Byzantine Narrative

Abstracts of papers presented at The Fourteenth Conference of the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 13-15 August 2004, University of Melbourne

The Story of Creation in the Mosaics of Sicily and Venice

Dr. Joan Barclay Lloyd, La Trobe University

This paper compares the depiction of the Biblical narrative of the Creation in three western Byzantine churches: the Cappella Palatina in Palermo (c.1130-43), the abbey of Monreale (1172-76) and San Marco in Venice (early thirteenth century).  In each church a series of mosaic panels, in a continuous sequence, tells the story.  The Creation mosaics form part of a complex visual representation of many scenes from the Bible in each church.  First, each series of mosaics will be considered in its context within the church building in which it is found, to show where the narrative can be seen.  Important questions pertaining to the representations involve the way God is shown as creator, as well as the depictions of the angels, the cosmos, natural phenomena, plants, animals and birds, man and woman (Adam and Eve), the soul, time and place.  Finally, there will be a discussion of the various ways in which the mosaicists showed God resting on the seventh day.  Written labels help to identify the scenes.  While the San Marco creation cupola relies on late antique manuscript sources, the Sicilian mosaics follow a later tradition.  Even between the Cappella Palatina and Monreale there are variations.  The two traditions will be contrasted.  Through making this comparative study of the mosaics of the Creation story some narrative techniques in Byzantine art will emerge.  Some go back to the Greco-Roman tradition; others are later Byzantine artistic conventions.  Through these narrative devices, the Biblical story is told in striking and visually appealing ways to the people coming into the churches.

War and Peace in the Alexiad

Dr. Penelope Buckley, The University of Melbourne

Half-way through the Alexiad there is a shift in its centre of gravity: a rearrangement of the compositional elements, a change in the way Alexios is seen.  From figuring predominantly as a soldier-emperor, with the two Basils most influential among his many models, Alexios becomes more evidently a man of God leading his people towards a Christian telos.  The change happens from section V to VI of Book Eight.  First, Alexios is seen as triumphing in slaughter, ‘a whole people … blotted out in a single day’; then, in a review of the facts, his prisoners – thirty to each soldier – are killed against his orders, to his shame.  As this pivotal episode is told, then recast in a second interpretative frame, so the Alexiad gives two succeeding but differently shaded histories of Alexios’s rule, the second repeating the narrative form of the first and both together approximating a biography.  Each version takes its linear form from a Norman invasion, and resolves this into a partly lateral narrative which shows Alexios as the centre of a many-sided world.  The first reaches fulfilment in a great slaughter which secures the worldly empire; the second achieves something like an apotheosis in Alexios’s grand march home to build the City of God.  The First Crusade appears to stimulate much of this change by inciting Komnene to recharge the figure of Alexios and redefine his City in more insistently eschatological terms.  Peace becomes more desirable than war and New Rome becomes the New Jerusalem.

The Madrid Skylitzes as an Audio-Visual Narrative Experiment

Mr. John Burke, The University Of Melbourne

With good reason, the lavish illustration dominates our appreciation of the Madrid manuscript of Skylitzes’ Synopsis Historiarum.  But the work was never quite finished and, despite obvious signs of effort and care, the quality is inconsistent.  Why?

The indications point to its being a ‘first’, based on an exemplar that was not illustrated.  Perhaps more significantly, it also seems to have been a ‘one-off’: there is no evidence that it was copied as a whole or served as a model for similar productions.  Why not?

Among other factors, the manuscript may have been inaccessible, or resources unavailable for such expensive undertakings.  In this paper, however, I explore another possible explanation: that Skylitzes’ chronicle was fundamentally an oral work and that the Madrid Skylitzes can be seen a multimedia experiment that tackled but did not fully resolve the tension between a spoken and a visual narrative.

Santa Costanza’s Ambulatory Mosaics: Pagan or Christian?

Dr. Annie Carter, Victoria University

The circular mausoleum built for Constantina, the eldest daughter of Constantine the Great, between 337 and 351 in Rome originally contained mosaics in its dome and circular ambulatory.  Now it is only the well-preserved vault mosaics of the ambulatory which survive and provide one of the few examples of this earliest period of Christian art.  The siting of the mausoleum, adjoining a basilica dedicated to the martyr St Agnes, leaves no doubt about its Christian affiliation.

The eleven mosaic panels in the vault contain a variety of patterns and images.  The wealth of imagery draws from a range of sources including Christian and pagan catacomb painting and carved sarcophagi and pagan floor mosaics.  The panels are arrayed in a carefully planned sequence from the entrance to the niche which originally contained the porphyry sarcophagus of the Augusta Constantina and their iconography contributes to this progression most notably by the sparse use of gold tesserae in the ultimate panels.

In this paper the likely predecessors, both pagan and earlier Christian, will be examined for each panel.  Their iconography and the different materials used for them will be compared with the mosaics in the vault panels of Santa Costanza.  Having examined the individual sources we will the look at how they were combined to fit the new context, namely a Christian mausoleum for an imperial woman in the previous capital of the Roman world.

Cosmas Indicopleustes and Sixth-Century Narrative in Liturgy and History

Mr. Michael Champion, The University Of Melbourne

The stridently polemical Christian Topography of Cosmas Indicopleustes shows congruence with other aspects of sixth-century Byzantine narrative in history and liturgy.  His scientific views set the stage for moves throughout Cosmas’ thought.  Cosmas proposes a two-tiered cosmology of heaven and (flat) earth and criticizes Aristotle’s theory of elements to advocate the view that matter is passive. The two physical states are matched by two historical eras (time of prophecy before Christ; realized prophecy after Christ) and two ethical realms (discipline on earth; rest in heaven).  Levels of reality follow a similar pattern, although here there is a further division (shadow before Christ; approach to perfect reality after Christ; (leading to) real things in heaven).  This structure is superimposed over a strong exposition of the divine economy, which resembles that elucidated by second-century writers.  In Cosmas, however, a strong hope puts the emphasis on the end-time where humanity will find rest, immortality, perfection and blessedness.  A similar exposition of the divine plan supports the structure for narrative in Romanos and Leontios in liturgy and Malalas in history.  God’s sovereignty over passive matter, together with an ethic of human participation in the divine economy, leads to natural phenomena being interpreted in terms of discipline and undergirds the Christian reversal of theodicy debates.  The combination of Cosmas’ ontological conception of what is real, combined with his view that sixth-century history is lived in the age of realized prophecy, where Satan’s power is actually defeated, is the central point, taken up in all writers.  This synthesis arises from urgent hope and supports sixth-century optimism and political expansion.  It is expressed especially clearly in the dramatic narrative sections of Leontios’ Homilies, throughout stories expounded in the Kontakia of Romanos and undergirds narrative structure in Malalas.

The Byzantine World in Chinese Sources

Prof. Chen Zhiqiang, Nankai University, China

The Byzantine state is recorded in the Chinese chronicles under different names as Liqian, Lixuan, Lijian, Daqin and Fulin, etc.  These names have evoked, for a long time, a heated discussion and disagreement among the scholars of Sinology and geography.  (F. Hirth, F. von. Richthofen, H. Yule, P. Pelliot, E. Chavannes, Zhang Xing-lang and Feng Cheng-jun, etc., have different opinions on the problems the names.  These opinions can be found easily in their books, which will not be listed here.)  As a matter of fact, these different names mean the country in the extreme west of the world in the Chinese mind.  At first, the name of the Byzantine state in the Chinese texts comes from the name of the eastern part of the Roman Empire described by the historians of the Han Dynasty.  The Byzantine state is called Daqin (Ta-ch’in) and Lijian in the court chronicles from the fourth to the sixth centuries and the names are repetitions of those of the Hou-Han-Shu (The History of the Later Han Dynasty), which covers the period AD 25-220; Daqin and Likxuan in the Wei-Shu (The History of the Wei Dynasty), written in the sixth century and embracing the period AD 386-549; Fulin, Liqian and Daqin in other chronicles from the seventh to the fifteenth centuries; Folang and Fulang in the Yuan-Shi (The History of the Yuan Dynasty), covering the period AD 1271-1368.  It is better for us to keep in mind that the ancient and medieval writers only had a vague idea of some distant countries, rather than a clear conception about them like those of modern times.  So it is not strange that the names mentioned above change their limits in the different chronicles.

There are plenty of medieval Chinese texts dealing with the Byzantine State.  The sources relating to Byzantine studies can be found in the vast and numerous books written by the Chinese writers.  The Chinese material for Byzantine studies was collected by Sinologists and geographers one hundred years ago (F. Hirth, China and the Roman Orient: Researches into Their Ancient and Mediaeval Relations as Represented in Old Chinese Records, Shanghai, 1885).  Some scholars of Byzantine studies used the material forty years ago (J. Lindsay, Byzantium into Europe, London, 1952, p.423-424).  At present, most scholars who direct their main attention to Byzantine studies do their research without touching the Chinese texts.  This report is only a brief introduction to the Chinese sources relating to the Byzantine state from the written material and the material objects from modern archaeology, not dealing with them in detail here owing to the limitation of space.

The whole of the Chinese sources about the Byzantine state, to my knowledge, can be divided into three.  The first type comes from the Chinese court chronicles of each dynasty from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries, which is the basic source of studies of Byzantine-Chinese relations.  The second type comes from the medieval literature, which is supplementary to the first type.  The third type comes from government documents, which provide more reliable evidence for Byzantine studies.  From these materials we can learn some things about Chinese narratives of the Byzantines in ancient and medieval times, with their attitude to the Byzantine state, Empire, social life, government and administration, as well as food and building, etc.

Transposing Narrative Through Languages: The Greek and Coptic Lives of Antony

Dr. Malcolm Choat, Macquarie University

The Life of Antony was written in Greek shortly after the death of the great monk in the mid 350s.  Tradition ascribes it to Athanasius, although some modern scholars have not been so sure.  It set forth a narrative framework for integrating the new institution of monasticism into the ecclesiastical hierarchy and proved immensely influential in doing this within Egypt, in the wider Byzantine world and the Latin-speaking West.  Recent readings have seen it as the cornerstone of Athanasius’ ‘ascetic program’ whereby he fashioned monasticism in Egypt in the image he desired.  Yet monasticism in Egypt was scarcely a monolingual institution: a substantial section of the monastic populace were Coptic speakers and would have had no point of access to a narrative written in Greek.  This paper investigates the early reception in Coptic sources of the Life of Antony and asks when it was translated and how it effected monastic narratives and ideologies which were articulated in Coptic.

Tradition and Originality in Photius’ Historical Reading

Brian Croke, Sydney

The mid ninth-century Bibliotheca of Photius provides a clear insight into Byzantine historical judgement and taste.  Photius read an enormous amount of history, much of which is no longer extant.  Each historian is rated in terms of a range of criteria but most notably their literary style and narrative effectiveness.  This paper sets out to explore and highlight the creative tension between tradition and originality in Photius’ historiographical judgement.  What frame of reference leads Photius to consider that Nicephorus’ Breviarium constitutes the gold standard for history writing?  Why does he rate Diodorus, Herodian and Arrian, for instance, far above others more highly regarded by modern standards?  A detailed analysis of Photius’ evaluations of historians from Herodotus to his own day demonstrates the extent to which the perspective of Photius and Byzantine historical taste were shaped by narrative considerations.  In a culture that prizes originality and innovation it is increasingly difficult to appreciate those cultures with a preponderant emphasis on  imitation and tradition.  In a culture with increasingly elaborate legal partitions and barriers protecting an author’s written and spoken words it is not easy to understand a literary world where such strictures were irrelevant.

Daniel in the Lions’ Den: Episodic Narrative in Funerary Contexts

Dr. Kate Da Costa, Australian Centre For Ancient Numismatic Studies, Macquarie University

Visual narrative in funerary contexts provides a rich field for examining the transformation from early Imperial Roman art to that of early Byzantine Christian imagery.  One illustrative method used in Etruscan and Roman art was particularly exaggerated in the Late Antique period.  The example of Daniel in the lions’ den provides a case study, showing both episodic narrative and a specifically Byzantine use of referential images to add a further level of narrative to a story.  Additionally, the transformation of detailed Old Testament stories of Daniel into a minimalist Christian image provides additional scope for a study of the changing nature of Byzantine narrative.

First Impressions: The Role of Biblical Narrative in Religious Space

Debbie Del Frate, La Trobe University

Aquileia, once called Roma Secunda, lies at the western terminus of the Amber Road.  Serviced by a thriving seaport close to the Adriatic and surrounded by the fertile plains of the River Po, it became a significant centre of trade, commerce and ecclesiastical studies bridging the western and eastern boundaries of the Roman world in the fourth century.  Significantly, the construction and decoration of the basilica of Bishop Theodore in Aquileia, north Italy, effectively marks a terminus a quem for the State recognition and funding of art and architecture devoted to Christianity under Constantine.  The vast mosaic floors still preserved (of both halls) display a multiplicity of figural, animal, genre and geometric elements so admired by Olimpiodorus, in his letter to St. Nilus ca. 430.  Pagan images lie alongside Christian symbols and highlight the transitional phase reflected in these halls devoted to worship, where popular, ancient motifs were given different meaning.  It is interesting to compare these juxtaposed images.  Importantly, set within this mosaic paradeisos appears the extensive narrative illustration of three episodes from the Book of Jonah, in the Old Testament.  A popular theme in catacomb art, the prophet Jonah was interpreted as an important precursor to Christ as revealed in the details of his story.  Jonah’s death and re-emergence (or rebirth) three days later from the belly of the sea monster was thus assimilated to Christ’s own suffering and resurrection.  This abundant and exuberant display of animal and figural motifs in Aquileia was short-lived, however, as the trend towards more simplistic geometric formats emerged and remained throughout Italy until the late fifth and sixth centuries, when again images of earthly and heavenly peace reappeared within an enlarged artistic repertory, as revealed in the early Byzantine decorations from Ravenna.

Presentations of the Ancient Philosophers and Sybille in the Fresco Decoration of the Church of Virgin Ljeviska in Prizren, Kosovo and the Neo-Platonic Influence

Balsa Djuric, Serbia and Montenegro

These three representations are situated on the western wall at the bottom of the northern arch of the exonarthex in the Episcopal church of the Virgin Ljeviska in Prizren, Kosovo.  Obviously, they were part of a larger ensemble.  The philosophers’ titles are inscribed in the old Slavic alphabet as ‘Greek Plato’ and ‘Greek Plutarch’.  The inscription of the Sybille has almost disappeared, but in previous times when it was better preserved it was read as ‘Sybille the Ethiopian Empress’, also in the old Slavic alphabet.  All three were painted around 1310.  These are not lone examples, but they are the starting point in my research of this custom in the Byzantine world.  Ancient sources and their incorporation into Christianity are well known, but the role of Plotinus and his philosophy is neglected.  In the beginning of the Byzantine Empire ancient heritage was logical and expected, but two other waves of interest in ancient philosophers and their work in the eleventh and thirteenth centuries had completely different meanings and use.  Byzantine culture in every way shows its historical role: it was a bridge between two epochs – ancient and medieval.  Comparing it to a barbarized but revitalized Occident, the Early Byzantine period – with its domination of Christianity and constant effort to attain Orthodoxy through dogmatic disputes – underlined obvious parallels between ancient and medieval ideologies in its view of the world.  The result of these factors was the transmission to the West of the writings of Plato and the Neo-Platonists, most of them for the first time.  On the other hand, the Byzantine court itself found very important support in glorification of the emperor and earthly hierarchy and also promoted an indisputable obedience to the Empire and emperor.

Some Byzantine Narratives in the Alphabet of Tales

Prof. John Duffy, Harvard University

Medieval Greek narratives of various kinds, but especially legends and beneficial tales, sometimes had successful careers well beyond the borders of Byzantium and circulated in Western Europe, for example, both in Latin and in several vernacular languages.

One of the most important Western carriers were collections of exempla.  These were short narratives – beneficial tales, legends, miracle stories – gathered together to provide suitable subject matter for the preaching orders of the West from the twelfth century onwards.  Among the famous compilers of exempla were Caesarius of Heisterbach, Jacques de Vitry and Jacobus de Voragine, each of whose collections were a motley mixture of Eastern and Western motifs.

In the fourteenth century Arnold of Liége, drawing on those earlier collections and other sources, put together a large book of some eight hundred exempla in Latin and arranged them in alphabetical order.  Hence the title of that work: Alphabetum Narrationum.  It survives in over fifty manuscripts, none of which has ever been edited or printed.

However, in the fifteenth century a Middle English translation of the Alphabetum was produced and a modern edition of this appeared in the Early English Text Society series at the beginning of the last century.

My talk will focus on the history and vagaries of three of the stories in this Middle English Alphabet of Tales that have their origins in Byzantium: (1) ‘The Jewish Boy Legend’, first attested in Evagrius Scholasticus in the sixth century and later a popular item both in Greek texts of various genres and in Latin, especially in collections of Miracles of the Virgin; (2) ‘The Byzantine Cinderella’, the account of a female ‘fool for Christ’ described in the Lausiac History of Palladius and appearing in a different guise among the stories associated with Daniel of Scetis; and (3) ‘The Death of Julian the Apostate’, a legend detailing the execution of the emperor by St. Mercurius whose earliest Greek version is preserved in an anonymous life of Basil of Caesarea.

The Tyche Sacrifices in the Chronicle of John Malalas and the Ancient Novel

Dr. Benjamin Garstad, Brooklyn College

Throughout the Chronicle of John Malalas there are several accounts of virgin sacrifice.  These accounts consistently associate the virgin sacrifice with the foundation or refoundation of a city and usually with the establishment of the city’s Tyche.  It has already been shown that these accounts have some bearing on the civic iconography of Late Antiquity.  It is the intention of this paper to set these tyche sacrifices in a literary context.  We will first argue these accounts of virgin sacrifice were not composed by Malalas himself but by one of his sources and that Malalas did not fully understand their intention when he included them in his own work.  It is possible that Malalas’ source in this instance was the practically unknown Bouttios.  It is the contention of this paper that the tyche sacrifices were extracted from a Christian ‘apologetic history’, probably of the fourth century, which inveighed against pagan rulers and eulogized Constantine.  It is difficult to tell whether the tyche sacrifices were the most substantial element of this history or merely one theme among many, but they were obviously intended to attack the origins of one of the most popular pagan cults of Late Antiquity, that of the civic Tyche, or Tyche/Fortuna generally.  The literary mechanics of the sacrifice accounts and their intention become clearer when we look for models in the Greek novel.  The author of the tyche sacrifices borrowed the motif of the ‘damsel in distress’ from the novel in order to depict the figures of Greek myth, Alexander, the Seleucid kings and Roman emperors as villains and Constantine as a hero.  The immediate inspiration of the tyche sacrifices might have been the rumours circulating with regard to Julian the Apostate’s sacrifice of a woman at Carrhae.

Documentary Narrative: The Case of the Notitia Dignitatum

Dr. Iskra Gencheva-Mikami, The University of Tokyo

A narrative in the Notitia Dignitatum?  Is there such in it and, if there is, how can we describe the type of narrative it belongs to?  The paper is intended to focus on a seemingly non-narrative type of written source document known to the scholars as the Notitia Dignitatum.  By examining the way it describes the Eastern and Western Roman Empire in the fourth-fifth centuries, the paper is going to suggest a different approach to the definition of narrative through analyzing autonomously the documentary-type narrative and its main characteristics.  Along with the Notitia Dignitatum itself, other contemporary documentary sources are included in the presentation as examples for existence of this highly productive and vivid type of narrative in the fourth and fifth centuries.  There is also a strong emphasis in the paper on the illustrated copies of the Notitia Dignitatum.  They reveal an amalgam of textual and pictorial narrative, which elaborates a different, art-related language of the documentary narration.  This art-related side of the documentary narrative brings out also the question of the narrative limits in the context of changing literacy level in the fourth-fifth centuries.  The text-image approach within the documentary narrative gives convincing evidence for existence of a different type of vividly developing narrative, which calls for re-defining the idea of narrative itself and its limits.  Main problems, therefore, which this paper will try to focus on, are as follows:

  • Documentary narrative as an autonomous kind of narrative: characteristics, productivity and development in the fourth-fifth centuries.
  • Documentary narrative in Roman East and West: similarities through diversity.
  • Documentary narrative: text and image.
  • Limits of the documentary narrative.
  • Re-defining the narrative: alternative ways of narration in the fourth-fifth centuries.

Before Narrative:  The Making of Clovis’ Baptism

Dr. Andrew Gillett, Macquarie University

The baptism of the Frankish king Clovis as a Nicene Christian is a familiar and freighted event.  It marks the new Gaul, of the generation after the collapse of imperial control of the West, as nonetheless firmly part of the sub-Byzantine world; from a different perspective, it is a convenient starting point for the history of modern France.  The familiarity of this relatively early imitatio of Constantine arises from the much-read narrative of Gregory of Tours: Clovis is baptized in a key passage in the second book of Gregory’s Histories, a place beyond which few readers trespass.  It is not an easy narrative with which to come to terms; Clovis’ divinely-inspired decision to accept baptism is framed by accounts clearly stigmatizing him as a ruthless oath breaker.

This paper will consider the putting together of Gregory’s account.  Part of his narrative is indebted to the legend of Constantine and Pope Sylvester; part to Old Testament typology.  But many of the ‘facts’ have no known written source and are conventionally attributed to ‘oral sources’.  As is often the case, the unknown is the most useful: unattested ‘oral sources’ become malleable materials for new, modern narratives and Clovis’ baptism becomes evidence of rich veins of oral legends, preserved by either ecclesiastical or Germanic, barbarian traditions, depending on one’s taste.

For my own narrative of this key event, I would like to locate the unattested sources of Gregory’s data elsewhere: in Clovis’ own self promotion and his knowledgeable exploitation of contemporary forms of media to establish the importance of his entry to the Church.  Like any good politician, Clovis created and managed his own image; Gregory’s account is a refraction of a narrative which Clovis himself performed and promoted.

Narrative of the Byzantine Landscape

Prof. Timothy E. Gregory, Ohio State University; University Of Sydney

Narrative as a concept can be seen in a variety of ways.  It is, by nature, something that must be both given and received, told and heard (or seen).  The human landscape, including what we may call the built environment, can provide a narrative if we have the tools to hear it.  This approach is built upon the assumption that people in the past, although they would probably not have viewed the creation of landscape as a narrative act, had definite ideas about the placement of buildings and cities, the nature of tradition and change and the desire to monumentalize aspects of their life.  They therefore created their landscape in specific ways that were meaningful to them and modern historians and archaeologists use approaches that seek to ‘read’ that landscape in ways that are similar to how we read a text or a work of art.  To be sure, in doing this scholars impose their own narrative on the material that they study.  Thus, the ‘narrative’ of landscape has two meanings – one given, one received – both related by the physical presence of land forms, monuments and other archaeological objects.  This paper will explore these two aspects of the narrative of landscape in a Byzantine context, using examples from previous work in Byzantine history and recent fieldwork in the Korinthia and the island of Kythera.  It will discuss the complexity of this approach and point out that modern narratives of the Byzantine landscape often vary widely.  This is not, of itself, necessarily a bad thing since the ‘story’ told by the Byzantines themselves will have been complex and capable of various interpretations, but the issue has wide-ranging implications about how we are to understand the Byzantine past and its relevance for contemporary theoretical and political issues.

The Narration of Christ’s Passion in Early Christian Art

Dr. Felicity Harley, University of Birmingham; Adelaide University

The story of Christ’s Passion survives in each of the four canonical Gospels as a continuous, detailed and graphically presented literary narrative.  Ostensibly, it presented early Christian artists with a ready-made sequence of events ideal for visual narration.  Yet when an avid interest in and concern for the historicity of the Passion story and its protagonists surfaced and developed in Christian art, during the fourth and fifth centuries, the resultant iconography inevitably went beyond mere illustration and demonstration of narrative content.  The British Museum’s remarkable series of fifth-century ivory Passion reliefs will be presented in this paper as a vital test case.  Of Roman provenance, the reliefs demonstrate most powerfully the ways in which, through the purposeful selection of textual details by artists, early Christian iconography provided audiences not just with particular readings, constructions and thus interpretations of the Passion narratives, but with highly sophisticated visual theology.  It will be argued that in the understanding of early Christian thought about Christ’s passion, iconography thus presents textual evidence of equal import as the traditional, literary, forms of theological discourse.

The Hidden Narrative in Justinian’s Marriage Law Reforms

Mr. William Heath, The University of Melbourne

The sixth-century Byzantine Emperor Justinian initiated one of the greatest projects of legal codification and reform in the history of Western civilization.  While lawyers have extensively scrutinized the jurisprudence in Justinian’s Digest, Code, Institutes and Novels, there remains much scope for textual and historical examinations of Justinianic legislation.  In particular, might there be a hidden narrative (or narratives) in Justinian’s law reforms?  This paper will explore the possible narrative(s) in – and motivations behind – Justinian’s reforms to Roman marriage laws.  Is the story behind the marriage law reforms one of Orthodox morality, or something else?

The Black Sea Region, Before and After the Fourth Crusade

Prof. Sergei Karpov, Moscow Lomonosov State University

The Fourth Crusade and the Tatar invasion of 1230s brought significant political, economical and ideological changes in the Black Sea area.  The Byzantines controlled the Black Sea commerce up to 1204.  Main trade routes changed their direction afterwards and the Pontic towns benefited from it.  The Italians got access to the Pontic area only from 1204 onwards.  In 1260-1320s they created a network of trading stations all over the Black Sea.  The Latins were in a minority in their settlements except, possibly, a 30,000-40,000 city of Caffa.

After 1204 the Lascarids of Nicaea acquired leadership among different Greek rulers.  Their competitors in Anatolia were grandsons of the Emperor Andronikos I, dethroned and killed in Constantinople in 1185, Alexios and David.  They captured Trebizond in April 23-25, 1204.  Curiously enough, they did not choose the famous local military saint Theodore Gabras as a palladium of the Empire of the Grand Comneni.  Among the saints supposed to become holy protectors of the Pontic state St. Eugene had been selected as such.  The author offers an explanation.

Crimea and Tana (Azov) played a most important role in the system of relations between East and West in the thirteenth-fifteenth centuries.  Artisans of the Black Sea towns produced objects in a mixed style of Byzantine, Oriental and Western design.  The Latins did not only export goods and technology, but equally imported Greek manuscripts, acquired the famous maniera graeca in icon painting, introduced oriental fashion in Italy of the fifteenth century, used lingua franca and adopted Tartar and Greek names.

Greek culture survived after the Fourth Crusade, producing significant cultural results both in the Byzantine areas of the Black Sea region and in Latin dominated ones.  The ways how the Trapezuntines understood and narrated their history is of special interest.

From Fallen Woman to Theotokos: Music, Women’s Voices and Byzantine Narratives of Gender Identity

Mr. Eamonn Kelly, St Cross College, University of Oxford

This paper looks at the involvement of women in Byzantine musical culture and considers the broader impact this had on representations of gender identity in liturgy and society.  Recent scholarship has begun identifying the role of women in Byzantine musical culture.  In a society where women’s identity was moderated by men and their means of expression limited by legal and normative restrictions, music offered women unique narrative avenues.  Previous work by the author has shown that in the first few centuries AD opportunities for musical professionalism, expression, respectability and influence broadened for women at all levels of Roman society.  These advances suffered a severe setback at the instigation of the Church Fathers and Christian legislators determined to reverse many of the Roman Empire’s social reforms.  From early in the Byzantine Empire, laws barred respectable young women from instrumental music-making and all lay women from liturgical ensemble singing.  Professional female musicians working in the secular domain were marginalized by male Christian writers and the ancient topos of ‘the female entertainer as prostitute’ repeatedly evoked.  However, in attempting to codify and restrict women’s musical expression, whilst creating a polarized model of female identity, legislators and moralists inadvertently established a remarkable paradox: a paradox which ultimately led to the emergence of prominent female composers in the ninth Century, in whose work women were emancipated from the stain of Original Sin.

The Column of Arcadius: Reflections of a Roman Narrative Tradition

Dr. Julia Kelly, La Trobe University

This paper will look at a rarely-studied example of fifth-century sculptural relief – the Column of Arcadius, erected by the Emperor in AD 402 in his forum in Constantinople.  The column is now lost, but fortunately drawings were made before the column was completely destroyed and so we can gain an indication of its original appearance.  In a band of continuous narrative spiralling around the column is a relief which records and celebrates the military victories of Arcadius’ father, Theodosius the Great.  This column reflects the tradition established by the Emperor Trajan, who erected in the centre of his great Forum in Rome a column depicting in the same manner the Emperor’s victories over the Dacians (completed in AD 113), with scenes of warfare and scenes of military life, all carefully planned to display and celebrate Trajan’s prowess in the battlefield, his strong leadership and his embodiment of the stern and stoic Roman ideal.

Almost three hundred years separate the Column of Trajan from the Column of Arcadius and we can make a comparison between the two, considering their iconography, sculptural style and how they reflect the very different eras to which they belong.

During the Roman Empire, monuments celebrating the military achievements of an emperor became more and more prevalent, often providing a narrative of his campaigns in sculptural relief.  From the Ara Pacis Augustae, the Column of Trajan and the Column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, to the many triumphal arches found throughout the provinces, they were all monuments of social and political propaganda.  What messages can be understood from the Column of Arcadius?

Narrating the End: Byzantine Apocalypse and the Last World Emperor

Dr. Bill Leadbetter, Edith Cowan University

One of the most enduring images which emerged from the apocalyptic sub-culture of the Late Roman/Early Byzantine world was that of the Last World Emperor.  This figure was envisaged as one who would provide an iconic conclusion both to the Roman Empire and to history itself.  It was an image which translated to the west and entered the thought-world of mediaeval apocalyptic, to the extent that, as late as the second siege of Vienna, texts of pseudo-Methodius were being circulated amongst the besieged and, on the eve of the Reformation, pre-Protestant commentators seized upon the image as one promising victory over both Pope and Turk.

Paul Alexander has seen the figure of the Last World Emperor as a borrowing from Jewish Messianism.  This paper will challenge that notion, locating the origin of the narrative in ancient Egyptian rather than more classically Jewish narratives.  Links will be drawn both with pre-Christian Egyptian apocalyptic and also with the Coptic Apocalypse of Elijah.

Stories in the Ground: Settlement Remains and Archaeology as Narrative in the Fourth- to Sixth-Century Eastern Mediterranean

Dr. Tamara Lewit, Trinity College, The University of Melbourne

This paper will consider what we can know of Byzantine culture and society through the unintended narrative of its physical remains.  Archaeological excavations of the last thirty years have uncovered urban and rural settlement remains which have changed our view of life in the fourth- to sixth-century eastern Mediterranean.  The astonishing explosion of rural settlement, its increasing density, intensive rural production and spread of eastern Mediterranean trade products have been increasingly recognized over the last ten years.  At the same time, eastern cities show evidence of a different evolution, by which the fine classical monumental buildings and spaces – both public and private – were subdivided and encroached upon and classical aesthetic principles disregarded in favour of more utilitarian goals.

Traditionally, such changes have been interpreted as signs of decline and impoverishment.  However, the growing evidence for a productive and commercial burgeoning of the East undermines such explanations.  Recent scholarship on the physically changed and ‘conceptually radical’ western cities of the late Roman to Early Medieval period suggests that a disregard for the classical aesthetic and lifestyle arose because such cultural forms were no longer relevant in a changing socio-political context.  While few connections have been drawn between such western developments and the evolution of the Byzantine East, perhaps here, too, people in the fifth to sixth centuries AD formulated a new way of life which reflected a new mentality and new priorities.

The Byzantine Constantine, With Special Reference to the Opitz Vita (Bhg 365)

Prof. Sam Lieu, Macquarie University

First published by Cavalieri in 1896 from a manuscript in Italy, this Byzantine vita of Constantine was redited by Opitz in 1934.  Subsequently a fuller manuscript has been found in a manuscript from Mar Sabba monastery.  This vita differs from the innumerable other Byzantine vitae of Constantine in its use of what appears to us to be ‘Western’ sources on the legendary life of Constantine and at the same time cites extensively from the now lost history of Philostorgius, as well as explaining the role of the eunuch Euphratas in the conversion of Constantine.  This paper will look at the complex publication of the text and how the biographical narrative is shaped by the sources.  It will also discuss possible future collaborative research to produce a new edition, translation and commentary of this extraordinary text.

Interweaving Narrative, Theology and Authentication: The Illumination of the Melbourne Byzantine Gospels

Prof. Emeritus Margaret Manion, The University of Melbourne

The Gospel Book in the National Gallery of Victoria, MS Felton 710-5, has long been acknowledged as an outstanding example of manuscript illumination in mid twelfth-century Constantinople.  This paper will show how recent research on Byzantine scribal, decorative and illustrative practices, together with exhibitions such as the Glory of Byzantium (New York, 1997) and S. Marco and Venice (Melbourne, 1997), helps to locate this manuscript more specifically within the cultural context of the capital and to reconstruct with reasonable certainty its complete illustrative programme.  This shows that the treatment of narrative in the illumination of this manuscript is related both to long-standing theological interpretations of the Gospel texts and the proclamation of their authenticity and to more recent approaches to illustrative and iconic representation.  These reflect both the book’s monastic origins and wider contacts with the West.

Narrative in the Art of the Bagawat Necropolis, Kharga Oasis, Egypt

Dr. Matthew Martin, Melbourne College of Divinity

The tomb chapels of the Bagawat Necropolis in the Kharga Oasis of Egypt’s Western Desert preserve important examples of early Christian funerary art.  Conventionally dated to between the fourth and eighth centuries CE, elements of the wall paintings found at Bagawat are directly comparable with the art of the Christian catacombs in Rome.  This paper will examine the use of narrative in the paintings of the Exodus Chapel at Bagawat, with particular attention given to elements in these paintings to which a ‘Jewish’ character may be attributed.  Some implications of this art for the history of Christianity in the Great Oasis will be explored.

The Use Of Metaphor in Psellos’ Chronographia

Elizabeth McCartney, The University of Melbourne

Michael Psellos’ Chronographia was written at a time of intellectual ferment and can be seen to be one of the first texts of this period to fully explore a new approach to historiography, one influenced more by classical biography than classical history, which developed out of this.  With a focus on the individual rather than events and with the author enjoying a much greater presence in the narrative, Psellos had created a ‘personal history’.  Complementing this choice of subject matter and the focus with which it was discussed, Psellos’ writing style, in particular his use of metaphor, produced a vivid text which encourages the audience to engage with the material.  Psellos’ use of chariot- and sea-imagery, for example, creates a program of images which interact with each other throughout the text, developing associations between different sections of the narrative.  While this assists the audience to follow Psellos’ thoughts and to fully appreciate his discussions of the character and humanity of his subjects, such carefully crafted associations allow Psellos also to influence the way in which his audience may interpret the situations in question.

Continuation and Complexity: Illuminated Manuscripts of the Fifth and Sixth Centuries

Miss Rebecca McGann, The University of Melbourne

This paper explores the role of illustrations as narrative and their intimate relationship with the text in Byzantine manuscripts of the fifth and sixth centuries.  The objective is to show the critical role of this period in the exploration and introduction of distinctive artistic narrative concepts in the illustrations of early Christian manuscripts from the Byzantine Empire.

The two popular types of Christian manuscripts during this period were the Book of Genesis and the Gospels, of which only a handful survive.  Included in this report is the only surviving fifth-century illuminated Christian manuscript, the Quedlinburg Itala.  Also examined are the sixth-century manuscripts the Cotton Genesis, Vienna Genesis, Rabbula Gospel, Sinope Gospel and Rossano Gospel, all originating from a wide area of the Byzantine Empire and representative of the artistic diversity in early Christian manuscript illustration.

Concentrating on these illustrated manuscripts, each is examined with specific emphasis on their contribution to the development of narrative in early Christian manuscript illumination.  For instance, the continuation and influence of Hellenistic and contemporary Classical styled illuminated manuscripts are reviewed in the Quedlinburg Itala.  The artistic developments resulting from the transition from scroll to codex are demonstrated in the sixth-century Vienna Genesis.  The complex relationship between text and illustration and the introduction of more diverse religious concepts are investigated in the Rabbula, Rossano and Sinope Gospels.  Finally, the relationship between artistic narrative in early Christian manuscripts and other media, including monumental frescoes and mosaics of later periods, is displayed in the investigation of the Cotton Genesis, Rabbula and Rossano Gospels.  Other issues discussed include the relationship between the Old and New Testaments characteristic of the early Christian period, as well as the increasing importance of illustrations at this time demonstrated by the shortening of text in favour of representations.

Narrative, Nuance and Invention: Constantinople as the New Rome

John Melville-Jones, University of Western Australia

It is often said that Constantinople was founded as ‘The New Rome’.  The title is also sometimes used as if it were an official second name for the city, with the implication that Constantine the Great intended from the first that it should be a new capital for his empire.  Neither of these assertions can be proved beyond doubt.  The early history of Constantinople should not be confounded with its later development.

No evidence survives for the use of the expression ‘New Rome’ in the time of Constantine the Great.  The nuances of the use of the expression to describe Constantinople in the third canon of the Second Ecumenical Council held at Constantinople in 381 will be discussed, together with the statement of Socrates that Constantine rendered the new city equal to imperial Rome and, after naming it ‘Constantinople’, established by law that it should be designated as the Second Rome and had the law engraved upon a stone stele in the Strategium.

It should be emphasized that the expressions ‘Second Rome’ or ‘New Rome’ were not used in official Roman documents at this time.  They are found only in the writings of authors with an ecclesiastical background, who used the Greek language.

Writers who wrote in Latin did not describe Constantinople as Nova Roma and such Latin equivalents as altera Roma, ‘a second Rome’ and secunda arx, ‘a second (or subordinate) fortress’ send a different message.

The continued use of the phrase is best understood in the context of the battle for precedence among the major Christian churches, as Constantinople struggled to match the established major bishoprics of Antioch, Alexandria and Rome.

A Story of the Byzantine Lead Seals From Devolgrad (Ancient Audariston), Near Stobi

Dr. Robert Mihajlovski, La Trobe University

Three Byzantine lead seals were found by the local shepherds at the site called Gradishte or Devolgrad near Stobi, in the district of Kavadartsi (Republic of Macedonia).  Devolgrad, also called Stypeion, was a mediaeval fortress rebuilt on the ancient Paeonian settlement of Audariston.  It was situated on the massive rock at the entrance of the gorge of Raets River.  It was a fortification that controlled the road communication of Municipium of Stobi with Heraclea Lyncestis on the junction of Via Egnatia.  In the Tabula Peutengeriana it was indicated as Euristus as it was known in Roman times.  The phrourion of Devolgrad or Stypeion had an important role in the military campaigns of Emperor Basil II in 1014.  Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries the area became an object of incessant strife between the lords of Nicaea, Epirus and Salonica, including the Crusader, Bulgarian and Serbian invasions.

Three Byzantine molivdovulls, which were recently found by chance, represent important data about the Byzantine history of the region, which will be explored in this paper.

The first lead seal is connected with the name of the Sebastos George Palaiologos, a famous military commander of the Emperor Alexius I Comnenos.  The obverse of the seal shows the bust of the Virgin orans with a medallion of the Christ Child on her chest.  On the reverse is an inscription of four lines mentioning the name of George Palaiologos.

The second of the seals has two standing figures, nimbate, holding gospels and traces of legends around them.  Although the text of the reverse is well known from several examples, the owner is anonymous.

The last lead seal has on its obverse a bust of St. Demetrius holding a spear in his right hand and ovular shield in his left hand.  On the reverse a votive inscription in five lines is not well preserved.

Novelisation in Byzantium: Narrative After the Revival of Fiction

Prof. Margaret Mullett, The Queen’s University of Belfast

This paper examines the twelfth century in Byzantium through Bakhtin’s theory of novelisation.  This suggests that when novels enter a literature all other genres are affected.  ‘What are the salient features of this novelisation of other genres suggested to us above?  They become more free and flexible, their language renews itself by incorporating extraliterary heteroglossia, and the ‘novelistic layers of literary language’, they become dialogised, permeated with laughter, irony, humour, elements of self-parody, and finally – this is the most important thing – the novel inserts into these other genres an indeterminacy, a certain semantic open-endedness, a living contact with unfinished, still-evolving contemporary reality (the open-ended present).’  Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, 6-7.

Rather than the obvious cases of the development of politikos stichos, the experimentation in the vernacular, the revival of satire and parody and riddle collections, the paper looks at three kinds of narrative and at what has happened to their genre in the wake of novelisation, as the ancient novel was revived in the mid twelfth century.  The texts are Anna Komnene’s Alexiad, Nicholas Kataskepenos’s Life of Cyril Phileotes and the late twelfth-century Diegesis Merike.  In each can be seen a fluidity of genre, the use of the vernacular, crossing of boundaries between secular and religious, authorial intrusion, generic mixis and development, use of dialogue and interest in portraying mordant wit.  Through checking their practice also against the theoretical texts which formed part of their education we can observe Byzantine understanding of the place and functioning of narrative, see the true originality of these texts and modify to some extent Bakhtin’s theory.

A Story for Sicily: History and Narrative in the Byzantine Twelfth Century

Prof. Margaret Mullett, The Queen’s University of Belfast

This paper looks at John Skylitzes’ Synopsis Historion as it was customized for Bulgaria and for Sicily.  It suggests that the equivalent of Michael of Devol’s interpolated Skylitzes was the illustrated Skylitzes now in Madrid.  It notes the treatment of Sicily in the text and offers some speculation in the light of the Belfast-Melbourne-Sussex project on this manuscript.  We do not know how the model of this manuscript reached Sicily nor the model’s exact form, nor whether it was solicited or a matter of happenstance, nor the purpose of the illustrated copy as viewed by patron, scribe, illuminators or intended recipient.  And before the project has made more headway it is unlikely to discover answers to these questions.  But compared with the possible alternatives in the Byzantine twelfth century and in the light of Norman historiography it can be seen that Skylitzes was an appropriate story for Sicily.

Pothos Tou Philoktistou‘:  Anicia Juliana’s Architectural Narratology

Dr. Geoffrey Nathan, University of New South Wales

The patrician Anicia Juliana possessed a unique status in the city of Constantinople.  Though no augusta, she hovered dangerously close to the Eastern throne.  Scion of the aristocratic gens Anicii, last of the Theodosian house, daughter of an emperor and wife of a consul, her presence in New Rome made the emperors of the first decades of the sixth century decidedly nervous.

The extensive building activities of this patricia will be subject of this paper.  As a woman with imperial pretensions, Anicia’s construction of churches in the city of Constantinople had implications that went well beyond simple expressions of her piety.  They not only articulated her wealth and influence but also served as important voices in the dialogue of Constantinople’s competitive urban topography.  The significance of the structures – both in themselves and contextualized in the city’s public space – acted as an indicator of Anicia’s religious ideology, provided a physical and temporal continuity with her imperial pedigree and served notice of her own political ambitions.

The three churches she is known to have built or improved – that of St. Euphemia, of St. Polyeuktos and a church dedicated to Mary Theotokos – will be the foci of my investigation.  I hope to demonstrate that their architecture, purpose and placement in Constantinople represented a comprehensive tale consistent with secular and religious affairs of the day.  Her efforts at self-promotion through her building projects also mimetically paralleled the cultural narratives of elites and their notions of power.

In short, Anicia Juliana fashioned a narrative of stone.

Narrating the Exile and Death of Pope Martin (649-653)

Dr. Bronwen Neil, Australian Catholic University

The account of Pope Martin’s exile and death in Cherson (Narrationes de exilio sancti papae Martini) is a seventh-century compilation of four letters and a commemoration of the pontiff’s unfortunate end.  These documents were translated by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the late ninth century.  I intend to look at the way the original story was told by Martin’s Greek supporters in the struggle against monothelitism.  How is this distinct from the way the story was reported by the Roman papal librarian two centuries later, when claims to papal authority were challenged by Constantinople?  The Narrationes provide a lens through which we can view the changing relations between pope and Byzantine emperor over the turbulent period from the seventh to ninth centuries.

How The Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds Became a Tale: Grafting Narrative

Dr. Nick Nicholas, The University of Melbourne

The Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds, a vernacular Greek account of a parliament of animals from the 1360s, belongs to a literary genre of poetic disputes and comparisons (Synkrisis, Rangstreitdichtung) which is not particularly associated with narrative.  Yet the Tale – as its own title shows – has been deliberately written as a narrative, even as it retains the agonistic conventions of its genre.  I show here how the Tale became a narrative: how we can discern that the narrative was an imposition on an existing template; what the mechanisms of narrative are that were added and how they have affected the structure of the text; and how thorough the process was of making the Tale a narrative.  I briefly consider parallels for introducing narrative into a genre alien to it elsewhere in Byzantine and other literatures and what possible motivations there may have been for this.

Narrative and Metaphysic in Early Christian Thought

Prof. Eric Osborn, La Trobe University; The University of Melbourne

In early Christian thought the joining of Jerusalem to Athens was chiefly evident in the transformation of the Bible into a metaphysical document.  The moves from prophecy to Plato were:

1. text of the Bible (except for Christ crucified) is metaphorical;
2. prophecy forms a simultaneous world;
3. dialectic as question and answer is necessary;
4. dialectic as ascent to supreme essence is necessary.

These fundamental moves enable the adoption of philosophical terms and arguments.

Narrating the Fall: Contemporary and Modern Accounts of the Events of 1453

Vicky Panayotopoulou-Doulaveras and Dr. Alfred Vincent, University of New South Wales

The siege and fall of Constantinople in 1453 has been the subject of countless narratives in many different genres, from the near-contemporary Greek chronicles, the popular Greek laments and the learned elegies on the lost City, to Greek folksongs and to accounts by recent international scholars and of course by modern Greek historians, for whom it is a pivotal moment in the national history.  In this double paper we will examine significant differences between these versions in terms of both narrative content and ideology.  In what ways do the Greek accounts differ among themselves?  How far are these differences genre-specific?  What, by contrast, have been the dominant features of widely read modern treatments of the topic?  What conclusions can we draw from this comparative study?  To address questions such as these we will apply elements of quantitative narratology as well as analysis of ideological themes and motifs to a selection of works from various categories.  Our main findings will be summarized in table form and distributed to participants.

The Flourishing End of the Academy in the Sixth Century

Ms Thea Potter, The University of Melbourne

The state of turmoil of the Athenian Academy and the epic circumstances ensuing from the year AD 529 through 532 and beyond are shrouded in mystery.  It has been suggested that the Academy was not ‘closed’, but continued in a reduced mode perhaps as late as AD 565.  I suggest that under the new vigour of the pagan diadochos Damascius, Athenian neo-Platonism was not drawing its last belaboured breath: it would seem unnecessary to extinguish an enemy that was already expiring of its own accord.  In fact the case was quite the opposite.  Under the vibrant Damascius and the youthful glow of promise in his pupil Simplicius, the Academy gives a hint at escalating towards a renaissance of its former pagan splendour.  In reference to Justinian’s AD 529 decree against paganism, the ordinance mentioned by Malalas in Book 18, the Athenian philosophers’ expedition to Persia enlivened by Agathias, as well as the philosophers’ works themselves, I suggest that it was this very vigour, with which the Athenian scholars maintained the long-standing tradition of pagan neo-Platonism, that also alerted Justinian to the threat which they posed his Christian Empire.

The Varangian Guard

Mr. Bob Priestley, The University of Melbourne

The word ‘Varangian’ seems odd in Byzantium.  When, whence and how did it get there?  And to whom was it applied?  And what did they do?  The too simple answer is that it applied to an imperial bodyguard of Scandinavians: what were they doing so far from home?  Let us consider these questions in the light of the movements of Germanic peoples from their homelands in northern Europe to the South, then to the West, to the East and in particular of their relationships with Rome and, later, Byzantium (Cimbri, Teutones, Cherusci, Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Franks, Burgundians, Lombards, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Icelanders).

  • The Rus (or Rhus) in Russia; meaning of the word ‘Rus’.
  • Discussion of the origin and meaning of the word ‘Varangian’; its various forms in different languages.
  • Movement of the Swedes: east up the Baltic across Lake Ladoga, along the River Valkov to Novgorod, along the Dnieper to Kiev and ultimately to Byzantium; similarly down the Volga to the Caspian Sea and to Arab settlements and cities; ultimately to Bagdad.
  • Treaties of Constantinople.
  • Trading relationships with Byzantium.
  • The service of the Rus as mercenary soldiers and eventually as members of an elite imperial bodyguard, which existed under the title of Varangian Guard until Constantinople was invaded by the Fourth Crusade in 1204.
  • Mention of particular military actions and certain particular members of the Guard.

Narrating Justinian: From Malalas to Kedrenos

Assoc. Prof. Roger Scott, The University of Melbourne

Modern studies of the reign of the emperor Justinian rely especially on his contemporary Prokopios, augmented by material from other sources and especially contemporary chronicles.  I have suggested previously that this approach should be inverted to compensate for distortion resulting from Prokopios’ classicizing approach and that more attention needs to be given to the account in Malalas.  Malalas’ account provides the basis for much of the later Byzantine representation of Justinian but, by a combination of new material and rearrangement of Malalas’ version, the actual representation of Justinian is also changed significantly.  I have previously attempted to show this for Theophanes’ alterations to Malalas, which relies on a combination of rearrangement, redating and omission.  This paper will examine further how the representation of Justinian is changed in later Byzantine chronicles, especially Kedrenos, by exploiting these same narrative techniques plus the introduction of new material, though these chronicles are still relying mainly on much the same material as was first provided by Malalas.

John Skylitzes’ Synopsis Historiarum: A Moralizing History

Ms Theoni Sklavos, The University of Melbourne

John Skylitzes wrote his chronicle Synopsis Historiarum circa AD 1070.  As well as being a chronicle writer, he was a judge and jurist in Byzantium.  I will argue in this paper that Skylitzes organizes historical events into cause-and-effect sequences that highlight the reciprocal nature of the imperial with the divine.  In the Synopsis Historiarum events that befall the Empire are depicted as divine reward or divine punishment for an emperor’s moral or immoral behaviour.  War, civic discord, natural disasters and ominous portents are portrayed as consequences of an emperor’s immorality or impiety.  Victory in war and prosperity within the Empire are the rewards of a pious emperor.  Criticism of an emperor’s rule, therefore, is veiled by Skylitzes under the guise of divine wrath, whilst praise is expressed through divine reward.  To highlight this contention, I will be examining the author’s portrayal of two emperors – Basil I and Michael IV.  Skylitzes extols Basil I by depicting him as divinely preordained to rule and as embodying virtue and justice throughout his reign.  His righteousness is rewarded by God, who allows the Empire to flourish during this time. Conversely, Michael IV is deprecated by the author, who portrays him as an impious ruler.  The disasters which occur during Michael’s reign are rationalized by Skylitzes as divine retribution for his immorality.

Narrative Similarities and Dissimilarities: Determining the Role of Constantine Doukas at the Siege of Ancona, 1173

Dr. Andrew Stone, University of Western Australia

The city of Ancona (on the Adriatic coast of Italy) maintained friendly relations with the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos during his reign (1143-1180) in opposition to the menace of the German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa.  As a result, the city was besieged twice during Frederick’s reign, the most serious siege being in 1173.  The heroic resistance of the Anconitans was the talk of the Italian, German and Greek world.  We have, therefore, some eleven primary sources describing the events.  However, they do not all agree as to what happened.  This paper is concerned to try and determine the role of Manuel’s man at Ancona, Constantine Doukas, in the lifting of the siege, through comparing and contrasting our primary sources.  As is to be expected, each of the primary sources is motivated by its own political bias which, in the time available, I hope to demonstrate.  Among secondary sources, I agree with neither Schreiner nor Ahrweiler as to his precise part, but am to some extent in accord in Leonhard and I shall try and explain why.

Adam’s Naming of the Animals: Naming or Creation?

Prof. Michael E. Stone, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The paper will deal with naming and the creative dimension of the act of naming as understood by Armenian thinkers down to the fourteenth century.  In the background will be a pattern of attitudes to names, and particularly to the name of God, traced from Jewish sources of the Greco-Roman period on.  The issues will include Adam being created in the image of God and God’s taking human (Adam’s) form in the incarnation: of Adam naming God and God naming Adam.

Sequential Narrative Illustrations in Armenian Art

Dr. Nira Stone, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

From the earliest Armenian manuscripts on, some painters show a tendency to link scenes into a sequence that is held together not only by the text it is illustrating.  There are instances where the visual narrative enriches and embroiders the story told in the text.  We shall examine a number of such sequences and the techniques used by the artists to create narrative sequentiality.

The Representation of Augustae in John Skylitzes’ Synopsis Historiarum

Ms Emma Strugnell, The University of Melbourne

This paper considers attitudes towards female rule in John Skylitzes’ Synopsis of Histories.  I consider the author’s narrative approach and suggest that his portrayal of female augustae is intended to recall three familiar models of female behaviour: Eve, the Theotokos and the sorceress/witch.  I argue that by emphasizing accepted female behaviours such as familial devotion and by suppressing connotations of sexuality, female augustae may exercise imperial authority legitimately.  Skylitzes’ approval of female augustae, I argue, is restricted to those women who recognize their ‘biological’ inferiority and the resulting transience of their political authority.  I suggest that women who claim power independent from male relatives threaten the boundaries of accepted female behaviour and are thus portrayed with the attributes of the sorceress/witch: insatiable lust, bloodlust and intimate knowledge of poisons.

The Discourse on the Otherworld in the Byzantine Literature: Hagiography, Chronography and Homiletics in the Ninth-Eleventh Centuries

Andrei Timotin
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris

The topic of this paper is to examine how the rules which govern the different types of discourse determine a distinct treatment of the themes in Byzantium.  We chose the discourse on the otherworld in the ninth-eleventh centuries, as it appears in the hagiographical writings, in the chronicles and in the homiletics of this period.

The subject is highly interesting from many points of view. The ninth-century witnesses a remarkable development of the discourse on the otherworld in Byzantium.  A rich literature of eschatological ‘visions’ emerges in this period, in connection to a particular historical context: the end of iconoclasm; the proximity to the year 1000; the profound changes which characterize the holy man models.  The content of this polymorphic discourse is essentially based on a set of themes and motifs inherited from the inter-testamentary literature, mainly on a certain number of apocryphal apocalypses and visions, the diffusion of which remains considerable in Byzantium at the end of the first millennium.

Apart from the historical context which determined it and the more or less ancient sources which nourished it, this discourse is governed by a series of specific rules of the narrative genre in which it is included.  The same content is differently treated, according to the narrative techniques.  The hagiography, the chronography and the homiletics are narrative mirrors which impose distinct features and a certain discursive elaboration on the representations of the otherworld.

The goal of our paper is to show, by means of a comparative analysis of texts belonging to these three genres, to what extent the narrative frames influence the way of representing the otherworld in Byzantium in this period.

Reading the Recipe: The Social Narrative of Magical Texts

Silke Trzcionka, Australian Catholic University – Mcauley

Prescriptions for magical spells could vary from the brief and relatively simple instructions for questioning a corpse (PGM IV.2140-44), to the considerably lengthier and more complex directions of the ‘Mythras Liturgy’ (PGM IV.475-829) seeking association with the divine.  Despite the variance of their intentions and methods, however, all magical texts were both a narrative of power and control and a social narrative of conformity and deviance.  This paper will consider the dual nature of the magical narrative by examining several examples of early Byzantine spell prescriptions and the social scripts of belief and behaviour that they reveal.

Compiling Histories: John of Ephesus Creates a Narrative

Dr. J. J. Van Ginkel, University Leiden

John of Ephesus (d. ca. 588) knew Emperor Justinian I, visited the palace many times, was a missionary sponsored by the imperial family and claimed Constantinople as his main place of residence for more than forty-five years.  In the capital he wrote a Church History, amongst other works.  He used the Chronicle of Malalas and the works by Eusebius and the other church historians as his sources.  Still, this Byzantine author did not write in Greek.  John, bishop of Ephesus, was one of the leaders of the anti-Chalcedonian movement in the sixth century.  He is also – probably – one of the most important figures in the transfer of material and ‘genre characteristics’ from Greek historiography into the Syriac tradition.  The Syriac tradition has preserved many fragments of the early Byzantine (Greek) historiography, including the Chronicle of Malalas.  In my paper I will be discussing the transfer from the Greek historiographical tradition to the Syriac-Aramaic tradition.  What can be said about how John incorporated his sources in his work?  How did he change the narrative of his source?  How does John create and structure his own stories?  Is he influenced by his sources?  In short, the paper will focus on the narrative in a different kind of Byzantine Historiography.

Mankind’s True Story: The Church History of Sozomen

Dr. Peter Van Nuffelen, K. U. Leuven, Belgium

In the study of Early Byzantine church history, Eusebius is in general opposed to the later church historians.  Whereas the founder of the genre is mainly studied for the way he presented the history of early Christianity as a ‘mythical story’ (as it has been called by some scholars), his successors are seen as pragmatic historians, mainly interested in offering facts and proving their own doctrinal position.  This contrast is not justified.  At least one of the later historians, Sozomen (ca. 440-450), purports to tell a ‘grand story’, although he has also been ranked among the ‘pragmatic historians’.  In his preface he announces that he will tell the story of how the non-Christian world was transformed into a Christian one, starting with the incarnation.  This metabolé takes as tangible forms the growth of the church and the spread of Christian piety.  His history must be read as the story of mankind’s progress towards an entirely Christian world.  Its plot is the metabolé; the main character is mankind.  Both plot and character can be divided into many subplots (the battle of orthodoxy against Arianism, the jealous attack on the pious John Chrysostom, etc.) and sub-characters (monks, saintly bishops, good emperors, etc.).  Plot and character interact in many different ways: the conversion of the world can be brought along by miracles, by the pious life of monks, by imperial coercion, etc.  This interpretation provides the key to a full understanding of Sozomen’s church history, which pretends to offer the only true story of mankind, because secular history remains blind for the fundamental change caused by the Christianisation of the world.  In order to substantiate it, we will analyse three elements of Sozomen’s church history: (1) his preface that lays out both plot and character; (2) the structure of the different books, which shows how the plot develops; (3) the last book, which curiously pays very much attention to secular affairs.  We can show, however, that this book is to be read as the apotheosis of the entire history, as it stresses the invincible force of true piety.

Panegyric and Kaiserkritik in Three Kontakia of Romanos

Ms Annamma Varghese, Melbourne Girls’ College/HTAV

This paper examines the large role of eschatological thought in the narrative of Justinian’s reign with particular emphasis on Romanos.  Through an analysis of three kontakia of Romanos, together with aspects of Malalas and Procopios’ Secret History, I suggest that panegyric and kaiserkritik of Justinian’s reign relied on a formulated apocalyptic discourse.  I shall argue that bipolar eschatological roles for the Emperor and the Empire were present in this discourse and were the result of an evolving apocalyptic mythology particularly manifest in the sixth century.

Stitchers of Narration in Greek Vernacular Texts of the Late Byzantine Period: Personal or Standard Style?

Erma Vassiliou

In a recently completed investigation based on the Word Order of Medieval Cypriot (MC), I explored, among other constituents, the frequency of participles in paragraph-initial position as they occur in texts of the Late Byzantine period, more particularly in the Chronicle of Leontios Makhairas, the Cypriot fifteenth-century chronicler.  These participles, in their levelled medieval form, with other temporals and dates, are great stitchers of narration; they abridge information as much as they accommodate for both the flow of the narrative and the writer’s communicative skills.

The purpose of this paper is to introduce and present the relevant results and patterns, to investigate the frequency of such order in other, same or later period texts such as those of Boustronios and to compare the investigated patterns with examples drawn from the French chronicles of the near or same period.  Indirectly, thus, the paper addresses three research questions.  First: ‘Was there a common pattern to follow, when writing a narrative in the period under study?’; second: ‘Were these patterns followed to the point?’ and third: ‘Can same pattern repetitions play a different role in the same narrative?’

Narrating the Fall: Contemporary and Modern Accounts of the Events of 1453

Dr. Alfred Vincent and Vicky Panayotopoulou-Doulaveras, University of New South Wales

The siege and fall of Constantinople in 1453 has been the subject of countless narratives in many different genres, from the near-contemporary Greek chronicles, the popular Greek laments and the learned elegies on the lost City, to Greek folksongs and to accounts by recent international scholars and of course by modern Greek historians, for whom it is a pivotal moment in the national history.  In this double paper we will examine significant differences between these versions in terms of both narrative content and ideology.  In what ways do the Greek accounts differ among themselves?  How far are these differences genre-specific?  What, by contrast, have been the dominant features of widely read modern treatments of the topic?  What conclusions can we draw from this comparative study?  To address questions such as these we will apply elements of quantitative narratology as well as analysis of ideological themes and motifs to a selection of works from various categories.  Our main findings will be summarized in table form and distributed to participants.

The Icon of the Heavenly Ladder and Saint John Climacus

Mrs. Robin Wastell, La Trobe University

The belief that humankind was made in the image and after the likeness of the Creator (Gen.2:26) provided hope for Christians to be able to approach God from this world.  Images, icons specifically, were – and are – considered to be portals; just as man the image contains something of the original, so too do painted icons contain something of the original and therefore connect the viewer with the divine.

This paper explores the meaning of the eleventh-century icon of the Heavenly Ladder (St. Catherine’s, Mt. Sinai), which is the representation of a sixth-century treatise by Saint John Climacus in which he instructs monks on the virtues and vices, the former to strive for and the latter to avoid.  It is clear from this image that the avoidance of vices and the gaining of virtues are like the rungs of a ladder which the pious Christian can mount to be united with Christ in Heaven.  At the head of the ladder is Saint John Climacus, who was Abbott of Mt. Sinai and he is followed by a bishop of Mt. Sinai, Antonios and probable donor of this icon painted in the eleventh century.

Christian narrative, expressed in images and writing, developed during the Late Antique period and used, transformed and adapted the techniques and iconography of the pagan and secular world of the Roman Empire to express a new faith in words and images.

Constructed Narrative: Continuity and Disjunction in the Building of the Great Palace

Mr. Nigel Westbrook, University of Western Australia

In 1959 Cyril Mango published a seminal thesis on centralized Byzantine architecture, in which he analyzed the extant literature in order to reconstruct the topography of the Palace portal – the Chalke, or ‘Bronze House’.  Some forty years later several scholars have revived interest in the unresolved issue of the typology and layout of what was perhaps the formative palace complex for Western Europe.

In this paper I will suggest ways in which elements of the topography of the Great Palace may be reconstructed in the light of recent textual analysis of contemporary ceremonial and ekphrastic texts.  Comparative planimetric analysis will illuminate typological continuities.

Emphasis will be given to the question of continuity with, or radical break from, the Imperial Roman Palatine tradition.  This will touch upon the practice of embellishment of palace buildings with spoliated fragments of often long-vanished structures.  The persistence of the centralized palatine Triklinos type will be examined in detail: what was its topographical relationship with other spatial types and how did it evolve through the periods of historical disjunction?  Is the old image of an ossified, enduring culture really justifiable when examining the actual transformations in Byzantine Palatine architecture?

The intent of the paper is to use these reconstructions to open up to question the subject of architectural continuity in relation to the Palace: can these products of a backward-looking culture be thus discussed?  Do they constitute traces or fragments of ancient architectural practices, or can they be understood, as I believe Cyril Mango has implied, as often disjunctive innovations clothed with the ritual surfacing of tradition?

Narrative Accounts of Byzantium in Chinese Sources

Prof. Xu Jialing, Northeast Normal University, Changchun

In the ancient Eurasian continent the Roman/Byzantine, Persian and Chinese Empires were the three main ones.  Narrative accounts of the Persian and Byzantine Empires in Chinese sources can be traced as far back as the Han-Tang dynasties (beginning at the end of the third century BC), or even earlier in some cases.  References to the silk trade or to Silk Roads during the Roman and Byzantine periods are quite common.

People in ancient China had very little idea of the full extent of the Roman and Byzantine Empires.  They knew only that there were quite wide maritime spaces between Western Asia and Constantinople and formal embassies could not arrive at the capital cities of Rome and Constantinople or the capital of the Chinese Empire.

Because of the variety of languages and accents in various Chinese epochs, names of persons and places in the Roman and Byzantine worlds survive in many different forms.  This sometimes makes it difficult for scholars nowadays to understand the right meaning of these names.  As a result, Chinese scholars or historians of various periods have given very different explanations of them.

Further Remarks on a Coptic Document

Dr. Youhanna Nessim Youssef, Australian Catholic University; The University of Melbourne

The manuscript written on parchment and kept in the Coptic Museum under number 2539 contains a theological debate between a Chalcedonian and an Archbishop.  It was originally from the monastery of Saint Macarius in Scetis and written in Bohairic dialect.  The text mentions the ‘Theodosians’: we will investigate this title from several ecclesiastical books such as the Antiphonarion, the Synaxarium and the History of the Patriarchs in order to date the text.  We will discuss the theological content of this text and we will compare it with the Life of Severus of Antioch attributed to Athanasius of Antioch.  In our paper, we will study the historical context of the theological debates between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian in order to see who could be this archbishop.  The last point in our study is the reason for the scribe to copy this text in the monastery of Saint Macarius in the tenth century.

Historians and the Economy: Contemporary Views on Fifth- And Sixth-Century Economic Development

Dr. Hartmut Ziche, Wolfson College, Cambridge

It has been generally accepted for quite some time now that the ancient economy is ‘embedded’.  This means, among other things, that the economy was not perceived as a separate entity by contemporaries and goes some way to explain why ancient writers – not only historians – write very little about the economy.  There is no distinct narrative of the economy to stand beside political history.  This paper proposes to look at the late Roman and early Byzantine period and examine how, if at all, contemporaries wrote about the economic developments of their time.  The aim here is not to reconstruct economic developments from the fifth to the sixth century, based on textual references from various authors, i.e. a collection of anecdotal data to supplement archaeological evidence or to illustrate a model, but to look at two major authors of political history, Zosimus and Procopius, and examine how the economy explicitly and implicitly influences their account of political events.  Procopius is an obvious choice here, because the variety of his writings allows a comparison of how the economy is inserted into different types of narrative: straightforward political history in the Wars and polemical biography in the Secret History.  However, most interesting, perhaps, are Procopius’ Buildings, because they show a willingness by the author to depart from classical paradigms of historical narrative and give the physical infrastructure of the Empire a leading role.  The step from this type of history to proper economic history, the history of the finances of the Empire for example, would only be a small one, and it thus seems promising to treat the Buildings as an intermediate step on the way leading away from political history.  Zosimus on the other hand has a much more classical narrative, but also he allows a study of how the economy, at times, forms a sub-text to political history – an example of this could be the description of the economic consequences for Rome of the blockade of Africa by Heraclianus.