A conversation with Dan Caner (Indiana University) 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? The conversation is based on Dan's recent book The Rich and the Pure: Philanthropy and the Making of Christian Society in Early Byzantium (University of California Press 2021).
A conversation with Kim Bowes (University of Pennsylvania) 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? The conversation is based on a paper on "Household Economics in the Roman Empire and Early Christianity," forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Biblical Households, and earlier publications, including The Roman Peasant Project 2009-2014: Excavating the Roman Rural Poor (Penn Museum/University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021); “Tracking Liquid Savings at Pompeii: The Coin Hoard Data," Journal of Roman Archaeology 35 (2022) 1-27; and “Tracking Consumption at Pompeii: The Graffiti Lists,” Journal of Roman Archaeology 34 (2021) 552-584.
A conversation with Sergey Ivanov (Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the University of Munich; corresponding member of the British Academy) 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. The conversation is based on Sergey's recent book In Search of Constantinople: A Guidebook through Byzantine Istanbul and Its Surroundings, tr. by Sara Buzadzhi and D. Hoffman, ed. David Hendricks (Istanbul: The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 2022).
A conversation with Jonathan Hall (University of Chicago) 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? The conversation is based on Jonathan's book Reclaiming the Past: Argos and its Archaeological Heritage in the Modern Era (Cornell University Press 2021).
A conversation with Eleni Kefala (University of St. Andrews) 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? The conversation is based on Eleni's book The Conquered: Byzantium and America on the Cusp of Modernity (Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington D.C. 2020).
A conversation with Gabriel Radle (University of Notre Dame) on the question of why and when adolescent girls or women "bound up" their hair. Which women did so, and under what circumstances? What kind of headgear was involved? And how did the Byzantine practice compare with that in other societies, ancient and medieval? Our discussion is based on Gabriel's article 'The Veiling of Women in Byzantium: Liturgy, Hair, and Identity in a Medieval Rite of Passage,' Speculum 94 (2019) 1070-1115.
A conversation with Stratis Papaioannou (University of Crete) 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? We talk also about how much of it has survived, and how much might have been lost. The conversation was prompted by the release of Stratis' edited volume,The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Literature (Oxford University Press 2021).
A conversation with Siren Çelik (Marmara University) 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? The conversation is based on Siren's recent book, Manuel II Palaiologos (1350-1425): A Byzantine Emperor in a Time of Tumult (Cambridge University Press 2021).
A conversation with Alexander Olson (independent scholar, British Columbia, Canada) 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). The conversation is based on Alex's fascinating book, Environment and Society in Byzantium, 650-1150: Between the Oak and the Olive (Palgrave Macmillan 2020).
A conversation with Oana-Maria Cojocaru (Tempere University, Finland) about the images of Byzantine children in our sources, and the experiences that they would have had, once they made it past infancy. Our discussion forms a nice sequel to that with Christian Laes on childbirth (episode 66), and is based on Oana's recent book Byzantine Childhood: Representations and Experiences of Children in Middle Byzantine Society (Routledge 2022).