Participants & Abstracts
Christian Historiography between Empires (4th–8th Centuries)
October 24–25, 2014 at Central European University in Budapest
Nikoloz Alexidze (University of Oxford)
Nikoloz Aleksidze is currently a research associate at the University of Oxford (Cult of Saints Project, Faculty of History). In 2013-2014 he worked as Dean of School of Social Sciences at Free University of Tbilisi, having previously completed his doctoral studies at Oxford (Faculty of Oriental Studies). His thesis entitled Making, Remembering and Forgetting the Late Antique Caucasus, is soon to appear as a monograph. Earlier, in 2009, he received his Masters degree from Central European University’s Department of Medieval Studies.
TITLE: Narrating about the Beginnings: The Interpretive Schemata of Caucasian History
ABSTRACT: In the early seventh century an active exchange of letters was initiated between the Armenian and Georgian Church hierarchs over doctrinal and ecclesiastical matters. As a result a dramatic controversy broke out, which led to the so-called Caucasian Church Schism. This correspondence was in the tenth century edited by the Armenian Historian Uxtanes of Sebastia, who also adduced commentaries and tried to reproduce a coherent account of the events that led to the Schism. It is usually considered that the Schism exercised a tremendous impact on subsequent Armenian and Georgian historical writing. As a result, one often reads in contemporary scholarship about a pre- and post-schismal historical writing, which to my mind is a misconception. In my book I am arguing that the Schism rather than being a “tangible” historical event is itself a rhetorical construct “invented” by Uxtanes and re-invented throughout the Middle Ages and even in contemporary historiography. Through the process of reinvention the Schism became a kind of an interpretive tool or a narrative prism, through which medieval Armenian narratives read the “pre-Schismal” Caucasian history. The Schism as a narrative prism was employed particularly when reading the “foundation” of Christian Caucasian cultures, notably the Christianisation of Albania, Armenia and Georgia and the creation of their literacies – two vexed questions of contemporary Caucasian scholarship. What remains striking is that the Schism retains exact same interpretive features in contemporary scholarly discourse. I shall demonstrate how medieval Armenian and Georgian historical narratives, chronicles, ecclesiastical histories and hagiographies tried to construct the story of the beginnings of Caucasian cultures by creating a myth of Caucasian ecclesiastical unity and of separation.
Phil Booth (University of Oxford)
Phil Booth is A. G. Leventis Lecturer in Eastern Christianity at the University of Oxford. He completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2008, and held postdoctoral fellowships at Oxford and at Cambridge before assuming his current position in 2012. His first monograph, Crisis of Empire: Doctrine and Dissent at the End of Late Antiquity, explored the shifting ideological, doctrinal and political preoccupations of a group of itinerant Palestinian ascetics in the crisis of the seventh-century Roman empire, and appeared with the University of California Press in 2013. He is currently working on a new translation of and commentary on the seventh-century Chronicle of John of Nikiu, as part of a wider project on the transition from Roman to Islamic rule in Egypt.
TITLE: Coptic Narratives from Roman to Islamic Rule: The Chronicle of John of Nikiu
ABSTRACT: In recent decades various aspects of the traditional narrative of the transition from Roman to Islamic rule within Egypt have been challenged: for example, the presence of a ‘nationalist’ sentiment coterminous with a miaphysite confession, and a subsequent hostility to ‘Roman’ rule; the literary use of Coptic as indicative of such a sentiment; and the existence of a monolithic, reified group (‘the Copts’, ‘the miaphysites’) which reacted in concert to the advent of Islam. Nevertheless the temptation remains to plot all Coptic literature along a single trajectory starting from opposition to Rome and ending in acceptance of Islam. This paper attempts to recapture something of the complexity and diversity of Coptic narratives composed under early Islam through examining the Chronicle of John of Nikiu, a prominent Christian bishop active in the second half of the seventh century. Against those scholars who attempt to read into the text evidence for a nascent Egyptian nationalism which identified with the Pharaonic past, or a ‘provincialisation’ of the Egyptian mental universe concomitant with the province's removal from the Roman empire, this paper emphasises John’s continued commitment to a Mediterranean vision of the past, and his ambiguous position on the Islamic present, and contrasts that perspective with the competing (and, ultimately, more successful) narratives of his close contemporaries.
Christian Boudignon (Aix-Marseille University)
Dr Christian Boudignon is Lecturer of classics at Aix-Marseille University and Paul-Albert Février Research Center (CNRS). He has published the critical edition of Maximus the Confessor's Mystagogia (Corpus Christianorum Series Graeca 69, Turnhout-Leuven, 2011). He has written several papers on the history of Christianity in late Antiquity, especially on Maximus the Confessor's biography and thought, Sophronius, Abu Qurra, the Doctrina Jacobi.
TITLE: The source of the 1st part of patriarch Nicephorus’s Breviarium (Ἱστορία σύντομος) : ideology, milieu and date
ABSTRACT: The first part of Nicephorus’s Breviarium (ch. 1-32) deals with the reign of emperor Heraclius (610-641). One of the main topics of the Short History is the problem of the second and controversial marriage of Heraclius with his niece Martina. For the redactor of the Breviarium or for his source, this is the very reason of the collapse of the Empire in Orient, as says Heraclius’s brother, Theodorus « his sin is continually before him » (ch. 20). We will make the hypothesis that the source of the first part of Nicephorus’s Breviarium comes from the monothelite patriarchal circle of Constantinople. For the date of this source, it fits with Pyrrhus’s second patriarchate (654) or with the first years of Peter’s patriarchate. In this sense, we will compare Nicephorus’s Breviarium to several letters of Maximus the Confessor addressed to Constantinopolitan officials and to some writings about Maximus’s debate with Constantinopolitan clergymen in 656.
Maria Conterno (Ghent University)
Dr. Maria Conterno studies the contacts and exchanges among Greek, Syriac and Arab-Christian cultures in Late Antiquity and Byzantium. After obtaining her PhD in Florence (Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane), she worked in the United States (Princeton, Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies) and in Paris (Laboratoire RESMED, CNRS-Paris Sorbonne-Collège de France). She currently holds a post-doctoral position in the History Department of Ghent University (Belgium), within the ERC-funded project "Memory of Empire: the Post-Imperial Historiography of Late Antiquity", and her research focuses on the origins of Christian Arabic historiography. Her first monograph, on the relationships between Theophanes Confessor’s Chronographia and the Syriac chronicles, has newly appeared.
TITLE: Historiography across the borders: the case of Islamic material in Theophanes’ Chronographia
ABSTRACT: Since Lawrence Conrad’s groundbreaking article “Theophanes and the Arabic Historical Tradition: Some Indications of Intercultural Transmission” (1990) much has been written about Theophanes Confessor’s “Oriental Source”. Conrad’s hypothesis – the identification of Theophanes’ “Oriental Source” with a Greek translation-continuation of Theophilus of Edessa’s lost historical work – has been called into question by recent scholarship. A more nuanced picture of the circulation of historical knowledge in late antique and early Islamic Near East is gradually emerging, thanks also to the greater attention being now paid to non-Islamic sources in the research on early Islamic historiography. The evaluation of Theophanes’ Islamic material proposed by Conrad more than twenty years ago needs to be revised in the light of such developments. I will select some interesting or problematic items from the material of (supposed) Islamic origin in the Chronographia in order to discuss them at the workshop, pointing out correspondences or significant echoes in the Islamic tradition and in East-Christian sources. The discussion will benefit from the cross-disciplinary competences of the participants, who may call my attention upon relevant details that have eluded me, and provide competent feed-back on aspects that fall outside my field of expertise. Such a round-table conversation will aim not so much at drawing a new stemma fontium of Theophanes’ oriental material, as at gaining a better insight into the ways in which this material might have been trasmitted from the Islamic to the Christian milieu and, therefore, into the production and circulation of historiographical records in the Near East in the 7th-8th centuries.
Johannes Den Heijer (Université catholique de Louvain)
Johannes den Heijer is Professor Ordinarius of Arabic language and literature at the Université catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium) and President of the Centre d’études orientales - Institut orientaliste de Louvain (CIOL). He studied Semitic languages and cultures at Leiden University where he obtained his doctorate in 1989 with a dissertation on Late Antique and Medieval Copto-Arabic historiography. Besides continuation of this specialisation, he has carried out research on Arabic historiography in general, Copto-Arabic literature, translations from Greek, Coptic and Syriac into Arabic, as well as on Arabic epigraphy, dialectology and sociolinguistics. Since 1979 he has taught Arabic language and culture in various institutions. From 1981 to 1986 and from 1995 to 2003 he lived and worked in Cairo, Egypt. In the latter period, he was Director of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC). Earlier on, in 1993, he was appointed fellow (membre scientifique) of the Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO), also in Cairo. After his appointment at the UCL he founded the research group “Texte et diversité au Moyen-Orient” and the “International Copto-Arabic Historiography Project” (ICAHP). He is in charge of the Scriptores arabici series of the Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium (CSCO, Louvain-la-Neuve), and a member of the editorial boards of the reviews Le Muséon (Louvain-la-Neuve) and Eastern Christian art in its late antique and Islamic contexts (Leiden), as well as of the series Publications de l’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve) and Sprachen und Kulturen des Christlichen Orients (Wiesbaden). He is a member of the advisory boards of the Annales Islamologiques (Cairo) and Collectanea Christiana Orientalia (Córdoba).
PROJECT PRESENTATION: The International Copto-Arabic Historiography Project (ICAHP)
The Arabic text of the “History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria”, characterized by an open, perhaps fluid and certainly dynamic process of text transmission, is best considered a complex historiographical tradition rather than a single coherent work, since various authors, redactors and “intelligent” scribes or copyists were involved in its composition and transmission: the first part of the corpus consists of an adapted translation of earlier Coptic sources – one of which in its turn depends on the Greek of Eusebius of Caesarea – , while the second part was written directly in Arabic from the 11th century onwards. Despite the obvious importance of its so-called “primitive” recension, which is more ancient and closer to the Coptic sources of the first part than the more widely known later adaptations known under the (recently contested) name of “Vulgate”, the former is still not available in a critical edition. Since 2009, such an edition of a this primitive recension, with English and French annotated translations, is being prepared in a collective effort and within the framework of the International Copto-Arabic Historiography Project (ICAHP), co-ordinated at the Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. In a brief and mostly informative presentation, the methodological and practical challenges of this project will be presented, with a focus on the first part of the corpus and its relevance for some of the research questions discussed at the present workshop on Christian Historiography between Empires, such as how to assess the socio-cultural settings in which the various layers of the text must have been composed, translated, elaborated and transmitted, and how to account for their linguistic features, which are directly related to the intricate issue of “high brow” vs. “popular” historical writing.
Nino Doborjginidze (Ilia State University, Tbilisi)
Nino Doborjginidze, Professor at Ilia State University, Director of the Institute of Linguistic Research. Research interests and fields: Critical edition and study of medieval Georgian sources; the emancipation of the Georgian language in the Middle Ages; language modeling and corpus linguistics, bilingual corpora of old Georgian sources (Kartlis Tskhovreba/ Georgian Chronicles, the Georgian-Armenian corpus, the Vepkhistkaosani parallel Georgian-English corpus, Old Georgian translations corpus).
TITLE: Stereotypes (topoi) of Medieval Georgian Historiography
ABSTRACT: This paper considers historiographical stereotypes of Late Antiquity and Middle Ages (Flavius Josephus, Julius Africanus, George Hamartolos), which largely determined the character of old Georgian historical narratives. These topoi of universal history served as the basis for the ‘guiding’ texts of old Georgian historiography (Leonti Mroveli). The arguments are mainly focused on two questions: a. The stereotype developed in old Georgian hagiography, which shaped the role and functions of Kartli (Georgia) as a part of the Christian world (Iovane Sabanisdze); b. The stereotype developed in the Georgian historical prose that shaped the self-identity of medieval Georgian scholars, the culture-bearing core group (Georgian Athonites, Leonti Mroveli).
Niels Gaul (CEU)
Niels Gaul is an associate professor of Byzantine studies at Central European University. He received his PhD from Bonn University in 2005 and is interested in the societal repercussions of rhetoric and rhetorical performances in post-iconoclast Byzantium; his monograph on Thomas Magistros und die spätbyzantinische Sophistik was published in 2011.
TITLE: The Aftermath of “Senatorial Historiography”: From Theophanes to Theophanes Continuatus
ABSTRACT: With regard to (early) middle Byzantine historiography, the format—from chronological/annalistic to so-called “imperial biographies”—and Quellenforschung have been in the focus of research; when it comes to the historiographers behind the text, it is mostly their theological and/or ecclesial/monastic affiliations that have been scrutinized in order to understand their evaluations of imperial performances. And indeed, such invaluable efforts constitute the conditio sine qua non for our understanding of Byzantine historiography from c.800 (Theophanes Homologetes; Nikephoros) to c.950 (the so-called Theophanes Continuatus) and the shifts of style, scope, and format which famously occurred during this period. Taking as its point of departure Averil Cameron’s caveat that “the single term ‘élite’ is too blunt a tool to be of much real use to the historian except at the macro level,” my paper seeks to interpret the handful of (élite) historiographers we know of from their respective social contexts. While the early eighth-century historiographers have quite clearly emerged as members of an “older senatorial élite” (Haldon) who still drew, certainly in Theophanes’ case, on sources from the wider Christian oikoumenē, Emperor Konstantinos VII (r. 913/45–959), when literally—and solely so in the Byzantine millennium—promulgating his imperial vision of history about a hundred and fifty years later, relied on entirely new (in fact, anonymized) voices, and did so in a very different framework. Inserting Niketas David Paphlagon’s lost and thus oft-neglected Apokryphos historia into the discussion, I shall trace this underlying shift and its implications, looking by means of example at the roles assigned to the positive figure of Theophanes Homologetes, to which Konstantinos VII famously linked himself, and “infamous” Michael III (r. 842–867), respectively.
György Geréby (CEU)
György Geréby is associate professor at the Medieval Studies Department of the Central European University. He taught at ELTE (Budapest), in Liverpool, at Rutgers University and last year he was Keeley Visiting Fellow at Wadham College, Oxford. His research interests are in the history of ideas. At the Department he teaches mainly Medieval and Late Antique philosophy and theology. His recent book was on political theology, Isten és birodalom (God and empire). Currently he is finishing a commentary on the Protevangelium of James, a document of late second century polemical narrative theology
TITLE: Eusebius of Caesarea and the normative history of the Christian empire
ABSTRACT: Eusebius has been often accused with an unprincipled support for Constantine, and thereby for the Christianized Roman Empire (after Gibbon, Burckhardt, and others). Despite T. Barnes' research showing that Eusebius hardly met Constantine in person, the sobriquet "courtier theologian" continues to characterize his enterprise. In this paper I will try to show that Eusebius followed a principled theological agenda, present already in Melito and, then, more emphatically in Origen, which assigned a role to the empire in the history of salvation. Eusebius' understanding of history was much in tune with that of Julius Africanus, except for working on a much grander scale. I will suggest that Eusebius' support for the first Christian emperor can be interpreted not as a manifestation of political opportunism but rather a consequence of his conviction that the universal empire is a means to help the spread of the universal gospel of the Christ. The same ideas can be detected in Constantine's Oratio. The principled support for the empire was the reason why Eusebius' program had a lasting influence, reaching down to the twentieth century when it was contested between Carl Schmitt and Erik Peterson in the debate about political theology.
Amir Harrak (University of Toronto)
Full Professor of Aramaic and Syriac, License (Louvain), MA, PhD (Toronto); Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto; President of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies (CSSS) and Chief Editor of the Journal of the CSSS.
Publications: Syriac and Garshuni Manuscripts Owned by the Iraqi Department of Archaeology and Heritage (Leuven: Peeters 2011); Syriac and Garshuni Inscriptions of Iraq, 2 volumes (Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, 2010); Chronicle of Zuqnin Parts III-IV (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1999); Chronicle of Zuqnin Parts I-II (in progress).
TITLE: The Making of a Syriac Chronicler; The Case of the Chronicler of Zuqnin
ABSTRACT: The Chronicler of Zuqnin, most probably Joshua the Stylite, produced a world chronicle going from the creation to the year 775/6 AD. How could a stylite become a chronicler? While editing and translating the entire chronicle of Zuqnin, a massive work, it becomes clear how the author learned chronographical methods from his compiled sources: Eusebius of Caesarea, John of Ephesus, and the short of the Edessene chronicle (early 6th century, usually but wrongly referred to as the Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite), to mention only a few. The latter part of the chronicle going from 750 to 775/6, the author’s personal contribution, contains clear literary indications of his learning how to write a chronicle, including jeremiads in discussing devastating plagues and giving progressively market prices in the context of Upper Syria. Extracts from the chronicle will be presented to illustrate the debt of the chronicler to his major sources.
Robert Hoyland (New York University)
TITLE: History Writing in the Time of Islam's Beginnings
ABSTRACT: For those wishing to write about Islam’s emergence and evolution it is particularly unfortunate that history writing across the Near East would appear to falter at the crucial moment, just as the Arab conquests begin. The genre of secular classicizing history, which had had a continuous tradition stretching all the way back to Thucydides, finds its last exponent in Theophylact of Simocatta, whose narrative ends with the death of Emperor Maurice in AD 602. Church history in Greek, which was initiated in the early fourth century by the venerable Eusebius of Caesarea, though it had a promising start, found no continuator after John of Ephesus, who died in 595. In Syriac it did still find a voice, but that were composed in the seventh and eighth centuries have survived intact, but live on only in excerpts cited by twelfth and thirteenth-century authors. Chronicles fared much better, but even here we possess no texts that were written in the period between the composition of the Greek Chronicon Paschale and the Syriac chronicle of Thomas Presbyter in the 630s on the one side, and the appearance of the Chronicle of 775 and the Chronicle of Zuqnin (also going up to 775) at the other end. The situation might appear to be better when we turn to the Islamic sphere, since the coverage is very full, but the earliest extant chronicle dates only from the 840s, and so again there is a surprising absence. Of course, plenty of Muslim Arabic texts from later years claim to transmit material from the seventh and eighth centuries, and it seems inescapable that some of this material derives from these years, though there is good reason to think that it has been heavily redacted and revised in the course of its transmission. Nevertheless, it is legitimate to ask what history writing was going on in this period and why so little of it survived intact, and that will be the aim of this talk.
Sergey Minov (University of Oxford)
Sergey Minov received his Ph.D. degree in the year 2013 from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Department of Comparative Religion, with a dissertation on the development of Syriac Christian Identity in Late Antiquity, focusing on the composition known as the Cave of Treasures. His research interests include history and culture of Syriac Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations in late ancient Near East, Jewish and Christian biblical exegesis and apocryphal literature. Currently, he is a research associate at the University of Oxford, Faculty of History, working in the project on the cult of saints in Late Antiquity.
TITLE: Rewriting Scripture as an Exercise in Counter-History: Evidence of the Cave of Treasures
ABSTRACT: In my presentation I will deal with the Cave of Treasures, a Christian pseudepigraphical composition written in Syriac during the sixth or early seventh century CE in the territory of Sasanian Mesopotamia. This work, which could be related to the general category of “rewritten Bible,” serves the task of providing the Christian community behind it with a particular version of Heilsgeschichte, where the narratives of both Old and New Testaments are creatively merged into a new account. This new version of sacred history features remarkable innovations that are not found in the canonical narratives and that serve the peculiar agenda of the Cave’s author. The main focus of my analysis will be on discussing how the literary shape of this innovative in many senses work was determined by the particular polemical and apologetic agenda pursued by its author. As I am going to argue, this agenda was driven by the three main concerns: the polemic against Judaism, the critical engagement with Iranian culture, and the assertion of a unique Syriac Christian identity.
István Perczel (CEU)
István Perczel is Professor at the Department of Medieval Studies at Central European University. He works in the fields of Late Antique Philosophy, Patristics, Byzantine intellectual history, Syriac studies and Indian Christianity.
TITLE: Hagiography as a historiographic genre: from Eusebius to Cyril of Scythopolis, Eustratius of Constantinople and John Moschus
ABSTRACT: The paper will propose and illustrate the thesis that the literary genre of Saints’ Lives, often treated as a merely representative genre, was invented as a historiographic genre by Eusebius of Caesarea, who wrote, while the Church was persecuted, the Lives of the Palestinian Martyrs and, when the Church became a dominant force in the Roman Empire, the Life of Constantine. This was part of what we might call his “grand historiographic project”, aiming at presenting the new Christian concept of time and history over against Porphyry’s eternalist position and disparagement of Christianity as an innovation. While apologetic, Eusebius’ had a Mommsenian aim: to found his new perspective on facts and documents. The Eusebian concept survived, although it underwent much modification due to historical circumstances and the evolution of the genre. From the rich survival history of the Eusebian concept the paper will examine three cases and treat the question of how these three – very different – Saints’ Lives can be treated as historiographies and, thus, historical sources for our own historiographic aims. These three cases are the monastic histories of Cyril of Scythopolis, the Life of Patriarch Eutychius by Eustratius – both from the sixth century – and John Moschus’ Spiritual Meadow from the seventh. It will be argued that, for reading such hagiographical pieces as historiography, we need hermeneutical tools appropriate for each piece of literature.
Zara Pogossian (John Cabot University, Rome)
Zara Pogossian teaches history and religion at the John Cabot University (Rome) and Loyola University (Rome Center). She holds an MA and Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from the Central European University (Budapest, Hungary). Her field of specialization is Eastern Christian Churches and their history, with a particular emphasis on the history of Armenia and the Armenian Church during the Middle Ages. Her current research is focused on Armenian apocalyptic traditions, especially from the Cilician period (XI-XIII centuries), but she has explored those also during the Mongol domination of Greater Armenia in the XIII century. She is currently preparing a critical edition of an Armenian Apocalyptic text from the VII century known as Agatangel "On the End of the World". In her research Dr. Pogossian has explored such diverse topics as female asceticism and ascetic communities in early Christian Armenia, the role of women in the spread of Christianity in Armenia, monastic establishments and territory control, as well as monasteries in an inter-religious perspective. She is in general interested in the place of monasteries, especially from the IX c. on, as a form of economic and political control of territories on the part of secular lords/kings. She is the author of a book acclaimed by reviewers ("The Letter of Love and Concord", Brill 2011), as well as numerous articles and book reviews. Pogossian has been the recipient of several prestigious fellowships, such as from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (at the University of Tübingen), Käte Hamburger Collegium at the Center for Religious Studies: Study of the Dynamics in the History of Religions (at the University of Bochum) and the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities: Fate, Freedom and Prognostication. Strategies for Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe (University of Erlangen). She has organized several international conferences and workshops in Germany, Hungary, Italy and France. Pogossian is on the editorial board of an on-line journal Entangled Religions and is the treasurer of the Armenian National Committee of Byzantine Studies (part of the International Association of Byzantine Studies). She is a member of the editorial board of the on-line journal "Entangled Religions" and a new series on the "World of the Black Sea".
TITLE: The Contents and Methodological Considerations on Early Armenian Literary Production
ABSTRACT: This paper will focus on some methodological issues when exploring early Armenian literary production and the way these sources are used in “reconstructing the past”. The distinction between the so-called élite historiography vs more popular genres, such as hagiography, is deliberately blurred in this paper. The purpose is to question whether and how much the Eusebian model fits the Armenian case and what could be conceived of as a “classical” or “classicizing” mode of history-writing in the Armenian context. These concepts not surprisingly meant something different for early Armenian authors (4th to 8th century) compared to their Byzantine counterparts. I will first present the basic problems one has to deal with when working on this corpus of texts, especially with regards to their dating. Then, the issue of genre divisions within the early Armenian sources will be explored with an eye on questions how justified one is when employing a genre¬based methodologies of reading them and reconstructing “the reality” based on such readings. More often than not, even the “classics” of Armenian historiographic writing combine a variety of genres as they have been defined by modern scholarship, such as hagiography, historiography, polemic, epic narrative, and even panegyric in one seemingly coherent composition. Lastly, the paper will address the bearing of these methodological or contents-based considerations on our efforts in “reconstructing the past” and what other types of sources can come to correct or counterbalance this purely textual exercise.
Roger Scott (University of Melbourne)
Roger Scott holds an honorary position in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne after retiring as Reader in Classical Studies. His publications include: Byzantium and the Classical Tradition, Birmingham, 1981 (edited with M. Mullett); The Chronicle of John Malalas: A Translation, Melbourne, 1986 (with E. and M. Jeffreys et al); Studies in John Malalas, Sydney, 1990 (edited with E. Jeffreys and B. Croke); The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284-813, Oxford, 1997 (with Cyril Mango); Byzantine Chronicles and the Sixth Century, Variorum, Farnham, 2012. He is currently working on an annotated translation of the Chronicle of Kedrenos (with J. Burke and P. Tuffin).
TITLE: Malalas and the New Age of Justinian
ABSTRACT: The paper will attempt to show how Malalas' chronicle, itself not greatly informative, can assist in drawing attention to other sources that reveal features present in the sixth century that are not normally emphasised but which herald the changed world of the seventh century. Sixth-century Byzantium (especially Justinian's reign) is usually noted (quite correctly) for its remarkable major achievements: Codification of Law, Hagia Sophia; recovery of Western Empire; and also for its literature, especially classicising works such as Prokopios' Wars and Agathias' Cycle as well as the non-classicising Romanos' Kontakia, and Kosmas Indikopleustes' Christian Topography. Apart from Mischa Meier, Das andere Zeitalter Justinians, Göttingen, 2004) less attention is usually paid to a change in character during the period, difficult to define but probably of greater significance in explaining the onset of a different world of the seventh century. Facets include notably a fear of punishment for dissent, whether social or religious, that led to authors writing in code; reactions to numerous natural disasters, and concern over eschatology; but also an apparent acceptance of the correctness of a more puritanical way of life.
Jan Van Ginkel (VU University, Amsterdam)
Jan van Ginkel is currently a research fellow at VU-University (Amsterdam) for Prof. F. Doufikar-Aerts’ VIDI-project: “Beyond the European Myth. In search of the Afro-Asiatic Alexander Cycle and the Transnational Migration of Ideas and Concepts of Culture and Identity”. He has been working at various universities in projects involving Syriac Historiography, notably John of Ephesus and Michael the Syrian.
TITLE: What makes a good story? Alexander as an exemplum for readers then and now
ABSTRACT: During the reign of Emperor Heraclius (610-641) the Eastern Mediterranean and Near Eastern world were in turmoil. Various groups and nations enjoyed immeasurable success as well as endured unimaginable disasters in a relatively short time. In order to make sense of all these profound and shocking changes in the history of this region various methods were employed. Among the `explanations’ a famous historical figure took centre stage in order to put the changes into context, Alexander the Great. During this period a legendary account of his achievements, The Alexander Romance by Pseudo-Callisthenes, seems to have become very popular and was translated in various languages. In addition the material of that Romance was reworked into new literary works (in the Syriac context: The Christian Alexander Legend (at least 2 versions), The Alexander Song (at least 3 versions), Apocalyptic works like Pseudo-Methodius, A Life of Alexander). In turn these new works became important sources for later Historians – like the anonymous author of the Zuqnin Chronicle. In my presentation I will focus on the boundaries between genres and the selection process of historiographers in using material which WE would not classify as `historical’ using the Alexander `motive’ as illustration.