Byzantium: The Last Centuries



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D R A F T
History 510:207 — replacing “Byzantium: The Last Centuries”
Byzantine Civilization
Sometime 2013-2013, or 2014-2015

Professor Stephen W. Reinert

Email: sreinert@rci.rutgers.edu

Office phone: (848) 932-8234

Campus Address: Van Dyck Hall, 16 Seminary Place, Room #218

Office hours: < to be added >


URL of Course Sakai Site: < to be added >
Course Description
In his taxonomy of human civilizations — his twelve-volume A Study of History, completed in 1961 — the great British historian Arnold Toynbee ranked the Byzantine (or “Orthodox Christian”) tradition as one of the twenty-one major civilizations in the history of mankind. In the judgment of Georg Ostrogorsky, arguably the most accomplished Byzantinist of the twentieth century, this civilization emerged “as the integration of Hellenistic culture and the Christian religion within the Roman imperial framework,” a synthesis which rendered its chief elements as “Roman political concepts, Greek culture, and the Christian faith.”1 As one of the three framework cultures of the medieval European and Mediterranean world (i.e., in addition to the Latin West and Arab Islamicate), Byzantine civilization experienced remarkable longevity — from the early fourth through mid-fifteenth centuries —, and its influences and rhythms are felt to this day from the Antarctica to Ethiopia, and even New Brunswick and Highland Park, New Jersey.

The objective of this course is to introduce students to the major themes of Byzantine civilization, in the process exploring an array of representative artifacts (texts, images, sounds, excavations), and assessing the key ways in which Byzantine civilization impacted neighboring cultures, and its overall importance in the history of human civilization.



Course Requirements and Grading
This class is organized as two eighty-minute meeting sessions, extending over fourteen weeks of the semester. Students are expected to attend every class, having read assigned reading and prepared for assigned projects, and to participate in class discussions.
Grading will be based on:


  1. 15% - Attendance and participation.




  1. 30% - In class midterm examination. Information about the contents of this exam will be provided to students approximately a week beforehand, affording them the opportunity to prepare well for this test.




  1. 30% - In class final examination, to be given during the regularly scheduled exam period. Information about the contents of this exam will be provided to students approximately a week beforehand, affording them the opportunity to prepare well for this test.




  1. 25% - A paper of 10-15 pages on a choice of topics to be assigned. In writings their papers students should draw upon the assigned readings, classroom lectures and discussions, and (if appropriate) other relevant materials. Papers will be due a week before the final exam.



Required Readings
Required books are available for purchase at the Rutgers University Bookstore (Barnes & Noble). These are starred (*) in the following list. Other readings on this list will be provided in PDF form, in the class Sakai website.
* Required Books


  • Cavallo, Guglielmo, ed. The Byzantines, translated by Thomas Dunlap, Teresa Lavender Fagan, & Charles Lambert (Chicago, 1997).

  • Haldon, John. Byzantium: A History (Stroud, 2000).

  • Hull, Denison B., trans. Digenis Akritas: The Two-Blood Border Lord (Athens, Ohio, 1972).

  • Laiou, Angeliki E. and Haguire, Henry. Byzantium: A World Civilization (Washington D. C., 1992).

  • Mango, Cyril. Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome (New York, 1980).

  • ______________, ed. The Oxford History of Byzantium (Oxford, 2002).

  • Sewter, R. A., trans. Fourteen Byzantine Rulers: The Chronographia of Michael Psellus (Harmondsworth, 1979).


Required Readings Available on the Class Sakai Website


  • Barber, Charles. “Homo Byzantinus?,” in Liz James ed., Women, Men and Eunuchs: Gender in Byzantium (London-New York, 1997), pp. 185-99.

  • Cameron, Averil. “Sacred and Profane Love: Thoughts on Byzantine Gender,” in Liz James ed., Women, Men and Eunuchs: Gender in Byzantium (London-New York, 1997), pp. 1-23.

  • Cheynet, Jean-Claud. “Bureaucracy and Aristocracies,” in Elizabeth Jeffreys et al. edd., The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies (Oxford, 2008), pp. 518-26.

  • Geanakoplos, Deno. “Italian Renaissance Thought and Learning and the Role of the Byzantine Emigré Scholars in Florence, Rome, and Venice: A Reassessment,” in his Constantinople and the West: Essays on the Late Byzantine (Palaeologan) and Italian Renaissances and the Byzantine and Roman Churches (Madison, 1989), pp. 3-37.

  • Harris, Jonathan. Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium (London, 2007):

    • “Defense,” pp. 40-58;

    • “Palaces and Power,” pp. 59-83;

    • “Churches and Monasteries,” pp. 84-107.

  • James, Liz. “The Role of Women,” in Elizabeth Jeffreys et al. edd., The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies (Oxford, 2008), pp. 643-51.

  • Kolbaba, Tia M. The Byzantine Lists: Errors of the Latins (Urbana-Chicago, 2000):

    • “Greeks, Latins, and Religion in the Middle Ages,” pp. 9-22;

    • “Contents,” pp. 32-87.

  • Louth, Andrew, “Byzantine Theology,” in Elizabeth Jeffreys et al. edd., The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies (Oxford, 2008), pp. 699-710.

  • Makrides, Ruth. “Families and Kinship,” in Elizabeth Jeffreys et al. edd., The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies (Oxford, 2008), pp. 652-660.

  • Mango, Cyril. “Byzantium’s Role in World History,” in Elizabeth Jeffreys et al. edd., The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies (Oxford, 2008), pp. 957-61.

  • Markopoulos, Athanasios. “Education,” in Elizabeth Jeffreys et al. edd., The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies (Oxford, 2008), pp. 785-95.

  • Meyendorff, Jean. “Byzantine Views of Islam,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 18 (1964), pp. 113-32.

  • Sevcenko, Ihor. Three Byzantine Literatures: A Layman’s Guide (Brookline, Mass., 1985).

  • Tougher, Shaun F. “Byzantine Eunuchs: An Overview, with Special Reference to their Creation and Origin,” in Liz James ed., Women, Men and Eunuchs: Gender in Byzantium (London-New York, 1997), pp. 168-84.

  • Vryonis, Speros. “Byzantine Attitudes Towards Islam during the Late Middle Ages,” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, 12 (1971), 263-86.

  • __________________. “The Byzantine Legacy and Ottoman Forms,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 23/24 (1969-70), pp. 251-308.

  • Weitzmann, Kurt. “The Contribution of the Princeton University Department of Art and Archaeology to the Study of Byzantine Art,” in Slobodan Curcic and Archer St. Clair edd., Byzantium at Princeton: Byzantine Art and Archaeology at Princeton University (Princeton, 1986), pp. 11-30.



Classroom Etiquette and Other Expectations
Students should be in their seats at the time the class begins and should remain there until the class is over. Laptop computers are permitted only for the purpose of taking notes; other electronic devices may not be used in the classroom.

A student who expects to miss a class for a compelling reason should use the University’s absence reporting website (https://sims.rutgers.edu/ssra/) to indicate the date and reason for the absence. Your report will automatically be sent to the instructor via email.

Cheating on tests or plagiarizing materials in your papers deprives you of the educational benefits of preparing these materials appropriately. It is also personally dishonest and unfair because it gives you an undeserved advantage over your fellow students who are graded on the basis of their own work. In this course cheating and plagiarism will be treated as the serious offenses they are. Suspected cases will be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs and will be punished with penalties that are appropriate to the gravity of the infraction.

Outline of the Course

Week 1 Overviews: Byzantine History & Byzantine Civilization




  1. The Remarkable Life of the Byzantine State: late 3rd century - 1453

  2. What Was Byzantine Civilization & What Was Its Importance?


Read: Haldon, Byzantium, pp. 15-52 (“Part I — The Last Ancient State”); Laiou-Maguire, Byzantium, pp. 19-35 (Vryonis, “Byzantine Civilization, a World Civilization”); Mango, “Byzantium’s Role”.
Week 2 The Byzantine State & Its Expressions of Power


  1. The “Emperor of the Romans” & Imperial Ideology

  2. Instruments of Rule & Protection: The Bureaucracy, Army & Diplomatic Service


Read: Cavallo, Byzantines, pp. 230-54 (McCormick, “Emperors”), pp. 197-239 (Guillou, “Functionaries”), & pp. 74-95 (Schreiner, “Soldiers”); Haldon, Byzantium, pp. 75-9 (#4, “The Byzantine State,” ) & pp. 113-30 (#6, “Byzantine Political Society”).

Week 3 The Imperial Capital — “Queen of Cities”


05 The Secular Fabric

06 The Ecclesiastical Fabric



Read: Harris, “Defence,” “Palaces and Power,” and “Churches and

Monasteries”.


Week 4 Religious Belief


  1. The Orthodox Creed & Its Development

  2. The World of Byzantine Saints and their Veneration


Read: Cavallo, Byzantines, pp. 255-80 (Mango, “Saints”); Louth, “Byzantine

Theology”; Mango, Oxford History, pp. 96-120 (#3, “New Religion, Old

Culture”).
Week 5 Organized Expression of Religion
09 The Secular Church & Its Calendaring of Life

10 Monks & Monasteries


Read: Cavallo, Byzantines, pp. 172-96 (Von Falkenahusen, “Bishops”);

Haldon, Byzantium, pp. 131-52 (#7, “Church, state and belief”); Mango,



Byzantium: The Empire, pp. 105-24 (#5, “Monasticism”).
Week 6 Structuring of Secular Society
11 “Aristocracy” and “Aristocratic Life”

12 Peasants & Townsfolk


Read: Cavallo, Byzantines, pp. 43-73 (Kazhdan, “The Peasantry”) & pp. 144-

71 (Oikonomides, “Entrepreneurs”); Cheynet, “Bureaucracy and

Aristocracies”; Haldon, Byzantium, pp. 95-112 (#5, “Life in Town and

Countryside”); Mango, Oxford History, pp. 71-95 (#2, “Life in City and

Country”).

Week 7 Conceptions of Gender & Gender Relations


13 Men and Women

14 The Ungendered (?) – The Eunuchs


Read: Barber, “Homo Byzantinus”; Cameron, “Sacred and Profane Love”;

Cavallo, Byzantines, pp. 117-43 (Talbot, “Women”); James, “Role of Women”;

Tougher, “Byzantine Eunuchs”.
Week 8-9 Education & Literature
15 Hellenistic Pedagogy & Its Byzantine Perpetuation

16 Patterns and Layers of Byzantine Literature

17 Focus: Digenes Akritas

18 Focus: Michael Psellos’ Chonographia & Imperial Portraiture


Read: Cavallo, Byzantines, pp. 95-116 (Browning, “Teachers”); Mango,

Byzantium: The Empire, pp. 125-48 (#6, “Education”) & pp. 233-55 (#13,

“Literature”); Sevcenko, Three Byzantine Literatures; Digenes Akritas, trans.

Hull; Psellos, Chronographia, trans. Sewter.
Week 10 Byzantine Art & Architecture
19 The Place and Functions of Art in Byzantine Life & Culture

20 Field trip to Princeton: The Princeton Art Museum’s Byzantine Collection


Read: Haldon, Byzantium, pp. 153-68 (#8, “Power, art and tradition in

Byzantium”); Laiou-Maguire, Byzantium, pp. 81-118 (Vikan, “Byzantine Art”); Mango, Byzantium: The Empire, pp. 256-81 (#14, “Art and Architecture”); Weitzmann, “Contribution of Princeton”.


Week 11 Byzantine Views of “[Some of] The Others”
21 Conceptions of Latins & Latin Christianity

22 Conceptions of Arabs & Islam


Read: Kolbaba, “Greeks, Latins, and Religion,” and “Contents”; Meyendorff, “Byzantine Views of Islam”; Vryonis, “Byzantine Attitudes Towards Islam”.
Week 12-13 The Diffusion of Byzantine Culture: Four Case Studies
23 The Slavs

24 The “Latins in the Levant”

25 Renaisssance Italy

26 The Ottoman Turks


Read: Geanakoplos, “Italian Renaissance Thought”; Laiou-Maguire,

Byzantium, pp. 37-48 (Obolensky, “Byzantium and the Slavic World”); Mango,

Oxford History, pp. 230-47 (#9, “Spreading the Word: Byzantine Missions”)

and pp. 294-305 (#12, “Towards a Franco-Greek Culture”); Vryonis, “The

Byzantine Legacy”.

Week 14 Byzance après Byzance in New Jersey


27 The Greek Diaspora & its Culture in Highland Park

28 The Orthodox Churches of Old Trenton


Read: Field trip itineraries with notes as posted on the class Sakai site.


1 George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, translated by Joan Hussey, foreword by Peter Charanis (New Brunsick: Rutgers University Press, 1957), p. 25.


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