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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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Literary Animals in a Human Landscape


Within studies of Western medieval literature it has long been accepted that non-humans of any significance to a story are most likely to be encountered on the edges of society. In the physical sense this can be in mountain passes, mystical islands or, most notably, in forests. This connection has a certain degree of realism to it. Medieval forests and mountains did contain fierce animals, such as wolves or wild boar, and the danger of what you might encounter added to the perceived danger of being outside the social control of an inhabited place. A similar fear is present in late Byzantine literature. Although less overt than the use of woodland in Western romances, the wild landscape is still concomitant with the more feral and violent aspects of society. In the case of animals, they regularly play a role as a common background feature in Byzantine texts, as they do the world over. Byzantine hagiography, for example, regularly features domestic animals on estates or in villages, both as a normal part of daily life and also as an indication of wealth. Animals do not solely appear in the background though. They also play a significant role as supporting characters. Thus, in Byzantine texts, saints who entered the desert, a space clearly outside normal social boundaries, encountered lions and other animals there. These animals are frequently involved in demonstrations of a saint’s sanctity, a miraculous topos. Fierce lions share their caves with saints, or become tame and scared in...

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