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"We are all children of Byzantium."
December 6, 2010 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Byzantine Blog is what it says on the tin, a blog about Byzantium. It is written by Tom and Kim Sawford, with the occasional guest post by Laura Diaz-Arnesto. The blog has been going for over a year and a half now, and so has an extensive backlog of posts on a wide variety of subjects, for example: Byzantine holy relics in Siena in Tuscany, Princess Theophano who married Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, photos of mosaics and other art, the horrific realities of prostitution, the islands of Thasos and Lemnos and a couple of posts on Byzantine medicine, mandrake and wolfsbane. Besides essays and photos the blog also links to various sites, articles, podcasts et cetera that dwell on Byzantine matters.
posted by Kattullus (20 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
"The Princess Theophano and Introducing the fork into Europe"? Please, wake me when they get to the runcible spoon. Or even the spork.

Which is to say: very interesting stuff, thanks!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:22 PM on December 6, 2010


I endorse this post.
posted by Justinian at 2:23 PM on December 6, 2010 [15 favorites]


From what I gather, Byzantium is byzantine.
posted by drogien at 2:25 PM on December 6, 2010


podcasts

Yeah, the 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast the blog links to is a must-listen.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:34 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Previous Metafilter post on Byzantine Empire.

Who's the author of that lovely post? Oh yes!

posted by leotrotsky at 2:50 PM on December 6, 2010


From what I gather, Byzantium is byzantine.

Site should be harder to navigate; please advise.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:54 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Christ, what a pantocrator.
I mean, thanks for the splendid post.
posted by Abiezer at 3:05 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Byzantium is in in in these days among the scholarly set. Screw you, Gibbon.
posted by hiteleven at 3:17 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


i really really *should* be interested in this. i'm just about the only person i know who can claim byzantine catholicism as a heritage--and that includes all the people i know who went to the byzantine catholic church, which numbered in the dozens. a seriously small, but opulent, organization. i hated being the kid with the weird religion. even other catholics--those snooty romans--would say, 'but you see, we have the pope.' one of my cousins went to a catholic school where they had actual nuns. in the 'go to church' portion, sister someone-or-another saw him cross himself & chastised the livin' hell out of him for not knowing that one makes the sign of the cross from left to right. except byzantines don't, and in his 6-year-old wisdom he tried to explain that's how they roll in byzantium. 'well,' she says, 'you must have seen it in a pipe dream!' it left the poor boy dazed & confused, which pretty much sums up my byzantine catholic experience.

about 15 years ago, a group of religious discontents actually got the byzantine diocese to authorize a parish down here; not a shoo-in by a long shot because, well, who even understands this stuff & why would anyone want to join? one of my coworkers, an advocate for the parish, found out that my heritage was byzantine & i thought he was going to nominate me for sainthood based solely on my heritage. i tried to explain to him that i was really not a very good byzantine, but he kept after me & actually guilted me into going to the church a time or two. note: it didn't hurt that i have a cousin who's a brother--that's my cousin brother james--and he was uber excited about the new church & also worked on my guilt. my coworker was beside himself when i showed up, and i actually surprised myself that i still knew all the chants & doxologies & responses.

but i hated it & going back just reminded me--at this point in my life, an agnostic listing toward atheism--of how much i hate it. in spite of the hate, though, i see something like this & think, 'hey! that's kind of cool. i really should learn more about it.'

then again, i never was a very good byzantine catholic.
posted by msconduct at 3:54 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


hiteleven: " Screw you, Gibbon."

Absolutely. Well, also screw the whole 18th reverence for the 2nd century Romans that is the basis for his most objectionable traits, which is really more like screw the Renaissance, which I can sort of blame on the rise of Venetian power and thus say screw you too, Enrico Dandolo, whose grave I have only barely resisted spitting on.

Screw 'em both.
posted by Copronymus at 4:13 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter is one of the few places I could scream FUCK YOU NEOCLASSICISM and be completely understood.
posted by The Whelk at 4:36 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


I picked up John Julius Norwich's one volume abridged history of Byzantium out of a sense of scholarly duty. That is to say, I felt guilty, as an educated human, for knowing next to nothing about the Byzantine Empire.

50 pages in, I ran to the computer to ILL his three volume history. Riots over obscure points of dogma! Prostitutes as empresses! Betrayal! Murder! It was all there! I've read good fiction that is a snoozefest next to the truth about the Byzantines.
posted by QIbHom at 4:45 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast the blog links to is a must-listen.

They make good podcasts but fairly bad history. His take on the empire is very distorted and he ignores a vast amount of the broader social and cultural context - especially religious - in favour of a secular, somewhat retrograde "great man"/"clash of civilisations" discourse which doesn't reflect the actual empire's identity especially well. There's a few errors here and there, too, but it's mainly the positioning that suffers.

And don't get me started on his "Byzantines saved the west from slavering Muslim hordes" trope.
posted by smoke at 5:14 PM on December 6, 2010


Bookmarked, with thanks.

> I picked up John Julius Norwich's one volume abridged history of Byzantium out of a sense of scholarly duty. ... 50 pages in, I ran to the computer to ILL his three volume history.

Norwich is excellent; I'm partial to Warren Treadgold's A History of the Byzantine State and Society myself. It's more up-to-date than Norwich and has a good balance of social and political history, as well as being a fine read.
posted by languagehat at 5:20 PM on December 6, 2010


I'm partial to Warren Treadgold's A History of the Byzantine State and Society myself.

Treadgold's The Byzantine Revival, 780-842 is also very good and looks at a not-very-often-explored era of Byzantine history.
posted by deanc at 6:41 PM on December 6, 2010


Perhaps the most enjoyable primary source about Byzantium is the scandalous and very funny Secret History (of Justinian I, Theodora and their court) by Procopius.
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Procopius/Anecdota/home.html
posted by knoyers at 7:20 PM on December 6, 2010


Enjoyable, but hardly reliable. You can trust me.
posted by Justinian at 7:56 PM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is me subscribing to the blog.

I can't speak to the 12 Byzantine ruler podcast but the same guy does a Norman history podcast. It's all right as pop history, but I'm not that well educated in (non-English) Normans and even I find myself picking a nit now and then. I would tend to assume the same about the Byzantine: enjoy but listen with care.
posted by immlass at 7:09 AM on December 7, 2010


Thank you, lh and deanc. I'm always up for more good non-fiction.
posted by QIbHom at 9:42 AM on December 7, 2010


50 pages in, I ran to the computer to ILL his three volume history. Riots over obscure points of dogma! Prostitutes as empresses! Betrayal! Murder! It was all there! I've read good fiction that is a snoozefest next to the truth about the Byzantines.

Case in point, there's a Greek writer whose career mainly comprised books of historical fiction based on Byzantine history (all of them untranslated AFAIK).
posted by ersatz at 11:01 AM on December 7, 2010


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