The Western presence in the Byzantine Empire during the reigns of Alexios I and John II Komnenos (1081-1143)
By Alex Rodriguez Suarez
PhD Dissertation, King’s College London, 2014
Abstract: This PhD thesis looks at the Western presence in the Byzantine Empire during the reigns of Alexios I (1081-1118) and his son and successor John II (1118-1143). Contacts between Byzantium and the West increased during this period, which witnessed significant events like the First Crusade and the expansion of the Italian trading communities. The aim of the thesis is to explore the extent and the significance of the cultural exchanges between Westerners and Byzantines. The sources analyzed for this research are texts (mostly in Greek and Latin) and material culture (objects and monuments).
The point of departure of the thesis is the exploration of the Western presence in Byzantium before Alexios’ accession, a period which is mainly limited to the eleventh century. It includes a section on Southern Italy but mainly focuses on mercenaries, merchants and diplomatic brides. The research then moves on to analyzing the different spheres where Westerners played some role in the Byzantine Empire during the period under study. It looks at the army (Varangians and Normans), trade (commercial privileges and Italian merchants), administration and the court (diplomatic brides). After having looked at the presence of Westerners, three case studies of material culture (stained glass, bells and the kite shield) are presented in order to examine the Western influence in Byzantine society.
Finally, the thesis investigates customs and habits. It addresses several topics to identify possible change (hairstyles) and innovation (tournaments, duels and handshake) in Byzantine society and culture as a result of the Western presence. At the end the results of this project are evaluated in relation to Manuel I’s reign (1143-1180), the so-called latinophile emperor and John’s son and successor