in two homilies, providing the only contemporary historical source of the event, as well as a theological interpretation of its underlying causes. One sees in both homilies a clear distinction between the City of the Mother of God on the one hand and the realm of the ‘barbarian’ on the other. Yet the frontier between these two worlds is to be traced not so much on political borders as upon a stated moral order. In effect, faith is a frontier of its own. For, “… the rest of the nations, whose religion is at fault, are not increased in strength …” Furthermore, the application of religious faith, or lack thereof, prompted Photios to be critical of his own society and flock, rather than of the invaders. In this regard, many parallels are drawn between the old and new Jerusalem, as between the old and new Israel. The self-critical approach – made more striking by its timing amidst the turmoil of the invasion and its aftermath – provides a commentary on Byzantine life that is far from triumphalist, in spite of the miraculous and favourable outcome for the inhabitants of the imperial capital. This paper therefore explores the paradoxical mismatch of blame between the invaders and the accused, with the aim of showing that the Biblically-couched lamentations for the City provide an almost Platonic metaphor about the need for reason to prevail over passion.
Marriage as a Tool of Imperium: Michael VIII Palaiologos and the East
Carlos Lopez, University of Notre Dame
Michael VIII Palaiologos has long been regarded as the last successful emperor to rule Byzantium. A skilled soldier and Machiavellian diplomat, Michael successfully led the restored Byzantine state through the turbulent years of the late 13th century, thwarting the designs of his enemies. His reign and relations with the West have been widely celebrated and well studied, being the subject of Deno Geanakoplos’ 1959 landmark study on the Emperor. However, Michael’s foreign policy in the East, on which the success of the West so heavily depended, has garnered less attention.
Michael’s foreign policy in the East has long been viewed as a failure. Unable to fulfill his imperial aspirations on both his Western and Eastern fronts through military means, Michael resolved to rely more heavily upon the time honoured practice of marrying imperial brides to foreign rulers. By instituting this policy, Michael was able to create a network of alliances in the East, allowing him to conduct a successful policy in the West.
This paper will seek to re-evaluate Michael’s foreign policy in the East. It will focus primarily upon his use of marriage in establishing friendly ties with the Ilkhanate, Empire of Trebizond and the Georgian Kingdom of Imereti, assessing these marriages within their political contexts and analysing the extent to which each marriage assisted or fulfilled Michael’s imperial aspirations.
From Roman History to Byzantine Biographies: Historiographical and Cultural Interactions in Xiphilinus’ Epitome
Christopher Mallan, University of Queensland, Brisbane
There have been few serious attempts to study the Epitome of Dio’s Roman History compiled by the eleventh-century Byzantine monk Xiphilinus. Roman historians regard Xiphilinus’ Epitome as a little more than a necessary evil – a source to consult where the manuscript tradition of Dio’s Roman History fails. Conversely, historians of Byzantium ignore Xiphilinus’ Epitome almost entirely. Xiphilinus has been regarded as an uninspired, unthinking copier of Dio. This paper raises several points against this prevailing mindset and the cultural ‘disconnect’ that it represents. Xiphilinus, it is argued, performed his job as an epitomator deliberately – selecting material in accordance with the literary tastes and political concerns of his age and culture.
This paper presents an examination of cross-cultural dynamics and interactions within Xiphilinus’ Epitome of Dio’s Roman History. The task of excerpting (and reworking) Dio’s voluminous Roman History, was great. It was an endeavour that required Xiphilinus to interact with his source material in such a way as to make it relevant to ‘the way of life and political situation’ of his eleventh-century audience. On the face of it, Xiphilinus’ task was considerable – his endeavour required him to interact not only with Dio’s text, but also with the world in which Dio lived. There was, however, a common thread that connected Dio to Xiphilinus. That thread was the shared cultural heritage: specifically, a belief in paideia, and the veneration of the classics of Greek Literature from Homer to Plato.
The Iconography of Mary, Enthroned as the Queen of Heaven: Art and Cultural Identity in Late Antique Egypt
Glennda Marsh-Letts, Macquarie University, Sydney
Our understanding of late antique and early medieval art in Egypt has expanded in recent years through the recovery of vibrant paintings hidden under centuries of soot and whitewash on the walls of monastic churches. Some of these recently-restored images show the Virgin Mary Enthroned as the Queen of Heaven. A study of these images, in conjunction with the previously known corpus of art from late antique Egypt, shows some continuity of both technique and iconography with ancient Egyptian painting. A careful analysis of dress styles and accessories pictured, as well as the composition of the paintings and their architectural settings, allows us to make cross-cultural comparisons with contemporary or near-contemporary images of Mary Enthroned as the Queen of Heaven extant in Italy, as well as in other locations that once formed a part of the Byzantine Empire.
Between the Old Rome and the New: Imperial Co-operation Between Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity, ca. 400-500 AD
Meaghan McEvoy, University of Oxford
Traditional scholarship on the fifth century has generally viewed the period as one of decisive separation between the eastern and western Roman emperors, as the Theodosian ruling house died out, and the Western Roman Empire disintegrated. Yet our surviving evidence offers many instances both of political interaction between Rome and Constantinople, and concerted eastern efforts to assist the ailing west. In the 430s and 440s joint eastern/western military campaigns were in operation attempting to reclaim North Africa from the Vandals, while in 467 the eastern emperor Leo I would send the illustrious Constantinopolitan senator Anthemius to claim the western imperial throne. In its concern for the fate of surviving members of the western imperial house, as in lengthy negotiations with the Vandals for the release of the empress Licinia Eudoxia and her daughters, and in the sending of the western senator Olybrius (then resident in Constantinople) to mediate between Anthemius and Ricimer in 472, the eastern imperial government showed a more consistent interest and investment of resources in western government affairs than modern historiography might lead us to believe.
In this paper I will explore a number of issues relating to the efforts of the eastern imperial government to aid the west in the fifth century, focusing particularly on (a) the considerable expense of campaigns such as those against the Vandals in the 430s and early 440s; (b) the movement of envoys and members of the senatorial elites of both Rome and Constantinople between the two capitals, and also between “barbarian” successor kingdoms after 476; (c) and finally, the implications of such efforts as an indication that the propaganda of imperial unity between east and west was not yet relegated to the realms of ideology alone in the 5th century, but continued to be a matter of both genuine concern and genuine activity.
The Battle of Gallipoli 1416: A Cause of Irrational Exuberance
John Melville-Jones, University of Western Australia, Perth
After establishing a beachhead in Europe at Gallipoli in 1354, the Ottomans took over more and more of the European territory of the Byzantine Empire, although the pace of expansion was slowed or even briefly reversed because of the problems that followed their defeat at the Battle of Ancyra in 1402. During this period and afterwards, the Venetians attempted to maintain good diplomatic relations with the sultan and the emperor, although this was difficult when Ottoman vessels made piratical attacks on Venetian ships and land-based establishments. In 1414, in particular, attacks were made on the island of Negropont (Euboea), which had been under Venetian control since 1390, and large numbers of prisoners were taken and carried off. Reparations were sought. Then in 1416 a Venetian squadron which was escorting an embassy to the Sultan found itself, because of a misunderstanding, fighting the Turkish fleet that was stationed there. The result was a resounding victory for the Venetians, which may have led them in later years to overestimate what they could do in the East.
The Battle of Negropont was fought in July 1470 between the fleets of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans, led by Sultan Mehmed II (Fatih Sultan Mehmet) were besieging Negropont, when the Venetians arrived to relieve them. However, the Venetians were unable to break the Turkish siege. The garrison commander Paolo Erizzo surrendered so long as he could keep his head; the Ottomans cut him in half at the waist instead.
Bogomils on Via Egnatia and in the Valley of Pelagonia: Geography of a Dualist Movement
Robert Mihajlovski, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne
This paper treads my long-term field research on the dualist religious movement called Bogomilism that is located along the ancient Roman communication of Via Egnatia and in the valley of Pelagonia. I discuss various written historical sources and topography in the region of Western Macedonia where Bogomilism had its strongholds.
In addition, I also deal with some of the neglected monuments and remnants of the Bogomils in the region. There are two ways in promoting this complex research: theoretical and topographical analysis of the Bogomil faith within the context of place and time. Here I also include archaeological, ethnographical and theological investigation of the religious group labeled as Bogomil.
The Relationship Between Byzantium and the Kingdom of Hungary During the Period of Christianisation
Charles Moess, Macquarie University, Sydney
After the conquest of the Carpathian Basin, King István I realised that only through converting to Christianity could Hungary intergrate into Western Europe, but this could only happen with the consent either of Byzantium or the German Empire. The choice between Germany and the Latin rite against Byzanium and the Greek rite was motivated mainly by political rather than religious considerations. The argument that the mission of the Byzantine Church had already successfully started conversion of the Magyars in the 940s was outweighed by the fact that the adoption of the Latin rite offered István the opportunity to change, with the support of the Pope and the German Emperor, from a tribal chief into rex dei gratia. Inviting missionaries mainly from Germany started with royal support and the large scale conversion of the population to the Latin rite. Coercion was often used in converting the pagan population to Christianity which involved dramatic changes in lifesyle leading to popular resistance, and after the death of István I, to pagan uprisings. István I’s decision to opt for cultural and religious assimilation into the world of Rome and Mainz resulted in the suppression of hundreds of years of pre-Christian culture and the loss of ethnic Hungarian identity. In Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Moravia and Rus the beginning of literacy broadly coincided with the adoption of Old Church Slavonic as the language of liturgy. In Poland after the baptism of king Mieszko I, the Latin alphabet was adopted for writing the Polish language. In Hungary, no effort was made to render Hungarian in Latin letters, in fact Latin remained the official language until 1844. Had the Greek rite been chosen, a Hungarian liturgical language might have developed.
‘From Europe to Asia and Back again’: A Tale of Three Cities
Peter Moore, Macquarie University, Sydney
Libanius of Antioch: ‘Athens and Antioch held aloft the torch of rhetoric; the former illuminating Europe and the Latter Asia’.
Calvin of Geneva: ‘No one of sound judgment would deny that our Chrysostom excels all the ancient writers currently extant.’
The thesis of this paper is that John Chrysostom (c.347-407), bishop of Constantinople (397-405), was a mediating figure between Europe and Asia and the cultural influence of Byzantium in the Latin west.
Public oratory lay close to the heart of classical Greek civilization and John Chrysostom, a student of the great Antiochene rhetor Libanius, was himself a master of the Greek rhetorical tradition as had been appropriated from Athens and recast by Libanius and others, in distinctive Asian form. As bishop of Constantinople, Chrysostom brought this potent cultural tradition to his ecclesiastical leadership in the imperial capital. But did all this simply flow from Athens to Constantinople and remain there? The focus of this paper is on the transmission of that same tradition back through Chrysostom to Europe in the early modern period.
The paper examines the influence of Chrysostom on a leading French orator, John Calvin of Geneva (1509-64), an ardent admirer of Chrysostom and crucial cultural figure in the West. Calvin has been credited with having created a civilization ‘essentially by his preaching’ (Richard Stauffer. “Un Calvin Méconnu: Le Prédicateur De Genève.” Bulletin de la Société du Protestantisme Français April-June, no. 123 : 184-203, at 187). A case will be made for a significant influence by Chrysostom upon Calvin. That influence is studied through the lens of a comparison between Chrysostom and Calvin in their exploitation of emotion in their Beatitude sermons (Matthew 5.)
In this way, the paper seeks to testify to the cultural power of Byzantium through one of its ecclesiastical leaders’ mediation of cultural tradition traversing at least three cities: Athens, Constantinople and Geneva.
Digital Map of Multilingual Byzantine Literature
Nikolaos Myridis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
The Byzantine Empire – as well as the Byzantine era – is of course a multinational, multicultural and multilingual case. This multi-state composition produced the corresponding multi-facet extraordinary image of the so called area of ‘Byzantine works’. In this context, the compound of scripts belonging to the Byzantine era occupies capital position. These scripts are primarily and undoubtedly religious – revealing and reminding the primary reference of the Byzantine citizens to the divinity; however, the mosaic of Byzantine texts contains an abundance of diverse thematic fields. There are many projects collecting and organising the vast treasure of Byzantine scripts. Among them we refer here the Patrologiae Graeca and Patrologiae Latina (Migne), the TLG (e)collection, the Sources Chrétiennes project etc. A primary observation regarding these collections refers to the language of the scripts. Thus, there are monolingual collections, as for instance TLG, or multilingual, e.g. Sources Chrétiennes. The scope of this paper is the launch of linguistic investigation of the Byzantine corpus of scripts through the use of digital means and methods. In this framework we may refer a couple of our relative introductory research works. Initially, we should refer ad hoc, the most known languages of Byzantine scripts: Greek, Latin, Syriac, etc. Due to the extremely long period of Byzantine era (over 1,000 years), there is obviously a relative modulation of each language (e.g. Greek) during this vast period. However, for the purposes of this study, we consider each language as a unified assembly, taking no care of the specific alterations of it. The overall project delves into the chronological progress of the production of Byzantine texts. The resulting (digital) product is an e-map of the multilingual production of Byzantine scripts. This innovation constitutes the starting point for fruitful analyses and subsequent evaluation of trans-cultural Byzantine studies.
New Evidence for a Possible Byzantine Foundation of the Demolished “Frankish” Tower on the Acropolis of Athens
Andrea Nanetti, Ca’Foscari University, Venice
The paper presents new evidence on the so-called ‘Frankish” tower of the Acropolis of Athens as a case study for the intrinsically controversial role of Late Byzantium in the building of Modern Greek national identity. The new evidence comes from unpublished letters of Heinrich Schliemann referring, first, to the demolition of the tower in 1874/1875 and, secondly, to the debate, with foreign and domestic reactions, that followed the demolition. The controversial factor is that on the one hand, the building of Modern Greek national identity begins in the later Byzantine period, from the thirteenth century onwards: “The Fourth Crusade engendered in the Byzantines a form of nationalistic sentiment that was new and indeed hardly consonant with their inherited concept of a universal world empire” (Donald Nicol, 1993). On the other hand, even if it is not possible to think of late Byzantium without Latin Greece, as Judith Herrin has recently pointed out, that same Latin Greece was a part of the historical memory that the nineteenth-century phase of the building of Modern Greek national identity wanted to delete. The timing is of essence here: this is the time when the eastern Middle Ages, that is Byzantium, is rehabilitated and incorporated into the national narrative by Paparrigopoulos. As a conclusion: there is some evidence that could support the possibility of an eleventh-century purely Byzantine foundation of this demolished tower.
Theophanes on the Arab Conquest and Its Latin Version
Bronwen Neil, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane
In the Chronographia tripertita of Anastasius Bibliothecarius (d. c.877-79), composed between 871 and 874, the Librarian took excerpts from three ninth-century Greek iconophile sources, the last of which was Theophanes’ Chronographia. Theophanes’ history of the Arab conquest stretches from Muḥammad’s death to the year 813. Anastasius compiled the Chronographia tripertita for John the Deacon (also known as John Immonides). The Latin version included brief excerpts of entries up to the death of Theodosius II and longer ones up to the end of Justinian I’s reign, but Anastasius chose to translate the whole section covering the period from the accession of Justin I to 813, thus transmitting Theophanes’ history of the Arab conquest in full.
Anastasius’ translation of the Chronographia of Theophanes was one of very few Latin histories to offer western readers an account of the Byzantine empire and its relations with the early followers of Islam. Thus the Chronographia tripertita became the chief source on Islam available in western Europe between the ninth and twelfth centuries, when it was superseded by two polemical works of Peter the Venerable of Cluny, who used Anastasius as his main source. Anastasius’ Latin version contains several important details that are not transmitted in the Greek tradition, which will be considered in this paper.
Papyrological Evidence for Changing Naming Patterns for Women in Early Byzantine Egypt
Alanna Nobbs, Macquarie University, Sydney
The Christianisation of Egypt led to some changing naming patterns for men and women. While traditional Egyptian or Greek names continued into the Coptic era, we know from Eusebius that around the mid-third century distinctive Christian names began to become popular.
This paper will examine uses of Biblical names for women in the Greek papyri from Egypt. Aside from Mary, which is by far the commonest Biblical name (and can be Jewish or Christian and can also represent the feminine of the Roman family name Marius), we find in the papyrus documents Esther, Susanna and other Biblical names. This paper will examine usages of such names with a discussion of possible Christian or Jewish provenance. In conclusion it will deal with newer (Greek or Hellenised) Christian women’s names arising in the fourth century.
Egypt in the Byzantine Imagination: Cultural Memory and Historiography, Fourth-ninth Centuries
Ken Parry, Macquarie University, Sydney
The intention behind this paper is to look at the reception and perception of Egypt and the Egyptians in Byzantine sources of the fourth to ninth centuries. The period to be examined is of considerable interest given the political and religious upheavals that occurred in Egypt during this time. Among the most important of these upheavals was the establishment of a non-Chalcedonian Christian community and church hierarchy, the Sasanian conquest and occupation under Khusro II and the Arab invasion and establishment of Muslim rule. The picture that emerges from the sources perpetuates some of the commonplaces of the ancient authors, although often with a Christian re-interpretation of them, while providing insights into contemporary perceptions of Egypt and its inhabitants. In addition the paper will examine the relationship between cultural memory and historiography as it pertains to Egypt and the Egyptians as found in the sources of the period under review. As the topic of this paper is not one that has received much attention it should be seen as prolegomena to a more extensive study and as such a work in progress.
Rome, Byzantium and the Road to North Africa: Augustine and Maximus on the Will and the Affections
Irene Petrou, Macquarie University, Sydney
The fourth-century Latin theologian Augustine of Hippo and the seventh-century Byzantine theologian Maximus the Confessor are two of the early church’s greatest theologians. Despite their disparate theological provenances, language and the two centuries that separated them, they bear similarity in their conceptions of the will in the role of the affections in the Christian. Maximus spent twenty years exiled in Carthage, yet there is no evidence in his works that he knew of Augustine’s theological thought. This means that no direct link can be traced between the two, apart from Maximus’ long residence in North Africa. Despite there being no proof that Maximus was directly influenced by Augustine’s theology, the basis of their commonality lies in the scriptural or dogmatic tradition of the early church which both had inherited and which spoke of humanity’s ultimate dependence on a Creator. Both were forced to deal with issues of human self-determinism, arising out of their respective historical contexts and which they saw threatened an orthodox understanding of the Christian life.
This paper will discuss how both their notions of the will became an integral part of their anthropology, soteriology and eschatology and were directed by their cosmological and Christological understandings. Both, for instance, shared a pessimistic view of the human condition after the Fall and spoke of a deformed human will unable to incline itself naturally to God’s will without Christ’s mediatory intervention and work of grace. Although Augustine and Maximus show originality in their development of their conceptions of the will, the similarity lies in that their conceptions provided a way for them to speak of the issues of Christian freedom, sin, grace and transformation and reformation in Christ. Their notion of will became for them a way to speak about the topic of Christian ethics and morality and the issue of human freedom without compromising what they understood to be humanity’s ultimate dependence on a sovereign God.
Who Were Justinian’s Neighbours and How Were They Regarded?
Roger Scott, University of Melbourne, Melbourne
In studies of Justinian, most attention is invariably given to his regaining of the lost western empire as his major achievement (along with the codification of the law and the building of Hagia Sophia). I have previously suggested at our conferences (following Brian Croke) that Justinian was only concerned with the West for a short period and did not devote much in the way of funds to it. I shall add to that by arguing that his attacks on the Vandal and Gothic leaders were as usurpers within the empire, not as neighbours outside it, and that this was probably what was depicted in the lost mosaic in the Chalke. For what the emperor ruled was the entire Christian empire, so Christians were necessarily members of the empire while neighbours outside the empire were by definition non-Christians. So such neighbours were brought within the empire, where possible, by conversion to Christianity, performed by the baptism of their rulers and emphasised by pomp and ceremony rather than missionary theology. Such rulers then discovered that conversion to Christianity involved subjection to the Christian Roman emperor, a transfer from being a neighbour of the Empire to being part of it. But neighbourliness also existed in seeing those who were unlikely to be subjected (and so remained non-Christian), as almost being family and hence being treated with greater respect. So Justinian and Theodora and their Persian counterparts refer to one another diplomatically as brother and sister, while near contemporaries accepted their counterparts as guardians of their family.
Bunkers, Open Cities and Boats in Byzantine Diplomacy
Jonathan Shepard, University of Cambridge
A bunker is an impregnable stronghold, designed to withstand overwhelming odds, while providing a base for counter-offensives. One could write the history of Byzantine diplomacy wholly in terms of bunkers, strung along coastlines and mountainous terrain. Indeed, Constantinople itself was the archetypal bunker, purpose-built to be a communications hub and re-equipped by Justinian (529-65) to cope with all eventualities, including the World’s End. So long as Constantinople held, most territories were temporarily expendable: tax-bases were sufficiently diversified to make it unlikely that all would be lost simultaneously, while contact could be maintained by water with outlying bunkers (such as Thessaloniki and Dyrrachium). In this way, agents could prepare for a counter-attack, often indirectly with the aid of ‘barbarians’ lured by the luxury goods and other glamour generated within the ‘God-protected City’s walls’.
But important as these features of Byzantine diplomacy are, they are only half the story. Equally important is Byzantium’s cultivation of miscellaneous external, settled elites. Foremost amongst these are populations concentrated on islands or in urban commercial centres, some unfortified, some well-protected by nature such as Venice, but none of them under direct Byzantine rule. Byzantium relied on elites’ self-interest to hold ambitious third parties at bay, or at least to fail to be faithful to them. In this way, Byzantium could effectively neutralise them while sometimes gaining positive benefits, in terms of revenues from trade, or naval aid against Byzantium’s enemies – or both, in the case of Venice. The range of such Open Cities was very wide – and necessarily mutating! We shall consider an array of examples from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries and from the western Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Some of these cities were of great religious and symbolic significance and a ‘presence’ in them helped the empire to choke the development of alternative loci of authority. Boats were essential for both these facets of diplomacy, most obviously for supplying/sending reinforcements to ‘bunkers, but also for maintaining links with the aforesaid elites, most of which were accessible by sea or major waterway. We shall consider evidence of the dynamics of toing-and-froing between Open Cities and Constantinople – dynamics essential not just for Byzantine diplomacy, but for maintaining the semblance of world leadership.
Byzantium’s Wars With Its Neighbours Between 1159 and 1173
Andrew Stone, University of Western Australia, Perth
A challenge for every Byzantinist studying the reign of Manuel I Komnenos (1143-80) is to find a satisfying chronology for the wars he conducted during these years. At the beginning of this period there was the triumph over the Kingdom of Jerusalem, at the end the capture of the Serbian župan Stefan Nemanja.
In between we need to insert several campaigns against Hungary and some against the Seljuk Turks of the Sultanate of Rum (Rome). In this paper I shall endeavour, using the texts of Niketas Choniates, John Kinnamos and Hungarian sources and the Byzantine orators, to establish a most likely chronology of these events.
The Presence of Foreign Ascetics on Mount Athos in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries
Ioannis Theodoridis, Macquarie University, Sydney
Even though monasticism on Mount Athos predates the arrival on the peninsula of St Athanasios the Athonite in the middle of the tenth century, it is with his arrival and, more specifically, with the commencement of the construction of the Monastery of the Great Lavra, that the history of the Holy Mountain marks its beginning. The reputation of St Athanasios, we are told in both of the Vitae that we have available, grew to such an extent that men of all peoples, races, tongues and classes flocked to the Holy Mountain. We are told that they came from as far away as Rome and Italy, Calabria, Amalfi and Sicily in the west and Iberia (Georgia) and Armenia in the east. They came in such numbers that within a short period of time they had established their own monastic communities on the peninsula, evidencing the fact that what was taking place within the borders of Byzantium reverberated outside the borders of the empire and influenced developments beyond the empire’s confines.
‘Byzantivm sive Constantineopolis’: Byzantine and Ottoman in the Panorama of Melchior Lorck
Renee Van Meeuwen and Nigel Westbrook, University of Western Australia, Perth
In this paper we will analyze the sixteenth-century Panorama of Constantinople by the Danish artist Melchior Lorck, a prospect of the Constantinople peninsula viewed from the northern shore of the Golden Horn. The Panorama of Constantinople is, arguably, the only reasonably accurate graphical record of the city at this time and is a valuable source for both Byzantine and Ottoman structures. The drawing, a compilation of field sketches drawn by the artist between 1559 and 1562 during his tenure in the embassy of the Holy Roman Emperor, is a significant document in the early modern cultural exchange between East and West. Lorck’s work has been researched almost entirely within the discipline of Art History. However, building on the early attempt by Wulzinger (1932) to establish the viewpoints used for the drawing through triangulation, we will use digital technology to map elements Lorichs’ drawing onto an accurate topographical model of the city in order to reconstruct, as far as possible, the layout of central Constantinople in the mid 16th century. We propose that it is possible to identify with some degree of confidence otherwise unknown topographical locations and even structures that would otherwise remain known only through textual references. It will be argued that the general topography at this time may not have undergone such a drastic transformation as has been assumed by some writers on the Ottoman city. The major Ottoman and Byzantine monuments – churches and mosques, sea walls, palaces – will be discussed in relation to the social space that existed at this time.
The Transfer of Literary Style from Byzantium to Rus’ Seen Through the ‘Panegyric(s) Dedicated to Volodimir’
Alexandra Vuković, University of Cambridge
The translation of Byzantine religious literature was central to the formation of Kievan Rus’ as a Christian principality. Byzantine books, relics and bishops were the main vectors of the “acculturation” of Kievan Rus’ leading to its incorporation into the Byzantine cultural sphere. As Jonathan Shepard, Andrzej Poppe and Simon Franklin have noted, the acculturation process was propelled by the receiving culture, Kievan Rus’, and undertaken somewhat reluctantly by Constantinople. However, the eulogies or encomia dedicated to the kagan Volodimir Sviatoslavich (c.958-1015) and Volodimir Vasilkovich, prince of Volhynia (c.1250-89) contained in the Slovo Zakone i Blagodati by the Metropolitan Ilarion of Kiev and the Galician-Volhynian Chronicle (sub anno 1288) respectively, are amongst the best examples of Byzantine classicizing rhetoric in Rus’. Both include the features of epideictic rhetoric (in the tradition of the Second Sophistic) along with other Byzantine rhetorical topoi: allusions to Biblical kings,Constantinian references, the representation of the prince as donor, the rhetorical elevation of the ruling dynasty, insistence on an illustrious genealogy, the role of the prince in supporting and establishing the Christian faith within his realm, insistence on a monastic ideal (humility) and the historicizing elements establishing Rus’ and the prince of Rus’ within a Christian historical framework. Rus’ also incorporated the literary style of traditional Byzantine basilikoi logoi (court speeches praising the emperor), articulating the classical virtues of justice, temperance and piety. These themes were further elaborated through their application to hagiographies (such as in the Vita Constantini) and in the portraits provided in Byzantine chronicles. This paper will examine the conditions for the study of the transfer and translation of Byzantine “levels of style” offered by the first text and reworked by the author of the second in order to analyze the possible Byzantine sources for these oeuvres.
Sailors, Merchants and the Pagan Maritime Cults That Sailed Into the Ports (and Streets) of Early Byzantium
Janet Wade, Macquarie University, Sydney
Procopius describes Constantinople in the sixth century as a picturesque and tranquil Christian trading city, with sanctuaries by the sea where merchants tied up their boats and traded their wares under the benevolent gaze of Christianity. Yet in truth, many sailors, merchants and sea travelers continued to favour maritime deities such as Isis, Aphrodite and Priapus at this time. When ships from all over the world docked at the ports of Constantinople, these pagan deities came with them. Isis, as one example, had for centuries guided merchant and grain ships into Roman ports and protected seafarers plying the trade routes from Alexandria as Isis Pelagia/Pharia. Coins celebrating her Isidis Navigium were still officially minted under Christian emperors in the late fourth century. As such, many merchants and seamen would have been loath to renounce her protection. Indeed, some believed that it was no coincidence that the plague of 541/2CE hit soon after Justinian’s destruction of Isis’ temple at Philae, since the goddess taught mankind to cure disease. This paper will explore the disconnect between maritime cults and the state-sanctioned Christian religion in Constantinople and other Byzantine ports during the fourth to sixth centuries and will ask whether the two could have co-existed peacefully at this time. It will investigate the enduring popularity of maritime deities in an increasingly Christian empire. Were deities like Isis Pelagia ever really expelled from the hearts of sailors and merchants, or did they eventually simply become worshipped under the saintly guises of their Christian successors? In particular, links between Isis Pelagia and Mary will be discussed. The similarities in these prominent ladies of the sea demonstrate cultural and religious interaction between the maritime community and the locals of port cities like Constantinople in Late Antiquity/early Byzantium.
Exchange of Palace Motifs Between Byzantium, Persia and Europe
Nigel Westbrook, University of Western Australia, Perth
In this paper, I will examine the cultural borrowings that occurred in the development of palace architecture in the Early and Middle Byzantine periods. Studies of cultural interaction between Byzantium and its neighbours have been undertaken in relation to the Arabic-influenced Palace at Bryas, the Moorish-style Mouchroutas hall of the emperor Manuel I and the influence of the Great Palace on Carolingian palaces at Aachen and Ingelheim and the Papal palace at the Lateran. Here, I will adopt a more specifically architectural analysis. Early Byzantine Imperial and Governors’ palaces appear to have served a political function in communicating the power and prestige of the state, even when the reality was sometimes somewhat different. Architectural and decorative motifs acquired significance in this respect and certain elements, such as gate, passage and reception halls, became amplified in scale and spatial effects. Thus there developed extensive decorative mosaic programmes, rectangular, circular and semicircular forecourts, monumental covered walks and loggias and centralized halls of state. This paper will return to the subject of the exchange of such motifs in the palace architecture of Byzantium, Persia and Western Europe in arguing for a specifically symbolic reading of Byzantine palace architecture and its emulations by other states. I will support this reading with graphical reconstructions of several of the Great Palace buildings: the fourth- or fifth-century Dekanneakkoubita, or Triklinos of nineteen Akkoubita (dining niches); the Chalke Gate and forecourt, and the ninth-century Triconch and Sigma of Theophilus. These structures will be discussed in relation to known Byzantine, Western and Eastern palace buildings. I will turn finally to a possible early palace building depicted in Melchior Lorichs’ Panorama of Constantinople, 1559, which will be discussed in relation to Magdalino and Dark’s studies of ‘maritime’ palaces in Constantinople.
‘From War Hero to Enemy of the State’: The Representation of Bonifatius in Early Byzantine Historiography
Jeroen Wijnendaele, University College Cork/University of Melbourne
There were two Roman generals, Aëtius and Bonifatius, especially valiant men and in experience of many wars inferior to none of that time at least. …[I]f one should call either of them “the last of the Romans” he would not err… (Procop. Bell. Vand. III. 3)
The comes Africae Bonifatius (c. 422-32) played a significant role in relations between Byzantium and the Western Roman Empire. As commander of the North-African field army, he contributed towards the restoration of the Theodosian dynasty in the West during the civil war of 424-25. Later, during the Vandal invasion of Africa, he led a joint East-West expedition together with the magister militum Aspar (430-431). In his lifetime, Bonifatius became a celebrated war hero. Yet later Byzantine historiography would chiefly remember him as a traitor to the empire for supposedly inviting the Vandals to invade Africa.
The main aim of this paper is to investigate this representation of Bonifatius in the histories of Olympiodorus (second quarter fifth century), Procopius (mid sixth century) and John of Antioch (early seventh century). Not only do they account for a major part of our information on Bonifatius, they also present their material from a distinctively secular point of view, providing an alternative to the predominantly ecclesiastical historiography in the West.
An assessment of each source will be made, set against the background of Byzantium’s stance vis-à-vis its fraternal neighbour, to explain the ever-evolving image of Bonifatius.
Monastic Philosophy: Rethinking Centre and Periphery with Sozomen
Genevieve Young, Macquarie University, Sydney
In 2004 Andrew Merrills argued that Eusebius’ continuators depicted the monks of late antiquity as a ‘group apart’. He suggested that through cataloguing the oddities of ascetics the historians of this period, especially Sozomen, created an ‘image of the Christian desert analogous to the peripheral regions of the classical world’ which enabled the desert to be ‘held up as a mirror to the world as a whole’. This paper will challenge the dichotomous image of centre and (monastic) periphery that Merrills presents, at least with regard to Sozomen’s History, by scrutinizing the historian’s use of vocabulary for all proponents of an ascetic way of life. Sozomen himself hails from what might be perceived as a peripheral region of the empire, the two-bit town of Betheleia near Gaza. His descriptions of monastic philosophy and ‘monks’ and ‘philosophers’ combine to convey an impression of one monastic way of life that connects peoples across a vast empire from Betheleia to Constantinople and perhaps even beyond.
Destroying Persia? Why It Should Not Be Done
Harmut G. Ziche, University of Johannesburg
In 627, after five years of intense warfare following the Persian occupation of much of the imperial East, Heraclius succeeded in what all his predecessors since Galerius in 299 had failed to achieve: he besieged Ctesiphon and forced the Persian emperor Kavadh II to accepted a peace treaty which so weakened the Sassanian monarchy and state that the empire subsequently collapsed with little resistance before the advancing Arab armies. Heraclius’ “great” victory moreover was won by a severely weakened Roman empire: without the resources of Syria and Egypt, occupied by Persia, without support from the Balkans, largely occupied by various Slavs, paid for almost exclusively by the accumulated treasure of the sole Church of Constantinople. The reversal of imperial fortunes by Heraclius, from near-total defeat to near-total victory, leaves us with an interesting question: if destroying Persia was so comparatively easy – if only an emperor was prepared to risk everything on an all or nothing attack on the Persian centre – why did emperors as diverse as Julian and Justinian, and despite at times strident anti-Persian propaganda, consistently fail to significantly alter the strategic balance between the two empires between the fourth and the seventh centuries?
This paper is going to examine some aspects of the Roman-Persian relationship which throughout most of Late Antiquity made a stable opposition and coexistence with Persia useful to the Empire. Advantages which must have been at least implicitly acknowledged by the Roman leadership if we want to understand why, despite strong propaganda imperatives, no emperor before Heraclius was prepared to assume the considerable risks of an attempt to decisively destroy Persia. Three aspects of Roman-Persian relations are going to be examined: Persia’s political, economic and strategic value to the Roman empire. In the domain of politics we are going to argue that Persia, and limited warfare with Persia, served as a significant element of imperial legitimacy for Roman emperors; in economic terms Persia not only provided a stable transit point for some of the Empire’s eastern luxury imports, but the overall stability of relations also insured that much of the Empire’s economic resources remained available for use elsewhere – Justinian’s western campaigns for instance. As to strategy, we will attempt to show that the opposition to one “superpower” was by and large preferable to the unpredictable risks of confrontation with numerous smaller political entities which the western part of the Empire failed to manage and which continued to threaten the East in the Balkans.