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Landscapes of Power

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

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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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Caput Imperii, Caput Imperatoris: The Display and Mutilation of the Bodies of Emperors in Rome and Beyond, 296–416

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Thereupon one might have witnessed such a surpassing proof of human frailty as to prevent one’s ever again being puffed up with conceit. For the man whom at dawn they had escorted to the senate-hall as a superior being, they were now dragging to prison as if no better than the worst; on him whom they had previously thought worthy of many crowns, they now laid bonds; him whom they were wont to protect as a master, they now guarded like a runaway slave, uncovering his head when he would fain cover it; him whom they had adorned with the purple-bordered toga, they struck in the face; and him whom they were wont to adore and worship with sacrifices as a god, they were now leading to execution.

— CASSIUS DIO, LVIII.11.1–2, on the death of Sejanus in 31 AD; tr. E. Cary

The word ‘landscape’ conjures an instant image of a vista; of fields and hills and forests and rivers. ‘Landscapes of power’, by contrast, summon to mind city walls, towering basilicas, and the enormous and magnificent fora of Rome and the imperial cities. There are, however, few landscapes quite so apparent or immediate as the human body, and it was upon the human body that one of the most important power conflicts of the later Roman Empire was played out; the conflict for imperial legitimacy.

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