Keynote Speakers

PROF. ALBRECHT BERGER (Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich)

Re-Writing the Urban History of Constantinople

After its foundation in the early fourth century on the site of ancient Byzantium, Constantinople rose, within a few decades, to the rank of capital of the eastern Roman empire. But although Byzantium had a long and distinguished history, it obviously lacked a number of qualities that were deemed necessary for a predecessor of the new political and ecclesiastical centre: Byzantium had never been the seat of the empire before; it had only a few ancient monuments and almost no Christian past.

My lecture tries to demonstrate how this defect was cured, in a first phase, by importing antiquities and martyrs, and by inventing an urban history worthy to a city of this importance and how this invented history was later reshaped and rewritten, according to the needs of the changing times. Constantinople finally became, in the imagination of its inhabitants, the last, apocalyptical capital of the Roman empire, whose future downfall meant the end of empire and of the whole world.


Prof. Albrecht Berger completed his M.A. in Byzantine Studies, Byzantine Art History and Latin Philology of the Middle Ages in Munich in 1981, worked as a research assistant at the Free University of Berlin from 1984 to 1989, where he did also his PhD (Dr. phil.) dissertation, and at the Istanbul branch of the German Archaeological Institute from 1992 to 1997. He also held various fellowships, and is professor of Byzantine Studies at the University of Munich since 2003. His research interests are the historical topography of Constantinople and Asia Minor, Byzantine hagiography and Phanariotic literature. Currently he works, as a member of a research group, on a new edition of the Church History of Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos. Among his publications are: Studies on the Patria Konstantinoupoleos (1988), The Life of Saint Gregory of Agrigentum (1993), and Life and works of Saint Gregentios, Archbishop of Taphar (2006).


PROF. RUBINA RAJA (Aarhus University)

Marking Religious Identity in Eastern Mediterranean Late Antique Urban Landscapes: Churches as Signs of Cultural Continuity and Change

This lecture will address church buildings in the Late Antique Near East. Focus will be on contextualizing some of these buildings in the urban landscapes of which they were part. Through selected case studies questions of cultural continuity and change will be addressed. In particular the question about the common cultural koiné and shifting religious identities in Late Antiquity will be discussed through archaeological and epigraphic evidence.


Rubina Raja is a Professor of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark. Her research interests are Greco-Roman Near East, urban cultures in antiquity, religion and culture in antiquity and late antiquity, iconography, archaeological methods and natural science. Prof. Raja is the author of Urban Development and Regional Identity in the Eastern Roman Provinces, 50 BC – AD 250: Aphrodisias, Ephesos, Athens, Gerasa (Museum Tusculanum, Copenhagen, 2012) and she is involved in several international projects.


PROF. PHILIP WOOD (Aga Khan University, London)

Khusrau II Aparavaz and the Christians of His Empire (c.585–630)

The last war of Rome and Persia, under Heraclius and Khusrau II, has often been seen as a conflict between two religions, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. This vision follows the presentation of the Roman sources, which emphasize supposed Persian atrocities in the Holy Land and the martyrdom of Christian holy men at the court in Ctesiphon. This paper uses medieval Christian Arabic sources to attempt to reconstruct attitudes to the shah among Christians in the Sasanian world, which seem to have been much more favourable. In particular, I focus on the election of the catholicos Sabrisho, and the production of a 'loyalist' saint's life from within the Sasanian capital.


Dr. Philip Wood completed his DPhil at St John’s College, Oxford in 2007, followed by a British Academy post-doctoral Fellowship at Corpus Christi. His research considers the intersection of political and religious ideas in the late antique Middle East. His doctorate was published as an OUP monograph in 2010, and it will soon be followed by a second monograph based on his post-doc, The Chronicle of Seert. The Christian Historical Imagination in Late Antique Iraq, which focuses on the writing of history by Christians in Sasanian and Abbasid Iraq. Dr. Wood has taught the political and cultural history of late antiquity at Oxford and Cambridge universities for the last six years. He has also taught the same period at SOAS focusing on Martyrdom and Monasticism in the Near East within the department of the Study of Religions. Dr. Wood was previously Osborn Fellow in early medieval history at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and a Director of Studies in history.