Features Podcast

Western Fantasies about Byzantium, with Elena Boeck

A conversation about western fantasies, orientalism, and the making of Byzantium, with Elena Boeck. She talks about two texts: Pilgrimage of Charlemagne to Jerusalem and Constantinople, a 12th-century chanson de geste, and Théodora, a French play written by Victorien Sardou in 1884. They reveal remarkable insights into Western Europeans views about Byzantium.

Elena Boeck is Professor of History of Art at DePaul University and specializes in the arts of the medieval Mediterranean world. Click here to follow her on


This episode’s conversation stems from two articles written by Elena Boeck:

Fantasy, Supremacy, Domes, and Dames: Charlemagne goes to Constantinople,” in Byzantium in Dialogue with the Mediterranean: History and Heritage (2019)

Archaeology of Decadence: Uncovering Byzantium in Victorien Sardou’s Theodora,” in Byzantium/Modernism: The Byzantine as Method in Modernity (2015)


Elena recommends these two books:

A Real Van Gogh: How the Art World Struggles with Truth, by Henk Tromp

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World, by Nicholas Ostler

Byzantium & Friends is hosted by Anthony Kaldellis, Professor and Chair of the Department of Classics at The Ohio State University. You can follow him on his personal website.

You can listen to more episodes of Byzantium & Friends through Podbean.

Top Image: Sarah Bernhardt as Théodora, in Victorien Sardou’s Théodora (1882). Public Domain.