Category: Publications

A Scandal at the C.I.A. Maybe

Thomas Whittemore was a dashing and colorful archaeologist and preservationist, a mash-up of Indiana Jones, Oscar Wilde and Tom Wolfe. A prized dinner guest and an excellent fund-raiser, he was the founder of the deliciously named “Byzantine Institute, Inc.” (offices in Boston, Paris and Istanbul). He is remembered primarily as the man who convinced Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to let him preserve the mosaics of the Hagia Sophia.

Author David Schafer tells the story of how a collection of personal letters and papers belonging to his grandfather revealed his grandfather’s relationship with Thomas Whittemore and led Schafer to speculate that Whittemore was a C.I.A. agent.

Read the full post on The New York Times Opinionator blog.

The Journey of a Greek Manuscript

Yet there’s one more twist to the tale of this manuscript. At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, there is a miniature not of Matthew, but of the Annunciation. At some point, an owner must have noticed this and inserted a picture of Matthew to make up the loss, as f 292r consists of a woodcut on paper, inserted at a late stage. Where, when, and why this happened, however, remains unknown.

A short history of The British Library’s Add MS 24376, Four Gospels in Greek.

Read the post at the Medieval Manuscripts blog.

Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity

Kristi Upson-Saia, Carly Daniel-Hughes, and Alicia J. Batten. Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

The past two decades have witnessed a proliferation of scholarship on dress in the ancient world. These recent studies have established the extent to which Greece and Rome were vestimentary cultures, and they have demonstrated the critical role dress played in communicating individuals’ identities, status, and authority. Despite this emerging interest in ancient dress, little work has been done to understand religious aspects and uses of dress. This volume aims to fill this gap by examining a diverse range of religious sources, including literature, art, performance, coinage, economic markets, and memories. Employing theoretical frames from a range of disciplines, contributors to the volume demonstrate how dress developed as a topos within Judean and Christian rhetoric, symbolism, and performance from the first century BCE to the fifth century CE. Specifically, they demonstrate how religious meanings were entangled with other social logics, revealing the many layers of meaning attached to ancient dress, as well as the extent to which dress was implicated in numerous domains of ancient religious life.

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New Issue of Anatolica

Anatolica, volume 40 (2014).


A House for Trade, a Space for Politics Excavations at the Arai-Bazarjugh Late Medieval Caravanatun, Armenia
Kathryn J. Franklin

According to predominant approaches to the Late Medieval historical and material record, Europe, the Near East and Eurasia were progressively integrated during the Late Medieval period by communities of style and networks of trade, as well as by political ties. Yet the mechanisms of trade and mobility – that is, the movement of people and materials – during this period remain largely unknown, as well as the ramifications of such regional or even ‘global’ economy on local society and politics. The late medieval princedoms of the Armenian Highlands were political entities operating within and between the states of Europe and Asia; the highland princedoms therefore provide an opportunity to examine regional political economy from the perspective of local interests. This paper presents results from excavations at the late medieval (12th-15th c. AD) Arai-Bazarjugh caravanatun ('caravan house' or road inn, also caravanserai), which was constructed by a local Armenian merchant-prince. The architecture of the caravanatun and the material assemblages recovered within it, integrated with historical data, demonstrate the role of the caravanatun as a point of intersection between the global trends of late medieval trade, and local Armenian political traditions.

Using Images in Late Antiquity

Stine Birk, Troels Myrup Kristensen, and Birte Poulsen, eds. Using Images in Late Antiquity. Oxbow Books, 2014.

From Oxbow Books

Fifteen papers focus on the active and dynamic uses of images during the first millennium AD. They bring together an international group of scholars who situate the period’s visual practices within their political, religious, and social contexts. The contributors present a diverse range of evidence, including mosaics, sculpture, and architecture from all parts of the Mediterranean, from Spain in the west to Jordan in the east. Contributions span from the depiction of individuals on funerary monuments through monumental epigraphy, Constantine’s expropriation and symbolic re-use of earlier monuments, late antique collections of Classical statuary, and city personifications in mosaics to the topic of civic prosperity during the Theodosian period and dynastic representation during the Umayyad dynasty. Together they provide new insights into the central role of visual culture in the constitution of late antique societies.

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Papyrus grecs et coptes de Baouît conservés au Musée du Louvre

Sarah J. Clackson and Alain Delattre. Papyrus grecs et coptes de Baouît conservés au Musée du Louvre. IFAO, 2014.


The monastery of Bawit in Middle Egypt is one of the biggest and best-known Egyptian monasteries. Between 1901 and 1905, Jean Clédat led four archaeological campaigns on the site. The archaeologist found a large amount of papyri and ostraca (up to several hundreds). A corpus of ostraca was published in 1999 (MIFAO 111). The papyri, with a few exceptions, have remained unpublished. The present book offers the edition of a batch of papyri discovered by Clédat and now kept in the Louvre Museum. The 73 fragments contain Greek and Coptic texts, mainly administrative or private ones, including accounts and many letters. Most of the documents are small, but they help reconstructing the archives of Bawit and, more generally, give us information on the life in the monastery in the 7th and 8th centuries. A table is given in appendix, which lists all the published papyri and ostraca from Bawit (more than 700 documents).


Neighbours and Successors of Rome

Daniel Keller, Jennifer Price, and Caroline Jackson, eds. Neighbours and Successors of Rome: Traditions of Glass Production and use in Europe and the Middle East in the Later 1st Millennium AD. Oxbow Books, 2014.

From Oxbow Books

Presented through 20 case studies covering Europe and the Near East, Neighbours and Successors of Rome investigates development in the production of glass and the mechanisms of the wider glass economy as part of a wider material culture in Europe and the Near East around the later first millennium AD. Though highlighting and solidifying chronology, patterns of distribution, and typology, the primary aims of the collection are to present a new methodology that emphasises regional workshops, scientific data, and the wider trade culture.

This methodology embraces a shift in conceptual approach to the study of glass by explaining typological change through the existence of a thriving supra-national commercial network that responded to market demands and combines the results of a range of new scientific techniques into a framework that stresses co-dependence and similarities between the various sites considered. Such an approach, particularly within Byzantine and Early Islamic glass production, is a pioneering concept that contextualises individual sites within the wider region.

By twinning a critique of archaeometric methods with the latest archaeological research, the contributors present a foundation for glass research, seen through the lens of consumption demands and geographical necessity, that analyses production centres and traditional typological knowledge. In so doing the they bridge an important divide by demonstrating the co-habitability of diverse approaches and disciplines, linking, for example, the production of Campanulate bowls from Gallaecia with the burgeoning international late antique style. Equally, the particular details of those pieces allow us to identify a regional style as well as local production. As such this compilation provides a highly valuable resource for archaeologists, anthropologists, and art historians.


Convivium. Exchanges and Interactions in the Arts of Medieval Europe, Byzantium, and Mediterranean

Convivium. Exchanges and Interactions in the Arts of Medieval Europe, Byzantium, and Mediterranean. Seminarium Kondakovianum Series Nova.

The new periodical, Convivium, will restart and continue the glorious Seminarium Kondakovianum, the journal of the institute founded in memory of Nikodim Kondakov in 1927, which represented the desire to maintain and deepen Kondakov’s pioneering scholarly work in Byzantine and medieval studies, celebrated not only in the Russian and Czech worlds but also in western Europe.

To revive this journal at a moment of crisis in the world of publishing, specifically in scholarly publishing, is to invest in the vitality of the interests that connect eastern and western Europe and the cultural roots they share through the Mediterranean. Convivium will cover an extended chronological range, from the Early Christian period until the end of the Middle Ages, which in central Europe lasted well beyond the Renaissance in Italy. Equally vast is the range of subjects it will treat. Whereas its central concern will remain art history, that is, whatever pertains to images, monuments, the forms of visual and aesthetic experience, it will also include many disciplines tied to art history in the deepest sense: anthropology, liturgy, archaeology, historiography and, obviously, history itself. The goal is to ensure that the journal will provide a 360º opening onto the field and the research methods being deployed in it.

The people and institutions that are starting Convivium bring diverse perspectives and come from various countries. The primary institutions are the Center for Early Medieval Studies at the University of Brno, the Academy of Science in Prague and the University of Lausanne; the organizing committee includes Czech, Italian, Swiss, and American scholars; in additon, a scientific committee is being appointed to make recommendations and approve contributions.

Two numbers of the journal will be issued every year, each organized by a member of the editorial committee; all articles will be approved by a blind peer-review process. The first will focus on a theme, and the second will be a miscellany. Each issue will comprise five to ten articles (in French, English, Italian, or German), between 40,000 and 60,000 strokes long and fifteen illustrations (some in color); and it will include five book reviews. Convivium will be published in paper and digital format.

Convivium will be published in paper and digital format and distributed by Brepols.


Mediterranean Identities in the Premodern Era

John Watkins and Kathryn L. Reyerson, eds. Mediterranean Identities in the Premodern Era. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

The first full length volume to approach the premodern Mediterranean from a fully interdisciplinary perspective, this collection defines the Mediterranean as a coherent region with distinct patterns of social, political, and cultural exchange.

The essays explore the production, modification, and circulation of identities based on religion, ethnicity, profession, gender, and status as free or slave within three distinctive Mediterranean geographies: islands, entrepôts and empires. Individual essays explore such topics as interreligious conflict and accommodation; immigration and diaspora; polylingualism; classical imitation and canon formation; traffic in sacred objects; Mediterranean slavery; and the dream of a reintegrated Roman empire.

Integrating environmental, social, political, religious, literary, artistic, and linguistic concerns, this collection offers a new model for approaching a distinct geographical region as a unique site of cultural and social exchange.


Dreaming in Byzantium and Beyond

Christine Angelidi and George T. Calofonos, eds. Dreaming in Byzantium and Beyond. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

Although the actual dreaming experience of the Byzantines lies beyond our reach, the remarkable number of dream narratives in the surviving sources of the period attests to the cardinal function of dreams as vehicles of meaning, and thus affords modern scholars access to the wider cultural fabric of symbolic representations of the Byzantine world. Whether recounting real or invented dreams, the narratives serve various purposes, such as political and religious agendas, personal aspirations or simply an author’s display of literary skill. It is only in recent years that Byzantine dreaming has attracted scholarly attention, and important publications have suggested the way in which Byzantines reshaped ancient interpretative models and applied new perceptions to the functions of dreams.

This book - the first collection of studies on Byzantine dreams to be published - aims to demonstrate further the importance of closely examining dreams in Byzantium in their wider historical and cultural, as well as narrative, context. Linked by this common thread, the essays offer insights into the function of dreams in hagiography, historiography, rhetoric, epistolography, and romance. They explore gender and erotic aspects of dreams; they examine cross-cultural facets of dreaming, provide new readings, and contextualize specific cases; they also look at the Greco-Roman background and Islamic influences of Byzantine dreams and their Christianization. The volume provides a broad variety of perspectives, including those of psychoanalysis and anthropology.


New Issue of ‘Atiqot

‘Atiqot, 78 (2014)


A Byzantine Monastery and Islamic-Period Settlement Remains at Horbat Ma‘on
Pirhiya Nahshoni and Gregory Seriy
At Horbat Ma‘on, located in the northwestern Negev, three areas were opened (A–C) and six strata (I–VI) were discerned. The strata date from the Late Roman–early Byzantine to the Late Islamic (fourteenth century CE) periods. In Stratum V, dated to the late Byzantine period, a well-planned complex was erected, consisting of several buildings and at least two streets. The finds included local and imported pottery vessels. Gypsum stoppers were found in one of the rooms, two of them bore the embossed forms of a lion and a cross. The architecture and finds from Stratum V indicate that this must have been a civil center in the Byzantine period. In Stratum IV, dated to the end of the Byzantine period, a church was built. The finds included a bread stamp adorned with a cross and an inscription mentioning the name Stephen. The nature of the architecture and the finds from Strata IV and V point to the existence of a monastery and a church dedicated to St. Stephen at the site.

A Bread Stamp from Horbat Ma‘on
Leah Di Segni
A pottery bread stamp was discovered in Stratum IV at Horbat Ma‘on, dated to the end of the Byzantine period. The bread stamp has a disk-shaped base and a round knob handle. The handle top is decorated with a cross and the base of the stamp bears a Greek inscription that reads: “Blessing of (Saint?) Stephen”. The inscription indicates that the stamp was used for preparing buns that were handed out at a church as a memento of a visit to that church. It is proposed that the excavated complex at Horbat Ma‘on included a church of St. Stephen and possibly served as the residence of the bishop of Menois.

Coins from Horbat Ma‘on
Donald T. Ariel and Ariel Berman
Of the 129 coins found at Horbat Ma‘on, 56 could be identified. The earliest coins date to the first century BCE–first century CE through the first half of the third century CE—these may not be related to the settlement at the site. The coins from the last third of the third century until the first quarter of the fifth century CE seem to reflect the Stratum VI occupation there. Strata V–IV are represented by coins later than 423 until the seventh century CE. The remainder of the coins date to the late seventh through ninth centuries CE (Stratum III) and the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE (Strata II–I).

The Language of Byzantine Learned Literature

M. Hinterberger, ed. The Language of Byzantine Learned Literature. Brepols, 2014

From Brepols

The learned literary language of Byzantium is subjected to new and ground-breaking analysis in this volume.

Built on a highly traditional educational system, the language of Byzantine literature was for the most part written in an idiom deeply influenced by ancient Greek texts and grammatical handbooks. The resulting overall archaizing impression of Byzantine Greek is largely why the language of learned literature – as compared with the relatively well researched vernacular literature – has seldom been taken seriously as an object of linguistic study. This volume combines the expertise of linguists and scholars of Byzantine literature to challenge the assumption that learned mediaeval Greek is merely the weary continuation of ancient Greek or, worse still, a poor imitation of it, while proposing that it needs to be treated as a literary idiom in its own right. The contribution that texts of this kind can offer to sub-fields of Greek historical linguistics is explored using specific examples. Sociolinguistic theory provides a particularly useful framework for a more accurate analysis of the relationship between the vernacular and classicizing varieties of Greek literary language. In addition, the impact of the educational system on the production of texts is examined. In another chapter it is shown that a number of far-reaching assumptions, which originated in the 15th century, about accentuation and the middle voice still tend to colour our understanding of Byzantine, as well as ancient, Greek. Other chapters focusing on particles, the dative and the synthetic perfect reveal that Byzantine authors, while of course influenced by the living spoken language, used their classical linguistic heritage in a creative and innovative way.


New Issue of British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan

British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan (BMSAES), issue 21 (July 2014).

From the issue editors, Elisabeth R. O’Connell and Amandine Mérat

This issue presents new work on Roman, Late Antique and Medieval Egyptian collections primarily in the UK, Germany and France. Several of the articles presented herein have their origins in aspects of presentations delivered at a workshop held in the British Museum Ancient Egypt and Sudan Department and entitled, ‘Egypt in the First Millennium AD: Roman, Late Antique and early Islamic collections in the UK’ (London, 11 July 2012) or on a panel at the International Congress of Coptic Studies entitled, ‘Archaeological approaches to museum collections’ (Rome, 17 Sept. 2012). Other contributions dealing with related subjects and already scheduled for publication in BMSAES were included in this issue. Using a variety of sources and methods, each contribution aims to recontextualise objects in museum collections.

C. Fluck and Y. Petrina seek to identify findspots for unprovenanced material in museum collections today. Fluck provides a history of the Late Antique Egyptian collections in the Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Berlin, usefully giving a site-by-site evaluation of objects from excavated contexts that can now be studied together. Petrina uses jewellery from recent archaeological excavations to evaluate the probable production place of objects with unknown provenance.

Both F. Pritchard and A. Mérat undertake close study of textiles derived from excavated contexts and now in museum collections. Whereas Mérat’s corpus derives from excavated graves, the more common sources of ancient textiles, the material examined by Pritchard was excavated from rubbish heaps. As part of her larger project to study textiles from the 1913/1914 excavation of Antinoupolis now in UK collections, Pritchard focuses here on fragments of soft furnishings of a type that has remained relatively unstudied, given its rare appearance in funerary contexts. Mérat identifies embroideries among the textiles from the 1923/24 excavation of a Medieval cemetery at Tell Edfu. Radiocarbon analysis undertaken on some of the pieces from the site has yielded dates of 13th–15th century AD, indicating that these objects (and by extension, this part of the cemetery) are much later than the original excavators supposed. These studies complement the results of British Museum Research Projects at Antinouplis and Hagr Edfu, respectively.

Contributions by R. Smalley and A. De Moor, C. Fluck, M. Van Strydonck and M. Boudin take different approaches to the study of ancient headgear. Smalley’s corpus of recently catalogued Medieval headgear now in the V&A Museum is largely unprovenanced; her type-series thus represent a first step in their classification and study. De Moor et al. present the results of radiocarbon dating for twenty-one hair-nets in seven international collections, a project undertaken as part of the Dress ID Project: Clothing and identities, new perspectives on textiles in the Roman Empire (2007–2012), concluding that the fashion peaked in the mid-5th to 7th centuries AD.

E. R. O’Connell and R. I. Thomas use a combination of archival and archaeological resources to investigate sites represented by British Museum collections. As part of the British Museum Research Project, Wadi Sarga at the British Museum, O’Connell draws together unpublished fieldwork reports, notebooks, maps, architectural plans, tracings, negatives, photographs and other archival materials to provide an illustrated history of R. Campbell Thompson’s 1913/14 excavation at Wadi Sarga on behalf of the Byzantine Research Fund. As part of the British Museum Research Project, Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt, documentation in c. 70 international museum collections and new fieldwork at Kom Geif/Naukratis has provided substantial evidence marshalled by Thomas for the periodic prosperity of Naukratis in the Roman period and into Late Antiquity (30BC–AD639).

Together, these articles illustrate the potential and challenges of studying museum collections in relationship to their archaeological contexts.

The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades

Paul M. Cobb. The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades. Oxford University Press, 2014.

From Oxford University Press

In 1099, when the first crusaders arrived triumphant and bloody before the walls of Jerusalem, they carved out a Christian European presence in the Islamic world that remained for centuries, bolstered by subsequent waves of new crusades and pilgrimages. But how did medieval Muslims understand these events? What does an Islamic history of the Crusades look like? The answers may surprise you.

In The Race for Paradise, we see medieval Muslims managing this new and long-lived Crusader threat not simply as victims or as victors, but as everything in-between, on all shores of the Muslim Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria. This is not just a straightforward tale of warriors and kings clashing in the Holy Land - of military confrontations and enigmatic heros such as the great sultan Saladin. What emerges is a more complicated story of border-crossers and turncoats; of embassies and merchants; of scholars and spies, all of them seeking to manage this new threat from the barbarian fringes of their ordered world.

When seen from the perspective of medieval Muslims, the Crusades emerge as something altogether different from the high-flying rhetoric of the European chronicles: as a diplomatic chess-game to be mastered, a commercial opportunity to be seized, a cultural encounter shaping Muslim experiences of Europeans until the close of the Middle Ages - and, as so often happened, a political challenge to be exploited by ambitious rulers making canny use of the language of jihad.


The Early Byzantine Christian Church

Bernard Mulholland. The Early Byzantine Christian Church: An Archaeological Re-assessment of Forty-Seven Early Byzantine Basilical Church Excavations Primarily in Israel and Jordan, and their Historical and Liturgical Context. Peter Lang, 2014.

From Peter Lang

The observation that domestic artefacts are often recovered during church excavations led to an archaeological re-assessment of forty-seven Early Byzantine basilical church excavations and their historical, gender and liturgical context. The excavations were restricted to the three most common basilical church plans to allow for like-for-like analysis between sites that share the same plan: monoapsidal, inscribed and triapsidal. These sites were later found to have two distinct sanctuary configurations, namely a Π-shaped sanctuary in front of the apse, or else a sanctuary that extended across both side aisles that often formed a characteristic T-shaped layout. Further analysis indicated that Π-shaped sanctuaries are found in two church plans: firstly a protruding monoapsidal plan that characteristically has a major entrance located to either side of the apse, which is also referred to as a ‘Constantinopolitan’ church plan; and secondly in the inscribed plan, which is also referred to as a ‘Syrian’ church plan. The T-shaped layout is characteristic of the triapsidal plan, but can also occur in a monoapsidal plan, and this is referred to as a ‘Roman’ church plan. Detailed analysis of inscriptions and patterns of artefactual deposition also revealed the probable location of the diakonikon where the rite of prothesis took place.

Put a Ring On It

I, Goudeles, give this engagement ring to Maria.

Like many female collectors, she was interested in jewelry and decorative arts and displayed them in a private space, arranging them according to her own exquisite taste. The engagement ring and other pieces of ancient and medieval jewelry were displayed in the Stathatos Mansion in a large closet that had been converted into a treasury for their display. These items were intensely personal. 

Ashley Hilton, a student at the USC Keck School of Medicine, discusses the history of this Engagement Ring with a Greek Inscription and its collector, Eleni Stathatos, in her blog post, Put a Ring On It, part of the Getty’s Blogging Greece’s Byzantium series. 

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Engagement Ring with a Greek Inscription. Image courtesy of the National Archaeological Museum, Athens via The Getty Iris

Byzantine Images and their Afterlives

Lynn Jones, ed. Byzantine Images and their Afterlives. Essays in Honor of Annemarie Weyl Carr. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

The twelve papers written for this volume reflect the wide scope of Annemarie Weyl Carr's interests and the equally wide impact of her work. The concepts linking the essays include the examination of form and meaning, the relationship between original and copy, and reception and cultural identity in medieval art and architecture.

Carr’s work focuses on the object but considers the audience, looks at the copy for retention or rejection of the original form and meaning, and always seeks to understand the relationship between intent and perception. She examines the elusive nature of ‘center’ and ‘periphery’, expanding and enriching the discourse of manuscript production, icons and their copies, and the dissemination of style and meaning. Her body of work is impressive in its chronological scope and geographical extent, as is her ability to tie together aspects of patronage, production and influence across the medieval Mediterranean.

The volume opens with an overview of Carr’s career at Southern Methodist University, by Bonnie Wheeler. Kathleen Maxwell, Justine Andrews and Pamela Patton contribute chapters in which they examine workshops, subgroups and influences in manuscript production and reception. Diliana Angelova, Lynn Jones and Ida Sinkevic offer explorations of intent and reception, focusing on imperial patronage, relics and reliquaries. Cypriot studies are represented by Michele Bacci and Maria Vassilaki, who examine aspects of form and style in architecture and icons. The final chapters, by Jaroslav Folda, Anthony Cutler, Rossitza Schroeder and Ann Driscoll, are linked by their focus on the nature of copies, and tease out the ways in which meaning is retained or altered, and the role that is played by intent and reception.


Deeds Done Beyond the Sea

Susan B. Edgington and Helen J. Nicholson, eds. Deeds Done Beyond the Sea. Essays on William of Tyre, Cyprus and the Military Orders presented to Peter Edbury. Crusades - Subsidia: 6. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

This volume celebrates Peter Edbury’s career by bringing together seventeen essays by colleagues, former students and friends which focus on three of his major research interests: the great historian of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, William of Tyre, and his Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum and its continuations; medieval Cyprus, in particular under the Lusignans; and the Military Orders in the Middle Ages.

All based on original research, the contributions to this volume include new work on manuscripts, ranging from a Hospitaller rental document of the twelfth century to a seventeenth-century manuscript of Cypriot interest; studies of language and terminology in William of Tyre’s chronicle and its continuations; thematic surveys; legal and commercial investigations pertaining to Cyprus; aspects of memorialization, and biographical studies. These contributions are bracketed by a foreword written by Peter Edbury’s PhD supervisor, Jonathan Riley-Smith, and an appreciation of Peter’s own publications by Christopher Tyerman.


Merchants and Settlers in the Eastern Mediterranean, 11th–14th Centuries

David Jacoby. Travellers, Merchants and Settlers in the Eastern Mediterranean, 11th–14th Centuries. Variorum Collected Studies Series: CS1045. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

This collection of studies (the eighth by David Jacoby) covers a period witnessing intensive geographic mobility across the Mediterranean, illustrated by a growing number of Westerners engaging in pilgrimage, crusade, trading and shipping, or else driven by sheer curiosity. This movement also generated western settlement in the eastern Mediterranean region. A complex encounter of Westerners with eastern Christians and the Muslim world occurred in crusader Acre, the focus of two papers; a major emporium, it was also the scene of fierce rivalry between the Italian maritime powers. The fall of the crusader states in 1291 put an end to western mobility in the Levant and required a restructuring of trade in the region. The next five studies show how economic incentives promoted western settlement in the Byzantine provinces conquered by western forces during the Fourth Crusade and soon after. Venice fulfilled a major function in Latin Constantinople from 1204 to 1261. The city's progressive economic recovery in that period paved the way for its role as transit station furthering western trade and colonization in the Black Sea region. Venice had also a major impact on demographic and economic developments in Euboea, located along the maritime route connecting Italy to Constantinople. On the other hand, military factors drove an army of western mercenaries to establish in central Greece a Catalan state, which survived from 1311 to the 1380s.


Sylvester Syropoulos on Politics and Culture in the Fifteenth-Century Mediterranean

Fotini Kondyli, Vera Andriopoulou, Eirini Panou, and Mary B. Cunningham, eds. Sylvester Syropoulos on Politics and Culture in the Fifteenth-Century Mediterranean. Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies: 16. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

The Memoirs of Sylvester Syropoulos is a text written by a Βyzantine ecclesiastical official in the 15th century. Syropoulos participated in the Council for the union of the Greek and Latin Churches held in Ferrara and Florence, Italy, in 1438–1439. As a high-ranking official and an eye-witness of the union, he offers a unique perspective on this important political and religious event that would so decisively contribute to the political, military and religious development of Europe at the end of the Middle Ages.

Experts in different fields - historians, philologists, art historians and archaeologists - have come together in this volume to explore the actions and motives of the various political and religious groups that participated in the council. With Syropoulos as their starting point, the contributors of this volume reconstruct the living conditions, cross-cultural interaction, artistic and commercial exchange in the 15th-century Mediterranean. At the same time, they discuss the text as an invaluable source for political and diplomatic affairs at that time, as a travel account, an eye-witness narrative and as a literary work. Emphasis is placed on Syropoulos’s Section IV where he describes the journey of the Byzantine delegation from Constantinople to Italy, their stay in Venice and in Ferrara, the diplomatic contacts with the doge and the pope, and finally the beginning of the council’s proceedings. An annotated English translation of the text is included as an appendix to the book.

The papers bring out the richness of the information in Syropoulos’s writings about the people involved in the Council of Ferrara-Florence and especially the interaction among different social, religious and political groups throughout that event. His work is unique because it is a rare eye-witness account, deriving from personal experience, rather than an objective historical narrative.


What Did the Byzantine Empire Smell Like?

In the earliest years of Constantinople, the new emperor Constantine actually provided instructions about how perfume was to be used in his realm. As an example, take the book known as the Vita Silvestri of the Liber Pontificalis, which records his directions and budgets for the new Christian basilicas he had built throughout the Empire. Plans were customized to each basilica, but most often included a budget for spikenard oil to perfume the chandeliers, balsam oil for the Baptistries, and enough spices and incense to fill the holy days with holy smoke. For worship, scent mattered.

Saskia Wilson-Brown recently held a series of workshops on scent in Byzantium at the Getty. For a list of the most commonly used materials in Byzantine perfumery, browse her recent post in The Getty Iris. 

Orthodox Christianity and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Southeastern Europe

Lucian N. Leustean, ed. Orthodox Christianity and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Southeastern Europe. Fordham University Press, 2014.

From Fordham University Press

Nation-building processes in the Orthodox commonwealth brought together political institutions and religious communities in their shared aims of achieving national sovereignty. Chronicling how the churches of Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia acquired independence from the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the wake of the Ottoman Empire’s decline, Orthodox Christianity and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Southeastern Europe examines the role of Orthodox churches in the construction of national identities.

Drawing on archival material available after the fall of communism in southeastern Europe and Russia, as well as material published in Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Russian, Orthodox Christianity and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Southeastern Europe analyzes the challenges posed by nationalism to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the ways in which Orthodox churches engaged in the nationalist ideology.


Cucurbits Depicted in Byzantine Mosaics from Israel, 350–600 ce

Anat Avital and Harry S. Paris. “Cucurbits depicted in Byzantine mosaics from Israel, 350–600 ce.” Annals of Botany (2014). [doi: 10.1093/aob/mcu106]


Background and Aims
Thousands of floor mosaics were produced in lands across the Roman and Byzantine empires. Some mosaics contain depictions of agricultural produce, potentially providing useful information concerning the contemporary presence and popularity of crop plants in a particular geographical region. Hundreds of floor mosaics produced in Israel during the Byzantine period have survived. The objective of the present work was to search these mosaics for Cucurbitaceae in order to obtain a more complete picture of cucurbit crop history in the eastern Mediterranean region.

Results and Conclusions
Twenty-three mosaics dating from 350–600 ce were found that had images positively identifiable as cucurbits. The morphological diversity of the cucurbit fruits in the mosaics of Israel is greater than that appearing in mosaics from any other Roman or Byzantine provincial area. The depicted fruits vary in shape from oblate to extremely long, and some are furrowed, others are striped and others lack definite markings. The cucurbit taxa depicted in the mosaics are Cucumis melo (melon), Citrullus lanatus (watermelon), Luffa aegyptiaca (sponge gourd) and Lagenaria siceraria (bottle gourd). Cucumis melo is the most frequently found taxon in the mosaics and is represented by round dessert melons and long snake melons. Fruits of at least two cultivars of snake melons and of watermelons are represented. To our knowledge, images of sponge gourds have not been found in Roman and Byzantine mosaics elsewhere. Indeed, the mosaics of Israel contain what are probably the oldest depictions of Luffa aegyptiaca in Mediterranean lands. Sponge gourds are depicted often, in 11 of the mosaics at eight localities, and the images include both mature fruits, which are useful for cleaning and washing, and immature fruits, which are edible. Only one mosaic has images positively identifiable as of bottle gourds, and these were round–pyriform and probably used as vessels.

Law and Legal Practice in Egypt from Alexander to the Arab Conquest

James G. Keenan, J. G. Manning, and Uri Yiftach-Firanko. Law and Legal Practice in Egypt from Alexander to the Arab Conquest. A Selection of Papyrological Sources in Translation, with Introductions and Commentary. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

From Cambridge University Press

The study of ancient law has blossomed in recent years. In English alone there have been dozens of studies devoted to classical Greek and Roman law, to the Roman legal codes, and to the legal traditions of the ancient Near East among many other topics. Legal documents written on papyrus began to be published in some abundance by the end of the nineteenth century; but even after substantial publication history, legal papyri have not received due attention from legal historians. This book blends the two usually distinct juristic scholarly traditions, classical and Egyptological, into a coherent presentation of the legal documents from Egypt from the Ptolemaic to the late Byzantine periods, all translated and accompanied by expert commentary. The volume will serve as an introduction to the rich legal sources from Egypt in the later phases of its ancient history as well as a tool to compare legal documents from other cultures.


Muslims and Crusaders: Christianity’s Wars in the Middle East, 1095–1382

Niall Christie.  Muslims and Crusaders: Christianity’s Wars in the Middle East, 1095–1382. Taylor & Francis, 2014.

From Taylor & Francis

Muslims and Crusaders supplements and counterbalances the numerous books that tell the story of the crusading period from the European point of view, enabling readers to achieve a broader and more complete perspective on the period. It presents the Crusades from the perspective of those against whom they were waged, the Muslim peoples of the Levant. The book introduces the reader to the most significant issues that affected their responses to the European crusaders, and their descendants who would go on to live in the Latin Christian states that were created in the region.

This book combines chronological narrative, discussion of important areas of scholarly enquiry and evidence from primary sources to give a well-rounded survey of the period. It considers not only the military meetings between Muslims and the Crusaders, but also the personal, political, diplomatic and trade interactions that took place between Muslims and Franks away from the battlefield. Through the use of a wide range of translated primary source documents, including chronicles, dynastic histories, religious and legal texts and poetry, the people of the time are able to speak to us in their own voices.


The Sacred Architecture of Byzantium: Art, Liturgy and Symbolism in Early Christian Churches

Nicholas N. Patricios. The Sacred Architecture of Byzantium: Art, Liturgy and Symbolism in Early Christian Churches. I.B. Tauris 2014.

From I.B. Tauris

The churches of the Byzantine era were built to represent heaven on earth. Architecture, art and liturgy were intertwined in them to a degree that has never been replicated elsewhere, and the symbolism of this relationship had deep and profound meanings. Sacred buildings and their spiritual art underpinned the Eastern liturgical rites, which in turn influenced architectural design and the decoration which accompanied it. Nicholas N Patricios here offers a comprehensive survey, from the age of Constantine to the fall of Constantinople, of the nexus between buildings, worship and art. His identification of seven distinct Byzantine church types, based on a close analysis of 370 church building plans, will have considerable appeal to Byzantinists, lay and scholarly. Beyond categorizing and describing the churches themselves, which are richly illustrated with photographs, plans and diagrams, the author interprets the sacred liturgy that took place within these holy buildings, tracing the development of the worship in conjunction with architectural advances made up to the 15th century.

Focusing on buildings located in twenty-two different locations, this sumptuous book is an essential guide to individual features such as the synthronon, templon and ambo and also to the wider significance of Byzantine art and architecture.

The Byzantine-Islamic Transition in Palestine. An Archaeological Approach

Gideon Avni. The Byzantine-Islamic Transition in Palestine. An Archaeological Approach. Oxford University Press, 2014.

From Oxford University Press

Using a comprehensive evaluation of recent archaeological findings, Avni addresses the transformation of local societies in Palestine and Jordan between the sixth and eleventh centuries AD. Arguing that these archaeological findings provide a reliable, though complex, picture, Avni illustrates how the Byzantine-Islamic transition was a much slower and gradual process than previously thought, and that it involved regional variability, different types of populations, and diverse settlement patterns.

Based on the results of hundreds of excavations, including Avni's own surveys and excavations in the Negev, Beth Guvrin, Jerusalem, and Ramla, the volume reconstructs patterns of continuity and change in settlements during this turbulent period, evaluating the process of change in a dynamic multicultural society and showing that the coming of Islam had no direct effect on settlement patterns and material culture of the local population. The change in settlement, stemming from internal processes rather than from external political powers, culminated gradually during the Early Islamic period. However, the process of Islamization was slow, and by the eve of the Crusader period Christianity still had an overwhelming majority in Palestine and Jordan.

The Many Faces of Christ

Michele Bacci. The Many Faces of Christ. Portraying the Holy in the East and West, 300 to 1300. Reaktion Books, 2014.

From Reaktion Books

It is common to think of Jesus of Nazareth's main physical characteristics as including long, wavy, blondish hair and a short beard. Yet the Holy Scriptures are silent about Christ's features, and his representations are hardly consistent in early Christian and medieval arts. The wearing of long hair, moreover, is explicitly condemned by St Paul as shameful and effeminate: therefore it is surprising that, notwithstanding the Apostle's authoritative judgement, the long-haired archetype came to be accepted, as late as the ninth century, as the standard iconography of the Son of God.

In The Many Faces of Christ Michele Bacci examines the complex historical and cultural dynamics underlying the making and final successful establishment of Christ's image between late antiquity and the early Renaissance. Unlike earlier studies, the process is described against the background of ancient and biblical conceptions of beauty and the physical look as indicators of moral, ascetic or messianic qualities. It takes into account a broad spectrum of both iconographic and textual sources and investigates the increasingly dominant role played by visual experience in Christian religious practice, which promoted belief in the existence of ancient documents of Christ's appearance and resulted in the shaping of portrait-like images, said to be true to life. Such phenomena are described in a comparative perspective, with glances at analogous processes in the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Taoist traditions.

This book will be of interest not only to specialists of late antique, Byzantine and medieval studies, but to anybody interested in the historical figure of Jesus and its shifting, controversial conceptions over the course of history.



for Byzantine Arts and Culture

Founded in 2010 through a generous gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation, the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of knowledge about the rich heritage of Byzantine art and culture.

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