Street Power in Byzantium: Why were the emperors so scared?, lecture by Anthony Kaldellis (The Ohio State University), University of Toronto, April 8, 2016, 7:00–9:00 pm
Byzantium is commonly regarded as an absolute monarchy, even a theocracy, where power was concentrated into the hands of the court and Church. There were no legal ways for most people to participate in government. And yet emperors sat very uneasily on the throne. Throughout Byzantine history, there were hundreds of rebellions in the provinces, plots at the court, and popular uprisings in Constantinople that aimed to depose the sitting emperor, and many of them succeeded. Byzantine politics was a series of civil wars, or attempts to prevent civil war by appeasing constituencies, and the common people regularly and actively took sides in this process. How then can we understand this tension between theory and reality? Have we misunderstood the basis of Byzantine politics all along? The lecture will discuss the ability of people to topple or influence regimes, a dynamic that has been made vivid by recent events in Madrid, Athens, and Cairo. All governments are vulnerable when they are seen as having gone too far.
Anthony Kaldellis is a Professor of Classics at The Ohio State University. His PhD is in History from the University of Michigan (2001). Raised in Athens by an American mother and father from Mytilene, he came to the USA to study physics, but ended up a Byzantinist. Professor Kaldellis has written extensively on many aspects of Byzantine history, literature, and culture. His work has focused on the reception of the classical tradition, including authors (Procopius of Caesarea), genres (Ethnography after Antiquity), identities (Hellenism in Byzantium), and monuments (The Christian Parthenon). His most recent monograph proposes a new, Roman interpretation of the Byzantine political sphere (The Byzantine Republic: People and Power at New Rome). He has also translated many Byzantine texts, most recently the histories of Prokopios, Michael Attaleiates, and Laonikos Chalkokondyles, the last two for the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library.
Presented by the Hellenic Canadian Academic Association of Ontario (HCAAO).