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Landscapes of Power

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


Edited By Maximilian Lau, Caterina Franchi and Morgan Di Rodi

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.
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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...

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