April 11—Ani Honarchiansaky, Lifting the Yoke of Taxation by Holy Cross: Taxation and Resistance in Sasanian Iran

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

Lifting the Yoke of Taxation by Holy Cross:
Taxation and Resistance in Sasanian Iran

Manuscript gospels ornamented and illustrated with Eusebian harmonies and canons. 1497.

Ani Honarchiansaky
Visiting Ph. D. Student, University of California, Los Angeles

The historic norm has been that government has the authority and right to collect taxes, but when the burden of taxation is on certain segments of a society, a resistance is inevitable. This talk will revisit the narratives about the complex issues of taxation and religion in Sasanian Iran and Persarmenia. In the fourth century, the Syriac-speaking Christians of the Empire were subject to double taxation. A century later, a new census increased taxation on Persarmenia. Through the Armenian and Syriac Martyrdom of Simeon bar Ṣabba’e and his History and Ełishe’s History of Vardan and the Armenian War, this paper will offer one possible method for understanding how Armenian and Syriac narratives constructed the Sasanian imperial policies.

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

We look forward to seeing you there!

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April 4—Jason Osequeda, Constructing a New Jerusalem: Building a Bridge to the Christian Past and Forging a New Identity in Late Antique Constantinople

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

Constructing a New Jerusalem:
Building a Bridge to the Christian Past and
Forging a New Identity in Late Antique Constantinople

Jason Osequeda
Ph. D. Student, University of Chicago (History)

Part of the early struggles of the patriarchs of Constantinople had in establishing their authority in the city was that there was not much Christian tradition for them to claim a part of. Through the translation of relics, patriarchs were able to cultivate a Christian identity that defined itself by a specific doctrine in Constantinople. Relics allowed patriarchs to bring the Christian past into the present in the imperial city and claim continuity with martyrs.

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

We look forward to seeing you there!

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February 28—Maxime Emion, A military and social elite in the Later Roman Empire: protectores Augusti (3rd-6th c. CE)

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

A military and social elite in the Later Roman Empire:
protectores Augusti (3rd-6th c. CE)


Missorium of Theodosius, 4-5th c. CE. Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid.

Maxime Emion
Visiting Ph. D. Student, University of Rouen

High-ranking soldiers called protectores Augusti can be traced from the mid-3rd to the late 6th century in inscriptions, papyri, law codes, and literary sources. Their historic importance cannot be understated: several emperors were former protectores (e.g. Constantius I, Jovian, Valens), and the historian Ammianus Marcellinus also served in this corps. A strictly military analysis allows an overview of the various important roles of protectores in the Late Roman army as staff officers and imperial bodyguards, but fails to take into account Roman perceptions of this title. In this paper, it will be argued that protectores, by virtue of their proximity with the emperor, were considered as holders of a dignitas, precisely situated in a social and symbolic hierarchy. Traces of what distinguished them as members of the Late Roman social elite (wealth, cultural practices, participation in politics) will also be investigated.

Tuesday, February 28 — 4:30 pm in CWAC 156

We look forward to seeing you there!

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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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