Category: Publications

Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies: An Introduction

Alessandro Bausi et al., eds. Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies: An Introduction. Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies, 2015.

From Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies

The present volume is the main achievement of the Research
Networking Programme ‘Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies’, funded by the European Science Foundation in the years 2009–2014.

It is the first attempt to introduce a wide audience to the entirety of the manuscript cultures of the Mediterranean East. The chapters reflect the state of the art in such fields as codicology, palaeography, textual criticism and text editing, cataloguing, and manuscript conservation as applied to a wide array of language traditions including Arabic, Armenian, Avestan, Caucasian Albanian, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Slavonic, Syriac, and Turkish.

Seventy-seven scholars from twenty-one countries joined their efforts to produce the handbook. The resulting reference work can be recommended both to scholars and students of classical and oriental studies and to all those involved in manuscript research, digital humanities, and preservation of cultural heritage.

The volume includes maps, illustrations, indexes, and an extensive bibliography.


The Islamic-Byzantine Frontier: Interaction and Exchange Among Muslim and Christian Communities

A. Asa Eger. The Islamic-Byzantine Frontier: Interaction and Exchange Among Muslim and Christian Communities. I. B. Tauris, 2014.

From I. B. Tauris

The retreat of the Byzantine army from Syria in around 650 CE, in advance of the approaching Arab armies, is one that has resounded emphatically in the works of both Islamic and Christian writers, and created an enduring motif: that of the Islamic-Byzantine frontier. For centuries, Byzantine and Islamic scholars have evocatively sketched a contested border: the annual raids between the two, the line of fortified fortresses defending Islamic lands, the no-man's land in between and the birth of jihad. In their early representations of a Muslim-Christian encounter, accounts of the Islamic-Byzantine frontier are charged with significance for a future 'clash of civilizations' that often envisions a polarised world. A. Asa Eger examines the two aspects of this frontier: its physical and ideological ones. By highlighting the archaeological study of the real and material frontier, as well as acknowledging its ideological military and religious implications, he offers a more complex vision of this dividing line than has been traditionally disseminated.

With analysis grounded in archaeological evidence as well the relevant historical texts, Eger brings together a nuanced exploration of this vital element of medieval history.

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Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress: An Interdisciplinary Anthology

Mary Harlow and Marie-Louise Nosch, eds. Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress: An Interdisciplinary Anthology. Oxbow, 2015

From Oxbow

Twenty chapters present the range of current research into the study of textiles and dress in classical antiquity, stressing the need for cross and inter-disciplinarity study in order to gain the fullest picture of surviving material. Issues addressed include: the importance of studying textiles to understand economy and landscape in the past; different types of embellishments of dress from weaving techniques to the (late introduction) of embroidery; the close links between the language of ancient mathematics and weaving; the relationships of iconography to the realities of clothed bodies including a paper on the ground breaking research on the polychromy of ancient statuary; dye recipes and methods of analysis; case studies of garments in Spanish, Viennese and Greek collections which discuss methods of analysis and conservation; analyses of textile tools from across the Mediterranean; discussions of trade and ethnicity to the workshop relations in Roman fulleries. Multiple aspects of the production of textiles and the social meaning of dress are included here to offer the reader an up-to-date account of the state of current research. The volume opens up the range of questions that can now be answered when looking at fragments of textiles and examining written and iconographic images of dressed individuals in a range of media.

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A Cultural History of Aramaic: From the Beginnings to the Advent of Islam

Holger Gzella. A Cultural History of Aramaic: From the Beginnings to the Advent of Islam. Brill, 2015

From Brill

Aramaic is a constant thread running through the various civilizations of the Near East, ancient and modern, from 1000 BCE to the present, and has been the language of small principalities, world empires, and a fair share of the Jewish-Christian tradition. Holger Gzella describes its cultural and linguistic history as a continuous evolution from its beginnings to the advent of Islam. For the first time the individual phases of the language, their socio-historical underpinnings, and the textual sources are discussed comprehensively in light of the latest linguistic and historical research and with ample attention to scribal traditions, multilingualism, and language as a marker of cultural self-awareness. Many new observations on Aramaic are thereby integrated into a coherent historical framework.

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A Companion to Latin Greece

Nickiphoros I. Tsougarakis and Peter Lock, eds. A Companion to Latin Greece. Brill, 2015

From Brill

The conquest of the Byzantine Empire by the armies of the Fourth Crusade resulted in the foundation of several Latin political entities in the lands of Greece. The Companion to Latin Greece offers thematic overviews of the history of the mixed societies that emerged as a result of the conquest.

With dedicated chapters on the art, literature, architecture, numismatics, economy, social and religious organisation and the crusading involvement of these Latin states, the volume offers an introduction to the study of Latin Greece and a sampler of the directions in which the field of research is moving.

Contributors: Nikolaos Chrissis, Charalambos Gasparis, Anastasia Papadia-Lala, Nicholas Coureas, David Jaccoby, Julian Baker, Gill Page, Maria Georgopoulou and Sophia Kalopissi-Verti.

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New Issue of Porphyra

Porphyra, XXII (December 2014)


The First Byzantine Emperor? Leo I, Aspar and Challenges of Power and Romanitas in Fifth-century Byzantium
Michael Edward Stewart

Padri, figli e principi di autorità spirituale: spunti e suggestioni dall’ epistola 88 (28 settembre 865) di Papa Nicola I e Michele III l’ Amorita
Mauro Mormino

Symbiosis: the survival of Greek Christianity in the Norman Kingdom of Sicily
Frank McGough

Sereno di Antiopoli e la cupola di Haghia Sophia a Constantinopli. Nuove ipotesi per le fonti Anthemio e Isidoro
Maria Caroline Campone

“The heavy mode (Echoes Barys) on the fret Arak” Orthodox chant in Istanbul and the various influences during the Ottoman Empire
Oliver Gerlach

Spatial humanities: an agenda for pre-modern research
David Joseph Wrisley

Historical Writing in Byzantium

James Howard-Johnston. Historical Writing in Byzantium. Kieler Felix-Jacoby -Vorlesungen, Bd 1. Heidelberg: Verlag Antike, 2014.

From Verlag Antike

James Howard-Johnston, one of the best experts on East Roman-Byzantine historiography, gives and explains in the study submitted here, the revised and expanded Kiel Felix Jacoby Lecture of 2012, his view of the foundations, evolutionary conditions, historical contexts and characteristics as well as the reception of Byzantine historical texts from their beginnings to the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Based on most recent historical and literary research, to which he himself has contributed considerably, the author is able to elucidate the diversity and uniqueness, but also the similarities and (internal) dependencies of the Byzantine historical tradition.

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Networks of Learning: Perspectives on Scholars in Byzantine East and Latin West, c. 1000–1200

Sita Steckel, Niels Gaul, Michael Grünbart, eds. Networks of Learning: Perspectives on Scholars in Byzantine East and Latin West, c. 1000–1200. Byzantinistische Studien und Texte, Bd 6. Münster; Berlin; Wien; Zürich; London: Lit Verlag, 2014.

From Lit Verlag

Cultures of learning and practices of education in the Middle Ages are drawing renewed attention, and recent approaches are questioning the traditional boundaries of institutional and intellectual history. The volume assembles contributions on both Byzantine and Latin learned culture, and aims to locate medieval scholars in their religious and political contexts instead of studying them in a framework of 'schools'. Eleven contributions on eastern and western scholars offer complementary perspectives on scholars and their work, discussing the symbolic and discursive construction of religious and intellectual authority, practices of networking and adaptations of knowledge formations.

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New Issue of Estudios bizantinos

Estudios bizantinos, 2 (2014)


El incensario bizantino “de Almería”. Consideraciones acerca de la importación de bronces “coptos” en la Hispania meridional durante la Antigüedad Tardía
Jaime Vizcaíno Sánchez
This paper studies an incense burner (thuribulum) preserved at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional of Madrid (MAN). This bronze censer joined the collection in the sixties of the 20th century, being its archaeological context unknown. The spanish archaeologist M. Almagro Gorbea published a complete study of this object, suggesting that it might have been discovered in the western part of Andalusia, probably in Almería, and proposing its Coptic origin (6th-7th centuries). The contribution explores the origin, date and cultural adscription of this important element of the Christian church furnishing (instrumenta liturgica or utensilia ecclesiae, following the texts). Moreover, it compares and contrasts the Madrid censer and other similar objects produced in Early Byzantium. It also analyses its liturgical function and reviews some methodological aspects regarding its role as archaeological prototype. It finally highlights the need to discuss further wrong certainties built up according to frequent uncritical repetitions.

El monasterio de Apa Sabino en Antinópolis: su organización administrativa interna
María Jesús Albarrán Martínez
The Monastery of Apa Sabinos, situated in Antinopolis, in Middle Egypt, offers a bilingual archive containing more than thirty Greek and Coptic papyri, mostly unpublished. The study of these papyri as a whole sheds light on various aspects of the administrative apparatus of this monastic centre, from the end of the 5th up to the 7th century AD. This article focuses on the administrative internal organization of the monastery, based on a hierarchy leaded by the superior, seconded by one or several assistants and a steward. Over the time, an increasingly diversified documentation reveals that the monastery developed an ever more complex administrative structure and acquired a legal personality.

L'immagine della città di Roma nel mondo arabo-islamico: tradizione del classico e periferie della memoria
Giuseppe Mandalà
The Rome of the Arabs is, in part, the result of a literary misunderstanding, a city imagined as real but in fact imaginary; such a representation did not come from the “wilder imaginations” of the Arabs, nor from a philological misunderstanding, that is, a presumed Arabic confluence of the names of the two great capitals – Rome and Constantinople – whose names and representations always remain, in any case, entirely distinct and separate. Arabic Rome is a real city that buried its historical, topographical and cultural meaning with a single idea, the renovatio or rather translatio Romae, in other words, the political ideology that wanted Constantinople as the New, and sometimes only, Rome. The present study analyses the use of the lemma “Rome” in the Awḍaḥ al-masālik ilà ma‘rifat al-buldān wa-l-mamālik (The clearer itinerary for the understanding of places and countries), a geographical dictionary compiled by Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī al-Būrsawī, better known as Ibn Sibāhī-zāde (m. 997 H./1589 A.D.). The analysis of this later description allows for unknown details to be retreived and moreover permits one to see how, in the specific field of Arabo-Islamic geography, the authority of tradition is passed down through the centuries, prevailing over every possible direct knowledge.

Tres piezas bizantinas con funciones apotropaicas conservadas en el Museo Arqueológico Nacional: dos enkolpia y un “sello” bivalvo inédito
Sergio Vidal Álvarez
This paper focuses on two byzantine enkolpia and an unpublished byzantine “seal” from the Numismatics Department of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid. Both enkolpia (n.º inv. 61742 and 1973/84/1-3) and the bivalbe “seal” (n.º inv. 55152) seem to have been produced in Constantinople and Eastern Anatolia in the Macedonian period. All of them show interesting Greek inscriptions and in the case of the enkolpia the usual representations of the Crucifixion.

Byzantium and the First Crusade: Three Avenues of Approach
Jonathan Harris
A recurring theme in the historiography of the First Crusade is that of the Byzantine emperor asking Pope Urban to send a small contingent against the Turks and receiving instead vast armies over which he had no control. The crusade was thus completely unexpected and the emperor played no part in its genesis. Recent work has challenged that thesis and further approaches have emerged. A second theory argues that this was a novel departure in foreign policy. The emperor was in fact deeply involved in the origins of the First Crusade and played a leading role in shaping its ideals and goals. The third approach is more modest in scope: it argues that he was certainly involved but this was no unprecedented innovation, simply the extension of a tried and tested response to crisis. This response involved seeking outside allies, providing them with a financial incentive and even bringing a spiritual element into the agreement. It was the use of the last of these standard tactics that was to lead to misunderstandings between the Byzantine emperor and the crusaders.

Anna Komnene and her Sources for Military Affairs in the Alexiad
Kyle Sinclair
With the intensive focus on military affairs in the Alexiad provoking contentious theories and much debate, this article investigates more closely the sources of information available to Anna Komnene for her coverage of war during the reign of Alexios Komnenos. Though Anna discloses more about her sources than most Byzantine historians, it is argued that some of these claims, particularly those regarding her own capacity to witness events and converse with veteran participants, are somewhat disingenuous, intended to illustrate her adherence to traditional modes of inquiry and thus gain credence for her history. Without discounting the contribution of oral traditions of storytelling to the Alexiad, the study favours the growing consensus that Anna was more reliant on written material, especially campaign dispatches and military memoirs.

‘A living portrait of Cato’: Self-fashioning and the classical past in John Tzetzes’ Chiliads
Sophia Xenophontos
The aim of this article is to examine the creative ways in which John Tzetzes (c.1110 – after 1160) uses the figure of Cato the Elder within his Chiliads. In appropriating Cato’s care for his son’s education to his own pedagogical relationship with his father, Tzetzes departs significantly from Plutarch’s original (Life of Cato Maior). This recreation leads him, as I argue, to engage with notions of Hellenism in twelfth-century Byzantium, to uncover his anxieties stemming from the oppressive feeling of poverty, and to castigate current social conditions that irritated him, for instance the corruption of the ecclesiastical establishment. I additionally cast light on Tzetzes’ scholarly inventiveness; that is manifested in the way he infuses his own self-portrait with Cato’s qualities in an attempt to exonerate it from public censure.

De Oriente a Occidente. La leyenda bizantina de la Passio Imaginis en el siglo XV en la Corona de Aragón
Carlos Espí Forcén
The Passio Imaginis legend played an important role during the II Council of Nicaea in 787 to defend the miraculous status of images against iconoclasts. The conclusions of Nicaea were rejected by pope Hadrian I and by the intellectuals of the Carolingian court. Nonetheless, by the 12th century the work of John of Damascus was translated in Western Europe and Christian images gradually assumed the theory of transitus, i. e. an image could be invaded by its prototype and behave like if it were the person depicted on it. The assumption of this concept caused a renewed interest in the Passio Imaginis legend and it was therefore represented on some 15th-century altarpieces in the Crown of Aragon. On the one hand, it helped to reinforce the status of the crucifix as a container of the real presence of Jesus similarly to the Eucharist; but, on the other hand, it had fatal consequences for the communities of conversos in 15th century Spain.

La Geografía de Tolomeo en un impreso anotado por Nicolás Múrmuris propiedad de Diego Hurtado de Mendoza
Paula Caballero Sánchez
Among other volumes of the same work, the Spanish humanist Diego Hurtado de Mendoza possessed the editio princeps of Ptolemy’s Geography, printed in Basilea by Froben (1533) and now preserved with the rest of his library at the Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de El Escorial with the signature 117.VII.19. This printed book is singular for containing many scholia and corrections on the text added by Nikolaos Murmuris, a Greek scribe that copied completely or partially twelve manuscripts for Mendoza between 1451 and 1453. The analysis and the collatio of the scholia and the corrections added by Murmuris to the printed volume have allowed to identify its source: a Vatican codex (Vat. gr. 176) containing the commentary composed by Nikephoros Gregoras and Isaak Argyros on Ptolemy’s Geography.

Cyrenaican Church Floor Mosaics of the Justinianic Period: Decoration or Meaning?

Norman D. Cowell. "Cyrenaican Church Floor Mosaics of the Justinianic Period: Decoration or Meaning?" Libyan Studies 45 (November 2014): pp. 85–96.


The well-preserved church floor mosaics of the Justinianic period discovered at Qasr Libya have been dismissed as a haphazard collection of motifs, most of which are purely decorative. The author presents arguments to question this statement and carries out a re-examination to see if a symbolic programme can be recovered from them. In this task two principal sources of imagery are drawn on; bible passages and, in view of the wide variety of fauna represented, the stories in early bestiaries where the alleged behaviour of animals is given a theological interpretation. This analysis was extended to cover a selection of other church floor mosaics of similar age. In each case it has been found possible to construct a coherent programme of symbolism and to link this to rites which would have been celebrated in those locations.

Traces of Tarhuntas: Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Interaction with Hittite Monuments

Felipe Rojas and Valeria Sergueenkova. “Traces of Tarhuntas: Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Interaction with Hittite Monuments.” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 27 no. 2 (2014).


This article examines what people in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Anatolia thought about and did with Hittite and Neo-Hittite rock-cut reliefs and inscriptions. It brings together archaeological and textual evidence that demonstrates the intensity, variety, and sophistication of interactions with Bronze and Iron Age material remains between the classical and early Byzantine periods. It also calls attention to the ways in which indigenous inhabitants and foreign visitors alike used such remains to construct or verify narratives about local and universal history. The evidence analyzed here should be of interest to those studying social memory as well as cross-cultural interaction within and beyond the Mediterranean.

From Constantinople to Istanbul: The Residences of the Venetian Bailo

Aygül Ağır. "From Constantinople to Istanbul: The Residences of the Venetian Bailo (Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries)." European Journal of Archaeology (2014).


Medieval Italian city-states with access to the sea, most notably the Venetian and Genoese, were in need of safe ‘stopovers’ that would allow their inhabitants to travel to distant places across the territories in which they conducted commerce. As the most important ‘stopover’ and centre of consumption, Constantinople became a point of attraction for Italian merchant colonies, particularly after the eleventh century. Among these, the most powerful one with the largest settlement was the Venetian colony. Following a decree dated 1082 (Chrysoboullos) that granted them certain privileges, the Venetians settled across the southern shores of the Golden Horn. In terms of administration, it appears that, until the Latin period (1204–1261), no formal officers were appointed to the Venetian Merchant Colony. ‘The bailo’ was first instituted in Constantinople only after the treaty of 18 June 1265. The mention of a house owned by the bailo dates as late as 1277. Documents on the residence of the bailo remain silent until the early fifteenth century. It is unclear if the palace of the bailo mentioned in fifteenth-century documents and the house allocated to the bailo in 1277 are the same building. Despite the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Venetians, albeit with interruptions, continued to live on the historic peninsula. However, it is no longer possible to speak of a Venetian settlement similar to the one that had existed in Byzantine times. Per the agreement signed on 16 August 1454, the Venetians were granted a house and a church that ‘once’ belonged to Anconitans. The possible location and architectural features of the residences of the bailo, which have left behind no archaeological data, are discussed here through written sources including Ottoman documents.

Documents and the History of the Early Islamic World

Alexander T. Schubert and Petra M. Sijpesteijn, eds. Documents and the History of the Early Islamic World. Brill, 2014.

From Brill

Historians have long lamented the lack of contemporary documentary sources for the Islamic middle ages and the inhibiting effect this has had on our understanding of this critically important period. Although the field is richly served by surviving evidence, much of it is hard to locate, difficult to access, and philologically intractable. Presenting a mixture of historical studies and new editions of Greek, Arabic and Coptic material from the seventh to the fifteenth century C.E. from Egypt and Palestine, Documents and the History of the Early Islamic World explores the untapped wealth of documentary sources available in collections around the world and shows how this exciting material can be used for historical analysis.

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Les marqueurs de pain, objets rituels dans le christianisme antique et byzantin

Béatrice Caseau. “Les marqueurs de pain, objets rituels dans le christianisme antique et byzantin.” Revue de l’histoire des religions 4 (2014): 599–617.


The category of ritual objects is large but does not include all objects bearing religious iconography, unless they are actively involved in a ritual. Can be defined as ritual objects those kept in shrines or homes and used in religious rituals, whether they are carried out by a person, a family or a community. This article focuses specifically on breadstamps used to mark the loaves offered in eulogy to churches by the faithful or to the faithful by the clergy of sanctuaries in the late antique and Byzantine periods. They are not cultic objects but rather household items that give the bread a religious value. The category of ritual object is useful for making sense of a class of objects linking the two worlds of the sanctuary and the home, opening a space between sacred objects and domestic items bearing religious iconography.

A New Herodotos

Anthony Kaldellis. A New Herodotos. Laonikos Chalkokondyles on the Ottoman Empire, the Fall of Byzantium, and the Emergence of the West.  Supplements to the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. Harvard University Press, 2014.

From Harvard University Press

This companion to the two-volume Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library edition and translation of The Histories by Laonikos Chalkokondyles is the first book-length investigation of an author who has been poorly studied. Providing biographical and intellectual context for Laonikos, Anthony Kaldellis shows how the author synthesized his classical models to fashion his own distinctive voice and persona as a historian. Indebted to his teacher Plethon for his global outlook, Laonikos was one of the first historians to write with a pluralist’s sympathy for non-Greek ethnic groups, including Islamic ones. His was the first secular and neutral account of Islam written in Greek. Kaldellis deeply explores the ethnic dynamics that explicitly and implicitly undergird the Histories, which recount the rise of the Ottoman empire and the decline of the Byzantine empire, all in the context of expanding western power. Writing at once in antique and contemporary modes, Laonikos transformed “barbarian” oral traditions into a classicizing historiography that was both Greek and Ottoman in outlook. Showing that he was instrumental in shifting the self-definition of his people from Roman to the Western category of “Greek,” Kaldellis provides a stimulating account of the momentous transformations of the mid-fifteenth century.

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New Perspectives on Late Antiquity in the Eastern Roman Empire

Ana de Francisco Heredero, David Hernández de la Fuente, Susana Torres Prieto, eds. New Perspectives on Late Antiquity in the Eastern Roman Empire. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.

From Cambridge Scholars Publishing

The present volume presents some of the latest research trends in the study of Late Antiquity in the Eastern Roman Empire from a multi-disciplinary perspective, encompassing not only social, economic and political history, but also philology, philosophy and legal history. The volume focuses on the interaction between the periphery and the core of the Eastern Empire, and the relations between Eastern Romans and Barbarians in various geographic areas, during the approximate millennium that elapsed between the Fall of Rome and the Fall of Constantinople, paying special attention to the earliest period. By introducing the reader to some innovative and ground-breaking recent theories, the contributors to the present volume, an attractive combination of leading scholars in their respective fields and promising young researchers, offer a fresh and thought-provoking examination of Byzantium during Late Antiquity and beyond.

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Byzantium, Its Neighbours and Its Cultures

Danijel Dzino and Ken Parry, eds. Byzantium, Its Neighbours and Its Cultures. Byzantina Australiensia vol. 20. Brisbane 2014.

From the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies

Byzantium was one of the longest-lasting empires in history. Throughout the millennium of its existence, the empire showed its capability to change and develop under very different historical circumstances. This remarkable resilience would have been impossible to achieve without the formation of a lasting imperial culture and a strong imperial ideological infrastructure. Imperial culture and ideology required, among other things, to sort out who was ʻinsiderʼ and who was ʻoutsiderʼ and develop ways to define and describe ones neighbours and interact with them.

There is an indefinite number of possibilities for the exploration of relationships between Byzantium and its neighbours. The essays in this collection focus on several interconnected clusters of topics and shared research interests, such as the place of neighbours in the context of the empire and imperial ideology, the transfer of knowledge with neighbours, the Byzantine perception of their neighbours and the political relationship and/or the conflict with neighbours.

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New Issue of ‘Atiqot

‘Atiqot, 79 (2014)


New Archaeological Finds from Kursi-Gergesa
Vassilios Tzaferis with a contribution by Gabriela Bijovsky
Two areas were opened (Areas C, D), exposing a stepped tunnel, a bathhouse and a cemetery. The stepped tunnel, which was unearthed in the 1970–1971 season of excavations, was found to end in a narrow leveled space, above which was a vaulted entrance leading to a spacious underground room. A compact Roman–Byzantine bathhouse was exposed, comprising five distinct units: a water-supply unit, a heating installation (praefurnium), heated-water pools, a hot room (caldarium) and a cool room (frigidarium). It is evident that the bathhouse was connected to the hostel building excavated in 1970–1971. The pottery from the bathhouse was similar to that of the adjacent hostel building, including fragments of bowls, cooking pots and oil lamps. Based on the stratigraphic and ceramic evidence, the bathhouse operated in the second quarter of the seventh century CE. The discovery of the bathhouse sheds light on the secular functions of the monastery at Kursi-Gergesa. Behind the apse wall of the church at Kursi were uncovered three tombs and a cist tomb. The tombs contained the disarticulated bones of several dozen humans (studied by Yossi Nagar). Mixed with the skeletal remains were ceramic-bowl and lamp fragments; glass vessels and beads (studied by Natalia Katsnelson); engraved iron rings and bronze jewelry; buckles, bells and chain fragments; iron weapons and tools; incised bone plaques; and four coins, three of them perforated (studied by Gabriela Bijovsky). The burials seem to represent a communal tomb (of pilgrims?), buried at the site in the late Byzantine period (late sixth–early seventh centuries CE), possibly following a tragic historical event (epidemic? massacre?).

Glass Finds and Assorted Beads from Three Tombs at Kursi-Gergesa
Natalya Katsnelson
Three glass vessels and 45 pieces of jewelry were retrieved from the tombs discovered behind the apse wall of the church at Kursi. Among the vessels is a mold-blown, hexagonal jug with a rare symbolic motif, hitherto unknown from an excavated context. The finds also included two glass pendants, a ribbed bracelet and many beads of varied shapes and sizes, made of glass, carnelian, resin, bone and coral. Two of the beads were decorated: a mosaic-glass bead and a carnelian bead with a drawn pattern. The entire assemblage is typical of the sixth–early seventh centuries CE.

Human Skeletal Remains from Tombs at Kursi-Gergesa
Yossi Nagar
Human remains were found in three burial chambers and one cist tomb at Kursi, dated to the Byzantine period. Based on anthropological analysis, at least 69 individuals, including infants, children and adults of both sexes, were identified. The finds at Kursi might suggest that the people buried at the site were of foreign origin (pilgrims?).

Excavations at the Dar el-Gharbiya Neighborhood of Kafr Yasif: A Crusader Estate in the Territory of ‘Akko
Danny Syon and Edna J. Stern with a contribution by Yael Gorin-Rosen
Six excavation squares and three test trenches were opened. In Square A, a building was unearthed, probably first constructed in the Byzantine period and reused, probably as a stable, in the Crusader period (twelfth century); the last phase of the building (also a stable?) dates to the Mamluk period (fourteenth–fifteenth centuries). The earliest architectural stratum in Squares B and D dates to the late Byzantine or Early Islamic period, followed by an architectural phase from the Crusader period (the twelfth century); the last phase, including a water system, dates to the Mamluk period. Square C contained a large quantity of pottery, mostly from the Crusader period, but also from the Byzantine and Late Roman periods. Square E yielded fragmentary remains, and Square F yielded massive walls, closely aligned with the Crusader walls in Square A. The finds included pottery dating to the Persian, Hellenistic, Byzantine, Umayyad and Abbasid periods, as well as from the Mamluk and early Ottoman periods. Most of the pottery dates to the main Crusader-period phase (twelfth–early thirteenth centuries) and is domestic in character, including mostly local ware and a few imported wares from Greece and the Aegean region. The glass finds, including dismantled glass furnaces (studied by Yael Gorin-Rosen), date primarily to the late Byzantine and early Umayyad periods.

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New issue of Crusades

Crusades, volume 13 (2014)


The ‘schism’ of 1054 and the First Crusade
Jonathan Harris
The Gesta Francorum Iherusalem expugnantium of ‘Bartolf of Nangis’
Susan Edgington
The Jerusalem conquest of 492/1099 in the medieval Arabic historiography of the Crusades: from regional plurality to Islamic narrative
Konrad Hirschler
Geoffrey, prior of the Templum Domini on the seven books of Josephus
Julian Yolles
Irish involvement in the Crusades? A reconsideration of the eleventh- and twelfth-century chronicle and annalistic evidence
Denis Casey
The German Crusade of 1197-98
Graham Loud
Burchard of Mount Zion’s Descriptio Terrae Sanctae: a newly discovered extended version
Jonathan Rubin
A templar’s belt: the oral and sartorial transmission of memory and myth in the Order of the Temple
Kevin Lewis
Nuove pergamene messinesi due-trecentesche relative ad Acri e Famagosta
Bruno Figliuolo
Humbert of Viennois and the Crusade of Smyrna: a reconsideration
Michael Carr

Hagia Sophia and the Byzantine Aesthetic Experience

Nadine Schibille. Hagia Sophia and the Byzantine Aesthetic Experience. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

Paramount in the shaping of early Byzantine identity was the construction of the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (532–537 CE). This book examines the edifice from the perspective of aesthetics to define the concept of beauty and the meaning of art in early Byzantium. Byzantine aesthetic thought is re-evaluated against late antique Neoplatonism and the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius that offer fundamental paradigms for the late antique attitude towards art and beauty. These metaphysical concepts of aesthetics are ultimately grounded in experiences of sensation and perception, and reflect the ways in which the world and reality were perceived and grasped, signifying the cultural identity of early Byzantium.

There are different types of aesthetic data, those present in the aesthetic object and those found in aesthetic responses to the object. This study looks at the aesthetic data embodied in the sixth-century architectural structure and interior decoration of Hagia Sophia as well as in literary responses (ekphrasis) to the building. The purpose of the Byzantine ekphrasis was to convey by verbal means the same effects that the artefact itself would have caused. A literary analysis of these rhetorical descriptions recaptures the Byzantine perception and expectations, and at the same time reveals the cognitive processes triggered by the Great Church.

The central aesthetic feature that emerges from sixth-century ekphraseis of Hagia Sophia is that of light. Light is described as the decisive element in the experience of the sacred space and light is simultaneously associated with the notion of wisdom. It is argued that the concepts of light and wisdom are interwoven programmatic elements that underlie the unique architecture and non-figurative decoration of Hagia Sophia. A similar concern for the phenomenon of light and its epistemological dimension is reflected in other contemporary monuments, testifying to the pervasiveness of these aesthetic values in early Byzantium.

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The Practical Christology of Philoxenos of Mabbug

David A. Michelson. The Practical Christology of Philoxenos of Mabbug. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford University Press, 2014.

From Oxford University Press

Philoxenos of Mabbug (c. 440–523) was a prolific late-antique theologian and polemicist who produced the largest literary corpus to have survived in Syriac. He earned a reputation as the leading Syriac opponent of the Council of Chalcedon (451) and its two-nature Christology. In The Practical Christology of Philoxenos of Mabbug, David A. Michelson offers a new understanding of Philoxenos one-nature Christology by interpreting the post-Chalcedonian doctrinal disputes through a holistic analysis of Philoxenos life and works. Michelson’s close reading of the entire Philoxenian corpus reveals a miaphysite perspective on the Christological controversies in which the intellectual clash was not primarily over defining doctrine. As a metropolitan bishop, sponsor of a revised New Testament, and monastic theologian, Philoxenos was principally concerned with matters of Christian praxis and the ascetic pursuit of divine knowledge. This book shows how he opposed Chalcedonian Christology because he was convinced its intellectual theological method was inimical to the mystical pursuit of divine knowledge through liturgical and ascetic practice. Philoxenos polemical engagement drew upon a theological epistemology that he had adapted from Pro-Nicene theologians including Ephrem, the Cappadocians, and Evagrius. Philoxenos argued that divine knowledge was not to be achieved through human understanding or doctrinal inquiry. Instead, true divine knowledge was attained through practice, specifically contemplation, reading of scripture, participation in the liturgical mysteries, and ascetic discipline. Michelson considers each of these practices in turn to show how Philoxenos thought ofopposition to Chalcedon as part of a larger vision of ascetic and spiritual struggle. In short, for Philoxenos conflict over Christology was foremost a practical matter.

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On This Day: The Armenian Church Synaxarion-January

Edward G. Mathews Jr., trans. and ed. On This Day: The Armenian Church Synaxarion-January. Brigham Young University - Eastern Christian Texts. University of Chicago Press, 2014.

From University of Chicago Press

The Armenian Church Synaxarion is a collection of saints’ lives according to the day of the year on which each saint is celebrated. Part of the great and varied Armenian liturgical tradition from the turn of the first millennium, the first Armenian Church Synaxarion represented the logical culmination of a long and steady development of what is today called the cult of the saints. This volume, the first Armenian-English edition, is the first of a twelve-volume series—one for each month of the year—and is ideal for personal devotional use or as a valuable resource for anyone interested in religious saints.

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The Patron’s “I”: Art, Selfhood, and the Later Byzantine Dedicatory Epigram

Ivan Drpić. "The Patron's “I”: Art, Selfhood, and the Later Byzantine Dedicatory Epigram." Speculum, volume 89, no. 04 (October 2014): 895-935.


Western medievalists have long questioned the notion that in the Middle Ages, as Jacob Burckhardt famously asserted in Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (1860), “[m]an was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporation—only through some general category.” The sweeping teleological narrative of the rebirth of the autonomous self-conscious individual in the Renaissance, after its protracted medieval slumber, has been challenged by more nuanced accounts of the various ways in which personal identity and selfhood were constituted and expressed during the Middle Ages. In recent years, following Alexander Kazhdan's seminal, if contested, work on what he saw as a new sense of the individual in the Byzantine culture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Byzantinists have joined the debate and begun to explore the issues of identity, subjectivity, and individuality. Thus Byzantine selves and their formations and representations have been examined in several contexts, including autobiography, rhetoric and letter writing, and the liturgy. This essay seeks to contribute to this project by looking at the largely neglected evidence of Byzantine dedicatory epigrams and the devotional artifacts they accompany.

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De l’Antiquité tardive au Moyen Âge

Elisa Coda and Cecilia Martini Bonadeo, eds. De l’Antiquité tardive au Moyen Âge: Études de logique aristotélicienne et de philosophie grecque, syriaque, arabe et latine offertes à Henri Hugonnard-Roche. Vrin - Études musulmanes. Paris: Vrin, 2014.

From Vrin

La circulation du savoir philosophique à travers les traductions du grec au syriaque, du grec à l’arabe, du syriaque à l’arabe, de l’arabe au latin forme, depuis un siècle et plus de recherches savantes, un domaine scientifique à part entière. Ce volume réunit des spécialistes des disciplines du domaine voulant rendre hommage à un collègue dont l’activité a ouvert une voie, Henri Hugonnard-Roche.

Spécialiste de la transmission du grec au syriaque de la logique aristotélicienne, Henri Hugonnard-Roche a montré par ses recherches la continuité entre la philosophie de l’Antiquité tardive et la pensée des chrétiens de langue syriaque d’un côté, des savants musulmans écrivant en arabe, de l’autre. Réunis souvent par ce que Werner Jaeger avait autrefois désigné comme « la portée œcuménique de l’Antiquité classique », des musulmans et des chrétiens faisant partie d’un cercle philosophique se penchaient, dans la ville de Bagdad au Xe siècle, sur le texte d’Aristote. Leur « Aristote » était souvent celui de l’Antiquité tardive : l’Aristote de l’école néoplatonicienne d’Alexandrie que les intellectuels de la Syrie chrétienne avaient déjà rencontré quelque quatre siècles auparavant et qu’ils avaient traduit, en même temps que Galien, et parfois commenté. Des noms presque inconnus comme celui de Sergius de Resh’ayna (mort en 536) commencent dans nos manuels à en côtoyer d’autres bien plus connus, comme celui de Boèce, grâce aux recherches de Henri Hugonnard-Roche. Ce volume, par la variété des langues qui s’y entremêlent, des traditions de pensée qu’il fait fusionner, par l’acribie des contributions et le caractère novateur des éditions de textes et des études ponctuelles qu’il contient, témoigne du rayonnement international du savant auquel il est offert, et de l’effervescence du domaine de recherche auquel il a si grandement contribué.

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The Bishop, the Eparch, and the King

Giovanni R. Ruffini. The Bishop, the Eparch, and the King. Old Nubian Texts from Qasr Ibrim (P. QI 4). JJP Supplement 22. Warsaw: Journal of Juristic Papyrology, 2014.

From JJP

British excavations at Qasr Ibrim have yielded numerous written sources composed in Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian, and Arabic. However, only a small portion has been published so far, among them some sixty Old Nubian texts, both literary and documents, edited between 1988 and 1991 by Gerald Michael Browne. After the field stagnated for twenty years, Ruffini took up the task initiated by Browne and produced an edition of sixty-two further Old Nubian texts, this time only documents. Documents included in this volume supplement Ruffini’s 2012 monograph (Medieval Nubia. A Social and Economic History) and provide illustration for his reconstruction of social and economic life of the Middle Nile Valley in the 12th–14th century.

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The Rise of Nobadia

Artur Obłuski. The Rise of Nobadia. Social Changes in Northern Nubia in Late Antiquity. JJP Supplement 20. Warsaw: Journal of Juristic Papyrology, 2014.

From JJP

The author of this book presents an innovative approach to the history of Nubia. The period covered includes the fall of Meroe and the rise of the united kingdom of Nobadia and Makuria. The emphasis was put on the analysis of social and political changes. Moreover some major improvements of the chronological nomenclature have been suggested. To date, it has been largely influenced by the early 20th cent. politically incorrect approach to African cultures and the contemporary state of research. The author implies that there is actually no reason which would compel modern scholars to study and describe the history of Nubia in other ways than the rest of the world. It means that all studies postdating this path-breaking book should be based on actual political changes and not vague racial or religious criteria. Nowadays we can be certain that after the fall of Meroe there was no political vacuum, but various political organisms immediately started to rise: Nobadia, Makuria and Alwa. For this reason the term 'Group X' should not be used any longer.

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The Sasanian World through Georgian Eyes

Stephen H. Rapp Jr. The Sasanian World through Georgian Eyes: Caucasia and the Iranian Commonwealth in Late Antique Georgian Literature. Ashgate, 2014

From Ashgate

Georgian literary sources for Late Antiquity are commonly held to be later productions devoid of historical value. As a result, scholarship outside the Republic of Georgia has privileged Graeco-Roman and even Armenian narratives. However, when investigated within the dual contexts of a regional literary canon and the active participation of Caucasia’s diverse peoples in the Iranian Commonwealth, early Georgian texts emerge as a rich repository of late antique attitudes and outlooks. Georgian hagiographical and historiographical compositions open a unique window onto a northern part of the Sasanian world that, while sharing striking affinities with the Iranian heartland, was home to vibrant, cosmopolitan cultures that developed along their own trajectories.

In these sources, precise and accurate information about the core of the Sasanian Empire-and before it, Parthia and Achaemenid Persia-is sparse; yet the thorough structuring of wider Caucasian society along Iranian and especially hybrid Iranic lines is altogether evident. Scrutiny of these texts reveals, inter alia, that the Old Georgian language is saturated with words drawn from Parthian and Middle Persian, a trait shared with Classical Armenian; that Caucasian society, like its Iranian counterpart, was dominated by powerful aristocratic houses, many of whose origins can be traced to Iran itself; and that the conception of kingship in the eastern Georgian realm of K’art’li (Iberia), even centuries after the royal family’s Christianisation in the 320s and 330s, was closely aligned with Arsacid and especially Sasanian models.

There is also a literary dimension to the Irano-Caucasian nexus, aspects of which this volume exposes for the first time. The oldest surviving specimens of Georgian historiography exhibit intriguing parallels to the lost Sasanian Xwadāy-nāmag, The Book of Kings, one of the precursors to Ferdowsī’s Shāhnāma. As tangible products of the dense cross-cultural web drawing the region together, early Georgian narratives sharpen our understanding of the diversity of the Iranian Commonwealth and demonstrate the persistence of Iranian and Iranic modes well into the medieval epoch.

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Embassies - negotiations - gifts

Ekaterina Nechaeva. Embassies - negotiations - gifts: systems of east Roman diplomacy in late antiquity. Geographica historica, Bd 30. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2014.

From Franz Steiner Verlag

This book offers an original approach to late Roman/early Byzantine diplomacy as a system. Assessing both official and clandestine perspectives, Ekaterina Nechaeva examines the working mechanisms of this diplomatic machine and reveals the 'block' organization of embassies as a basic feature of international communication. Negotiations were split into several phases and accompanied by elaborate protocol and rich ceremony. Gift exchange and the distribution of insignia comprised a vital part of the diplomatic process. What were the semantics of these symbolic acts? The study accents the status significance of such donations. Ambassadors, who embodied high-level diplomacy, delivered gifts, led talks, and mediated international dialogue. Who were these envoys? How dangerous and adventurous were their missions? What were these expeditions like? How did they travel and how far? Nechaeva scrutinizes these and further questions by investigating the practices of ambassadorial business. Throughout the book the analysis of secret negotiations, the intelligence system and spy activities of envoys, plots and political murders reveals the shadowy side of diplomacy.

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Laonikos Chalkokondyles, The Histories

Anthony Kaldellis, trans. Laonikos Chalkokondyles, The Histories. 2 vols. Dumbarton Oaks medieval library, 33-34. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2014.

From Harvard University Press

Among Greek histories of the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the work of Laonikos (ca. 1430–ca. 1465) has by far the broadest scope. Born to a leading family of Athens under Florentine rule, he was educated in the classics at Mistra by the Neoplatonist philosopher Plethon.

In the 1450s, Laonikos set out to imitate Herodotos in writing the history of his times, a version in which the armies of Asia would prevail over the Greeks in Europe. The backbone of the Histories, a text written in difficult Thucydidean Greek, is the expansion of the Ottoman Empire from the early 1300s to 1464, but Laonikos’s digressions give sweeping accounts of world geography and ethnography from Britain to Mongolia, with an emphasis on Spain, Italy, and Arabia. Following the methodology of Herodotos and rejecting theological polemic, Laonikos is the first Greek writer to treat Islam as a legitimate cultural and religious system. He followed Plethon in viewing the Byzantines as Greeks rather than Romans, and so stands at the origins of Neo-Hellenic identity.

This translation makes the entire text of The Histories available in English for the first time.

Writing and Reading Byzantine Secular Poetry, 1025-1081

Floris Bernard. Writing and Reading Byzantine Secular Poetry, 1025-1081. Oxford University Press, 2014.

From Oxford University Press

In the mid-eleventh century, secular Byzantine poetry attained a hitherto unseen degree of wit, vividness, and personal involvement, chiefly exemplified in the poetry of Christophoros Mitylenaios, Ioannes Mauropous, and Michael Psellos. This is the first volume to consider this poetic activity as a whole, critically reconsidering modern assumptions about Byzantine poetry, and focusing on Byzantine conceptions of the role of poetry in society.

By providing a detailed account of the various media through which poetry was presented to its readers, and by tracing the initial circulation of poems, this volume takes an interest in the Byzantine reader and his/her reading habits and strategies, allowing aspects of performance and visual representation, rarely addressed, to come to the fore. It also examines the social interests that motivated the composition of poetry, establishing a connection with the extraordinary social mobility of the time. Self-representative strategies are analyzed against the background of an unstable elite struggling to find moral justification, which allows the study to raise the question of patronage, examine the discourse used by poets to secure material rewards, and explain the social dynamics of dedicatory epigrams. Finally, gift exchange is explored as a medium that underlines the value of poetry and confirms the exclusive nature of intellectual friendship.

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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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