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Landscapes of Power

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


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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Justinian’s Legacy. The Western Byzantine Landscape of Power (VI–VII Century)


It is often said that Justinian overstretched the boundaries of the empire, wasting valuable resources on unneeded wars. Such a judgement overlooks the crucial role played by the western Byzantine provinces in the sixth/seventh century and beyond, underestimating their economic and strategic importance. Africa and Italy were still flourishing at the time of the Byzantine reconquest, and when in the seventh century the empire was deprived of most of its eastern and Balkan provinces, their resources became invaluable. Yet, maintaining imperial authority over these distant domains posed considerable problems. The aim of this paper is, on one hand, to underline the fiscal potential of the Byzantine western provinces during the seventh-century crisis; on the other, to highlight the difficulties which the empire had to face in order to exploit these resources.

In the fourth and fifth centuries, Africa had reached an extraordinary level of prosperity, making the fiscal spine that linked Rome to Carthage the backbone of the imperial economy in the west.1 Far from being destroyed by the Vandals, the African economy continued to prosper through the sixth century. The distribution patterns of African ceramics, table wares and amphorae, show that after the Byzantine reconquest African products not only continued to reach their traditional markets in the western Mediterranean, but also found new customers in the east.2

← 93 | 94 → The agricultural prosperity of Africa was directly exploited to the benefit of the empire: in the sixth and seventh centuries, African supplies sustained the...

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