Category: Publications

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.

Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies

Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies, volume 1 (2014)

Nubian studies needs a platform in which the old meets the new, in which archaeological, papyrological, and philological research into Meroitic, Old Nubian, Coptic, Greek, and Arabic sources confront current investigations in modern anthropology and ethnography, Nilo-Saharan linguistics, and critical and theoretical approaches present in post-colonial and African studies.

The journal Dotawo: A Journal of Nubian Studies brings these disparate fields together within the same fold, opening a cross-cultural and diachronic field where divergent approaches meet on common soil. Dotawo gives a common home to the past, present, and future of one of the richest areas of research in African studies. It offers a crossroads where papyrus can meet internet, scribes meet critical thinkers, and the promises of growing nations meet the accomplishments of old kingdoms.

This first volume of Dotawo is the outcome of a Nubian panel within the Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium held at the University of Cologne, May 22–4, 2013. Organized by Angelika Jakobi, the Nubian panel was attended both by specialists of the modern Nubian languages and scholars working on medieval Nubia and its languages, particularly Old Nubian. We are indebted to the Fritz Thyssen Foundation at Cologne for generously sponsoring the organization of the Nubian panel and the invitation of the participants.

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The Medieval Nile: Route, Navigation, and Landscape in Islamic Egypt

John P. Cooper. The Medieval Nile: Route, Navigation, and Landscape in Islamic Egypt. I.B. Tauris, 2014

From I.B. Tauris

The book presents a ground-breaking view of the navigational landscape of the Nile in medieval Egypt by drawing on a broad range of sources: medieval Arabic geographies; traveler accounts; archaeology; and meteorological, hydrological, and geological studies.Its first major section charts the changing geography of the Nile waterways, particularly in the Delta, from the eve of Islam to the early modern period, and logs the "rise and fall" of these waterways for natural and/or anthropogenic reasons. The book then presents a new perspective on the Nile: it draws on traveler accounts and environmental data to portray the river as a uniquely challenging and sometimes dangerous navigational environment requiring extensive local knowledge by skilled and hard-working Nile navigators.Finally, the book looks at how the main Delta and Red Sea ports of medieval Egypt fitted into the navigational landscape described: it explains how these ports were effected by changes occurring to the navigational landscape, and how they reflected the navigational conditions of the Nile and surrounding seas. The book is richly illustrated with maps and images.

Individuality in Late Antiquity

Johannes Zachhuber and Alexis Torrance, eds. Individuality in Late Antiquity. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

Late antiquity is increasingly recognised as a period of important cultural transformation. One of its crucial aspects is the emergence of a new awareness of human individuality. In this book an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars documents and analyses this development. Authors assess the influence of seminal thinkers, including the Gnostics, Plotinus, and Augustine, but also of cultural and religious practices such as astrology and monasticism, as well as, more generally, the role played by intellectual disciplines such as grammar and Christian theology. Broad in both theme and scope, the volume serves as a comprehensive introduction to late antique understandings of human individuality.


Unlocking Archives through Digital Tech

It was in the art market, especially in the U.S, that expertise developed for museums and the discipline of art history.

In a post on The Getty Iris, Gail Feigenbaum, associate director for research and publications at the Getty Research Institute, reflects on a recent workshop  that considered how to make the best use of the Getty Research Institute’s art dealers’ archives. 

New Issue of Revue d’Histoire des Textes

Revue d'Histoire des Textes, volume 9 (2014).


András Németh, “Fragments from the Earliest Parchment Manuscript of Eustratius’ Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics,” pp. 51–78.

This paper presents two new fragments from a twelfth-century Byzantine luxury parchment codex, the earliest manuscript evidence of Eustratius’ commentary on EN 1. The new discovery sheds light on an important but hardly visible twelfth-century phase in the transmission of the Greek commentaries on EN 1–10, very probably in Constantinople and under the patronage of the court. A detailed analysis indicates that the early phase of the textual transmission seems to precede the period from which the collective transmission of the various larger sets of commentaries on EN 1–10 is attested (Vaticanus gr. 269, Laurentianus 85.1, Parisinus Coislin. 161). The textual family of the new fragments has remained in the shadows due to the success of the other branch, which was canonized by Robert Grosseteste’s Latin translation in the mid-thirteenth century, by the editio princeps (Venice, 1536), and by Heylbut’s critical edition (Berlin, 1892). The specific features of the new Budapest fragments and its twin, Vaticanus gr. 320, may elucidate the transmission process of other Aristotelian commentaries.

Aude Cohen-Skalli, “De Byzance à Messine : les Vitae Siculorum de Constantin Lascaris, leur genèse et leur tradition,” pp. 79–116.

Scholars’ knowledge of a short work by Constantin Lascaris entitled Vitae illustrium philosophorum Siculorum et Calabrorum, which has been a source of debate in Diodorean studies, has until now relied on a heavily revised version made by Francesco Maurolico in the sixteenth century. It is thus necessary to return to the original text of the last known work of the humanist, published at Messina in 1499. The treatise offers a list of the σοφοὶ Σικελιῶται in Antiquity, making its way around the island apparently in a symbolic manner, taking Messina as the dedicatee and point of departure. The article concentrates on the context of the publication of this little incunable, by a printer who seems to have worked for the school of Lascaris, on the textual tradition of the treatise, of which a rough draft exists in Matritensis 4629, on its sources, and on the original meaning of this « tour » of Sicily.

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The Living Icon in Byzantium and Italy: The Vita Image, Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries

Paroma Chatterjee. The Living Icon in Byzantium and Italy: The Vita Image, Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

From Cambridge University Press

The Living Icon in Byzantium and Italy is the first book to explore the emergence and function of a novel pictorial format in the Middle Ages, the vita icon, which displayed the magnified portrait of a saint framed by scenes from his or her life. The vita icon was used for depicting the most popular figures in the Orthodox calendar and, in the Latin West, was deployed most vigorously in the service of Francis of Assisi. This book offers a compelling account of how this type of image embodied and challenged the prevailing structures of vision, representation, and sanctity in Byzantium and among the Franciscans in Italy between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Through the lens of this format, Paroma Chatterjee uncovers the complexities of the philosophical and theological issues that had long engaged both the medieval East and West, such as the fraught relations between words and images, relics and icons, a representation and its subject, and the very nature of holy presence.


The Life of Saint Basil the Younger

Denis F. Sullivan, Alice-Mary Talbot, and Stamatina McGrath, ed. and trans. The Life of Saint Basil the Younger. Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of the Moscow Version. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 45. Harvard University Press, 2014.

From Harvard University Press

The Life of St. Basil the Younger, one of the longest and most important middle Byzantine saints’ lives, presents the life of a holy man who lived in Constantinople in the first part of the tenth century. Usually described as a fictional saint, he had the distinction of residing in private homes rather than in a monastery, performing numerous miracles and using the gift of clairvoyance. The vita, purportedly written by one of Basil’s disciples, a pious layman named Gregory, includes many details on daily life in Constantinople, with particular attention to slaves, servants, and eunuchs. Two lengthy descriptions of visions provide the most comprehensive source of information for Byzantine views on the afterlife. In one, the soul of an elderly servant Theodora journeys past a series of tollbooths, where demons demand an accounting of her sins in life and collect fines for her transgressions; in the other Gregory describes his vision of the celestial Jerusalem, the enthronement of the Lord at his Second Coming, and the Last Judgment.

This volume provides a lengthy introduction and a critical edition of the Greek text facing the annotated English translation, the first in any language.


New issue of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies

Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, volume 54, no. 2 (2014).


Eumaios’ Knowledge of the Scar
Catalin Anghelina

εἰπέ μοι as a Parenthetical: A Structural and Functional Analysis, from Homer to Menander     
Samuel Zakowski

Movement and Sound on the Shield of Achilles in Ancient Exegesis
Eric Cullhed

Route and Parasangs in Xenophon’s Anabasis
Iordanis K. Paradeisopoulos

“Bloodless Sacrifice”: A Note on Greek Cultic Language in the Imperial Era
Benedikt Eckhardt

Bishop over “Those Outside”: Imperial Diplomacy and the Boundaries of Constantine’s Christianity
Alexander Angelov

The Patriarch Alexios Stoudites and the Reinterpretation of Justinianic Legislation against Heretics
Zachary Chitwood

Meilensteine, Straßen und Verkehrsnetz der Provinz Karia

Friedrich Hold. Meilensteine, Straßen und Verkehrsnetz der Provinz Karia. Veröffentlichung zur Byzanzforschung 23. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2014.

From the Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

The study of transportation infrastructure is a key component of the historical-geographical research of the Tabula Imperii Byzantini. For the province of Caria, milestones – dating from the first to sixth centuries AD – comprise, with the Tabula Peutingeriana and certain written sources (Hierocles, diocesan lists), the best material available for the reconstruction of the road network. Here these milestones are analyzed and evaluated alongside other pieces of achaeological evidence, such as bridges and old road fragments. For Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages regional connections are examined in light of physical geography and the historical record for roads where no milestones existed. On this basis, eight roads are reconstructed and described, among them the Coastal Road and another route through the interior, running from Asia in the north to Lycia in the south. Other roads here discussed connected the metropolis of Aphrodisias (Staurupolis) with the major population centres of the province of Caria, such as Miletus, Mylasa and Halicarnassus. A map depicts the entire network visually; and descriptions are complemented by numerous illustrations.

Mediterranes Kaisertum und imperiale Ordnungen

Stefan Burkhardt. Mediterranes Kaisertum und imperiale Ordnungen. Das lateinische Kaiserreich von Konstantinopel. Europa im Mittelalter 25. De Gruyter, 2014.

From De Gruyter

Focusing on the Latin Empire of Constantinople, this study undertakes a first-ever synchronous and diachronic transcultural comparative analysis of the interactions between models of imperial rule and large-scale governance alliances in the Eastern Mediterranean region during the 13th century. The analysis reveals the consequences of the tension-filled interactions between the Latin and Byzantine world in the Mediterranean area.


Seeking Shelter

Swept up in this mass migration was the late-13th-century mosaic icon of the Virgin Episkepsis currently on view at the Getty Villa as part of Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections. Protected by members of a displaced community, the icon moved from Trigleia, an important coastal village in the province of Bithynia, to mainland Greece, finding a permanent home in Athens at the Byzantine and Christian Museum in 1925 as part of its “Refugee Heirlooms Collection.”

Maria G. Psara, a fourth-year student at UCLA, discusses the history of the Mosaic Icon with the Virgin and Child (Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens, inv. no 990) in her blog post, Seeking Shelter: A Story of Greek Refugees and the Virgin Episkepsis, part of the Getty’s Blogging Greece’s Byzantium series. 

Virgin Episkepsis
Mosaic Icon with the Virgin and Child. Image courtesy of the Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens (inv. no 990) via The Getty iris

Roman Pottery in the Near East

Bettina Fischer-Genz, Yvonne Gerber and Hanna Hamel, eds. Roman and Late Antique Mediterranean Pottery 3: Roman Pottery in the Near East. Local Production and Regional Trade Proceedings of the round table held in Berlin, 19–20 February 2010. Archaeopress, 2014.

From Archaeopress

Discussions and scientific exchange are crucial for the advancement of a young discipline such as the study of Roman pottery in the Near East. Therefore, in addition to large conferences such as the ‘Late Roman Coarse Ware Conference’ (LRCW) where the Near East plays only a marginal role, an international workshop with 20 participants dedicated solely to the study of Roman common ware pottery in the Near East was held in Berlin on 18th and 19th February 2010. The goal of this workshop was to provide researchers actively engaged in the study of Roman common wares the possibility to meet and discuss the current state of research as well as questions and problems they are facing with their material. Some of the participants were able to bring pottery samples, which provided the possibility to compare and discuss the identification and denomination of specific fabrics on a regional and supra-regional scale. This volume presents 17 papers from this stimulating event.



LRCW 4: Late Roman Coarse Wares, Cooking Wares and Amphorae in the Mediterranean

Natalia Poulou-Papadimitriou, Eleni Nodarou and Vassilis Kilikoglou, eds. LRCW 4: Late Roman Coarse Wares, Cooking Wares and Amphorae in the Mediterranean. Archaeology and Archaeometry. The Mediterranean: A Market without Frontiers. 2 volumes. BAR S2616. Archaeopress, 2014.

From Archaeopress

Proceedings from the fourth LRCW congress held at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki between 7–10 April 2011, this volume is arranged to follow the thematic sessions of the conference rather than by geographical area: archaeology and economic history, production centers, distribution and consumption, regional contexts-east Mediterranean, regional contexts-west Mediterranean, and the Mediterranean: a market without frontiers. In this way it brings together research on similar issues across the Mediterranean, stressing the economic character of the sites and assemblages and culminating with the concept that the Mediterranean is after all an open way, a mare nostrum connecting the western to the eastern part.



Iconoclasm from Antiquity to Modernity

Kristine Kolrud and Marina Prusac, eds. Iconoclasm from Antiquity to Modernity. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

The phenomenon of iconoclasm, expressed through hostile actions towards images, has occurred in many different cultures throughout history. The destruction and mutilation of images is often motivated by a blend of political and religious ideas and beliefs, and the distinction between various kinds of ‘iconoclasms’ is not absolute. In order to explore further the long and varied history of iconoclasm the contributors to this volume consider iconoclastic reactions to various types of objects, both in the very recent and distant past. The majority focus on historical periods but also on history as a backdrop for image troubles of our own day. Development over time is a central question in the volume, and cross-cultural influences are also taken into consideration. This broad approach provides a useful comparative perspective both on earlier controversies over images and relevant issues today. In the multimedia era increased awareness of the possible consequences of the use of images is of utmost importance. Iconoclasm from Antiquity to Modernity approaches some of the problems related to the display of particular kinds of images in conflicted societies and the power to decide on the use of visual means of expression. It provides a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of the phenomenon of iconoclasm.


The Philosophy of Gemistos Plethon

Vojtěch Hladký. The Philosophy of Gemistos Plethon. Platonism in Late Byzantium, between Hellenism and Orthodoxy. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

George Gemistos Plethon (c. 1360–1454) was a remarkable and influential thinker, active at the time of transition between the Byzantine Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance. His works cover literary, historical, scientific, but most notably philosophical issues. Plethon is arguably the most important of the Byzantine Platonists and the earliest representative of Platonism in the Renaissance, the movement which generally exercised a huge influence on the development of early modern thought. Thus his treatise on the differences between Plato and Aristotle triggered the Plato-Aristotle controversy of the 15th century, and his ideas impacted on Italian Renaissance thinkers such as Ficino.

This book provides a new study of Gemistos’ philosophy. The first part is dedicated to the discussion of his 'public philosophy'. As an important public figure, Gemistos wrote several public speeches concerning the political situation in the Peloponnese as well as funeral orations on deceased members of the ruling Palaiologos family. They contain remarkable Platonic ideas, adjusted to the contemporary late Byzantine situation.

In the second, most extensive, part of the book the Platonism of Plethon is presented in a systematic way. It is identical with the so-called philosophia perennis, that is, the rational view of the world common to various places and ages. Throughout Plethon’s writings, it is remarkably coherent in its framework, possesses quite original features, and displays the influence of ancient Middle and Neo-Platonic discussions. Plethon thus turns out to be not just a commentator on an ancient tradition, but an original Platonic thinker in his own right.

In the third part the notorious question of the paganism of Gemistos is reconsidered. He is usually taken for a Platonizing polytheist who gathered around himself a kind of heterodox circle. The whole issue is examined in depth again and all the major evidence discussed, with the result that Gemistos seems rather an unorthodox Christian with a strong inclination to ancient thought than a pagan in the ancient sense of the word.


Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography

Stephanos Efthymiadis, ed. The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography. Volume II: Genres and Contexts. Ashgate, 2014.

From Ashgate

For an entire millennium, Byzantine hagiography, inspired by the veneration of many saints, exhibited literary dynamism and a capacity to vary its basic forms. The subgenres into which it branched out after its remarkable start in the fourth century underwent alternating phases of development and decline that were intertwined with changes in the political, social and literary spheres. The selection of saintly heroes, an interest in depicting social landscapes, and the modulation of linguistic and stylistic registers captured the voice of homo byzantinus down to the end of the empire in the fifteenth century.

The seventeen chapters in this companion form the sequel to those in volume I which dealt with the periods and regions of Byzantine hagiography, and complete the first comprehensive survey ever produced in this field. The book is the work of an international group of experts in the field and is addressed to both a broader public and the scholarly community of Byzantinists, medievalists, historians of religion and theorists of narrative. It highlights the literary dimension and the research potential of a representative number of texts, not only those appreciated by the Byzantines themselves but those which modern readers rank high due to their literary quality or historical relevance.




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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