A conversation with Leslie Brubaker on the first period of Byzantine iconoclasm (ca. 730 to 787 AD). What was the problem with religious icons? What did the “Isaurian” emperors Leon III and Konstantinos V try to do about it, and why? A great deal of what we used to know, largely by following pro-icon sources, has come undone in the latest research.
A conversation with Nicholas Morton about the Mongol conquests of the thirteenth century, the terror that they inspired, and the strategies by which its targets tried to survive them. What did the Mongols think they were doing and how did the Byzantines use diplomacy to deflect the danger and even use it to their advantage?
A conversation with Linda Safran on the hitherto-unexplored world of Byzantine diagrams. We talk about maps, sundials, and more abstract representations of the world and even God.
A conversation with Paroma Chatterjee on the power that ancient statues still had in Orthodox Constantinople. In many contexts, they were more prominent than icons. We talk about some of their functions, but also why Byzantine art history is so focused on icons, which were secluded objects, in comparison.
A conversation with Dan Caner about the different kinds of charitable giving in early Byzantium. We talk about the pre-Christian background, the role of institutions, and views about wealth. Was giving primarily good for the soul of the giver, and under what conditions, or for the material assistance of the needy? How could one give to ascetics, who had renounced such needs?
A conversation with Kim Bowes about production and consumption in the Roman world, especially by the 90% of the population who are less represented in our literary sources. How did they get by from day to day? What alternatives does the evidence suggest to the “subsistence” model that many ancient historians have used?
A conversation with Sergey Ivanov on the monuments, buildings, and ruins of the Byzantine phase of the City’s history. We talk about how to explore them, how to access their history, and even get a feel for the lingering presence of the events that took place in them. We ponder what has been lost and what might yet be found.
A conversation with Jonathan Hall about how the archaeological past of the city of Argos was reclaimed in the long nineteenth century. What institutions and political debates took shape around the heritage of the past? What role did the ancient travel writer Pausanias play in defining what the past was? What was the interplay between local, national, international, and imperial interests?
A conversation with Eleni Kefala on the fall of two empires, the Byzantine and the Aztec. What role did these momentous events play in the emerging identity of western Europe? And how were they experienced by the Romaioi and the native Mexica, especially through the laments that they wrote and sang about these events?
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.
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A conversation with Stratis Papaioannou about the mismatch between modern ideas of literature (on the one hand) and the texts, conventions, and goals of Byzantine authors (on the other). In what sense are those texts “literature”? Should they be compared to classical texts, modern literature, neither, or both?
A conversation with Siren Çelik about the many personas that the emperor Manuel II Palaiologos crafted for himself in his surviving works. In fact, we have more writings from him — in many genres, and many of a personal nature — than from any prior Roman emperor. What was he hoping to accomplish and why is he worth reading?
A conversation with Alexander Olson about the secret lives of olive trees and oak trees in Byzantium. Contrary to what you may think, these were not cultivated consistently in the Mediterranean ecosystem of the Middle Ages; their uses to the human population fluctuated over time, giving the trees a history of their own, albeit one shaped by that of the people around them (and vice versa).
A conversation with Oana-Maria Cojocaru about the images of Byzantine children in our sources, and the experiences that they would have had once they made it past infancy.
A conversation with Filippomaria Pontani on the ways that Byzantine scholars engaged with classical texts, and their place in the transmission and study of classical literature from antiquity to the present.
In a fun romp through some of the foibles, evasions, pretensions, and generally bad habits of scholarship, Tina Sessa and I take our fields to task for practices that make our eyes roll. Sure, we’ve probably been guilty of most of these too! But what better place to vent a bit than a podcast?
A conversation with Christian Laes about one of the most joyous, dangerous, and often tragic, moments of life in antiquity and the Middle Ages: childbirth.
A conversation with Silvia Ronchey about the famous philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria, who was murdered in the early fifth century by goons working for Cyril, the bishop of the city. Who was she? What traditions gave her a position of social prominence? To what degree may she be considered a feminist icon?
A conversation with Michael Grünbart about the problem of imperial decision-making. Byzantine emperors are often presented to us as perfectly virtuous monarchs favored by God, but can we pull the veil away from this image and understand the difficult conditions under which they had to make decisions that could potentially cost them their throne? Whom did they consult? How and why did they delegate? Did they have experts? Data? When could they avoid making decisions? As someone in academic middle-management, these questions cut close to home!
They probably knew little about the minutiae of theology, but what did they know about their faith, and how important was theology for their religious identity?
A conversation with Jen Ball and Betsy Williams on the study of Byzantine dress and fashion. How do we know what people wore? Was clothing gendered? Why are dress and jewelry studied separately? And can we talk about fashion in Byzantium, or was fashion, as some believe, a modern development?
On this episode of Byzantium & Friends, Anthony speaks with Hartmut Leppin about how one could be a Roman in Syriac, focusing on the sixth-century author John of Ephesos, otherwise known as Yuhannan from Amida. If one could be Roman in Greek (which is what we call “Byzantium”), why not also in Syriac?
Can Byzantine literature speak powerfully to these transhistorical traumas? How can we activate it to do so?
A conversation with Polymnia Athanassiadi about the way of life that ended in late antiquity. Scholars of Byzantium and the Middle Ages may see this as a period of new beginnings, but Polymnia doesn’t want us to forget the practices and urban values that came to an end during it.
Though it is often overlooked today, Justinian’s column and colossal statue, which stood for a thousand years next to Hagia Sophia, defined the City almost as much as the Great Church itself. In this episode of Byzantium and Friends, we talk with Elena Boeck about the symbolism, history, and the engineering of this monument.