Byzantium & Friends
62. Byzantine dress and fashion, with Jennifer Ball and Elizabeth Dospěl Williams

62. Byzantine dress and fashion, with Jennifer Ball and Elizabeth Dospěl Williams

January 6, 2022

A conversation with Jen Ball (City University of New York) and Betsy Williams (Dumbarton Oaks, also episode 47) 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? For an excellent introduction to these problems, see Jen's book Byzantine Dress: Representations of Secular Dress in Eighth- to Twelfth-Century Painting (New York: Palgrave 2005).

61. Being Roman in Syriac, with Hartmut Leppin

61. Being Roman in Syriac, with Hartmut Leppin

December 23, 2021

A conversation with Hartmut Leppin (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main) 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? The discussion is based on Hartmut's study of "The Roman Empire in John of Ephesus' Church History: Being Roman, Writing Syriac," in P. Van Nuffelen, ed., Historiography and Space in Late Antiquity(Cambridge University Press 2019) 113-135.

60. Representing the trauma of captivity, enslavement, and degradation, with Adam Goldwyn

60. Representing the trauma of captivity, enslavement, and degradation, with Adam Goldwyn

December 9, 2021

A conversation with Adam Goldwyn (North Dakota State University) about first-person narratives whose protagonists experience foreign conquest, captivity, enslavement, degradation, humiliation, and loss of rights. It is based on his recent book Witness Literature in Byzantium: Narrating Slaves, Prisoners, and Refugees (Palgrave MacMillan 2021), which uses comparisons to the literature of the Holocaust and the Atlantic slave trade to illuminate the insights of Byzantine texts that represent similar personal experiences. Can Byzantine literature speak powerfully to these transhistorical traumas? How can we activate it to do so?

59. What exactly ended in Late Antiquity?, with Polymnia Athanassiadi

59. What exactly ended in Late Antiquity?, with Polymnia Athanassiadi

November 25, 2021

A conversation with Polymnia Athanassiadi (University of Athens) 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. The conversation touches on issues raised throughout her papers collected in Mutations of Hellenism in Late Antiquity (Variorum Ashgate 2015), as well as the concept of "monodoxy" explored in Vers la pensée unique: La montée de l'intolerance dans l'Antiquité tardive (Les Belles Lettres 2010).

58. The column and equestrian statue of Justinian, a landmark monument of Constantinople, with Elena Boeck

58. The column and equestrian statue of Justinian, a landmark monument of Constantinople, with Elena Boeck

November 11, 2021

A conversation with Elena Boeck (DePaul University) about her recent book The Bronze Horseman of Justinian in Constantinople: The Cross-Cultural Biography of a Mediterranean Monument (Cambridge University Press 2021). 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. We talk about the symbolism, history, and the engineering of this monument.

57. A global history of the Greeks, with Roderick Beaton

57. A global history of the Greeks, with Roderick Beaton

October 28, 2021

A conversation with Roderick Beaton (King's College London, emeritus) on his new book The Greeks: A Global History (Basic Books 2021). We discuss different ways to define who "the Greeks" were and are (in Byzantium Graikos meant a "Greek-speaker"); the diversity of groups that make up this story; how Byzantium can be featured in a diachronic history of Greek-speakers without being overlooked in favor of the ancients and moderns (as tends often to happen); and what might tie these Greeks together in a way that doesn't quite work for, say, "the English-speaking peoples."

56. Cyril, Methodios, and the conversion of the Slavs, with Mirela Ivanova

56. Cyril, Methodios, and the conversion of the Slavs, with Mirela Ivanova

October 14, 2021

A conversation with Mirela Ivanova (University of Sheffield) on the creation of the Slavonic alphabet and the lives of its creators, the Byzantine missionaries Constantine-Cyril and Methodios. Despite the huge importance attributed to these men and their activities in modern scholarship, national narratives, and Slavic Orthodox identity, our knowledge about them rests largely on two texts whose interests are quite different from our own. What do we really know about them? The conversation is based on two of Mirela's articles, 'Re-thinking the Life of Constantine-Cyril the Philosopher,' Slavonic and East European Review 98 (2020) 434-463; and 'Inventing and Ethnicising Slavonic in the Long Ninth Century,' forthcoming in the Journal of Medieval History (2021).

55. If you could meet and interview one person from Byzantine history, who would it be and why? (Part II), with Paroma Chatterjee and Merle Eisenberg

55. If you could meet and interview one person from Byzantine history, who would it be and why? (Part II), with Paroma Chatterjee and Merle Eisenberg

July 29, 2021

We know so much about the Byzantines, and yet really so little. If we had the chance to meet and debrief one person from that world, who would it be? Join me in conversation with Paroma Chatterjee (University of Michigan) and Merle Eisenberg (National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, University of Maryland), as we wrestle with that question. Who might answer the burning questions that we have? Who would alert us to questions that we aren't asking because we are used to the limitations of our sources? How would we choose our questions? Our choices are, yet again, strikingly different.

54. The power and journeys of the True Cross and other holy relics, with Lynn Jones

54. The power and journeys of the True Cross and other holy relics, with Lynn Jones

July 15, 2021

A conversation with Lynn Jones (Florida State University) on how fragments of the True Cross were requested, gifted, traveled, repatriated, abducted, and returned in the early Byzantine period; how they were used to validate rival claims to power; and the anxiety caused by doubts over their authenticity. The conversation is based on a number of Lynn's publications, especially 'Perceptions of Byzantium: Radegund of Poitiers and Relics of the True Cross,' in L. Jones, ed., Byzantine Images and their Afterlives: Essays in Honor of Annemarie Weyl Carr (Ashgate 2014) 105-125.

53. What can we know about the life of the Prophet Muhammad?, with Sean Anthony

53. What can we know about the life of the Prophet Muhammad?, with Sean Anthony

July 1, 2021

A conversation with Sean Anthony (Ohio State University) about the earliest sources for the life of the Prophet Muhammad, including the Quran, papyri, inscriptions, and Christian sources of the seventh century, and how Muslims were initially perceived by the Romans of the eastern provinces. The conversation is based on Sean's book Muhammad and the Empires of Faith: The Making of the Prophet of Islam (University of California Press 2020).

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