The Politics of the Gate: Byzantine City Walls and the Urban Negotiation of Imperial Authority

Restored section of the Theodosian Walls at the Selymbria Gate.  Photo by  Bigdaddy1204 / Wikicommons / Flickr

From its violent birth as the surviving portion of a civilization engulfed by invaders to its violent death as a lone city overwhelmed by irresistible assault, the Byzantine Empire was a state walled against perpetual siege.

Prostitution in the Medieval City

Brothel scene; Brunswick Monogrammist, 1537; Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Prostitution was a vice that was was considered a necessary evil because of “men’s lust”. Ecclesiastics felt that if brothels weren’t available to men in cities, they would find other inappropriate outlets for their entertainment. In an effort to curb potential problems, civic officials permitted prostitution to function within the city walls so long as it was regulated and turned a profit.

Cracking down on illegal gambling in Medieval Livonia

by Master Jean de Mauléon (c.1535)

Just like their modern day counterparts, medieval cities had to deal with their own criminal underworlds – the sex trade, gambling, and violence taking place within their walls. At the International Medieval Congress, held earlier this month at the University of Leeds, these issues were explored as part of session #706: Perceiving and Regulating Vices.

The City of Rome in the Middle Ages

medieval map of rome

Let us begin by considering the importance of the idea of Rome in the medieval mind. On the one hand there was the ancient prestige of the City, the capital of the greatest empire the world had known, the seat of a civilisation and art so far above what most of the Middle Ages could attain.

Public Space, Urban Identity and Conflict in Medieval Flanders

17th century maps of Flanders - Kaart van het graafschap Vlaanderen

Ideas of public space can say a lot about the societies that create them. A clear example of this was its use in Flanders during the medieval period. People within Flanders found themselves in a unique situation having one of the highest amounts of urban densities in Europe. This allowed for a distinct urban identity emerge.

The Experience of Growing Up in Medieval Society

Medieval Children - Omne Bonum - Royal 6 E.VII, f.67v (det). Wiki Commons.

This session (#508) was one of several at Leeds devoted to exploring childhood in the Middle Ages. Our presenters talked about the stereotypes of adolescence, and what the coroner’s rolls revealed about the deaths (and lives) of medieval children.

Pigs and Prostitutes: Streetwalking in Comparative Perspective

feeding pigs

‘No one shall keep pigs which go in the streets by day or night, nor shall any prostitute stay in the city.’

Foundation Myths in Medieval and Renaissance Italy

Plaque of Regola, the VII rione of Rome. (Dailyphotostream.blogspot.com)

The 3 papers featured here looked at the development of the civic identities of Florence, Genoa and Rome through art, architecture and foundation legends.

John Rykener, Richard II and the Governance of London

Medieval London Quiz

Its narrative of cross-dressing, male prostitution, gay sex, clerical promiscuity and the like seems to offer a rare window onto late medieval sexuality and sexual mores.

Bishops and Their Towns

City of Lucca, Italy. Image via Flickr by bongo vongo.

Another #KZOO2015 post – this one examines Bishops and Their Towns.

Papers on Medieval Prosopography: Session #47 at KZOO 2015

Pieter Brueghel - Kermesse (The Feast of Saint George)

Three fantastic papers on Prosopography from #KZOO2015.

Women, the Marketplace, and the Borough Courts: Evidence from Fourteenth-Century Colchester

19th century image of Colchester

By examining the frequency and types of infractions for which women were cited at court and, additionally, the complaints women brought in the first half of the fourteenth century, this essay aims to explore the legal and cultural implications of women’s representation in the borough courts.

Shadow of the Sword (The Headsman)

Eddie Marsan as the sleazy, evil Headsman's assistant, Fabio.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau gives us a sympathetic Headsman in Reformation Austria, in the ‘Shadow of the Sword (The Headsman)’.

Project to compare health of Londoners from medieval and industrial eras

Medieval London Quiz

The Museum of London will be starting a ground-breaking research project to explore the effects of industrialisation on Londoners.

Lightning Strikes in Medieval Florence

lightning in Italy - photo by Jerry Riedl/ Flickr

Luca Landucci writes about lightning strikes in 15th century Florence.

Environmental Crusading: The Teutonic Knight’s Impact After the Baltic Crusades

Malbork Zamek Krzyzacki. Wikicommons

Environmental archaeologist and Professor of Archeology at Reading, Dr. Aleks Pluskowski, examined Malbork and several other sites across Eastern and Northern Europe in his recent paper, The Ecology of Crusading: The Environmental Impact of Holy War, Colonisation, and Religious Conversion in the Medieval Baltic. Pluskowski is keenly interested in the impact the Teutonic Knights and Christian colonisation had on the region. His ambitious 4 year project on the ecological changes in this area recently came to a close at the end of 2014.

Topography of Prostitution in Renaissance Ferrara

Antonio Frizzi, Ferrara in 1385, after Bartolino da Novara

On any given morning in 1471, the prostitute Giovanna of Venice, then resident of a Ferrarese brothel on Via Malborghetto, might have contemplated with resignation the options open to her for a day on the town.

Make-Up and Medicine in the Middle Ages

Medieval woman combing her hair

A look at cosmetics and make-up in the Middle Ages.

Move over Milan! Late Medieval and Renaissance Fashion in Venice

Cesare Vecellio's Venetian fashion

Milan may be Italy’s current fashion capital, but Venice had an important role to play in the development of the Italian fashion and textile industry since the late middle ages and renaissance period.

London at War: The City of London’s Involvement in Warfare from 1330-1400

Tower of london - photo by Julie Gibson / Flickr

This dissertation will discuss this military organisation, firstly in respect to the troops London was required to raise, how many, and where these men were sent.

Medieval Books for Christmas

The Middle Ages - Johannes Fried

It’s that time of year again – the mad scramble for the perfect Christmas gift for the historian, nerd, avid reader on your list. Here are a few suggestions for you – new releases for December and January!

London in the Not-So-Dark Ages

Lyn Blackmore

An overview of the results of over 40 years of archaeological research into the origins, development and decline of the Middle Saxon trading settlement of Lundenwic, London.

Renaissance Contacts Between Dubrovnik (Ragusa) and the Kingdom of Hungary

Coat of Arms of King Louis I of Hungary - a talisman of good luck.

During the rule of the Angevin dynasty (1308-82) in Hungary, towns and cities increasingly assumed greater political influence. The first treaty between the King of Hungary and Dubrovnik (in those days Ragusa) was signed in 1358, during the reign of Louis (Lajos) the Great.

What can fourteenth century Venice teach us about Ebola?

Venice 17th century

Venice’s response to the plague an “example of resilience management,’ say experts

Skirts and Politics: The Cistercian Monastery of Harvestehude and the Hamburg City Council

Medieval nun with skirt lifted

In 1482, Catharina Arndes lifted up her skirts in front of the archbishop’s chaplain. She was a respectable townswoman from Hamburg, and her action was carried out in defense of the Cistercian monastery of Harvestehude which was close to the city and where several of Catharina’s nieces lived as nuns.

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