Byzantium in the 15th century is too easily dismissed as the anachronistic tail end of an ancient ecumenical empire, whose only achievements, apart from the heroic last stand of Constantinople in 1453, were the contribution of literary Hellenism to Renaissance humanism, and the preservation of Orthodoxy from the encroachment of Catholicism. This book argues that in struggling to survive as a small fortified enclave at the heart of Ottoman territory, Byzantium adopted the social structure and political ideology of a secular, territorial city-state on the Italian model. It thus presents the empire of the last Palaiologoi in an entirely new light.Emma Maayan Fanar, Revelation through the Alphabet. Aniconism and Illustrated Initial Letters in Byzantine Artistic Imagination
The book explores aniconic tendencies in the post-iconoclastic lectionaries, with special emphasis on illuminated initial letters, unravelling their sources and models and offering an innovative approach to the enigma of their sudden and widespread appearance in the late ninth- and tenth-century Byzantine manuscripts. The unique position of illuminated letters, as part of the text on one hand and of the pictorial programme on the other, creates a variety of artistic possibilities concerning their forms and meanings, which transcend other forms of manuscript illumination. The timing of their spreading, notably the end of the ninth century, is not accidental but deeply tied to the fundamental changes in Byzantine art and thought after the iconoclastic period.