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Northern Greece is much less well known than regions further south, and the Black Sea area is rarely referred to in works about historical economies. Despite this lack of modern curiosity about the region, its importance in economic terms cannot be underestimated. The southern parts of what is now Ukraine and Russia were one of the great bread baskets of the ancient Mediterranean, and merchants from various Greek islands, and coastal cities of the Aegean, shipped foodstuffs (wine, olive oil, nuts, fish products) in the opposite direction. Surviving written and archaeological evidence offers a very broadbrush picture of these relations. Inscriptions and graffiti from a limited number of exporting, recipient, or transshipment centres (notably Kallatis, Methone, Olbia, Pistirus, Thasos, Pantikapaion), give more detail and nuance, as well as pointing towards dimensions of these economic relations that have not fed back into the dominant economic models. The economic power of some players, notably Byzantium and Pantikapaion, as well as rulers of inland states, including Thrace, and cities of the Hellespontine Straits and Bosporus, deserve greater recognition. Lead letters and contracts, as well as commercial graffiti, also provide important data on the infrastructure of trade.
One of the defining features of the Byzantine historiographical tradition is the dominant narrative roles played by emperors and, in the later period, by Ottoman sultans. This article explores this characteristic feature of the tradition through comparative analysis of the structuring roles occupied by such characters in the fifteenth-century History of Doukas and the protagonistic role of the Florentine people in the contemporary History of the Florentine People by Leonardo Bruni. Transhistorical comparison, organized around two case studies, serves to denaturalize the roles played by emperors and sultans in both Byzantine and modern historiography.
Discussion of what happened to the Hermetic literature during the process of scribal transmission in Byzantine culture, and the importance of Gadamerian hermeneutics for mediating between patterns of familiarity and strangeness.
In this volume, Karin Krause examines conceptions of divine inspiration and authenticity in the religious literature and visual arts of Byzantium. During antiquity and the medieval era, “inspiration” encompassed a range of ideas regarding the divine contribution to the creation of holy texts, icons, and other material objects by human beings. Krause traces the origins of the notion of divine inspiration in the Jewish and polytheistic cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds and their reception in Byzantine religious culture. Exploring how conceptions of authenticity are employed in Eastern Orthodox Christianity to claim religious authority, she analyzes texts in a range of genres, as well as images in different media, including manuscript illumination, icons, and mosaics. Her interdisciplinary study demonstrates the pivotal role that claims to the divine inspiration of religious literature and art played in the construction of Byzantine cultural identity.
From its foundation in the fourth century, to its fall to the Ottoman Turks in the fifteenth, 'Constantinople' not only identified a geographical location, but also summoned an idea. On the one hand, there was the fact of Constantinople, the city of brick and mortar that rose to preeminence as the capital of the Roman Empire on a hilly peninsula jutting into the waters at the confluence of the Sea of Marmora, the Golden Horn, and the Bosporos. On the other hand, there was the city of the imagination, the Constantinople that conjured a vision of wealth and splendor unrivalled by any of the great medieval cities, east or west. This Companion explores Constantinople from Late Antiquity until the early modern period. Examining its urban infrastructure and the administrative, social, religious, and cultural institutions that gave the city life, it also considers visitors' encounters with both its urban reality and its place in imagination.
The Byzantines had direct access to much ancient material about Alexander, and so their view of him, compared to that of other cultures, tended to be more grounded in history. Yet they also continued to develop the Romance tradition in new directions and combined it with parallel Christian interpretations that tied the Conqueror to prophesies made in the book of Daniel and apocalyptic scenarios involving Gog and Magog. These different elements combined in various permutations when the Byzantine historians turned to Alexander in their surveys of world history. Alexander was also invoked in rhetoric that praised the Byzantine emperors, often to show that they had surpassed him, but he was not a meaningful model of kingship for them as he imparted no lessons about how to actualy rule a kingdom.
This introduction outlines the key aims of the book and its genesis, including a definition of what political culture means – the rituals and explicit legitimisation of power, status and property-holding, alongside the unstated assumptions and customs that help to channel tensions and rivalries within polities. It situates the volume’s approach – a presentation of three neighbouring and overlapping political spheres – within the recent turn towards the global middle ages. Neither a work of systematic and explicit comparison nor an attempt at overarching synthesis or grand narrative – nor a shot at tracing trans-regional connections – the book aims rather to find a conceptual language applicable to all three spheres, attempting to make each sphere accessible to non-specialists. This pioneering survey of three spheres – the Latin west, Byzantium and the Islamic world – should provide useful tools for learning, teaching and research today but is also an invitation to future study of medieval political culture.
After considering what is meant by ‘political culture’, this chapter looks at how such an abstraction can be applied to the long period between c.700 and c.1500, over vast stretches of the western Eurasian landmass. The author looks for recurring themes – not grand theory, but rather elements visible in and shared by societies in the three spheres of the Latin west, Byzantium and the Islamic world in this period. Four such elements are suggested – religion, women, property and war – and the author only resorts to abstract analytic categories when they help in exploring these elements across the spheres. He suggests that alertness to them might help us find some fresh things to say about a number of long-established categories such as social hierarchy, loyalty, political legitimacy and the formation of political classes.
Byzantium continued traditions of slaveholding it inherited from the Roman Empire, but these were transformed significantly from the fourth century onward as slavery came to play a diminished role in the generation of economic surplus. Laws governing slaveholding gradually diminished the power of slaveholders and improved the rights of slaves by restricting a master’s right to abuse, prostitute, expose, and murder slaves and their children. Legal norms also eliminated penal servitude, opened the door wider to manumission, and created new structures for freeing enslaved war captives through the agency of the Christian church. Simultaneously, new forms of semi-servility arose with the fourth-century invention of forms of bound tenancy, which largely replaced the need for slaves. Byzantine society commonly used slaves in household and industrial contexts but only sporadically for agriculture, although slave prices remained constant through the eleventh century and even increased beginning in the thirteenth century as Italian traders turned Constantinople and Crete into conduits for slave commerce from the Black Sea. From the fourth century onward, Christian discourse began questioning slavery as contrary to natural and divine law, a tradition that continued throughout Byzantine history without ever leading to a call for abolition.
This comparative study explores three key cultural and political spheres – the Latin west, Byzantium and the Islamic world from Central Asia to the Atlantic – roughly from the emergence of Islam to the fall of Constantinople. These spheres drew on a shared pool of late antique Mediterranean culture, philosophy and science, and they had monotheism and historical antecedents in common. Yet where exactly political and spiritual power lay, and how it was exercised, differed. This book focuses on power dynamics and resource-allocation among ruling elites; the legitimisation of power and property with the aid of religion; and on rulers' interactions with local elites and societies. Offering the reader route-maps towards navigating each sphere and grasping the fundamentals of its political culture, this set of parallel studies offers a timely and much needed framework for comparing the societies surrounding the medieval Mediterranean.
Authored by an interdisciplinary team of experts, including historians, classicists, philosophers and theologians, this original collection of essays offers the first authoritative analysis of the multifaceted reception of Greek ethics in late antiquity and Byzantium (ca. 3rd-14th c.), opening up a hitherto under-explored topic in the history of Greek philosophy. The essays discuss the sophisticated ways in which moral themes and controversies from antiquity were reinvigorated and transformed by later authors to align with their philosophical and religious outlook in each period. Topics examined range from ethics and politics in Neoplatonism and ethos in the context of rhetorical theory and performance to textual exegesis on Aristotelian ethics. The volume will appeal to scholars and students in philosophy, classics, patristic theology, and those working on the history of education and the development of Greek ethics.
The Eastern Roman Empire represents a prototype of a Christian state both in terms of its political philosophy of Church–state relations and in terms of a political philosophy regarding legal recognition of other states – both Christian and non-Christian. The process through which Byzantium recognized emerging states in Europe and beyond became an important element of international legal order as this dominant Christian empire addressed the most critical question of political legitimacy: how can a political order established by Christ recognize other political communities that challenge its territory? As a political community established by Christ and driven by the rule of law, the Empire navigated its international relations following a very specific theological program that reflected its attitude toward its neighbors. This program held that any political project should be an imitation of the Byzantine Christ-given political community and through such process it would come closer in affinity to the Empire and become integrated into its Christian commonwealth.
Did the Byzantines have access to any Sappho that we do not? What interaction can we trace by them with the fragments that they did know? Chapter 23 of The Cambridge Companion to Sappho examines an often neglected aspect of this ancient author’s reception.
In recent years research on the early medieval north-eastern Italy has made important advances in the study of archaeological finds from the entire Adriatic area but also in the field of critical analysis of the early Venetian duchy’s relations with the Lombard (and later Italian) kingdom and Byzantine Italy. This study focuses on the second subject, starting from the arrival of the Lombards in 569, which established the conditions for the birth of Venice. From the sixth to the ninth century, Venice was a Byzantine duchy embedded in a dense network of political, social and economic relations which extended across the whole northern Adriatic. The formation of Venetian society and the city itself, its institutions and political identity were profoundly influenced by social and institutional developments on the Italian mainland. Simultaneously Byzantine, Adriatic and Italian in character, Venice developed in delicate equilibrium with all these different social components.
The earliest preserved painted icons in the Adriatic date from the thirteenth century. In fact, apart from Rome, the entire Latin West seems to have embraced icons simultaneously overnight as soon as they started coming in great numbers from Byzantium following the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204. This chapter argues that the Adriatic was particularly responsive to these painted icons because it had already embraced Byzantine relief icons in the eleventh century. The examination includes both the material and written evidence for the existence of icons in the eleventh-century Adriatic, such as the extant marble Hodegetria icon from Trani and the recorded commission of a gilt silver icon for Siponto Cathedral in 1069. When it comes to Dalmatia, this investigation looks into a donation document recording five icons, one of which was made of silver, in a church built and furnished by a Croatian dignitary in the 1040s. The analysis demonstrates that by the thirteenth century, the Adriatic was conditioned by relief icons to embrace easily portable painted icons reaching its shores after the fall of Constantinople and that this area as a whole experienced a strong prestige bias towards Byzantine artefacts.
This study focuses on Ravenna during the period from its fall into the hands of the Lombards in 751 to the decline of Byzantine power in the West from the mid-eleventh century. It argues that Ravenna shared common features with a number of other cities in the upper Adriatic, for example Comacchio, Venice and Zadar. The city maintained its earlier economic and artistic ties with Istria and Dalmatia, but also with Constantinople. The ties to Byzantium were based on admiration, nostalgia or identity and were used as part of strategy of resistance to threatening outside forces. However, the increasing dominance of local landowning elite led to the local autonomy and the strongest Byzantine influence remained the social and cultural cachet of the empire.
The crusading activity of Venice, more than that of any other participating society, was influenced by other activities and concerns, due to the range and depth of its commercial and strategic interests in theatres of conflict and along transit routes. Its role was reshaped over time by shifts in the geographical configurations of both crusading activity and Venetian interests. In the early decades of crusading, in which the forces of the maritime powers autonomously complemented the activities of other crusaders, crusading action was mingled with the assertion of Venetian prerogatives in the Adriatic and the Byzantine sphere. The shift from land to sea routes linked the role of the maritime cities increasingly to transport and escort of the armies of others, and hence to their geographical position as nodes on transit routes. The diversion to other routes of many of the crusaders from its natural catchment area as a port undercut Venice’s crusading prominence in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with the signal exception of the Fourth Crusade. Venice’s participation in late medieval crusading was constrained to varying degrees by the distribution of its territorial and commercial interests in the areas dominated by different powers.
This essay uses the stratigraphic large-scale excavations of Post-Roman Butrint, ancient Buthrotum, on the Straits of Corfu as a new source of evidence to examine the economic history of the Adriatic Sea region between the seventh and the eleventh centuries. The archaeology depicts the measured transformation of one key site that permits new interpretations of the Adriatic Sea, its history and archaeology to made. Interpretations of Post-Roman history of the Mediterranean Sea as a whole are discussed, showing how archaeology is beginning to reframe the nature and character of western Byzantine intervention in this region.
Despite the area being a major channel of communications between East and West in this period, long-standing political fragmentation and linguistic differences have led to a lack of dedicated scholarly attention to the Adriatic as a whole. This volume addresses this gap by bringing together an international group of sixteen scholars, from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, to generate powerful new perspectives on the Medieval Adriatic, and makes much material available to a wider audience for the first time, particularly new archaeological evidence and existing scholarship previously only published in Italian or Croatian. This introduction sets up the volume by outlining the broad context for the Adriatic in this period, before underlining the scholarly rationale for this volume in more detail and providing an overview of each chapter.
The Adriatic has long occupied a liminal position between different cultures, languages and faiths. This book offers the first synthesis of its history between the seventh and the mid-fifteenth century, a period coinciding with the existence of the Byzantine Empire which, as heir to the Roman Empire, lay claim to the region. The period also saw the rise of Venice and it is important to understand the conditions which would lead to her dominance in the late Middle Ages. An international team of historians and archaeologists examines trade, administration and cultural exchange between the Adriatic and Byzantium but also within the region itself, and makes more widely known much previously scattered and localised research and the results of archaeological excavations in both Italy and Croatia. Their bold interpretations offer many stimulating ideas for rethinking the entire history of the Mediterranean during the period.