GEM: A Den of Deceit? Forgery and the Court of Constantine VII

A Den of Deceit? Forgery and the Court of Constantine VII

Presented by Carl Dixon (University of Nottingham)

The Whitting Room (Arts 436), University of Birmingham

5:15 PM 21st March 2018

Students of the ancient and medieval periods are often confronted with texts which are forged, or whose contexts are otherwise not what they initially seem. The implications that such texts have for our understanding of the past are well understood, but forgery is seldom studied in and of itself. This paper represents a starting point for such an endeavour within the confines of the tenth century. It focuses on two heresiological texts against the Paulicians, both of which I will argue were forged during the sole reign of Constantine VII (945-59): firstly, Peter of Sicily’s History of the Paulicians; and secondly, the Contra Manichaeos, which is conventionally attributed to the Patriarch Photios.

This presentation seeks to introduce these texts and explain why their purported ninth-century contexts are erroneous. It will then examine codicological strategies by which these forgeries could be substantiated. Finally, it will address these texts within their proper tenth-century context, positing reasons for their close relationship to one another and the significance that this has for our understanding of forgery at Constantine VII’s court.



GEM: change of programme

Next Wednesday (14th March) our speaker will be Maria Mylona, from the University of Thessaloniki, instead of Marta Papaspiliou (King’s College, London).

She will present a paper titled “The discourse of ethnicofrosyne [national-mindedness] in the women Christian-Orthodox periodicals during the Colonel’s dictatorship (1967-1974)”.

GEM: Dara in Mesopotamia: Memories of a Byzantine Town from the Emperors to Facebook

Dara in Mesopotamia: Memories of a Byzantine Town from the Emperors to Facebook

Presented by Alessandro Carabia (CBOMGS)

The Whitting Room (Arts 436), University of Birmingham

5:15 PM 7th March 2018

Dara was a Byzantine fortified town on the border with the Sassanid Empire in North Mesopotamia during the sixth century CE. Despite the city short lifetime, the ruins of Dara represent a key element in the debate for the understanding of the transformation of the Classic city between Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. However, the lack of published archaeological investigation on Dara force us to explore alternative research approaches and among them there is memory.
Dara, indeed, is not only significant for contemporary scholars, but it was also important for a variety of people who interacted with its memory in different ways, first of all, the Byzantines itself. In this paper, I will show how memory and perceptions of Dara have changed through time: from a glorious emperor foundation to the oblivion of history, passing through the “rediscovery” by the Western travellers of the seventeenth century, until the works of contemporary scholars and the modern inhabitants. I will not just explore the different agendas behind the construction of an historical memory of Dara but I will also discuss the means used in this process and their use.

The 2018 Postgraduate Colloquium for Modern Greek Studies

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Exploring “crises” in the modern Greek World: 

cultural narratives, identity politics, social life 

The 2018 Postgraduate Colloquium for Modern Greek Studies

**Programme to Follow** 
University of Birmingham, Friday 4 May 2018

With the notorious “crisis” completing almost a decade since it struck Greece, much ink has been spilt on its catastrophic repercussions and on its potentialities for the country’s cultural and economic reinvention. Yet, despite frequent associations of the word with fiscal problems and the current socio-political “crisis”, this colloquium invites participants to think of the concept of crisis in broader terms. Taking as a springboard the definition of the word in Ancient Greek (krisis as a decision, an election, or a judgment) the core questions of the colloquium revolve around: how do individuals or communities in the modern Greek world (1509-2018) make choices across critical times/shifts in the past or present? How were the turning points in Greek socio-political and cultural history renegotiated in collective memory and which are their legacies? These questions might be investigated from different angles within the fields of Modern Greek language, literature, history, anthropology, archaeology, media and other relevant subject areas.

The annual Colloquium of Modern Greek Studies has been held at different institutions across the UK since 1988 with the purpose of providing a forum for postgraduate students to contribute to scholarly discussions on Modern Greek Studies and come together with students and academics from the field or related disciplines. The colloquium seeks a range of papers from postgraduate students from all backgrounds and disciplines. We welcome abstracts for papers that engage with a variety of topics, including but not limited to:

  • Identity crises and critical choices made by individuals and communities, especially in relation to the politics of class, gender, sexuality, and race
  • Personal or collective traumas, their remembrance and aftereffects in the present
  • Interpersonal conflicts and turbulent emotions in human or textual communities
  • Tumultuous soci0-political moments or changes in Greek history and people’s (hi)stories
  • Decisive moments in the evolution of Greek language, language learning and/or teaching
  • Artistic responses to critical times (literature, film, music, theatre, visual arts, and popular culture)
  • Online media and social networks’ contribution in the production or subversion of “crisis narratives”
  • The shrinking budgets and programmes for Modern Greek Studies
  • A cross-temporal and comparative approach of the above crises

The colloquium will take place on Friday 4 May 2018 (venue TBC) at the University of Birmingham, also featuring a keynote speech by Alexander Kazamias (Coventry University). The Society for Modern Greek Studies will provide a number of travel bursaries (up to £50) to students.

Visit also the colloquium website:

Discovering Byzantium in Istanbul: Scholars, Institutions, and Challenges, 1800–1955. 16-18 November 2017, Pera Museum, Istanbul

On the tenth anniversary of its foundation, the Istanbul Research Institute will host Discovering Byzantium in Istanbul: Scholars, Institutions, and Challenges, 1800–1955, a symposium examining the development of Byzantine studies in Istanbul during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The symposium will take place at the Pera Museum, November 16–18, 2017.

At a time when classical antiquity continued to be the main attraction drawing Western scholars to the Eastern Mediterranean, Byzantine history and archaeology became a new field of competitive scientific exploration in the former Byzantine capital. Some of the major themes and issues to be addressed at Discovering Byzantium in Istanbul are scholars’ motivations and incentives for studying the empire founded by Constantine in 330 AD, the means by which they accessed the monuments and material wealth of Constantinople, what they were allowed to see and under what circumstances and conditions, and the networks they established among themselves and with authorities from government and cultural institutions. The activities of newly founded foreign institutes and museums are also examined, along with scientific competition at the international level, including the reactions of Turkish scholars.

The period covered by Discovering Byzantium in Istanbul begins with the emergence of major archaeological expeditions in the Eastern Mediterranean and is rich in major historical events and findings that brought the Ottoman Empire and the modern Turkish republic to the fore. It ends with the International Congress of Byzantine Studies convening its tenth conference, for the first time meeting in Istanbul. The contributions analyze archival material with the aim of bringing to light unknown and unexplored sources of research.

The symposium is being organized under the direction of Olivier Delouis and Brigitte Pitarakis, both from the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in Paris.

The programme is available on the Pera Museum web page: click here!


Irfan Shahîd’s history of the Arab’s interactions with Rome and Byzantium before the rise of Islam is available for download

Dumbarton Oaks is happy to announce that all seven volumes of Irfan Shahîd’s monumental Byzantium and the Arabs, published by Dumbarton Oaks Publications, are available for free download from our website.

Irfan Shahîd knew even as an undergraduate at Oxford that the role of the Arabs in Roman history would be his life’s work. Rome in late antiquity was caught between the German tribes in the west and the Arabs in the east. German scholars had engaged with “the German problem,” but the Arabs did not have their historian, Shahîd recalled in his 2008 oral history for Dumbarton Oaks. “No one has really dealt with Arabs as part of Roman history.”

From an early interest in the role the Arabs in al-Andalus played in the creation of Western Europe, Shahîd’s encounter with the medievalist Ernst Kantorowicz at the Institute for Advanced Study prompted him to start with the East—and to discover Dumbarton Oaks, where he was a Junior Fellow in 1954–55 and with which he would have a lifelong association. The outcome of this early shift in focus is the history of the Arabs’ relationship with Rome and Byzantium before the rise of Islam and the Arab conquests of the seventh century. If his work has one virtue, Shahid said, “it will be because I’ll be the first historian to have filled the gap of all these centuries with my gaze fixed on the seventh to know exactly what happened and why it happened the way it did.”

Shahîd’s project was originally conceived as a three-volume work, the first treating Rome and the Arabs from Pompey to Constantine, the second Byzantium and the Arabs from Constantine to Heraclius, and the third the rise of Islam and the Arab conquest. The eventual seven volumes cover the first two parts, with the final part, on the seventh century, left incomplete at Shahîd’s death in 2016. Sidney Griffith hailed the work as “a major step forward in our knowledge of the history and culture of the world in which Islam was born.”