In this 100th episode of Byzantium & Friends, Marion and Anthony talk about their new co-authored book, The Field Armies of the East Roman Empire, 361-630
On Byzantium & Friends, it is a conversation with Peter Heather about his new book Christendom: The Triumph of a Religion, AD 300-1300.
A conversation with Jennifer Westerfeld on the scripts used to write ancient Egyptian, especially hieroglyphs. Their last attested use was in the 390s AD, ending their long history in our period. Meanwhile, Greek, Roman, and Christian observers were developing their own theories about how the script worked, often quite fantastic, and reacted to texts inscribed in public spaces.
A conversation with Timothy Miller about philanthropic institutions in Constantinople, especially hospitals, orphanages, and leprosaria.
A conversation with Valentina Grasso on Arabia before Islam. This used to be known primarily from preserved Arabic poetry, but the picture is now filling in from inscriptions and contemporary texts. There were competing kingdoms, tribal coalitions, and foreign empires with a stake in trade routes. There were pagans, Jews, and Christians, as well as generic or “cautious” monotheists. The cultural background of the Quran has never been known in such richness and complexity.
A conversation with Jeremy Swist on why some heavy metal bands write music about Roman and Byzantine history. Expect “good” and “bad” emperors to be reversed here!
This episode of Byzantium & Friends features a wide-ranging conversation with Jacques Berlinerblau about the changing nature of the academic profession, especially regarding the erosion of academic freedom through the expansion of contingent academic labor and direct attacks on it by the states. Is research becoming increasingly vulnerable to outside political pressures?
A conversation with Anna Sitz on how Byzantines read ancient inscriptions – or modified, re-used, and defaced them. Ancient cities were full of inscribed texts, many on temple walls or referring to the gods in prominent ways. How did Christians cope with these monuments when they took over the cities of Greece and Asia Minor?
A conversation with Anna Henderson of ARC Humanities Press about the world of academic publishing today, including its challenges, opportunities, and aspirations. ARC is a fairly recent venture, but has already published a number of excellent books in medieval studies (including on Byzantium).
A conversation with Robin Fleming about how the lives and material circumstances of people in Roman Britain changed when the imperial state and…
A conversation with Richard Calis about Martin Crusius (aka Kraus: 1526-1607 AD), one of the first philologist-historians who tried to reconstruct Byzantine history from the sources. We talk about his interest in the Greek language and the Ottoman empire, in using Byzantine sources to understand antiquity, and his working methods — all in an era before there was much scholarship to guide him.
A conversation with Fotini Kondyli about our changing picture of rural communities in late Byzantium. We talk about resilience in times of crisis — the fourteenth century was not an easy one! — and about how we can reimagine and restore the power and agency of these rural non-elites. We also talk about survey archaeology, one of our main tools for accessing these communities.
A conversation with Anna Kelley about women’s labor and occupations in the Roman and later Roman Empire. It turns out that they may have engaged in more types of business and workshop production, especially in textile manufacture and marketing, than contemporary gender norms suggest.
A conversation with Scott Bruce about dragons, ancient, medieval, and early modern, from around the world. Where did our “canonical” image of the dragon come from? What other kinds of dragons existed? What did dragons mean in different cultures?
A conversation with Amanda Luyster on how to organize a museum exhibition, from conception and design to securing the objects and planning events around it. We also talk about the famous tiles of Chertsey Abbey, a royal commission that evoked the Crusades with artistic allusions to Byzantium and the Islamic world.
A conversation with Paul Stephenson about the impact of lead mining and smelting on the miners themselves, the communities around them, and on plants, animals, and human beings across the Roman Empire. This is part of a broader and ongoing project on metallurgy and environmental violence.
Why and how should we write narrative histories? What do they accomplish in the overall economy of the scholarly production of knowledge?
A conversation with Jake Ransohoff on the practice of blinding in Byzantium. Why and how was it done? Why was it more prominent in some periods rather than in others? And how did its victims cope with this disability that the state had imposed on them for (usually) crimes of treason?
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.