Landscapes of Power

Selected Papers from the XV Oxford University Byzantine Society International Graduate Conference

by Maximilian Lau (Volume editor) Caterina Franchi (Volume editor) Morgan Di Rodi (Volume editor)
©2014 Edited Collection XVI, 312 Pages


This volume contains selected papers from the XV International Graduate Conference, highlighting the latest scholarship from a new generation of Late Antique and Byzantine scholars from around the world. The theme of the conference explored the interaction between power and the natural and human environments of Byzantium, an interaction that is an essential part of the empire’s legacy. This legacy has come down to us through buildings, literature, history and more, and has proved enduring enough to intrigue and fascinate scholars centuries after the fall of Constantinople. From religion and trade at the end of Antiquity, imperial propaganda and diplomacy at the end of the first millennium, to culture and conquest under the Komnenian and Palaeologan dynasties – this volume demonstrates the length and breadth of the forays being made by young academics into the still often undiscovered country of the Late Antique and Byzantine world.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface – Opening Remarks of the XV Conference
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Caput Imperii, Caput Imperatoris: The Display and Mutilation of the Bodies of Emperors in Rome and Beyond, 296–416
  • Bibliography
  • Beyond a Landscape of Conflict: The Occursus in Fourth-century Rome
  • Occursus, adventus, and triumphus: exordium
  • Occursus and pompa triumphalis
  • What do the Roman senators make of the imperial adventus?
  • Conclusion: politics, religion, and senatorial strategies
  • Bibliography
  • Christ and the City: Bishops, Churches and Temples in the Late Antique Levant
  • Heliopolis
  • Alexandria
  • Gaza
  • Gerasa
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Primary sources
  • Secondary sources
  • ‘Not With a Bang?’ The Economics of Trade and the End of Byzantine North Africa
  • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Justinian’s Legacy. The Western Byzantine Landscape of Power (VI–VII Century)
  • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Literature
  • Remapping the Socio-political Landscape on the Fringes of an Imperium: The End of Byzantine Histria
  • Bibliography
  • ‘S’affacciò l’Orda, e il mondo le fu pane’. Landscapes of Destruction in the Apocalyptic Tradition
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Exploring Ecclesiastical Landscapes: Holy Men in the Peloponnese During the Middle Byzantine Period and their Role in the Formation of Religious Landscapes in the Region
  • Bibliography
  • Maintaining the Image of Byzantine Power: Normative Ideology in the Epistolary Correspondence of Leo Choirosphaktes and Symeon I of Bulgaria
  • Bibliography
  • Vita Basilii: The Power of Rhythm in Constructing the Narrative Landscape of Imperial Propaganda
  • Introduction
  • Narrative unit A: Chapters 1–15
  • Narrative Unit B: Chapters 16–27
  • Narrative Unit C: Chapters 28–102
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • The Power of Poetry – Portraying the Expansion of the Empire under John II Komnenos
  • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Khoniates’ Asia Minor: Earthly and Ultimate Causes of Decline
  • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • A Cityscape of Change: From Byzantine to Frankish Corinth
  • Introduction
  • Geographical and chronological framework
  • The built environment of Corinth
  • The case study of the building complex
  • Summary/Conclusions
  • Acknowledgements
  • Bibliography
  • All the Tsar’s Men: Reflections on Power and Society in Asenid Bulgaria (1257–1393)
  • I
  • II
  • III
  • IV
  • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • John III Vatatzes: History, Myth and Propaganda
  • Bibliography
  • Literary Animals in a Human Landscape
  • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Series index

← viii | ix → List of Illustrations

Table 1 The churches of Gerasa and their plans.

Table 2 The churches of Gerasa and with their foundation dates and the length of their foundation inscriptions.

Table 3 The tax takings of the African provinces.

Table 4 The tribes of Gog and Magog.

Image 1 Conquest of territory under John II Komnenos.

Map 1 Late Antique Walls, Sanders, G.D.R., ‘Archaeological Evidence for Early Christianity and the End of Hellenistic Religion in Corinth’, in Schowalter, Daniel and Steven J. Friesen, eds, Urban Religion in Roman Corinth (Harvard Theological Studies, 2005), 420.

Map 2 Overall layout of Corinth in the Middle Byzantine and Early Frankish periods. Courtesy of Corinth Excavations, ASCSA.

Figure 1 The so-called hostel (unit 1) that was adjoined to the north by a monastery (unit 2) Williams and Zervos, ‘Frankish Corinth: 1993’, 2.

Figure 2 The plan of the House South of the South Stoa. Courtesy of Corinth Excavations ASCSA.

Figure 3 The plan of the House South of the South Stoa in the 13th century. Courtesy of Corinth Excavations, ASCSA. ← ix | x →

← x | xi → PREFACE

Opening Remarks of the XV Conference

As President of the Oxford University Byzantine Society, I would like to open our 15th International Graduate Conference by welcoming you all to this University city with a few lines of the English poet, William Wordsworth:

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

This was a man who understood Landscapes of Power, our conference theme. Just as Wordsworth contemplated ruined Tintern abbey as he wrote that poem, so we also spend our energies poring over the ruins of a past age. Together with assessing the landscape that surrounds them and what words come down to us from the minds of long dead men and women, we try to piece together meaning from these relics. Our texts can be unfinished and corrupted, as well as obscure, our authors biased in ways we can barely know, our ruins decayed, our histories barely coherent – and yet from this wrecked landscape still emerges the powerful vision of ‘that something deeply interfused’.

I hope all our guests are able to explore Oxford a little while you are here. When exploring the colleges and city of Oxford – its quads, halls, chapels and libraries, it evokes the legacy of almost a millennium of learning; ← xi | xii → the landscape of the city reflects its history, its culture, its people. Seeing Oxford together with reading one of the many works of literature written about it opens it up that much more – and though half a millennium divides us from a living Byzantium, or possibly more depending if you follow the opinion of some on the end of the Roman Empire, such an evocation can still be made. That motion and spirit of an empire long gone can still be called up by the delving you have all performed into its shattered remnants.

‘Byzantine’ is a term that in other fields than ours is used as a byword for complex, and through the centuries it has often been viewed through that glass, darkly. And yet expeditions into this dark and undiscovered country can be made without centuries of historical opinion that have been lavished, or indeed burdened, upon the history of modern nation states. From a mere foray into the field we have seen how much work there is to be done, how many landscapes to explore, how many questions to answer, and at this conference we aim to push forward those explorations by sharing the ideas of scholars working in fields more diverse than any discipline besides perhaps classics. At this conference we cover History, Archaeology, Philology, Theology, Sociology, Linguistics, and a great deal more that I won’t waste my opening remarks listing. We cover a chronological span of almost a millennium and a half and yet for all this diversity of subject, we are united through our objective: Late Antique and Byzantine scholarship. We come from over 20 countries and 30 institutions, from the United States to Russia, a prospect unthinkable not so long ago, and we are all young scholars presenting the cutting edge of new research. Thus it has been my privilege as President of the OUBS to oversee the enhancement of the propagation of your work at this year’s conference.

For many years now it has been noted that the standard of papers at our International Graduate conference has been astonishingly high, and it has been the OUBS’ privilege to host an event described as such by those who would know the difference. This year there was more than one paper that had to be rejected for every one of you accepted, and many good papers amongst them, and thus I would hope to better previous standards.

In this we have been supported by a number of individuals and organisations, many amongst them sitting in this room. I won’t embarrass them ← xii | xiii → by listing them off once more at this stage, but most definitely the conference would not have been possible without them.

I will however take the opportunity to thank the conference committee. They have all put a lot of hours into this, and in particular the executive committee of Caterina Franchi and Morgan Di Rodi, my condottieri. Sent out on errands and performing tasks that trained event management professionals would surely have found daunting. They have run their sub-committee teams with a guiding hand, hopefully as gentle as it was firm, and helped bring this vision of a more ambitious conference to life. A graduates-only conference with a speakers dinner double the size of any previous, in one of the best halls in Oxford; a graduate conference with conference packs and poster showings, a graduate conference with published proceeds.

On that latter note I would like to dwell once more – as the idea of finally being able to publish the hard and good work done at this conference is surely the fulfilment of the hard work of all my predecessors as OUBS president, and indeed of the Byzantines themselves. I wish to round up these opening remarks with a quotation used prominently in a recent work on Byzantine Literature that I have taken a likening to, and thus used in both the opening of the Byzantinist and indeed my own paper. In the words of the 12th century poet and rhetoritician Eustathios Makrembolites:

So then, if Zeus will not place our story among the stars, if Poseidon will not imprint it upon the waters, if Earth will not nurture it in plants and flowers, then, as though in unfading timbers and in adamantine precious stones, with Hermes’ pen and ink and in language breathing the fire of rhetoric let our story be inscribed, and let some one of those who come after, turn it into rhetoric, and forge golden statues hammered out of words as our imperishable monument.

Though Eustathios was talking of rhetoric in his own day, it remains true for us as well. As we survey the still brave new world that constitutes the Landscapes of Power, that make up Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, let us now make imperishable monuments of words, and like Wordsworth at Tintern Abbey, bring forth for others the ‘presence that disturbs us with the joy of elevated thoughts; the sense sublime Of something far more ← xiii | xiv → deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean, and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man’.

Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Oxford University Byzantine Society’s 15th International Graduate Conference: Landscapes of Power.

Friday, 22nd February 2013
MAXIMILIAN LAU President of the Oxford University Byzantine Society

← xiv | xv → Acknowledgements

All the Contributors would like to take this opportunity to thank their families, friends and collegues for all their support through their studies, but on behalf of the editors we would like to thank a number of people in specific who made both the conference and this volume possible.

The conference was only made possible through the generous support of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity, the Oxford Centre for Medieval History, the Oxford Department for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, the Sub-Faculty of Byzantine and Modern Greek, the Department of History, the British Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies, the Italian e-journal Porphyra, and Keble College, Oxford for our conference dinner. The conference could not have been run without the organising committee: Adrastos Omissi, AnnaLinden Weller, Sergey Fadeev, Elizabeth Buchanan, Nicholas Matheou, Rachel McGoff and Wiktor Ostasz. Supplementing them were a fantastic team of volunteers: Lynton Boshoff, Nicholas Evans, Cecilia Palombo, Foteini Spingou, Kirsty Stewart, Brad Buchanan and Theofili Kampianaki.

Most particularly, we received a lot of support from members of the Late Antique and Byzantine Studies department for both the conference and for helping in the mammoth task of choosing the best papers and editing them, a small acknowledgement here is the least they deserve: Peter Frankopan (who deserves extra thanks for his introduction to this volume), Elizabeth Jeffreys, Michael Jeffreys, Marc Lauxtermann, Mark Whittow, Bryan Ward-Perkins, Ida Toth, Georgi Parpulov and Phillipp Niewoehner. We would also like to thank both Lucy Melville and Alessandra Anzani at Peter Lang for all their help with the publication process, particularly Lucy for supporting us from the second she first heard of the idea.

Finally the editors would like to thank our housemates and friends at Oriel, Exeter, St Cross and all of Oxford for their support, and if you ever need us to return the favour just ask. ← xv | xvi →



In the world of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople was a magnet for bright young scholars. For those with talent and promise, all roads lead to the imperial capital, a metropolis where brilliant teachers could be found together with libraries that were as famous as they were well stocked. The intellectual environment was sparking – although it could also be fiercely competitive. Constantinople provided a forum where ideas were shaped and refined, a location where views were shared and discussed but often also fought over.

If one had to suggest a modern equivalent to the capital of the Byzantium, it would be hard to find a more fitting candidate than Oxford. It is not just that the university city is a natural parallel because of its collections, its libraries and the lure it has for intellectuals. It stands as a reasonable mirror for the imperial capital too. True, it has not been home to the apparatus of power; but on the other hand, it has produced a famous and lengthy roster of those who have held the reigns of government, with no fewer than twenty-five prime ministers studying at the university – producing all but one of the occupants of 10 Downing Street since 1935.

The physical beauty of the two cities makes them comfortable bedfellows. The legendary beauty of the Sheldonian Theatre, Radcliffe Camera, the Bridge of Sighs and the dreaming spires viewed from Boar’s Hill inspired poets like Mathew Arnold; the architectural jewels and monumental glories of Constantinople likewise enthused writers like Constantine of Rhodes, whose poem on the Seven Wonders of the Byzantine capital powerfully evokes the awesome sense felt by visitors to the city. Tourists who can today be found gasping at the beauty of the ceilings in the Divinity School or the splendour of Duke Humphrey’s Library would share the sentiments ← 1 | 2 → of visitors to Haghia Sophia a millennium ago: ‘we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth’, reported a group of Russians who had made it to Constantinople in the 10th century, ‘for earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we were at a loss to describe it’.1

Certainly, the ceremonial at Oxford is guaranteed to make any student of Byzantium nod in appreciation – the obscure names whose meanings are vague outside the rarefied oxygen of the colleges; the gowns whose length, embroidery and detail provide telling guides those whose eye is well-enough trained; the array of rituals and centuries-old practices that seem just as bewildering to the outsider today as the imperial court did to Liudprand of Cremona in the 10th century. The college statutes and university handbook serve as equivalents to texts like the Kleterologion of Philotheos or the Book of Ceremonies – texts that purport to make sense of the order of the administration but bear questionable resemblance to daily life for all but a handful of those involved in the apparatus of administration.

Such was Constantinople’s reputation and lure that it drew talent from all over – and not only from within the empire. It attracted those from thousands of miles away: from Iceland and Scandinavia; from North Africa and Central Asia; from the Caucasus and from Ethiopia. Those who came did so for a variety of reasons: to find fame and fortune, to take service, to gain inspiration, or to see the city for themselves. Constantinople was a metropolis, bursting with some of the finest talent on the planet in late antiquity and the medieval period.

The same could be said for Oxford today when it comes to Late Antique and Byzantine Studies. For decades, the university has been one of the world’s leading centres in this subject, home to scholars such as Dimitri Obolensky, Cyril Mango and Michael Metcalf, and host to visiting speakers from all over the world. Never has the scene been more vibrant than it is today, where there are nearly sixty academics specialising in a region, period or discipline connected with the history of the Byzantine Empire, or working in related fields.

← 2 | 3 → The range of scholarship is breath taking, as is clear from the number of faculties and departments represented by members of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, which include Theology, Classics, Oriental Studies, Archaeology, Medieval and Modern Languages and History. The university has scholars who are focusing on epigraphy and on palaeography; others who look at early medieval Sicily or at Italy in late antiquity. Some look at Byzantine lexicons and at court poetry, while others examine Georgian narrative histories. Some assess the feudal revolution in the provinces of Asia Minor, while others consider the archaeological evidence for commerce and trade across the eastern Mediterranean. Some interpret apocalyptic Syriac literature, while others re-examine the Byzantine context for the Crusades and history writing in medieval Greek.

If the range of research is extraordinary, then so too is the quality. The annual OCBR report catalogues the principal publications of each academic year, as well as the distinctions, honours and prizes bestowed on its members over the previous twelve months. As at the time of writing, nearly a quarter of the OCBR members are Fellows of the British Academy – an astonishing proportion, given this is the highest distinction in the academia in the United Kingdom. Oxford is a world-class centre for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies. Like Constantinople, it attracts those keen to drink in the surroundings and eager to participate in the vibrant life of a community of intellectuals second to none in the modern world.

It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that Oxford is a beacon for the next generation of scholars who will push the boundaries of the subject further. The university has long been home to a thriving community of graduate students who have chosen to study courses lasting one year (Master of Studies) or two years (Master of Philosophy) before proceeding on to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. However, Oxford’s pull – like that of Constantinople – is not reserved for those who are based at the university alone.


XVI, 312
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (January)
legacy literature history imperial propaganda religion
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. XVI, 316 pp., 6 b/w ill., 4 tables

Biographical notes

Maximilian Lau (Volume editor) Caterina Franchi (Volume editor) Morgan Di Rodi (Volume editor)

Maximilian Lau was President of the Oxford University Byzantine Society, reading for a DPhil at Oriel College under Mark Whittow on the Reign of Emperor John II Komnenos and the Transformation of the Old Order, 1118–43. Caterina Franchi was Secretary of the Society, reading for a DPhil at Exeter College under Marc Lauxtermann on the Alexander Romance and the reception of Alexander the Great in the Medieval tradition. Morgan Di Rodi was Treasurer of the Society, reading for a DPhil at St Cross College under Bryan Ward-Perkins on the rise of Christianity as a force in the monumental landscape of Levantine cities between the fourth and sixth centuries.


Title: Landscapes of Power