Sunday, October 26, 2014

Byzantine Studies Conference, 40th edition, Vancouver, November 2014: Program and Participants

The Byzantine Studies Association of North America organizes the 40th Annual Conference in vancouver Canada at Simon Fraser University.

The Byzantine Studies Conference was founded in 1975 and is the premier venue for the presentation and discussion of papers embodying current research on all aspects of Byzantine history and culture in North America. The BSC meets in October or November in a different city every year. Roughly 75 papers are presented and discussed in a relaxed but professional atmosphere. Graduate students are strongly encouraged to attend and may compete for prizes for the best papers. The BSC is also the occasion for the annual BSANA business meeting. BSANA is incorporated in the state of Florida.
Click here to access the conference website 

Saturday, October 25, 2014


A. Kaldellis: The Hagiography of Doubt and Scepticism

A. Kaldellis' chapter from The Companion to Byzantine Hagiography (ed. S. Efthymiadis) is available online.
Scepticism in religious matters is not what comes to mind when we think of Byzantium. In fact, it is routinely asserted that there was no such thing, indeed that it could not have existed because a credulous religious mentality was allegedly pervasive and overpowering. To quote only one scholar, A.H.M. Jones: ‘Sceptics and rationalists, if they existed, have left no mark on history and literature’.1 This belief, however, is the result of a commitment to a particular view of the ‘essence’ of Byzantine culture that rests on modern needs and inventions. Ironically, the genre that testifies powerfully to the ubiquitous presence of scepticism is hagiography, the very corpus that is commonly cited to prove the opposite case. The recurring figure of the man who doubts the saint’s power and expresses scepticism at his alleged miracles, only to be struck down by God and eventually converted, has been taken as proof that Byzantium was a thoroughly saint-fearing society. But it can also be taken to prove the opposite. Thousands of miracles – allegedly witnessed, then celebrated and often retold – failed to overcome innate human incredulity, which had to be confronted anew in each text. The pervasive scepticism attested in the sources reflects the literary strategies through which hagiographers hoped to counter fully anticipated reactions. The expectation of credulity is modern; the Byzantine hagiographer knew that he had a much more critical readership. Literary strategies reveal, through anticipation, cognitive and social patterns of reaction to new exemplars of holiness.
Click here to read the article

Digitized manuscripts: Medieval Arabic translations of Greek treatises on mathematics by Euclid

The newly inaugurated Digital Library of Qatar has fascinating Arabic manuscripts in digital form. Here is a 13th c manuscript of Euclid.
Click here to access the manuscript and to explore other medieval books.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Free book chapter: The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World

An event which influenced the history of both Byzantium and the Western states, the crusades pose many problems to the researchers of today.
Were the crusades a Holy War in Byzantium?
The late G.T. Dennis tried to give an answer to this question in a Dumbarton Oaks volume.
Click here to read more


KU Leuven announces a new conference on literary culture in early Chrisitanity:
The intellectual landscape of the Classical world was radically altered by the rise and spread of Christianity, which brought about a transformation of moral and cultural values, beliefs and attitudes. Profound changes also occurred in the practical and theoretical approaches to languages as cognitive, ethnic and cultural phenomena. The linguistic horizon of Western scholars was considerably widened through direct acquaintance with the Old Testament languages (Hebrew and Aramaic); at the same time Early Christian authors became increasingly aware of the startling linguistic diversity within the Roman world and outside of it.
Read more

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The complete list of digitized manuscripts from the Vatican Library

You can consult here the complete here the complete list of digitized manuscripts from the Vatican Library

New book: Missionary Stories and the Formation of the Syriac Churches

From California University Press a new book by Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent Missionary Stories and the Formation of the Syriac Churches.
This book analyzes the hagiographic traditions of six missionary saints in the Syriac heritage: Thomas, Addai, Mari, Simeon of Beth Arsham, Jacob Baradaeus, and Ahoudemmeh. Saint-Laurent studies a body of legends about missionaries' voyages in the Syrian Orient and illustrates their shared symbols and motifs. Revealing how these texts encapsulate the concerns of the communities that wrote them, she draws attention to the role of hagiography as a malleable genre that was well suited for the idealized presentation of the beginnings of Christian communities. Hagiographers, through their reworking of missionary themes, assert autonomy, orthodoxy, and apostolicity for their individual civic and monastic communities, posturing themselves in relationship to the rulers of their empire and other competing forms of Christianity. She argues that missionary hagiography is an important and neglected source for understanding the development of the East and West Syriac ecclesiastical bodies: the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of the East. Many of these Syriac-speaking churches remain today in the Middle East and India, with diaspora communities in Europe and North America. While Saint-Laurent focuses on late antiquity in Missionary Stories and the Formation of the Syriac Churches, her work opens up further study of the role of saints and stories as symbolic links between ancient and modern traditions.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pilgrimages to Jerusalem in Byzantium

As a large scale social and religious phenomenon in Byzantium, pilgrimages produced a good number of texts and other source materials.
A recent brief article from Bible History Daily discusses the Byzantine pilgrimage.
Jerusalem has been revered as a holy city for millennia—with pilgrims a staple feature in its bustling streets. Egeria’s Travels and the journals of the Bordeaux Pilgrim and the Piacenza Pilgrim demonstrate that this was as true in the Byzantine period as it is today.
Click here to read it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Byzantine local complex discovered in Israel

Israel's Antiquities Authority announced a recent discovery of a compound near Beit Shemeish dating from the Byzantine era.

The complex consists of olive presses, mosaics, and wine presses.

Irene Zilberbod and Tehila Libman, excavation directors for the Antiquities Authority said:

It is true we did not find a church at the site or an inscription or any other unequivocal evidence of religious worship. Nevertheless, the impressive construction, the dating to the Byzantine period, the magnificent mosaic floors, window and roof tile artifacts, as well as the agricultural-industrial installations inside the dwelling compound are all known to us from numerous other contemporary monasteries.
Click here for the full report 

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