Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Three Christian Martyrdoms from Early Islamic Palestine

From the editors:
A distinctive feature of Christian culture in early Islamic Syria and Palestine was a renewed interest in literature on martyrs, which represented a potential reaction among some Christian communities to the rise of Islam in the region. The adaption of this early Christian genre to the new circumstances of political domination during the early Middle Ages offers a revealing, yet until now largely unexplored, window onto how Christians responded culturally to Islamic imperialism. This bilingual edition of three martyrdoms provides a new opportunity to understand this historical phenomenon.

These writings, composed at the Mar Saba monastery in the Judean Desert and attributed to famous members of that community, share a common high literary style, although each portrays Christian martyrdom at the hands of the Muslims very differently. This parallel-text edition offers the only English translations available of these important works, making it an invaluable resource for both students and scholars of religious history.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Byzantium and the Emergence of Muslim-Turkish Anatolia, ca. 1040-1130

Author: A. Beihammer

The arrival of the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia forms an indispensable part of modern Turkish discourse on national identity, but Western scholars, by contrast, have rarely included the Anatolian Turks in their discussions about the formation of European nations or the transformation of the Near East. The Turkish penetration of Byzantine Asia Minor is primarily conceived of as a conflict between empires, sedentary and nomadic groups, or religious and ethnic entities. This book proposes a new narrative, which begins with the waning influence of Constantinople and Cairo over large parts of Anatolia and the Byzantine-Muslim borderlands, as well as the failure of the nascent Seljuk sultanate to supplant them as a leading supra-regional force. In both Byzantine Anatolia and regions of the Muslim heartlands, local elites and regional powers came to the fore as holders of political authority and rivals in incessant power struggles. Turkish warrior groups quickly assumed a leading role in this process, not because of their raids and conquests, but because of their intrusion into pre-existing social networks. They exploited administrative tools and local resources and thus gained the acceptance of local rulers and their subjects. Nuclei of lordships came into being, which could evolve into larger territorial units. There was no Byzantine decline nor Turkish triumph but, rather, the driving force of change was the successful interaction between these two spheres.
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Saturday, February 18, 2017

New Groundbreaking Book: Dialogues and Debates from Late Antiquity to Late Byzantium

Some interesting articles:

PATRICK ANDRIST: Literary distance and complexity in late antique and early Byzantine Greek dialogues Adversus Iudaeos

PÉTER TÓTH: New wine in old wineskin: Byzantine reuses of the apocryphal revelation dialogue


FLORIN LEONTE: Dramatisation and narrative in late Byzantine dialogues:Manuel II Palaiologos’s On Marriage and Mazaris’ Journey to Hades


NIELS GAUL: Embedded dialogues and dialogical voices in Palaiologan prose and verse

  From the editors (Niels Gaul and Averil Cameron):
Dialogues and Debates from Late Antiquity to Late Byzantium offers the first overall discussion of the literary and philosophical dialogue tradition in Greek from imperial Rome to the end of the Byzantine empire and beyond. Sixteen case studies combine theoretical approaches with in-depth analysis and include comparisons with the neighbouring Syriac, Georgian, Armenian and Latin traditions. Following an introduction and a discussion of Plutarch as a writer of dialogues, other chapters consider the Erostrophus, a philosophical dialogue in Syriac, John Chrysostom’s On Priesthood, issues of literariness and complexity in the Greek Adversus Iudaeos dialogues, the Trophies of Damascus, Maximus Confessor’s Liber Asceticus and the middle Byzantine apocryphal revelation dialogues. The volume demonstrates a new frequency in middle and late Byzantium of rhetorical, theological and literary dialogues, concomitant with the increasing rhetoricisation of Byzantine literature, and argues for a move towards new and exciting experiments. Individual chapters examine the Platonising and anti-Latin dialogues written in the context of Anselm of Havelberg’s visits to Constantinople, the theological dialogue by Soterichos Panteugenos, the dialogues of Niketas ‘of Maroneia’ and the literary dialogues by Theodore Prodromos, all from the twelfth century. The final chapters explore dialogues from the empire’s Georgian periphery and discuss late Byzantine philosophical, satirical and verse dialogues by Nikephoros Gregoras, Manuel II Palaiologos and George Scholarios, with special attention to issues of form, dramatisation and performance.
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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thousands of free images of Byzantine art from the Met Museum

From NY Times:
All images of public-domain artworks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection — about 375,000 — are now free for anyone to use however they may please.The museum announced on Tuesday that it had changed its open access policy to allow free, unrestricted use of any images of artworks in the public domain, using the license designation Creative Commons Zero, known as CC0.

Click here to access the collection

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Book: The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity

The so-called 'Nestorian' Church (officially known as the Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East, with its See in Baghdad) was one of the most significant Christian communities to develop east of the Roman Empire. In its heyday the Church had 8 million adherents and stretched from the Mediterranean to China. Christoph Baumer is one of the very few Westerners to have visited many of the most important Assyrian sites and has written the only comprehensive history of the Church, which now fights for survival in its country of origin, Iraq, and is almost forgotten in the West. He narrates its rich and colorful trajectory, from its apostolic beginnings to the present day, and discusses the Church's theology, christology, and uniquely vigorous spirituality. He analyzes the Church's turbulent relationship with other Christian chuches and its dialogue with neighboring world religions such as Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Islam, Buddhism, and Taoism. Richly illustrated with maps and over 150 full-color photographs, the book will be essential reading for those interested in a fascinating, but neglected Christian community which has profoundly shaped the history of civilization in both East and West.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A solidus from the time of Constantine the Great

  • The billon (roughly 25% percent silver) coin was the first appearance of VLPP type.
  • Circa 313 A.D., Trier.

Monday, December 5, 2016

New Translation: Stories of Holy Men of Mount Athos

Often simply called the Holy Mountain, Mount Athos was the most famous center of Byzantine monasticism and remains the spiritual heart of the Orthodox Church today. This volume presents the Lives of Euthymios the Younger, Athanasios of Athos, Maximos the Hutburner, Niphon of Athos, and Philotheos. These five holy men lived on Mount Athos at different times from its early years as a monastic locale in the ninth century to the last decades of the Byzantine period in the early fifteenth century. All five were celebrated for asceticism, clairvoyance, and, in most cases, the ability to perform miracles; Euthymios and Athanasios were also famed as founders of monasteries.

Holy Men of Mount Athos illuminates both the history and the varieties of monastic practice on Athos, individually by hermits as well as communally in large monasteries.

The Lives also demonstrate the diversity of hagiographic composition and provide important glimpses of Byzantine social and political history.All the Lives in this volume are presented for the first time in English translation, together with authoritative editions of their Greek texts.

Click here to read more

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Rare 1st-century mosaic unearthed in southeastern Turkey

New Syriac inscriptions have been discovered

Archaeologists have discovered five base mosaics from Abgar V (BC 4 – AD 7), the fifth king of the kingdom of Osroene (132 BC to AD 244), depicting fine engravings and Syriac inscriptions, as part of a project titled "The Castle Skirts". The mosaics will be displayed in museums after their restoration is completed
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Monday, October 17, 2016

5 Great Byzantine Army Leaders

Justinian I (482-565)
One of the most spectacular features of Justinian's reign was the recovery of large stretches of land around the Western Mediterranean basin that had slipped out of Imperial control in the 5th century. As a Christian Roman emperor, Justinian considered it his divine duty to restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries. Although he never personally took part in military campaigns, he boasted of his successes in the prefaces to his laws and had them commemorated in art. The re-conquests were in large part carried out by his general Belisarius.

Bardas Phokas (died 989)
In 978 Bardas was delivered from his prison cell by the eunuch Basil Lekapenos, Basil II's uncle and de facto regent. He was dispatched in disguise to his native Cappadocia to stir up the local aristocracy against Skleros, who had revolted against imperial authorities and advanced to the Hellespont. Despite several initial setbacks, and with the assistance of a Georgian army led by Tornikios, Phokas eventually suppressed the revolt, gaining victory in single combat with Skleros. For his vital services to the crown, he was rewarded with a coveted office of Domestic of the Scholae and at once led the Byzantine armies to reconquer Aleppo from the Saracens. Later, to quote Psellos, "he was given the privilege of a triumph and took his place among the personal friends of his sovereign."

Basil II (958-1025)
In 987/8, a seven-year truce was signed with the Fatimids, stipulating an exchange of prisoners, the recognition of the Byzantine emperor as protector of the Christians under Fatimid rule and of the Fatimid Caliph as protector of the Muslims under Byzantine control, and the replacement of the name of the Abbasid Caliph by that of the Fatimid Caliph in the Friday prayer in the mosque of Constantinople.[12][13] Nevertheless, in 991 the Fatimids launched a campaign against the Hamdanid Emirate of Aleppo, a Byzantine protectorate, perhaps in the belief that Byzantium would not interfere. Under the governor of Damascus, Manjutakin, the Fatimids scored a series of successes against the Hamdanids and their Byzantine allies, including a major victory at the Battle of the Orontes against the doux of Antioch, Michael Bourtzes, in September 994. Bourtzes' defeat forced Basil to intervene personally in the East: in a lightning campaign he rode with his army through Asia Minor in sixteen days and reached Aleppo in April 995, forcing the Fatimid army to retreat without giving battle. The Byzantines besieged Tripolis unsuccessfully and occupied Tartus, which they refortified and garrisoned with Armenian troops. The Fatimid caliph al-Aziz now prepared to take the field in person against the Byzantines and initiated large-scale preparations, but they were cut short upon his death.
Alexios I Komnenos (1048-1118)
Alexios was Byzantine emperor from 1081 to 1118. Although he was not the founder of the Komnenian dynasty, it was during his reign that the Komnenos family came to full power. Inheriting a collapsing empire and faced with constant warfare during his reign against both the Seljuq Turks in Asia Minor and the Normans in the western Balkans, Alexios was able to curb the Byzantine decline and begin the military, financial, and territorial recovery known as the Komnenian restoration. The basis for this recovery were various reforms initiated by Alexios. His appeals to Western Europe for help against the Turks were also the catalyst that likely contributed to the convoking of the Crusades.

Michael VIII Palaiologos (1259-1282)
Michael VIII was the founder of the Palaiologan dynasty that would rule the Byzantine Empire until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. He recovered Constantinople from the Latin Empire in 1261 and transformed the Empire of Nicaea into a restored Byzantine Empire.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

5 Beautifully Crafted Imperial Byzantine Coins

Hyperpyron of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (1118-1180)

Hyperpyron of Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118)

John III Doukas (1221-1254)

Scyphate Electrum Hyperpyron, Andronicus II & Michael IX, (1295-1320) 
Constantine VIII (960 – 11 November 1028)

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