IMC 2012: Sessions

Session 1107: Later Byzantine Society: Challenging Rules and Perceptions

Wednesday 11 July 2012, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Dimitris Krallis, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
Paper 1107-aNomos and Canon in Byzantium: The Case of the Confiscation of the Sacred Vessels during the Reign of Alexios I Komnenos
(Language: English)
Angeliki Panagopoulou, Department of History & Archaeology, University of Ioannina
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Canon Law, Ecclesiastical History, Law
Paper 1107-bRules to Live by: The Significance of Punishment Motifs within Typika as an Active Creation and Consolidation of 'Insider' versus 'Outsider' Figures
(Language: English)
Elisabeth Mincin, School of History, University of St Andrews
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Social History
Paper 1107-cThe Heavy Plow in Byzantine Agriculture and the Myth of Byzantine Technical Conservatism
(Language: English)
Pavel Murdzhev, Department of Humanities, Santa Fe College, Florida
Index terms: Archaeology - Artefacts, Byzantine Studies, Economics - Rural, Technology

Paper -a:
During the reign of Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118), the Byzantine Empire dealt for almost fifteen years (1082-1095) with a dispute concerning the confiscation of the sacred vessels and icons. It was put forward by the Byzantine government in order to raise money to fund the Byzantine army in the fights against the Normans and the Pechenegs. This paper explores whether Alexios I Komnenos did break the holy laws, as well as to what degree he felt bound to what they stated as concerns the confiscation of the sacred vessels. It is an issue closely related to nomoi and holy canons in Byzantium, as well as to the role of the Byzantine Emperor as the ‘world legislature’- the prevalent element of the Byzantine imperial concept.

Paper -b:
‘[C]ut him off like a rotten limb, and as a wound that is hard to heal or completely incurable‚Ķremove him and cast him away.’ In defining the punishment for transgressing a rule in the Byzantine monastery of the Evergetis, the founder described the offender as akin to a fatal infection – something that must be amputated from the otherwise healthy body of the Christian community. By invoking this analogy of error as contagion, we are presented with a motif prevalent in a range of sources from both Western Europe and Byzantium throughout the Middle Ages. Despite an incredible frequency of recurrence, however, such depictions have remained remarkably underappreciated by scholars, who deem them to be little more than literary topoi, overzealously employed by centuries of authors and bearing no greater significance than a continually echoed stylised theme. Contrary to such a neglectful assertion, I propose that these motifs provide an invaluable insight into the worldview of the societies that made such extensive use of the formulae: revealing conceptualisations of purity, boundaries of orthodoxy and the threat of outsiders. Motifs require some level of socially imposed importance in order to invoke an appreciation from their audience.
In my paper, I will be investigating a selection of these literary motifs, focusing on passages recording punishments decreed in 11th- and 12th-century typika. While such an analysis will present only a selective picture, it nevertheless will allow us to briefly glimpse a self-image constructed within the Byzantine world centred on rules a social group chose to live by

Paper -c:
By utilizing archaeological data from late medieval Thrace and Macedonia, this paper endeavors to challenge the historiographical myth of Byzantine ‘technical stagnation’, based on the assumption that the ‘heavy plow’ was absent from Byzantine tillage practices. On the contrary, in my paper, I assert that the ‘heavy plow’ was, in fact, well in use simultaneously with its more primitive variant, the sole ard. The evidence brought by my paper challenge not only the myth of Byzantine ‘failed economy’, but also the concepts claiming consonance between stages of social progression and levels of technological development.