February 14—Felix Szabo, Servants of the Lord: Eunuchs in Middle Byzantine Christianity (843-1204 CE)

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium is pleased to announce our next meeting:

Servants of the Lord: Eunuchs in Middle
Byzantine Christianity (843-1204 CE)


The monk Sabas instructs the emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates.
Bibliothèque National de France MS Coislin 79, f. 2bis-r (ca. 1078-1081).

Felix Szabo
Ph. D. Student, University of Chicago (History)

For more than a thousand years, eunuchs constituted a small but highly visible population at the heart the Byzantine courtly elite. Yet in a society like Byzantium, which viewed itself as a divinely-appointed synthesis of the glory of antiquity and Christ’s kingdom on Earth, what can we really say about social perceptions and roles without an equally thorough consideration of their religious contexts? Throughout the Middle Byzantine period, eunuchs continued to seek active participation in the fullness of Christian life; this participation, however, differs from that of both men and women, in significant, thoughtful, and at times apparently deliberate ways. These eunuch-specific practices, along with the social contexts that allowed them to take shape, offer valuable insight (and a tantalizing glimpse) into devotional practices on the medieval margins—practices that have, until now, been generally ignored.

Tuesday, February 14 — 4:30 pm in CWAC 156

We look forward to seeing you there!

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February 8—Dörthe Führer, Geoffrey of Vitry’s Commentary on the Medieval Alexander Epic

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium is pleased to announce our next meeting:

Geoffrey of Vitry’s Commentary
on the Medieval Alexander Epic


Alexander the Great unhorses Porus, King of India. British Library Royal MS 20 B XX, f. 53r (ca. 1420-1425).

Prof. Dörthe Führer
University of Zurich

Soon after its first appearance in the late 12th century, the Alexandreis of Walter of Châtillon—a medieval Latin epic poem on the life and deeds of Alexander the Great—enjoyed great popularity as a school text. In surviving manuscripts, the poem’s accompanying commentary is often supplemented, revised, or otherwise altered by individual scribes; yet the bulk of this commentary remains essentially derived from that of Geoffrey of Vitry. Geoffrey’s commentary includes linguistic curiosities, poetic techniques, and other essential background information for students of the Alexandreis. Establishing the contents of Geoffrey’s commentary has not been easy: the present edition is based on four core manuscripts containing consistent, thorough, and ample commentary, out of a total 48 commented copies of the Alexandreis. What can this edition of Geoffrey’s commentary reveal about his educational approach—about his background, resources, and didactic goals?

Wednesday, February 8 — 4:30 pm in JRL 207

Please note the unusual day and location—we look forward to seeing you there!

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January 31—Kelly Holob, Rational Worship and Harmonization in the Hymns of Synesius of Cyrene

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium is pleased to announce our next meeting:

Rational Worship and Harmonization
in the Hymns of Synesius of Cyrene


Eitharide muse in neo-attic style (2nd-1st c. BCE, Archaeological Museum, Istanbul)
Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.

Kelly Holob
Ph. D. Student, University of Chicago Divinity School

Synesius of Cyrene, a politician, philosopher, and bishop active at the end of the fourth century, is an important witness for late antique hymns, especially those written within the Platonic tradition. This paper puts Synesius into conversation with the Corpus Hermeticum, Proclus, and other ancient hymnists, arguing that doing so allows us to more clearly see the function of these hymns; namely, purifying the hymnist and helping him realize the proper activity of human beings, returning images (eikones) of God to God in the form of praise. These images are arrived at through scientific investigations of the world and the nous, and such investigations are a necessary component of these hymns. In other words, human nature is to study nature, resulting in the spontaneous collection and recitation of that knowledge to the One who created nature.

Tuesday, January 31 — 4:30 pm in CWAC 156

We look forward to seeing you there!

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January 17—Christopher A. Faraone, A Medieval Copper Plaque from Egypt (Louvre inv. AD 00372): Composite Amulet or Pattern-Book for Making Individual Body-Amulets?

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium is pleased to announce our first meeting of Winter Quarter 2017:

A Copper Plaque in the Louvre:
the Transformation of Greek Amulets in Late-Antique Egypt

Louvre inv. AD 00372

Christopher A. Faraone
Professor of Classics, Frank and Gertrude Springer Professor in the Humanities and the College

A copper plaque purchased in Egypt, probably near Luxor, was donated in the 1840s to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and eventually made its way into the Egyptian collection of the Louvre. This paper will argue that this unique piece is a “pattern-book” originally designed to be hung on the wall of a studio in order to remind an artisan how to make amulets for eye-disease, stomachache and other problems by carving or drawing the six designs and the texts that accompany them. Its designs date back to the Roman period and were altered at some point probably by a Christian or an artisan with Christian clientele, who suppressed and Christianized some of the more troubling pagan details (e.g. animal-headed gods). The version in the Louvre is even later: the Arabic inscription in the top left corner of the obverse tells us that the date of its manufacture was probably in the 8th or 9th century CE.

Tuesday, January 17 — 4:30 pm in CWAC 156

We look forward to seeing you there!

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November 22—Anita Jambrek, Thief, Donor, Potentate, and Mourner: The Story of the Shrine

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium is pleased to announce our next meeting:

Thief, Donor, Potentate, and Mourner: The Story of the Shrine


The Chest of St. Simeon (detail).
Scanned from Ivo Petricioli, St. Simeon’s Shrine in Zadar (Zagreb: Drago Zdunić, 1983).

Anita Jambrek
Ph. D. Student, University of Chicago Divinity School

The golden shrine (sarcophagus) commissioned in 1378 by Hungarian Queen Elisabeth Kotromanić is the most important piece of evidence for the cult of St. Simeon in the Adriatic. The shrine is of prismatic shape with a roof on top, decorated with various scenes of Biblical, historical, and personal events. By focusing on the four representations of Elisabeth, this paper will trace her role in the making of the shrine and the development of the cult of St. Simeon.

Tuesday, November 22 — 4:30 pm in CWAC 152

We look forward to seeing you there!

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November 15—Julian Führer, Phantoms of Literacy: Communication through Letters and Charters in the Early Middle Ages (6-8th c.)

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium, in collaboration with the Medieval Studies Workshop, is pleased to announce our next meeting:

Phantoms of Literacy: Communication through Letters and Charters in the Early Middle Ages (6-8th c.)

sang-190-p-3
St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang 190, p. 3

Dr. Julian Führer
University of Zürich

When we read early medieval letters and charters, how much do they convey a reliable idea of actual written communication? This talk will examine the legal requirements of writing down transactions, the control exercised over the use of the written word (especially in religious contexts), and the social background of writing letters. The difference between late antique and early medieval literacy originated in political, religious, social, and material factors—all of which are relevant for the transmission of these texts.

Tuesday, November 15 — 4:30 pm in CWAC 153

We look forward to seeing you there!

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October 11—Zach Ralston, The Reception of the Mandylion at Constantinople

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium is pleased to announce our next meeting:

The Reception of the Mandylion at Constantinople

romanos-lekapenos-receives-the-mandylionMadrid Skylitzes (Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, MS Graecus Vitr. 26-2), fol. 131 r

Zach Ralston
MA Student, University of Chicago Divinity School

The Mandylion, one of the most widely known acheiropoieta (icons not made by human hand), was simultaneously an icon and a contact relic. Stored in the church of the Virgin of the Pharos with other relics associated with the life of Christ, the Mandylion functioned not only as a relic-image of the miracle of God Made Flesh, but also an object that takes part in the mystery. Though deeply associated with the miracle of the Incarnation, Constantinopolitan liturgy and rhetoric used the Mandylion as a multi-layered theological and political statement about the God-protected status of Constantinople and the imperial office by typological comparison with Scripture’s most sacred holy object: the Ark of the Covenant.

Tuesday, October 11 — 4:30 pm in CWAC 156

We look forward to seeing you there!

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October 4—Michael Allen, Rome and Its Visitors in the Early Middle Ages: the Itinerarium Einsidlense Reconsidered

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium is pleased to announce our next meeting:

Rome and Its Visitors in the Early Middle Ages:
the Itinerarium Einsidlense Reconsidered

Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, Codex 326(1076), f. 77v + f. 78r – Manuscript of collected works

Michael I. Allen
Associate Professor of Classics and the College, and Associate in History

The manuscript usually known as the Itinerarium Einsidlense is a small book with a large reach. Our only source for certain inscriptions and visitors’ itineraries of early Medieval Rome, the task of adequately and coherently representing its content has remained unfulfilled; reflecting more, and nearer to the parchment, on its content, inner workings, and possible hidden workings brings us closer to some real contours of friendship and duty toward the past, and as pilgrim in the present.

Tuesday, October 4 — 4:30 pm in CWAC 156

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Welcome Back! Autumn Quarter 2016

Welcome back to another year at the Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium! We are pleased to announce our schedule for Autumn Quarter 2016—please be sure to mark your calendars!

October 4

Rome and Its Visitors in the Early Middle Ages:
the Itinerarium Einsidlense Reconsidered

Prof. Michael Allen (University of Chicago, Classics)

October 11

The Reception of the Mandylion at Constantinople

Zach Ralston, MA Student (University of Chicago, Divinity)

November 15

Phantoms of Literacy: Communication through Letters and
Charters in the Early Middle Ages (6-8th centuries)

Prof. Julian Führer (Historisches Seminar der Universität Zürich)

N.B.: This meeting will be co-sponsored with
the Medieval Studies workshop; location TBD.

November 22

Thief, Donor, Potentate, and Mourner: The Story of the Shrine

Anita Jambrek, Ph. D. Student (University of Chicago, Divinity)

November 29

A Medieval Copper Plaque from Egypt (Louvre inv. AD 00372):
Composite Amulet or Pattern-Book for Making Individual Body-Amulets?

Prof. Chris Faraone (University of Chicago, Classics)

All meetings, unless otherwise noted, will be held on Tuesday afternoons at 4:30 pm in the Cochrane-Woods Art Center, room 156. Refreshments, as always, will follow. Stay tuned for more information both here and on our mailing list; in the meantime, please direct any questions, accessibility requests, or other inquiries to Felix Szabo (pheletes@uchicago.edu).

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

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May 10 – Kelly Andino

The Workshop on Late Antiquity and Byzantium is pleased to announce its next meeting.

Kelly Andino will present “The Holy Sepulchre until the Siege of Jerusalem: An Examination of the Late Antique Texts, Archaeological Evidence, and Material Sources.”

This paper will attempt to reconstruct the history of the early life of the Basilica Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem until the seventh century, relying upon textual and material sources to reconfigure a narrative of both the physical building and its role within Byzantine religion and culture.

Please join us on Tuesday, May 10th, at 4:30 pm in CWAC 152.

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