Sailing to Byzantium: Approaches and Goals

Abstracts of papers presented at The Tenth Conference of the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 25-27 April 1997, Australian National University, Canberra

Sailing to and from Byzantium: The Shipwrecks in Editing the Lives of Maximus the Confessor

Pauline Allen and Bronwen Neil, Australian Catholic University Queensland

The first stages of the project involving the edition of the documents pertaining to the biography of the seventh-century theologian Maximus the Confessor is nearing completion, although it must be said to have been less than plain sailing. The seven documents are mostly extant in Greek and in the ninth-century Latin translation of Anastasius the Librarian, and each document is transmitted in a different number and different selection of manuscripts. One document survives only partially in Greek, and another solely in a less than transparent Latin version. The contents of the dossier are of first-rate importance for the biography of Maximus and his two followers, Anastasius the apocrisiarius and Anastasius the disciple, particularly for the details of their various trials in Byzantium and their periods of exile, which involved arduous voyaging on sea and on land from Rome to Constantinople, to the region of the Black Sea and back again. The documents also contribute to our understanding of the political and ecclesiastical history of the first half of the seventh century in general. We are producing an English tranlsation with introduction and notes which will facilitate the reading of translations made from seven quite disparate Greek styles.

Both the Latin and Greek traditions have proved useful in salvaging the original text. Because of the antiquity of the Latin translation, a considerable part of the process of editing has involved reconstructing the Greek exemplum from which the papal librarian made his translation. We have established that the text from which he worked is represented in the two late Greek manuscripts, which unfortunately contain a reworked text-type, and in scrupulous corrections made to a tenth-century manuscript which contains another text-type. As a result the texts published in J.P. Migne, which derive from the seventeenth-century edition of Combefis, have been completely overhauled and made ship-shape. In this paper we show the hidden reefs encountered in reconstructing the Greek text, at the same time giving examples of the idiosyncratic translation techniques of Anastasius.

Three of these newly edited documents have been reworked variously in the three versions of the Vita Maximi, the interrelationship of which is a complex question. We have embarked upon the editio princeps of the longest Vita, in which two of the longest documents are incorporated almost verbatim but in the wrong chronological order. The text-type is that of Anastasius’ exemplum and of the two late Greek manuscripts. None of these works apparently was translated by Anastasius the Librarian. Only one of the other two biographies has been edited, but we hope to turn our hand to them in a subsequent phase of the project (should we survive this one).

Rome’s Response to Iconoclasm

Joan Barclay Lloyd, La Trobe University

After iconoclasm erupted in the Byzantine Empire in 726, Pope Gregory II wrote two letters to the emperor expressing Rome’s opposition to it. Later popes continued to denounce iconoclasm. They did not accept the edicts of the iconoclastic Council of Constantinople in 754. Two Roman delegates to the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 787 declared Rome’s support for the veneration of icons. After the revival of iconoclasm in 813, Rome remained firmly opposed to it. In 843 the triumph of Orthodoxy was celebrated in Constantinople, officially bringing iconoclasm to an end.

In this paper some of the art of Rome in the period ca 726-ca 843, which survives or is known from written sources, is examined. Churches and chapels were beautifully decorated with religious art. Icons were placed in the major churches of Rome, for the veneration of the faithful. Mosaic programmes were designed to cover the sanctuaries and chapels of the churches of Rome. This visual material, perhaps more than the polemical literature, expresses Rome’s response to iconoclasm in the East.

Enter the Greeks: The Greek Settlement at Byzantion ca 658-493 BC

Ian Berger, University of Sydney

A wide focus is taken in the early period and this gradually narrows to site-specific concerns as our archaeological knowledge of Byzantion increases. The site is thus placed in its regional and temporal setting, while the limited archaeological evidence from the site is presented along with analogous material recovered within the region. Literary evidence is presented in its course and either backed up or challenged on the basis of our present knowledge of archaeology and geography.

Ancient Kellis: The Use of Coins in Dating the Site

Gillian Bowen, Monash University

As with all Roman sites there are coin finds aplenty at Ismant el-Kharab. This paper addresses the particular problems which are inherent in the use of coinage of the fourth century for the purposes of dating. Many of the monuments can only be dated by numismatic evidence and therefore the development of a reliable methodology for interpreting these data is essential, especially in relation to the question of the date of the foundation and use of the churches at the site, which may be the earliest yet discovered in Egypt.

Vikings by Boat to Byzantium

Lena Cansdale, Sydney

According to English tradition Vikings were the dreaded raiders who descended on peaceful settlements to sack, plunder and rape, then with much loot disappear in their swift boats as suddenly as they arrived. There was, however, another side to the Vikings. They were also occupied in international, long-distance trade, and some of the attributes which made them successful raiders also ensured their success as merchants in far-off places. These traits included their boldness, their fearsome fighting capabilities, their willingness to take risks and, very importantly, their excellent seamanship and expertise in boat construction.

There are a number of sources on which we can draw for the Viking trade with Byzantium and also with Muslim countries further to the east. These include Constantine Porphyrogenitus’ work De Administrando Imperio, The Russian Primary Chronicle and works by Arab authors, in particular Ibn Fadlan. Archaeological evidence includes runic inscriptions and other finds, especially coin hoards, throughout the the Scandinavian countries. To understand the relevance of the contemporary literary works the identity of the people to whom the sources refer as Rus or Rhos is clarified and the derivation of the name Russia is noted.

The paper looks at the items traded by the Rus/Vikings, the sources of their merchandise (which included slaves), and how they were paid for the goods by their various customers. The routes by which the Rus/Vikings reached markets at Constantinople and in the Muslim countries beyond and the tribes which controlled the countries through which they travelled are then examined. The journey of a Rus merchant group from Novgorod and Kiev down the Dnieper into the Black Sea and so to Constantinople is traced, taking particular note of the type of boats used and their unique construction. Raids on Constantinople by the Vikings are briefly described.

Art and Armour in the Twilight Zone

Timothy Dawson, Melbourne

A reappraisal of pictorial sources for armour, in particular the lamellar klibanion, from famous mosaics and frescos of warrior saints across the empire, manuscripts including the Psalter of Basil II and the Madrid Skylitzes and many lesser known but more useful works, and contemporary military literature from the middle and late periods, made from the benefit of practical experience and reconstruction, may produce a major revision of the image of the Byzantine soldier, replacing the classicising picture of the disastrously under-equipped centurion with a far more formidable warrior; a warrior whose armour was at best far superior to anything employed by any of the empire’s enemies, but whose cost ultimately proved unsustainable in the economic decline of later Byzantium.

Reaching that conclusion will suggest that pictorial stylisation may not be quite where it first appears, and that details which have been taken to be conventions of art are in fact realistic, while forms which have been accepted as being realistic are actually conventional fictions. Yet in a society where ideals were regarded as being in a sense more real than matter, life could deliberately imitate art and bring even those conventional fictions to be seen in the streets, churches and palaces of the empire. This may further lead us to a theory of the interplay between stylisation and realism in Byzantine art, and of the psychological forces which influenced that interplay across the empire’s history.

Perils of the Deep

George T Dennis, SJ, The Catholic University of America

The economic, military and dietary importance of the sea for the Byzantine empire has been studied in detail. This paper considers how the Byzantine people regarded the sea, and it concludes that they had a great fear of it. The various aspects which frightened them are looked at in anecdotal fashion. They were afraid of volcanic eruptions, unusually high tides, and inundations of coastal settlements. They were deathly afraid of storms at sea and the resultant loss of life and property. Single ships as well as entire fleets were wrecked fairly often. The Byzantines felt helpless when struck by a storm at sea and implored the intercession of the saints, especially St Nicholas. They do not seem to have had lifeboats or rafts to save themselves, and very few knew how to swim. But there are instances of Byzantines swimming and even of “frogmen” who swam under water to damage enemy ships. There were other unpleasant physical aspects, as well as the mental tedium, of a long sea voyage. Seafarers were in constant danger of attack by pirates, who murdered, enslaved, and plundered with impunity. The Byzantines also had to confront preternatural dangers, for the sea was home to demons, who assumed many shapes, human and piscine. To deal with all these fears, they turned to religion and the saints, but also to magic and, especially, astrology. Symbolic, perhaps, of the Byzantine attitude were the portrayals of the Last Judgement in which sea monsters spit out those who had died at sea.

Natural Phenomena: Volcanoes, Comets and Exploding Stars

Paul Farquharson, Macquarie University

A further report on work in progress on natural phenomena from AD 400 to 1500. Approximately 80 primary sources have been read at this stage. The geographic range is Byzantium, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Caucasian Albania, the central Islamic lands, the British Isles and France. Comments are offered on inexplicable phenomena recorded from the sources. Two very consistent and very obvious omissions by the sources are also mentioned. A great volcanic eruption in the late 620s, that seems not to have been noticed by modern editors, is dealt with in some detail.

Sailing to Rome

Andrew Gillett, Macquarie University

In March 467, Anthemius, emperor-designate of the West, set sail from Constantinople to Rome. In the city, his title was formally proclaimed; there, the following year, he entered his consulship; and there, four years later, he died. The continuous presence of a Roman emperor in the Eternal City is something of an oddity in late antiquity. The soldier emperors had abandoned Rome centuries before, in favour of strategically-located frontier towns. Constantine re-founded Byzantium in the early fourth century as a permanent administrative centre in the East; in the early fifth, Honorius retreated to the safety of Ravenna, which became the capital of imperial or quasi-imperial rule in the West for the next three centuries. But the period from the 450s to the 470s, the last generation of imperial rule in the West, was an exception. During most of this quarter century Rome became the centre stage of Western administration. Her aristocracy contended with generals and barbarian kings for dominance of politics. Not only the Byzantine Anthemius, but most of his predecessors and successors too, ruled from Rome, restoring a tradition which had lapsed for centuries. Ravenna enjoyed so long a history as the political centre of the West that it is easy to overlook how intermittent use of the new capital was in the mid-fifth century. The location of government in Rome from the 450s to the 470s was a result of the growing role of the Roman Senate in western politics since the late fourth century. One significant aspect of the events of 476 was the definitive shift of government back to Ravenna after a generation spent mostly in Rome. The evidence – including the role of poetry – and significance of these permutations are discussed in this paper.

Acik Saray in Cappadocia and Byzantine Travellers

Alexander Grishin, Australian National University

The site known as Acik Saray (Turkish for Open Palace) in Cappadocia has long attracted the attention of Byzantinists. Early scholars including Rott (1908), de Jerphanion (1925-42), Verzone (1962) and Kostov (1972) have interpreted this large sprawling complex as a series of monasteries, similar to those found at Goreme, Gullu Dere and Soganli Dere. Rodley, in her valuable account published in 1985, discussed Acik Saray in the context of her category of courtyard monasteries, but sounded a note of caution in the lack of identifiable ecclesiastical structures and hinted at a possible secular function for this complex. Bryer, in his review of Rodley’s book, made the passing comment that Acik Saray was possibly the site of an annual fair, on the lines of the nearby Seljuk one of Yabanlu at Pazaroren.

Based on a fresh survey of the site which I carried out in 1996/97, it appears that Acik Saray, far from being a single enormous complex, can be convincingly divided into two quite separate complexes, physically divided by a stream. The complex which runs along the course of the old road, one which now links the Turkish towns of Nevsehir and Gulsehir, is characterised by a large number of rock-carved stables and living quarters and while obviously belonging to the Byzantine period, has no obvious monastic function. In Byzantine Cappadocia, monasteries are characterised by a proliferation of churches and burial sepulchres. Internal chronology suggests a date for this complex towards the middle or second half of the tenth century. There is ample evidence that the complex was built with great haste and all at the same time. In structure it appears to be designed to house a large number of people with their horses, in short, possible a staging point for an army. Through literary sources we know that Emperor Nikephoros Phokas brought his army to Cappadocia and here they spent the winter of 964/65. A few kilometres down the road, at Cavusin, in a huge carved church, in the prothesis apse, there is a painted monumental depiction of the emperor. It seems quite possible that this part of Acik Saray was hastily excavated to house part of the imperial Byzantine cavalry.

The second complex, located on the opposite side of the stream, appears to date from the eleventh century and conforms to a typical Byzantine ecclesiastical settlement in Cappadocia. A careful examination of the site reveals the existence of several churches (most previously unnoticed) and the possible remains of others. There is also evidence of numerous burials. From the archaeological evidence, the relationship between the two complexes is unclear and it is also uncertain as to whether the first complex remained a military post after the emperor’s victorious swoop through Anatolia. Following Nikephoros Phokas’ visit, Cappadocia became a secure inner province of the empire for almost a hundred and fifty years until the disaster of Manzikert. There is little physical evidence for the prolonged occupation of the first complex, with only limited wear on the stone in the living quarters and stables and only a modest accumulation of soot in the kitchens. This does open up the possibility that the complex was subsequently used periodically, possibly for something like a trade fair.

“The Christ, the wife, the thief and the lover”: An Iconographic Foretaste of Byzantium in the Christian Baptistery at Dura-Europos

Felicity Harley, University of Adelaide

It has generally been accepted that, in keeping with their Jewish heritage, the early Christians remained collectively and resolutely opposed to religious imagery until such time as the persuasion of neighbouring pagan cultures and the patronage of imperial leaders encouraged a reappraisal of the role images could play in the life of the church.

It cannot be disputed that lavish expenditure on material property and the accompanying political support from the likes of Constantine and Justinian did much to promote the cause of Christianity and Christian art in the fourth century and beyond. Indeed the resultant shift for laity and clergy from worshipping privately in domestic houses to publicly in large, invariably custom-built basilicas was enormous: liturgists, priests, architects and artists alike were challenged in the relocation of liturgical practices from the hushed environs befitting a minority religion to the trumpeted public spaces befitting an imperially patronised religion.

When scenes from the Scriptures were painted on the walls of a Christian baptistery at Dura-Europos in the mid-third century, there was already a ground-swell of support within the wider church for the use of art as a means of ennobling places of worship, of instruction, certainly of inspiration, and not least of edification. As an examination of relevant Patristic literature also attests, two centuries prior to the glorious Justinianic mosaics that have come to characterise the Byzantine period, the early Christians, in their experimentation with the iconographical content and strategic placement of painted Biblical scenes within their sacred spaces, were foreshadowing the artistic trends and triumphs of a later era.

Severus of Antioch: Pathways and Imperatives for an Age

Kathleen Hay, University of Melbourne

The towering figure of Severus casts a giant shadow over the study of religious thought and history of the sixth-century Byzantine empire. Trained in the great philosophical and legal traditions of Alexandria and Berytus, Severus became an anti-Chalcedonian monastic leader, whose presence in Constantinople from 508-511 was to have a profound effect on imperial religious policy of the period. This domination was reinforced by his appointment as patriarch of Antioch in 512, which provided the opportunity for the widespread propagation of his views. Employing Cyrillian Christology and Cappadocian authority, he assumed the mantle of theologian and apologist for the “orthodox”, steering the faithful through the choppy waters that resulted from the pronouncements of Chalcedon. Abundant extant texts testify to his ability and authority within the public and ecclesiastical arenas, but they may also be used to allow us to penetrate the development of this religious disputant, who to many posed a threat to the equilibrium of a deeply conservative church and culture. Furthermore, an assessment of the influences and less obvious factors that were formative for Severus, is vital for a better understanding of the forces and ambiguities present under the surface of a deceptively united Christian society.

Ancient Kellis in the Fourth Century

Colin Hope, Monash University

Since 1986 excavations have been conducted at the village site of Ismant el-Kharab in the Dakleh Oasis of Egypt. It would seem to have been occupied from the first to late-fourth centuries only. Considerable information has been found concerning the community in the fourth century. This paper presents a discussion of the material remains of the village during that century and outlines the nature of the extensive collection of textual material which has been found.

Blocking the Sailors: Manuel Komninos’ Barrier across the Dardanelles

Michael Jeffreys, University of Sydney

In around 1149 the Sicilian fleet raided Constantinople. It was a provocative act, with no chance of doing serious damage, but winning the psychological victory of firing arrows into the imperial palace in the absence of the emperor, Manuel I Komninos. The populace of the city panicked, as may be seen in a poem of “Manganeios” Prodromos, the period’s most prolific writer of rhetorical poems for public performance.

The emperor was provoked to respond. In several rhetorical encomia and in Choniates’ history we hear that he constructed a major defensive work, including a chain, to prevent a recurrence of the Norman raid. Unfortunately it is not clear what he built, or even where he built it: “Manganeios” mentions the Dardanelles while Choniates places it at the Bosporos. What is more, it is hard to see how Byzantine technology could have used a chain to mount a serious defence of either strait against the shallow draft of the Norman ships. After about a decade, nothing more is said about the construction.

Scholarly reactions have tended to be incredulous and dismissive. Technical difficulties, the confusion of the sources and the traditionally low prestige of the “tasteless bombast” of the imperial panegyric have led several historians to reject the existence of the construction, almost without discussion. But encomiastic sources are not so easy to dismiss. Their writers were seeking to have their work performed before audiences which would know whether such a major project had been carried out, and they needed credibility for new commissions. As with, say, a modern party political broadcast, the truth could be stretched and manipulated, but each poem had to carry conviction: it would be impossible to claim that the city was now protected by a defensive work, whether at the Dardanelles or the Bosporos, if no such work existed.

The paper presents the evidence of the texts and seeks to draw what conclusions are possible about the reality and the nature of this attempt to prevent the Normans from sailing (or rowing) to Byzantium.

On the Use of Cases and Prepositions with Verbs of Sailing in Byzantine Greek

Alan Libert, University of Newcastle

The cases system of Greek, like that of most Indo-European languages, has declined over its recorded history. We find, for example, that in later Greek the accusative or genitive can replace the dative. There are also some striking errors involving the conjunction of nouns in different cases, or an element in one case modifying or in apposition to a noun in another case. In addition, there is variation in the usage of prepositions, e.g. en may be used where one would expect eis. The degree of deviation from Classical standards varied from author to author and from period to period, but one will notice what appear to be random variations in case and preposition choice. These variations are a result of change in the Greek language.

In this paper I look at a quite restricted semantic field, namely verbs with the meaning “to sail”. I discuss the case and prepositional syntax of these verbs in authors such as Agathias compared to that of Classical Greek. The questions asked include: 1) what cases, prepositions, and prepositional prefixes are taken by verbs of sailing in later Greek to indicate motion to and from a place? and 2) to what extent can deviation from the Classical models, and variation within an author or period, be shown to follow rules or patterns? Such patterns could involve, for example, different types of prepositional objects. This work is part of a broader effort to determine the extent to which “incorrect” case usage in Greek, and more generally, apparently idiosyncratic case marking across languages, is rule-governed.

The Sea Made Holy: The Liturgical Function of the Waters Surrounding Constantinople

Wendy Mayer, Adelaide

Study of stational liturgical practice at Constantinople has traditionally focused upon the landmass defined by the city walls and hinterland, the Bosporos, the Sea of Marmora and the Golden Horn. Yet, as Cyril Mango has pointed out, in the fourth to seventh centuries Constantinople functioned as a conurbation, which incorporated the suburb of Sykae, across the Golden Horn, and the independent city of Chalcedon, across the Bosporos. From this perspective, the waters which surround Constantinople mesh with the various landmasses to become an integral part of the urban landscape. Sources from the fourth to tenth centuries are adduced to show that the sea did in fact play a prominent role in the processional and liturgical life of the city. When this aspect of Constantinopolitan life is taken into account, the notion of sailing to Byzantium takes on a whole new dimension.

Italians in the Aegean and the Black Sea During the Later Middle Ages

John Melville-Jones, University of Western Australia

It is easy to impose modern political divisions upon the Middle Ages. But in so doing, we are ignoring the great number of changes which took place from time to time. At one time much of what we call Italy was ruled from Constantinople (it should of course, be remembered that Italy was a geographical and to some extent a linguistic concept at this time, not a political unity). In later years some potentates with bases in Italy had territorial ambitions which included Byzantine territory, and at the same time the Greeks were considering expanding into the south of Italy and Sicily.

In the later Middle Ages many places in Greece were either under the control of Italian cities or families, or had allowed trading establishments to be set up. The Venetians (who on more than one occasion thought of re-establishing themselves in Greece) were the most active in this respect, followed by the Genoese. The paper names the locations at which there was an Italian presence in the later Middle Ages, and describes the different ways in which different groups tried to advance themselves and to take advantage of the opportunities which presented themselves.

Class Struggle in a Byzantine Farmyard: The Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds

Nick Nicholas, University of Melbourne

The Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds is a vernacular Greek poem, dating from the fourteenth century which George Baloglou and myself have recently translated into English. Together with the Book of Birds (Poulologos), believed to have been written somewhat earlier, the Tale belongs to the class of poems known as Animal Epics (Tiereposen) or, as we have termed them, Epic Bestiaries: they share with bestiaries an encyclopaedic tendency to rattle off facts and factoids about the animals (many of them culled from the bestiary par excellence, the Physiologus), but they also tell a story of a conference of beasts, with a few fairy tales and insults mixed in, and even attempt to convey a moral. The beasts of the Tale are land-locked (in contrast to those in the Book of Birds, which features pelicans, swans, and herons, some unfortunate enough to be castigated as “bred in lakes”), but a close look at the Tale can sail us indeed a good deal closer to Byzantium.

In this talk, I consider what light the poem can cast on its troubled times, and more generally on the lives and thoughts of commoners in late Byzantium. While not advocating that the Tale is a Roman a Cle (if there are any allusions to specific contemporary political figures, they are too well concealed to be noticed by modern researchers, and the style of the poem does not bear such an intent out), it seems clear that someone along the chain of transmission intended for the poem to be a comment on its troubled times. Along with Alexius Makrembolites’ Dialogue, and to a lesser extent the Belisariad, the Tale is unique as a late Byzantine work protesting against the status quo. Vasiliou has recently proposed that the prologue and conclusion of the Tale are not authentic, although they are present in the entire manuscript tradition of the poem (which dates back to 1461). I evaluate the evidence for this claim. I also consider the evidence for the poem originating from a region under Turkish, rather than Byzantine dominion.

The Travels of Philostorgios

Alanna Nobbs, Macquarie University

Philostorgios’ Ecclesiastical History, as preserved by Photios, reveals an ethnographic interest similar in many ways to that of the classical Greek tradition of history writing. In particular, there was some emphasis on autopsy which must have resulted from Philostorgios’ own journeys. This paper looks at Philostorgios’ place in this respect in the tradition of history writing and compares him with his contemporaries.

The Dromon: Terminology and Reality

John Pryor, University of Sydney, and Elizabeth Jeffreys, Oxford University

We all know, don’t we, that in the early Byzantine Empire a new warship known as the dromon was developed. The salient design characteristics generally considered to have differentiated the dromon from its Roman predecessor, the liburna, were that: dromones were initially monoremes only rather than polyremes, they had abovewater spurs rather than waterline rams, and they had lateen sails rather than square sails. From the sixth century, together with Greek Fire and the Theme armies, the dromon became one of the bulwarks of the Byzantine Empire. On many occasions fleets of dromones saved the Empire in moments of extreme peril.

The dromon was first discussed in any detail by Prokopios of Caesarea in his History of the Wars. Thereafter it was mentioned in many sources through to the end of the ninth century. Latin Western sources and Greco-Arabic sources from Egypt show that it was emulated both by the Muslims and Latins from the eighth century onwards. In the tenth century the corpus of treatises associated with the Macedonian emperors, particularly the Concerning Naval Warfare of Leo VI (dated to ca 905-906) and the anonymous treatise Commissioned by the Patrikios and Parakoimomenos Basil (dated to ca 960) refer in detail to the dromon and allow us to reconstruct it in some detail. On the basis of the latter text in particular, R.H. Dolley, Ekkehard Eickhoff, and others have given us reconstructions of the tenth-century dromon. Dolley’s reconstruction in particular still remains dominant in the literature.

From the end of the tenth century, detailed information about the dromon disappears from both Byzantine and other sources. The history of its replacement by the galea (originally a monoreme dromon in the tenth century) from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries is a further story.

So runs the traditional historiography. Well it isn’t right! We approach the problem from two directions. Firstly, the evolution of ship types throughout history has invariably been one of gradual evolution. Very rarely has there been any sudden technological innovation which has produced a distinctive new ship type. Against this, ship types have never remained static. They have evolved continually. Unfortunately, most mediaeval maritime historians have been “armchair” sailors and have not appreciated that two ships, known by a certain name in one period and by the same name in a later, may have been so dissimilar as a result of evolution as to be almost unrecognizable. “Galleon” is a case in point.

Secondly, when Byzantine (and other) texts used terms such as dromon for ships, how can we know what they actually meant? How can we see beyond the term to the reality except when the texts specify particular design characteristics? If a modern text uses the word “yacht”, what on earth might it mean? In fact, it might mean anything from a seventeenth-century Dutch coastal freighter to a Sydney-Hobart ocean racer (of many specific types ) of the 1990s. When Byzantine texts from the sixth to twelfth centuries used the word dromon, did they not equally apply it to ships of many types as they evolved over those six centuries?

Only one text pretends to describe the actual construction of a tenth-century dromon: the treatise Commissioned by the Patrikios and Parakoimomenos Basil. This will be shown to be little more than an exercise in classicizing philology devoid of more than minimal contemporary reference. What is then left of what we really know about the dromon?

Emperors and Constantinople in the Late Fifth Century

Roger Scott, Melbourne University

Gilbert Dagron, in his great book Naissance d’une capitale: Constantinople et ses institutions 330-451 (1974), shows that Constantinople did not really become a capital till the late fourth century and was only fully established by the mid-fifth century. Constantinople’s greatness as a capital in the sixth century, the supposedly golden age of Justin and Justinian, is well known. This paper aims at investigating the period in between Dagron’s book and the reigns of Justin and Justinian, namely the later fifth century from Marcian (450-457) to Anastasios (491-518). I restrict my evidence mainly to the chroniclers Malalas and Theophanes to see how Constantinople fared in comparison with the two old great cities of the Eastern Roman Empire, Alexandria and Antioch.

Sailing Around Byzantium: The vita icon in the Mediterranean World

Nancy Sevcenko, Princeton University and Philadelphia

By the term “vita” icon we generally refer to a type of Byzantine painted panel that shows the portrait of a saint framed on all four sides by small scenes of his or her life. This type of icon first becomes popular in the early thirteenth century.

There are today less than two dozen Byzantine vita icons in existence. Most seem to come from the fringes of the empire, many from the monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai. The panels are relatively large, presumably intended for public display, and are devoted, for the most part, to the vitae of rather well-established saints. The framing scenes may echo but do not consistently follow known written texts. A glance at their iconography fails to reveal any clear program behind the choice of episodes, nor do we find any obvious connection to a particular sanctuary or to a saint’s relics.

Yet the influence exerted by the Byzantine vita icon genre seems to have been considerable: already in the thirteenth century we find variants in South Italy, Tuscany, Cyprus, Sinai and Russia, each area using the form for its own distinct religious and political aims. The origin and function of the Byzantine examples, however, has been hard to determine, given the unprogrammatic character of the panels, and the fact that we have so little information about their original location or liturgical use.

This paper surveys the evidence offered by the icons themselves, and suggests that the vita icon can be understood best if viewed from the perspective not of Constantinople but of the culturally diverse world of the thirteenth-century Levant.

Nautical and Marine Imagery in the Panegyrics of Eustathios of Thessaloniki

Andrew Stone, Perth

The panegyric of the Comnenian court has long been subject to criticism due to its highly derivative and repetitive nature. However, if we take a specific type of imagery, that based on the sea, in perhaps the most famous of the panegyrists, Eustathios of Thessaloniki, and search for earlier sources upon which such imagery is modelled, we must conclude that though there certainly is allusion to earlier literature in some instances, in others the panegyrist is displaying what certainly seems to be originality, for example in the creation of analogy and evocative sound pictures. Eustathios cannot therefore be dismissed as a tired hack outright, and even the supposedly sterile Comnenian period was a time in which an original artist might distinguish himself.

Navigating George: The Structure of George Synkellos’ Ecloga chronographica

Paul Tuffin, University of Adelaide, and William Adler, North Carolina State University

An innocent first reader of the Ecloga chronographica might be forgiven for considering it an amorphous mass of esoteric (if not arcane) information plagued with constant and unstructured authorial intervention and digression. An analysis of the structure, however, reveals not only that George Synkellos has set a clear course but that he holds carefully to it. In fact this analysis shows a) that Synkellos has a consistent, reasoned approach to his material and b) that this approach is well-suited to his aims and purpose in writing the Ecloga. In addition such an analysis makes it possible to comment on his approach to his sources and even to hypothesise about the depth of his preparation and the books on his desk.

A Greek Family in Constantinople: 1896 to 1922

Malcolm Watkins, Canberra Institute of Technology

The paper aims to stress the continuous centrality and significance of Constantinople to Greek people from all parts of the Greek-speaking world in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The city’s importance was religious, historical, social, cultural, educational and commercial. Constantinople was, until the early years of this century, preeminently the Capital of the Greek world. I intend to illustrate this phenomenon with the example of the Theotokas family who came originally from small towns of the island of Chios. I want to tell of their lives, careers, education and social environment in Constantinople before the beginning of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Water Tunnels and Caves: New Contributions to the Mythology of the Early Christian Anchorites at Pella in Jordan

Pamela Watson, University of Sydney

Eusebius, writing in the early fourth century AD, claimed that the Christian Jews of Jerusalem fled the city and migrated to Pella in order to avoid the imminent confrontation between the Romans and the Jews, ca 66-68 AD. For nineteenth century western travellers and later archaeologists who were steeped in, and largely motivated by biblical history, this reference has provided the site of Pella, in the north Jordan Valley, with a particular importance and mystique. They hoped that the existence of one of the earliest Christian communities to be established outside Jerusalem could one day be verified by physical evidence. The nineteenth-century explorer Gottlieb Schumacher found caves and tunnels in the cliffs of the central valley bisecting the site, bearing worked features which convinced him that he had found the habitation caves and escape tunnels of the Christian refugees living as anchorites. In the 1930s, John Richmond reaffirmed the existence and interpretation of these caves and tunnels and thought that their clearance would provide “the best chance of finding archaeological evidence of Early Christian life at Pella”. Concerted archaeological excavation of Pella was initiated thirty years ago and concentrated on the obvious public buildings and main tell. The American archaeologist Robert Houston Smith was inspired by the biblical connections and began his work in the ruined bailica known as the West Church. Here he found, beneath the Byzantine floor of the north apse, a Christian sarcophagus whose stylistic features belonged to the late first/early second centuries AD. For these and other contextual reasons he believed it must have originally come from a mausoleum which preceded the church on the site. Presumably it was the repository of a renowned person dating back to the early Christian migration.

The Pella Hinterland Survey, a three-year project just completed in 1996, has refound the Schumacher caves and tunnels, now obscured by urban and agricultural development and considered “lost” these past three decades. In fact, it has significantly added to their enigmatic presence. However, careful examination has led to a radical reinterpretation of some of these features, whilst reserving a puzzled open mind on others.