Byzantium and the West

Abstracts of papers presented at the Twelfth Conference of the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 20-22 April 2001, University of Western Australia

Where in the Alexiad Does Psellos Go?

Penelope Buckley (Melbourne)

The paper takes a few exemplary borrowings from Psellos in the Alexiad and considers the consistency with which Anna Comnena changes and reorients them.  One passage concerns Romanos III’s foolish encouragement of a ‘tribe of philosophers’ who at best ‘stood only at the outer door of the Aristotelian doctrines’: Psellos takes their meddling with religious questions as proof of their incompetence in Hellenic philosophy, the ‘real quest for truth’.  This passage features quite differently in Comnena’s account of how Alexius ‘found the affairs of the Church in disarray’.  Her emperor is not judged, but judges; their concern is what such philosophers do to Christian theology, with Italos’s attack on the Church-State of which Alexius is head.

Isaac Comnenus’s tent scene is the showpiece of his rebellion and of the Chronographia.  In Comnena’s version, the crowned emperor confronts a host of conspirators who also constitute much of his serving army.  She focuses on his inner tension, and (using other Psellos material) configures an elaborate context in which past events work as psychic pressure in the present.  Alexius is constructed as the tortured mind-centre of a holistic empire; what she takes from Psellos, she assimilates to this.

Recovering Byzantium from the West: Michael VIII at Constantinople in 1260

Nathan Cassidy (Western Australia)

The restoration of Byzantine rule to Latin-controlled Constantinople was the primary objective of successive emperors of Nicaea in the period following the conquest and partitioning of the empire by the forces of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.  None was more aggressive in his designs than Michael VIII Palaiologos, who was especially keen to legitimise his usurpation of the throne by regaining control of the mother city. However, due to the confused and often contradictory nature of the few sources, little is known about his campaigns aimed at retaking Constantinople.

This is especially true in respect of the so-called ‘siege of Galata’ of 1260.  This paper will attempt to piece together evidence from the sources, both Eastern and Western, and will propose a coherent picture of the military activities undertaken on both sides of the great Theodosian walls.  It hopes to challenge some assumptions held by modern scholars, and along the way will attempt to redeem the reputation of the last Latin emperor, Baldwin II.

The Discourse of the ‘wandering monk’ in Byzantium and the West

Malcolm Choat (Macquarie)

‘Wandering monks’ frequently figure as targets of abuse in Eastern and Western discussions of the monastic life.  They appear under a variety of names, such as sarabaitae, gyrovagi, remnuoth, sarakote and apotaktikoi, in various languages (including Latin, Greek, Syriac and Coptic).  This paper will trace the development of this topos of the ‘wanderer’ as a discourse of ‘othering’, whereby ‘inappropriate’ or non-conformist models of the ascetic life were set off from ‘approved’ types such as coenobitic and anchoretic monasticism.  Evidence ranges from early Christian Syria through Late Antique Egypt to the Medieval West; the continuity between such discussion, both in lexical and ideological terms, will be discussed.

Charlemagne, Constantinople and Rome

Evangelos Chrysos (Athens)

Charlemagne’s ascent to power is usually studied nowadays in the context of his relationship with the papal power and Italy and the Franks.  But it should not be forgotten that in the years around A.D. 800 the only legitimate successors to the Roman Empire were to be found in Constantinople.  The court of Constantinople was as heavily involved in many of the negotiations as the courts of Aachen and Rome.  Iconoclasm was an important factor.  Charles the Great is sometimes claimed to be the founder of Europe, but a statement of this kind can only be made if one neglects the Byzantine factor.

Wolves in Shepherds’ Clothing: Byzantium, the Normans and the Course of European Fashion

Tim Dawson (New England)

While the influence of Byzantium on Western fashion in the early middle ages had been largely confined to the highest levels of society on the Continent, the fiefs and kingdoms captured from Byzantine territory by the later Normans around the Mediterranean were the conduits for a new wave of Byzantine influence which sigificantly affected the course taken by later medieval fashion in the West across the social classes and the length and breadth of greater Europe.

Trolls and Trowels: Qualms about the `New Look’ Barbarians of Late Antiquity

Andrew Gillett (Macquarie)

Just as the Goths, Franks, Vandals, and other barbarians took over the western Roman provinces in the fifth century, so too have barbarian studies been overrun by new, modern, and sophisticated theoretical models flowing forth from a Continental homeland.  Consciously eschewing the dark past of Germanic studies, current research employs Religious Studies and Post-modernism to speak of the political construction of ethnicity and the typologies of ‘ethnogenesis.’

Have we, for all the borrowings from social sciences and theoretic modelling, moved forward in our understanding of the more-or-less obscure origins of the barbarian peoples of Late Antiquity?  And should anyone outside Germanic Studies care?  I would like to speak for the rising minority which feels that the current momentum is carrying us rapidly backwards, and that this ought indeed be of concern to Byzantinists, historians of the later Roman empire, and Medievalists alike, who may well feel disquiet as the post-imperial West is appropriated by the irrational and the unattested.

Eradicating Nudity on the Cross: The Impact of Early Byzantine Crucifixion Iconography on the West

Felicity Harley (Adelaide)

Between the fourth and sixth centuries, fundamental changes took place in the representation of Jesus on his cross: portrayed naked in the late fourth century and shown wearing a narrow loin-cloth in the fifth century, he is by the late sixth century robed in the colobium, the full-length sleeveless tunic worn by men in Late Antiquity.

Traditionally, the persistent depiction of Jesus wearing a colobium in early Byzantine Crucifixion iconography has been interpreted as a means of denoting his sovereignty.  This paper will suggest that in conjunction with extensive changes in attitude towards nudity, the colobium can be seen to have been adopted as a means of concealing Jesus’ mortality on the cross; it will propose that in accordance with the shift in attitude, the subsequent diffusion of the clothed-iconography throughout the West prompted a general revulsion towards any visual display of Jesus’ nudity on the cross during the sixth and seventh centuries.

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and the Mystical Tradition: A Spiritual and Scholastic Legacy to the West

Kathleen Hay (Melbourne)

The attribution of a collection of mystical theological works known as the ‘Corpus Areopagiticum’, or the Dionysian Corpus, has long been disputed.  Originally acknowledged as the work of Dionysius, the first bishop of Athens, much recent work has been channelled into the complex identification of the author.  Any assessment of Pseudo-Dionysius’ influence on Western scholars and its spiritual tradition is fraught with similar difficulties and competing authorities.

Investigation reveals, however, important streams of Dionysian thought that contributed to the formation of a rich body of spiritual works in the West in later centuries.  Illustrating this legacy, the unique Christian thought and mysticism found in the Corpus can be traced in the later works of many, such as Thomas Aquinas and the anonymous author of the influential ‘Cloud of the Unknowing’.

Theophano, imperatrix: A Bridge Between East and West

Judith Herrin (London)

Despite the fact that no Byzantine source of her own time specifically mentions Theophano, it is clear that as a princess sent from Constantinople to the West she performed an ambassadorial function.  By her marriage to Otto II in 972, she strengthened the alliance between John Tzimiskes and the western ruler, Otto I, crowned emperor in Rome ten years before.  In due course the couple gave birth to a son, Otto III, whose joint inheritance from both the Byzantine East and the Germanic West is evident throughout his short life.  Theophano therefore merits special attention.

The millennial commemoration of her death, which brought together many scholars in 1991, finally provoked sufficient research to establish her origins quite clearly.  Theophano was not a porphyrogennitos princess, born in the purple chamber of the Great Palace, but a niece by marriage of Emperor John I.  This connection was, however, considered close enough to present her to the western emperor as a very distinguished Byzantine princess.  Whether actual deception over her lack of imperial descent was practiced or not, Otto I accepted her as the much desired bride and princess.  A magnificent marriage contract was drawn up to celebrate the union, a document even grander and more luxurious than the Ottonianum, a list of Otto I’s gifts to the bishop of Rome made on the occasion of his coronation.

While the Ottonians appear to have been entirely satisfied with Theophano, she was harshly judged by some contemporaries and by later medieval commentators.  This negative attitude is reflected in two different records: Otloh of St. Emmeran’s Book of Visions of ca. 1050, which includes a condemnation of Theophano for introducing luxurious Byzantine customs to the West; while Peter Damian accused her of indecent relations with a Greek monk from southern Italy whom she employed as tutor for her son.  Theophano had obviously provoked critical reactions among some western clerics.

This paper will attempt to identify the causes of such hostility, the motivation behind the attacks on the wife of Otto II and mother of Otto III.  Using the surviving objects, which may reasonably be associated with her movement from East to West, it will draw more general conclusions about relations between Byzantium and Western Europe in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries.

Swimming Over Time: A Survey of the Submerged Ruins of Aperlae (Turkey)

Robert L. Hohlfelder (Boulder, Colorado)

Aperlae was a small, remote, maritime city in ancient Lycia with a millennial floruit (late 4th century BC to late 7th century AD).  The harsh terrain of its hinterland forced a reliance on the Mediterranean from its founding to its demise.  The Aperlites stabilised and enhanced their urban waterfront in modest ways over the centuries, but basically they maintained and sustained their intimate relationship with the sea without elaborate docking or harbour installations.

Fishing, probably a primary industry, centred on the harvest of murex trunculus, the marine mollusc from which purple dye was made.  This valuable commodity appears to have been produced in Aperlae for export to Andriake, the international emporium of nearby Myra, for transshipment to textile centres throughout the Mediterranean.  There, coastal traders also acquired the necessities and luxuries the city needed but did not produce.  Proxy evidence, consisting of impressive archaeological features on land and under the sea, speaks to moments of prosperity for Aperlae well beyond mere subsistence.  Cabotage was this secondary port’s enduring lifeline.

The Churches of Aperlae and the Pilgrim Route

Bill Leadbetter, R. J. Hohlfelder, R. L. Vann (Western Australia and Boulder, Colorado)

The town of Aperlae in Lycia flourished from the Hellenistic period until the Byzantine.  A recent survey has disclosed copious remnants of the shells of murex trunculus which attest to the town’s economic dependence upon the harvest of valuable sea purple.  The same survey has also identified the remains of no fewer than five churches at Aperlae itself, and at least a further five in the immediate district.  This seems excessive for a small settlement which, at its height, sustained a population of not much more than a thousand.  One possible explanation is the location of Aperlae on the southern coast of Lycia.  This places it squarely upon the pilgrim searoute to the Holy Land which hugged the coast of Lycia as far as its southern tip before venturing across open sea to Cyprus.

Nestorians, Manichaeans and Franciscans on the S. China Coast

Sam Lieu (Macquarie)

An interesting footnote to the history of the last stages of the Crusades was the arrival of a Mongol Nestorian mission to the papal court which raised hopes of a Christian power from the East coming to the support of the hard-pressed Crusaders.  This led to a return papal mission to China soon after the famous visit of Marco Polo.  An Australian team working on the S. China coast has discovered a great deal of unpublished archaeological material on this interesting chapter of East-West relations.

Byzantium, Venice and the Greek World

Chryssa A. Maltezou (Venice)

In this paper we will present a selection of evidence on the links between Byzantium and Venice, and we will describe various stages in the history of this relationship.  Venice was itself a creation of Byzantium and had been part of the Byzantine sphere of influence at the very beginning of its development; this had a significant effect on many aspects of Venetian social and cultural life.  Over the centuries, the Most Serene Republic evolved to become a major commercial and economic power, and from being an insignificant Byzantine province it eventually came to play a dominant role in the territories of the Byzantine Empire.  After the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians brought home products of Byzantine civilisation, which were subsequently associated with their own history, forming part of their cultural heritage.  At the same time, precious objects from Byzantium were employed to enhance Venice’s image, and their symbolism served her own ideological requirements.  A typical case of Venice’s appropriation of Byzantine treasures is that of the icon of the Panagia Nikopoios.  The Venetians’ ideological leaning towards Byzantium is also reflected in the reported proposal to transfer their seat of government to Constantinople.

After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, an ideological trend in the opposite direction can be observed in the mentality of the Greeks.  Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, many Greeks sought refuge in Venice, which was gradually transformed into the spiritual capital of the Hellenic diaspora.  Folksongs and poems link together, and eventually treat as one, the two cities, Constantinople and Venice, and the two great churches of the Holy Wisdom and of Saint Mark.

Antioch and the West: Assessing Levels of Contact in the Early Byzantine Period

Wendy Mayer (Adelaide)

In much of the literature concerning Antioch, capital of the Roman diocese of Oriens, during the fourth to sixth centuries, one gains a strong impression of a city with its gaze firmly fixed on the east – that is, whose range of view extends little beyond Constantinople, Asia Minor, the Near East, Egypt and Persia.  The correspondence of the prominent fourth-century pagan orator Libanius supports this perception, as does that of the city’s early sixth-century bishop, Severus.  Yet this is a city that sat at an important nexus in the trade route from east to west, that hosted the eastern imperial court for much of the mid fourth century, that as the base for military operations on the eastern front was periodically occupied by large numbers of soldiers of diverse ethnicity, and that by virtue of its location and status was visited by various Christians from the west on pilgrimage to eastern monastic communities, holy men, and sacred sites.  For the citizens of Antioch contact with soldiers, merchants and Christians from the west was clearly not an isolated occurrence.

At the same time, when we examine the networks within which John Chrysostom operated as bishop of Constantinople and upon which he hoped to rely during his exile, we find him depending upon the services of a number of aristocratic women either resident in Rome or with family connections to the west.  When the many years he spent being educated and rising through the ranks of the christian clergy at Antioch prior to his arrival in Constantinople are taken into consideration, the question arises: were John’s networks to the west established only after his arrival in the imperial capital; or was John predisposed towards exploiting such connections as a result of his experiences at Antioch?  When we consider the focus of Libanius and Severus we must also ask: was John an exception rather than the rule?  Was contact with the west in fact of very little significance for most of the inhabitants of Antioch at this period?  In exploring these questions we seek to establish the role played by contact with the west in the lives of the citizens of that city at a number of levels.

The Educational Philosophy and Practice of the Eastern Church after the Fall of Constantinople

Michael George Michael (Australian Catholic University)

The major policies of education and practice of the Eastern Church after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 were decided and delivered by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in conjunction with its famous Academy.  However, the Patriarchal Academy itself, the educational bastion of the Orthodox oikoumene, was subject to fluctuating fortunes.  Its various policies (educational and diplomatic) were shaped by theological and ideological ‘conservatisms’ supremely mindful of Islam and gravely suspicious of the West: first the Latins and afterward the Protestants.  Throughout this time there were other academies of note, but often they would fall under the jurisdiction or the influence of the Patriarchate (for example the Schools of Bucharest, Jassy, Smyrna, Patmos, Thessaloniki, Trebizond, Athens, Ioannina and others).

Occasionally, lower order clerics showed great initiative in founding private ecclesiastical schools, not necessarily long term successes but crucial in arid times.  As a general educational philosophy it was catechesis over scientific investigation.  The Eastern Church survived this testing period, maintaining its Orthodox tradition, as Kallistos Ware has written, ‘substantially unimpaired’.  This positive conclusion was to a great extent due to the likes of George Scholarius, Meletius Pegas, Patriarch Jeremias II, and Eustratius Argenti.

Bringing Pope Clement Home: The Politics of Relics in Ninth-Century Rome

Bronwen Neil (Australian Catholic University)

The discovery of the relics of the third bishop of Rome, Clement (c.88-c.97) by the missionary brothers Constantine-Cyril and Methodius, and their donation to Pope Hadrian in 867/868, represent a confluence of traditions that is rarely found in this period.  The late-ninth century was marked by increasing division between the powers of East and West, exacerbated under the rules of Hadrian’s predecessor Pope Nicholas in Rome and his counterpart in Constantinople, Patriarch Photius.  In this paper I will examine the political significance of the events surrounding the discovery and transfer of Clement’s relics in an era of struggle for access to avenues of power, both secular and sacred, with reference to the Latin and Slavonic written traditions.

Philostorgius and the History of the West

Alanna Nobbs (Macquarie)

In books XI and XII of Philostorgius’ work, unlike the earlier ones, there is a preponderance of secular events over ecclesiastical ones.  It could well be that he is unwilling to record the defeat of the Arians, whose fate was sealed from the time of Theodosius 1.  There seems little doubt that he used Olympiodorus extensively in these last two books, and reflects his source’s western, secular slant.  Where eastern events are mentioned in the last two books, Philostorgius’ tone is apocalyptic  .In so doing, he constructed an alternative ideology which needed to be answered by the ecclesiastical historians.  At least three of them rose to the challenge.

Hagiography and the Cult of Saints between East and West

Claudia Rapp (Los Angeles)

The declining knowledge of Latin in the East and that of Greek in the West is often cited as oneof the contributing factors in the ‘parting of ways’ that separated Byzantium from the Western Middle Ages.  This paper draws attention to the fact that hagiographical texts and individual stories were shared between East and West, either in writing or by oral transmission.

I will outline the form of this hagiographical koine by addressing three distinct phenomena: the shared pool of stories in Latin and Greek hagiography; Latin works composed about Eastern holy men; and patterns of translations of Greek hagiography into Latin and vice versa.  The end point of this paper will be marked by the extensive translation activity of Anastasius Bibliothecarius (d. ca. 879).

In this investigation, the issues of literary production, linguistic ability in Greek and Latin, and translation activity are placed within the larger context of a shared popular religiosity.  Christianity in general and the cult of saints in particular thus helped to maintain a strong and enduring link between East and West, even under changing political conditions.

Anastasius’ and Justinian’s Approach to the Western Question

Roger Scott (Melbourne)

Much of Justinian I’s claim to greatness rests on his reconquest of the Western Empire or at least of Rome and Italy.  This achievement is often contrasted with the military inactivity of his predecessors and their passive acceptance of Gothic control of Italy after 476.  This paper will suggest that Justinian’s interest in the West has been exaggerated, partly because of the conventions of classicizing history and partly through the needs of later Byzantine requirements about the past; that Justinian was much more concerned about other problems in his empire; and that more attention needs to be paid to Anastasius’ attempts at finding a solution through diplomacy rather than force.

Rufinus as a Mediator of Basil to the West

Anna Silvas (New England)

Rufinus of Aquileia was one of the most significant mediators between the Greek East and Latin West in Late Antiquity.  He was even one of a very select group who had his Latin work translated into Greek.  This paper will be reporting on recent doctoral research into his translation of the Small Asketikon of St Basil the Great.  Of particular interest will be the means by which he came by his copy of the Greek text.  It will be argued that a trip through Syria in about 378 was the most suitable occasion, and that he and that great monastic entrepreneur, Melania the Elder, were using it in their monastery on the Mount of Olives in the 380s and 390s.

The circumstances of Rufinus’s return to the west and the commencement of his career as a translator of Greek texts for the West with Basil will be examined.  Some evaluation of translation techniques will be given.  The paper will end with a discussion of the role that the Regula Basili and indeed of Rufinus’s translations of the other Cappadocians came to play in later western monasticism and liturgy.  A copy of Silvas’s translation and notes to Rufinus’s prefatory letter will be handed out.

Casting off the Byzantine Yoke

Paul Stephenson (Cork)

My analysis of Byzantium’s Balkan frontier, presented in my recent monograph of that title, rejects the notion that the various Balkan peoples were struggling constantly to cast off the despised ‘Byzantine Yoke’ in the period 900-1204.  The peoples of the northern Balkan lands seem to have worn their political allegiances lightly.  This is not to say that they did not feel intense personal loyalty to local or regional rulers, which it is clear they did.  However, there is no indication that this was translated into a higher loyalty, and certainly not to a sense of belonging to any abstract entity like a ‘nation’.  While sources reveal that a Slavic literary culture developed in this period, which drew heavily on, but was distinct from the culture of Constantinople, this was not developed for political reasons, nor did it bolster a movement for pan-Slavic independence from the Byzantine ‘Greeks’.  Similarly, while it is clear that Slavic and non-Slavic peoples, including Bulgarians, Serbs and Croats, Albanians and Vlachs, were aware of, indeed actively constructed, their own distinct identities, sources do not support the notion that such an ethnic awareness, still less a national consciousness, motivated rebellions.  The most we can say is that a sense of Wirgefühl was exploited as a galvanizing force by rebels seeking to extend their support base.

It was not ethnic awareness that led various Balkan peoples eventually to reject Byzantine suzerainty, but rather the emergence of powerful polities in the West whose rulers became alternative patrons and suzerains for the rulers of various groups, regions and cities.  Increasingly, from the end of the eleventh century, peripheral potentates were seduced or obliged to switch their allegiance to the Sicilian Norman king, the Venetian doge and the Hungarian king.  Each of these rulers competed against the others as much as he did against the Byzantine emperor, in seeking to secure control of the maritime cities in Dalmatia, of the northwestern marches between Sirmium and Nis, of Bosna and Raska, and of Dyrrachium.  Moreover, each did so by offering economic and political incentives to Balkan potentates.

The Oration by Eustathios of Thessaloniki for Agnes of France: A Snapshot of Political Tension between Byzantium and the West

Andrew Stone (Western Australia)

The oration for Agnes of France is an intriguing piece from the historical point of view.  Though the exact details are obscured with the allusiveness appropriate to Byzantine panegyric, it contains allusions to contemporary historical situations.  We can recognise a reference to the political tensions, that is the factionalism, present within the commune of Genoa, from which a representative, Baldovino Guercio, was entrusted with the transportation of the young French princess to the Byzantine court so that she might wed the crown prince Alexios Porphyrogennetos.  We may also use the oration to build on the study of G. Day concerning the repercussions that Byzantine trade had on Genoa’s internal politics.  Furthermore, we may even see in the oration hints of factionalism at the French court.  This paper will attempt to put these tensions in the greater context of the rivalry between the western and eastern empires at the time, and correlate the factionalism in Genoa and at the French court with putative pro-German and pro-Byzantine parties present within the ruling class of each polity.

The Popes of Rome and the Patriarchs of Constantinople Commemorated in the Coptic Antiphonarion

Youhanna Youssef (Melbourne)

The Antiphonarion is a Coptic Liturgical book where we find the commemoration of each saint according to the Coptic Calendar.  This book provides a different tradition from the Synaxarion.

In this paper we will discuss the cult of the Popes of Rome and the Patriarchs of Constantinople as commemorated saints. We will give a full translation and comment on this subject.

Only three popes (Liberius, Hippolyte and Pallatinus) and two Patriarchs of Constantinople (Acacius and Alexander) are commemorated in this book.

We may notice that when the compilor of this book did not have enough material about a Roman pope, he presented him either as a martyr (using material taken from the epic martyrdoms) or welcomed him according to the Coptic rite for bishops; hence it gives a vivid report about the development of the liturgical rite of the Coptic Church.

The edition of O’Leary is full of mis-spellings; we hope that another more accurate edition will be published soon.