Abstracts

Session 1: Byzantium Between Medieval and Early Modern (9:15-10:45)
Petrarch and Byzantium
Leah Whittington (Harvard University)
  • TBA
Byzantium and the End of the Middle Ages
John Monfasani (SUNY-Albany)
  • TBA
Reconsidering Byzantine Identity in Renaissance Italy
Fabio Pagani (Catholic University of America)
  • TBA

 

Session 2: Byzantine Texts and Early Modern Readers (11:00-12:30)
Testimonies of Truth and Tragedy: Martin Crusius Reads Byzantium
Richard Calis (Princeton University)
  • For nearly forty years Martin Crusius (1526-1607) served as professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Tübingen. He was also, arguably, one of the most devoted sixteenth-century readers of Byzantine materials. He read the massive Homer commentaries of Eustathius and the world chronicle of Joannes Zonaras. He owned Manuel Moschopoulus’ seminal Greek grammar and the massive Etymologicum Magnum, as well as the Suda lexicon. He knew the works of Nicetas Choniates, George Cedrenus, and other Byzantine historians. In total, Crusius collected nearly fifty Byzantine texts of all genres and from all periods, in both print and manuscript, and in Greek and Latin. The Byzantium that these texts outlined proved very fertile land for Crusius. He crossed it with multiple directions in mind and read specific books for specific purposes. He used some Byzantine texts, for instance, to clarify ancient literature. He mined others for evidence of the post-classical development of the Greek vernacular; and, importantly, he perused all of them in an attempt to understand how Greek history, as universal history, had unfolded from Creation to Ottoman times. But Byzantine history was also, in many ways, still completely unfamiliar territory for Crusius, despite the recent efforts of scholars and publishers to map it. As the marginal notes in his books reveal, he diligently and repeatedly worked his way through complicated texts, only to find a seemingly endless group of kings and queens, emperors and empresses, princes and princesses and their extended families —all of whom required careful contextualization and historical explanation. This paper identifies the scholarly methods that Crusius adopted as he sought to clarify the Byzantine materials that passed through his hands and it explores why he believed this was a meaningful exercise in the first place. In so doing this paper aims not just to discover what Byzantium was when we look at it through the eyes of an early modern consumer, but also to bring some of the underlying motivations for the early modern study of Byzantine materials into shaper focus.
Martin Hanke’s De Byzantinarum Rerum Scriptoribus Graecis Liber (1677): Erudition, Organization, and the Making of the Early Modern Byzantinist
William North (Carleton College)
  • Omitted from the standard narratives about the rise of Byzantine studies and neither editor of texts nor author of a magisterial synthesis, Martin Hanke (1633-1709) is a figure easily overlooked in the history of Byzantine studies. And indeed he has been in the classic narratives of the field’s history found in Vasiliev, Ostrogorsky, and others. Yet such an omission, though understandable, risks eliding a critical moment of intellectual consolidation in Byzantine Studies. For Hanke did not so much interpret and discover as gather, process, organize, reconcile, juxtapose, and “package” the increasing corpus of texts and scholarship on the Byzantine Empire in a manner readily accessible to his readers: the accessus ad auctores. Through his bio-bibliographical format, he introduced readers, particularly in the Holy Roman Empire, to the biographies and allegiances of key authors, identified their works and the best editions, explained the current scholarly debates, and constructed what was, in effect, a literary history of the Empire with its own implicit canon and chronology. At the same time, it offered the reader a basic narrative of the Empire’s history, though one anchored in the lives of the people who wrote about it. This paper attempts to take the measure of Hanke’s peculiar engagement with history of Byzantium—its purposes, sources, and scope—and its place within his larger historiographical vision of a tripartite history of the Roman Empire’s legacy. In addition, through closer examinations of specific authors from the early, middle and late Byzantine periods, I seek to develop a fuller understanding of Hanke’s historiographical preoccupations as he developed his authorial entries and thereby gain insight into the ideas shaping the synthetic vision of Byzantine history becoming possible at the end of the seventeenth century.
Authorship, Female Nature, and Reading the Alexiad in Byzantium and Early Modern Europe (
Leonora Neville (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Cultural ideas about the natural capacities and behaviors expected of women and men varied from the 12th-century to the early modern era. In the midst of this variation, however, the writing of history was consistently seen as an activity appropriate for men. Anna Komnene’s decision to write history was at minimum non-normative in both the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. Anna’s understanding of her transgressive behavior is clear from her self-presentation in the Alexiad, which responds point by point to criticisms of female authorship that would have been prevalent in her culture, as we now understand it. Her responses, however, were keyed to cultural assumptions specific to the 12th-century and used rhetorical techniques that were familiar to her particular audience. When the Alexiad was read in early modern Europe, her performances of humility, piteousness, and filial devotion were not recognized as such. Early modern readers did not perceive any of Anna’s efforts to present herself as a morally good woman, as well as a good historian. On the contrary, these rhetorical performances of emotion were taken as evidence of arrogance and anger, and led to negative evaluations of Anna’s character that fueled the creation of the story of her supposed effort to supplant her brother on the throne.

 

Session 3: Artifacts of the Byzantine Past: Monuments, Manuscripts, and Pageantry (1:30-3:00)
Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Justinian’s Bronze Horseman in Renaissance Visual Culture
Elena Boeck (DePaul University)
  • In the course of the fifteenth century the great, elevated, equestrian monument of emperor Justinian, which stood near the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, was transformed from a monument into a memorial of a bygone era and a marker of geopolitical struggles. Though destroyed by Ottoman imperial order after 1453, it remained a subject of intense antiquarian fascination during the Renaissance. Representations of it exist in various media. For Italian artists it could symbolize multiple constructions of antiquity and clashes of civilizations in both the past and the present
Montfaucon’s Byzantium
Shane Bobrycki (Harvard University and MIT)
  • TBA
Performing Byzantium: Byzantium in Early Modern European Theatre
Przemysław Marciniak (University of Silesia)
  • TBA

 

Session 4: Compiling, Defining, and Labeling “Byzantium” (3:15-4:45)
Charles Du Cange: Historian of France or Byzantinist?
Teresa Shawcross (Princeton University)
  • No student of the Byzantine Empire can avoid encountering the work of the titan Charles du Fresne, Sieur du Cange (1610-1688). His editions are still used, his monographs read—and his dictionary remains an indispensable resource for those working with texts in Medieval Greek. Du Cange did more than anyone else to shape our discipline. Yet, as is revealed by the obituaries and subsequent biographies, up until the twentieth century he was remembered as a great founding figure of scholarship primarily because of his research on the history of France. His contribution to our knowledge of Byzantium was seen as the result of external pressure on the part of his patrons—and was lamented as a distraction that led him to leave his main task unfinished at his death. Such views resulted in momentous decisions about which of the scholar’s papers should be kept for posterity and which discarded, shaping the nature of the archival collection that has survived to our day. By studying the creation and content of that collection, we can assess the degree to which the extant material allows us to reconstruct Du Cange’s own working methods and priorities. This, in turn, allows for a more nuanced understanding of the way in which the man himself — together with those with whom he collaborated closely during his lifetime, and also those who regarded themselves as his intellectual heirs—conceived of their relationship to the empire’s literature, art, and other material remains.
From the Rise of Constantine to the Fall of Constantinople: Defining ‘Byzantium’ and the ‘Middle Age’ in Early Modern Historiography
Frederic Clark (Rice University)
  • This paper examines important parallels that early modern and Enlightenment historical scholars drew between the Latin West and the Byzantine East. A variety of early modern historians, critics, and philologists helped canonize a scheme of historical periodization that remains with us today—namely, the division of historical time into ancient, medieval, and modern phases. Scholars debated when precisely ancient history or historia antiqua had ended, and when exactly historia nova or modern history had begun. To fill the lacuna between the two, they conjured into existence an intervening period: a medium aevum or “middle age,” often figured as dark and barbarous. While diverse turning points could separate antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modernity from one another, two of the most popular proved to be the bookends of Byzantine history: namely, Constantine’s establishment of Constantinople in the fourth century, and the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in the fifteenth. This paper explores how humanist scholars used these turning points to define not only Byzantium, but also nascent views of the Western Middle Ages, and to theorize about the relationship of both to the origins of modern European politics, literature, and religion. In addition to examining forms of periodization adopted by late humanist scholars like G.J. Vossius, Christopher Cellarius, and Jacob Perizonius, the paper concludes with a consideration of how these temporal divisions shaped the Enlightenment’s most famous treatment of Byzantium—the latter volumes of Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
A History of the Term ‘Byzantium’ (Meaning the Empire as a Whole) and Its Politics
Anthony Kaldellis (Ohio State University)
  • It is generally believed that the Byzantines used the term “Byzantion” only in reference to Constantinople, not to their empire as a whole, and that our modern term “Byzantium” for the empire as a whole emerged in the sixteenth century, after being coined by Hieronymus Wolf. It is possible that neither of these statements is true, but the more interesting fact is that the dominant western terms remained “empire of the Greeks” and “empire of Constantinople” down to mid-nineteenth century. It was only then that they were replaced with “Byzantium.” This paper will examine the politics of these terms and the circumstances of the final switch to our current mode, which was made in the aftermath of the Greek Revolution and Crimean War, and in the context of western Russophobia.