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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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Beyond a Landscape of Conflict: The Occursus in Fourth-century Rome

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In probably one of the most frequently cited passages Ammianus Marcellinus conjures up emperor Constantius II’s triumphal adventus celebrating his victory over the usurper Magnentius at Rome in 357. In awe before the Roman capital’s ‘cultural heritage’, Ammianus envisions the senatorial occursus along with the welcoming crowd receiving their emperor:

As he approached the city he let his eye dwell without expression on the senators paying their humble duty and the venerable images of the patrician families. It did not occur to him as it had to Cineas, the celebrated envoy of Pyrrhus, that he was beholding an assembly of kings; his thought was rather that here was a place of sanctuary for the whole world, and when he turned towards the populace he was amazed to see in what numbers people of every race had flocked to Rome. (tr. W. Hamilton)2

← 31 | 32 → Apart from an admiration for the members of the traditional senatorial aristocracy in Rome,3 what is symptomatic in Ammianus’ ‘impressionistic ekphrasis’ is the strong sense of estrangement it conveys. An unbridgeable distance must have arisen between the emperor and the senatorial government of Rome to produce such a mood of mutual astonishment: ‘he himself sat alone on the golden carriage gleaming with various precious stones, whose mingled radiance seemed to throw a sort of shimmering light’.4

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