GEM Committee elections and New voices!

‘The fragmentary portrayal of social changes in Dimitris Hatzis “The End of Our Small Town” and “The Double Book”’

Presented by Estir Portokali (CBOMGS)

‘The rise and fall of Michael V’

Presented by Joseph Fookes(CBOMGS)

The Whitting Room (Arts 436), University of Birmingham

5:15 PM 6th June 2018



GEM- Data lost forever” or “surprises in store”? Gleaning the records of past excavations at the Episcopal Basilica of Dion’.

Data lost forever” or “surprises in store”? Gleaning the records of past excavations at the Episcopal Basilica of Dion’.

Presented by Kyriakos Fragkoulis

The Whitting Room (Arts 436), University of Birmingham

5:15 PM 23rd May 2018

More than one and a half century of archaeological survey work carried out in Greece has led to the identification of hundreds of early Christian churches, with the overwhelming majority being three-aisled basilicas, a sizeable proportion of which has been completely or partially excavated. But despite this impressive body of evidence, the number of relevant publications surely does not reflect the scale of fieldwork undertaken over all these years. Whilst Christian Archaeology or rather the archaeology of churches was for decades the focal point of the research on Late Antiquity in Greece, it has long been limited to an increasingly isolated positionMainly due to the anachronistic art-historical methodology that was applied in most cases to investigate them, the early Christian basilicas of Greece and in particular those excavated long ago (i.e. the majority of the known examples) are largely being ignored by modern scholarship or regarded as obsolete. However, we clearly cannot dismiss churches as archaeological evidence purely on the basis of the way in which they have been examined in the past. 
Through a number of examples taken from the excavation of the Episcopal Basilica of Dion in Northern Greece, the key one being that of a triconch building annexed to the church, we will attempt to illustrate the notion that our most substantial data sets for Late Antique Greece, the early Christian basilicas, still have much to offer to the archaeological research of the period. Our focus will be on a new interpretation of the function of the triconch, which gives a new turn to the issue of the overall shape and organization of the episcopal complex of Dion and will hopefully make a contribution to the study of the episcopal residences in Greece.

The “Greek” popes: the last hope for a Byzantine Rome

The “Greek” popes: the last hope for a Byzantine Rome

Presented by Giandomenico Ferrazza (Università degli studi Roma Tre)

The Whitting Room (Arts 436), University of Birmingham

5:15 PM 16th May 2018

Between the late 7th and the early 8th Centuries eleven bishops of Rome were “Greeks”, Greek-speakers born in Sicily or in the eastern regions of the Mediterranean world. Many historians labelled those years as the «Byzantine captivity» of the papacy, assuming that “Greek” popes necessarily were imposed by a Byzantine Emperor. On the contrary, others argued that «Greek popes did not matter» (Thomas Noble), because the city of Rome was politically already Byzantine and culturally Greek, point of arrival of a considerable migration of Easterners who simply rose through the ranks of the Roman ecclesiastical hierarchy, gradually and without conflict.
In opposition to these oversimplifying interpretations, I will present an overview of the first 30 years of this period (678-715), trying to show that the “Greek” popes were neither puppets of the Byzantine Emperor nor mere representatives of the Roman clergy, but members of a specific powerful group who successfully managed to maintain the power in the city of Rome for many years. In addition, I will try to show how their “Greekness” did matter, and how it shaped the cultural, political and ideological history of the papacy.

GEM: Performing Michael Attaleiates’ History: A Dramatic Reading of an Eleventh-Century Byzantine Historical Account’

Performing Michael Attaleiates’ History: A Dramatic Reading of an Eleventh-Century Byzantine Historical Account’

Presented by Francisco Lopez-Santos Kornberger

The Whitting Room (Arts 436), University of Birmingham

5:15 PM 9th May 2018

The History of Michael Attaleiates is one of the main eleventh-century Byzantine historical accounts. The narrative analyses events from the period 1034-1080 CE, including a first-hand account of Manzikert, the loss of Anatolia, and the years immediately preceding Alexios Komnenos’ ascension to the throne. It is very likely that the History was partially intended to be read aloud at court, functioning as a digression on the empire’s recent past.
In opposition to recent scholarly work, I approach Attaleiates’ account as a combination of separate moralising stories that lead to the climatic confrontation between the heroic Nikephoros Botaneiates and the tyrant Michael VII Doukas. The History conveys a message of hope in difficult times, also arguing for the protection of the Roman values and institutions.
For this week’s GEM, I will present a synthesis of the History and perform it, underlining the elements that, to my view, were more significant for the narrator’s construction of the historical past.

GEM- The Byzantine Parthenon

The Byzantine Parthenon

Presented by Penny Mantouvalou

The Whitting Room (Arts 436), University of Birmingham

5:30 PM 2nd May 2018

 A marble temple now standing in ruins, situated on top of the Athenian Akropolis, is regarded as the symbol of Greek culture. Visitors from all over the world gather here every year to see what remains of a classical, Ancient Greek monument and learn more about its history.

Today the Parthenon is known as the classical icon, a work of art, which combines excellent architecture in design, scale and originality, as well as a rich sculptural multilayered figurative decoration, which includes a large group of mythological scenes. It has been an inspiration not only to other contemporary temples but also to modern buildings in the West. Nevertheless, the Parthenon adopted other functions and names in the course of history, serving as a Byzantine church and later after 1204 as a Latin one. During the Ottoman period, it was used as a mosque.

 Athens was part of a Byzantine province, which was Christianized following the example of the rest of the empire. As it would be expected the Parthenon’s nature and function changed as well and adapted. The building embraced in time Byzantine culture and Christianity. However, what makes this case unique is the great pagan tradition this temple had, and how this was mixed with the new features. 

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: 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.