Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Byzantine World, c.300–1500 AD

Selected Papers from the XVII International Graduate Conference of the Oxford University Byzantine Society

by Kirsty Stewart (Volume editor) James Moreton Wakeley (Volume editor)
Monographs XXII, 208 Pages


Profound cultural change defined the Byzantine world. For centuries after its embrace of Christianity, exchanges of ideas, objects, peoples and identities continued to flow across an empire that found itself located at the crossroads of so many other worlds. This book brings together a selection of important contributions to the study of cross-cultural exchange in the Byzantine world in its largest geographic and temporal sense. It employs an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, presenting papers first given by graduate and early career academic researchers from around the world at the XVII International Graduate Conference of the Oxford University Byzantine Society, held on 27 and 28 February 2015.
Le monde byzantin se caractérise par de profondes mutations culturelles. Durant les siècles suivant l'adoption du christianisme, la diffusion des idées, la circulation des objets, les mouvements des peuples et le dialogue entre les identités n’ont pas cessé de métamorphoser cet empire lui-même situé au carrefour d’un grand nombre d’autres civilisations. Cet ouvrage rassemble plusieurs contributions soigneusement choisies et constitue un apport majeur à l'étude des échanges culturels dans le monde byzantin dans un cadre géographique et temporel large. Son approche interdisciplinaire et comparative présente des interventions inédites d’étudiants et de jeunes chercheurs venus du monde entier pour participer à la dix-septième conférence internationale de l’Oxford University Byzantine Society qui s’est tenue les 27 et 28 février 2015.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Editors’ Foreword
  • Preface
  • Part I Political Exchange
  • 1 Exchanging Identities on the Eastern Frontier: The Early Arab Conquests from the Byzantine Sources
  • Federate Defection in the Chronicle of Theophanes
  • The Collapse of the Frontier in Nicephorus’ Short History
  • Conclusions
  • 2 Multilateral Co-Operation in the Black Sea in the Late Eleventh and Early Twelfth Centuries: The Case for an Alliance between Byzantium, Kiev and Georgia
  • 3 Remembering a Cross-Cultural Encounter: The Representations of the Byzantine General Tatikios in Twelfth-Century France
  • Part II Theological Interactions
  • 4 From Hermit Saint to Patron of Weavers and Medieval Wild Man: The Reception of Saint Onuphrius in the West
  • Introduction
  • Transmission
  • Reception
  • 5 Gregory Nazianzen’s use of Negative Theology in Oration 38 (‘On the Nativity’)
  • Gregory Nazianzen’s Place in Mystical Theology
  • Negative or ‘Apophatic’ Theology in the History of Christian Thought
  • Gregory Nazianzen’s Oration 38
  • Elements of Platonism in Oration 38
  • Conclusion: Knowledge of God – Whether Angel or Human?
  • 6 ‘Never had there been such happy times’: Byzantine Rome and the Making of the Anglo-Saxon Church, c.640–680
  • 7 ‘Unity’ in Christ: Christological Basis for Church Unity in the Theology of Nersēs Šnorhali
  • Introduction
  • Process of Negotiation
  • Political Background
  • Christological Basis for Church Union in Nersēs Šnorhali’s Theology
  • Conclusion
  • 8 Nuncii or Legati: What makes a Papal Representative in 1234?
  • Part III Cultural Correspondence
  • 9 Holy Bodies, Holy Relics: The Evolution of Late Antique Hagiographical Topoi in the Patericon of the Kievan Caves Monastery
  • 10 Hellenising Cato? A Short Survey of the Concepts of Greekness, Romanity and Barbarity in John Tzetzes’ Work and Thought
  • 11 Protective and Fierce: The Emperor as a Lion in Contact with Foreigners and his Subjects in Twelfth- and Early Thirteenth-Century Byzantine Court Literature
  • Lion Imagery in Byzantine Political Discourse
  • Courtly Writing and the View of Foreigners in the Komnenian Period
  • The Emperor and Foreign Cultures: The Emperor as a Fighting Lion
  • The Lion as King of all Animals
  • The Emperor and his Subjects
  • Conclusion
  • 12 La ‘staurothèque de Gaète’: Un témoignage de la communauté ‘grecque’ dans la principauté lombarde de Salerne?
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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Maximilian C. G. Lau – ‘Multilateral Co-Operation in the Black Sea in the Late Eleventh and Early Twelfth Centuries: The Case for an Alliance between Byzantium, Kiev and Georgia’

Figure 2.1 Powers and rulers of the Black Sea, early twelfth century.

Elizabeth Buchanan – ‘From Hermit Saint to Patron of Weavers and Medieval Wild Man: The Reception of Saint Onuphrius in the West’

Figure 4.1 Saint Onuphrius (German, 1480–1500), used with permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Figure 4.2 Albrecht Dürer (1504), Saint John the Baptist and Saint Onuphrius, used with permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Figure 4.3 Madonna con il Bambino tra i sainti Giovanni Battisti ed Onofrio (late fifteenth to early sixteenth century), used with permission of the Musei Civici di Vicenza.

Pietro Pirrone – ‘La “staurothèque de Gaète”: Un témoignage de la communauté “grecque” dans la principauté lombarde de Salerne?’

Figure 12.1 Staurothèque de Gaète. Recto. Jésus-Christ flanqué de la Vierge et saint Jean l’Évangéliste. Au-dessus de la croix: l’archange Michel. Au-dessous: le crâne d’Adam (photo Lino Sorabella – Museo Diocesano di Gaeta).

Figure 12.2 Staurothèque de Gaète. Verso. Vierge entourée par saint Théodore Stratélate, saint Georges, saint Démétrius, saint Jean le Baptiste (photo Lino Sorabella – Museo Diocesano di Gaeta). ← ix | x →

Figure 12.3 San Giovanni a Piro et Gaeta: emplacement géographique (schéma auteur).

Figure 12.4 Staurothèque de Gaète: piédestal triangulaire en bronze commandé par le cardinal Tommaso De Vio (photo Lino Sorabella – Museo Diocesano Gaeta).

Figure 12.5 Les thébaïdes monastiques italo-grecques aux alentours de San Giovanni a Piro (schéma auteur).

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Editors’ Foreword

What is today the Oxford University Byzantine Society’s (OUBS) International Graduate Conference began as a small, one-day, Oxford-only affair designed to give graduate students the chance to present their research to an audience of their peers. From humble beginnings, the conference’s scope has grown to embrace ever more participants from around the world, making the conference the highest profile, annual event for graduate and early career researchers working on all aspects of Late Antiquity and Byzantine Studies.

The seventeenth conference took place in February 2015. It lasted for two days and involved forty-eight speakers from twenty-six universities and fourteen countries, including places as far afield as Turkey, Canada and Japan. The conference may well owe its success to the hard work of many people, but it draws its strength and sense of purpose from this ever-growing community of Late Antiquarians and Byzantinists who are willing to share ideas, and to discuss and present their work. It is an academic community that has found itself at the cutting edge of ancient and early medieval scholarship over recent years, and one to which the OUBS has been proud to contribute many active members.

The innovative insights brought forth, and exciting arguments voiced, at successive OUBS conferences demanded publication. This ambitious task was first taken on by Maximilian C. G. Lau, Caterina Franchi and Morgan Di Rodi, the editors of Landscapes of Power: Selected Papers from the XVth Oxford University Byzantine Society International Graduate Conference, also published by Peter Lang. The volume has entered hundreds of libraries around the world, contains papers relevant to several sub-disciplines and added to the already respectable reputation of the OUBS. This new volume hopes to emulate that success.

The theme of the seventeenth conference, Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Byzantine World, c.300–1500 AD, was perfectly suited to the OUBS’ aim of approaching the Late Antique and Byzantine world in the broadest ← xi | xii → possible sense. The papers delivered at the conference demonstrated how what was once seen as a niche field actually connects to so many others, and the important, inter-disciplinary historical, literary, artistic and theological questions that its study can address. The conference thereby spoke to the increasing trend among historians to replace traditional boundaries with a broader understanding of the Late Antique and medieval world as a place of wide-ranging and deep connections. This volume, therefore, represents more than a compilation of several individual contributions to the field. As a collective endeavour, it stands as yet more evidence of the exciting developments in, and increasing complexity of, the discipline of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, inheriting the legacy of the labours of world-renowned scholars like Averil Cameron and her insights on contemporary scholarly trends, expressed in her recent book Byzantine Matters.

The editors are indebted to many people for making both the conference, and this volume, possible. First and foremost, we would like to thank Andrew Small, the President of the OUBS (2014–2015) for his part in planning the conference and for all of his hard work in making it a successful and enjoyable event. It was an achievement of which to be proud. It would have been impossible, however, without the generous support of Dr Peter Frankopan and the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research; Professor Bryan Ward-Perkins and the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity, and the History Faculty of the University of Oxford. The preparation and running of the conference would similarly have bordered on the inconceivable without the kind assistance of Nicholas Matheou, Theofili Kampianaki, Miranda Williams, Sydney Taylor, David Barritt, Aleksander Paradziński, Elizabeth Buchanan, Kristina Terpoy, Anya Raisharma, Joric Stolic, Maximilian C. G. Lau, Jakub Sypiański, Caterina Franchi, Nick Evans, Marta Paccani, Sihong Lin, Christopher McCann, Michael Stawpert, Matthew Kinlock, Ed Coghill and Lidia Zanetti Domingues. Miranda Williams, Sydney Taylor and Michael Stawpert deserve additional thanks for helping with the selection of papers and the proofreading of this volume.

We would also like to express our gratitude to Lucy Melville, Liam Morris and Jasmin Allousch at Peter Lang, for being so keen to bring a further OUBS volume to publication and for all of their encouragement and support through the editorial process. Abby-Eléonore Thouvenin, a friend ← xii | xiii → of one of the editors, likewise merits thanks for allowing herself to be drafted to write the French translation of the publicity material, and for providing further invaluable Francophone linguistic support. Finally, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to Professor Marc D. Lauxtermann, the Senior Member of the OUBS, both for his delivery of the closing address of the conference and for writing the introduction to this volume.

We hope, above all, that this collection of papers will do justice to the hard work of the authors and eventually come to number as one among a series of well-known, and well-respected, OUBS publications.

Kirsty Louisa Stewart and James Moreton Wakeley

Oxford, 2016

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This is the third year in a row that the annual International Graduate Conference organised by the Oxford University Byzantine Society attracted so many stellar performances that not publishing the proceedings would have been a waste of human capital on a scale not seen since the Dark Blues lost to the Light Blues in the 2015 Boat Race. (This is a figure of speech. They did not.) The theme of the conference, held on 27 and 28 February 2015, was ‘cross-cultural exchange in the Byzantine world, c.300–1500’, and as living proof of how truly cross-cultural the graduate conference has become, there were scholars from fourteen different countries: the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Japan, the USA and Canada. The number of nationalities could even have been fifteen if Scotland had voted for independence some months earlier. Or sixteen if you count my presence, but being something of a cross-cultural mishmash myself, I am reminded of Rimbaud’s dictum: ‘Je est un autre’ (which is a form of negative theology – see below).

More importantly, and more to the point, what does ‘cross-cultural exchange’ really mean? We all have some sense of belonging to a certain culture, and belonging in itself is a form of demarcation. The lines are drawn up, the boundaries are set and the alien, the not-us, sits right across the border. However, the problem with boundaries and borders is that they are not stable. They are always shifting. And there are always subtle cross-overs, gradually changing the terrain, almost imperceptibly making our familiar faces less recognisable and our homes less accommodating and comforting. As time goes by, we grow more and more alien to ourselves.

Then there is the problem of ‘culture’. I am not referring to the well-known problem of there being so many different definitions of ‘culture’ (164 in the year 1952, and the clock is ticking) that the term itself has become unmanageable. No, the problem is that there are potentially so many ways in which individuals are organised that the whole concept of a homogeneous and unitary culture is highly problematic, to say the least. In each ← xv | xvi → society there are multiple fault lines running right through it and dividing it asunder: gender, race, family, clan, ties of friendship, class, distribution of wealth, sexual orientation, religion, morality, political persuasions, personal predilections, etc. My culture is not yours, and your culture is not that of the person sitting next to you, though you may share a common language and a common nationality. What ‘culture’ does the unemployed blokeish miner from Yorkshire share with the metropolitan homosexual working in the City? Are they even living in the same country?


XXII, 208
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (April)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. XXII, 208 pp., 9 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Kirsty Stewart (Volume editor) James Moreton Wakeley (Volume editor)

Kirsty Stewart recently obtained her DPhil from the University of Oxford under the supervision of Professor Marc Lauxtermann. Her current research focuses on ecocriticism and theological naturalism. James Moreton Wakeley read Classics at Cambridge before moving to study Later Roman History at Lincoln College, Oxford. He is now working on a DPhil in Early Islamic History and Historiography.


Title: Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Byzantine World, c.300–1500 AD
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