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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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‘Not With a Bang?’ The Economics of Trade and the End of Byzantine North Africa

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The difficulties in studying the transition from Byzantine to Islamic rule in the Near East are well known. Greek and Syriac texts are fragmentary and difficult to square with Arabic narratives that, while fuller, are late and pose major problems of interpretation. Even numismatic evidence is difficult while the conquest is virtually invisible in archaeology.

Yet, these problematic sources are excellent when compared to the sources for the end of Byzantine Africa and the beginning of Islamic rule in the Maghreb. There are no contemporary African narrative sources. The few external Greek and Latin sources give little more than bare summaries.1 Arabic sources are later and less comprehensive than those dealing with the ← 73 | 74 → East.2 The archaeology is frustrating, as many sites remain inaccessible or barely surveyed.3 Texts speak of coin issues that have not yet been found.4

Considering these problems, it might seem rash to try and say something concrete regarding the end of Byzantine Africa. Instead of offering definite solutions to these problems, an attempt will be made to comment on some problems and raise a few possibilities as to what might have happened. At best, this can be considered an attempt to reframe the questions of what happened when Byzantine Africa became the Islamic Maghreb and why it did so.

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