Communications, lectures, thematic visits





September 12th, 2018

The day was spent under the aegis of that concept put forward by the great historian Nicolae Iorga, of a Byzance après Byzance – Byzantium after Byzantium. The participants to the School were thus able to discover, with wonder and fascination, the church and art collection at the Stavropoleos Monastery, which through its architecture and decoration extends the glorious tradition of Byzantium all the way to the 18th century. Guided by the monastery’s erudite and soft-spoken guide, Sister Aglae Văetiş, the students were introduced to a universe of solemn mystery of a church which safeguards rare pieces of post-Byzantine art and monastic sensitivity: tens of manuscripts, cult writings and icons. The themed visit also included visits to other monuments representative of the post-Byzantine history of Bucharest over the last three centuries: Manuc’s Inn, the last surviving caravanserai in Europe, the Old Court palace, the first princely court in Bucharest, as well as the sumptuous Cotroceni National Palace, which remarkably blends the fatuousness and glamour of a royal palace with the elegance and refinement of the architecture of the monastery commissioned on the premises by Ştefan Cantacuzino towards the end of the 17th century. In the afternoon, the participants to the School of Byzantine Studies made their way to the Mogoşoaia Palace, site of the consecration of a monastery in 1702 by Constantin Brâncoveanu, at whose court was fostered a true Byzantine revival. The art and architectural style pioneered during his reign are a fortunate blend of local artistic traditions with the Byzantine architectural mind-set, embracing a number of Oriental influences and even some of the Western Renaissance particularly those of the Florentine School.


September 13th, 2018

The students visited the headquarters of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, from where they made their way to the Roman-Byzantine archaeological site at Durostorum (Silistra, Bulgaria), an old military and religious centre in Moesia and the site of a number of Christian martyrdoms in the 4th century, such as those of Julius the Veteran, Daisie or Emilian of Durostorum. Along the way, and especially during the ferry crossing of the Danube, the participants were able to admire the beauty and natural wealth of the Dobrogean landscape. In the shadow of the ruins at Durostorum, Professor Alexandros Alexakis (University of Ioannina, Greece) evoked the military confrontation of 971 AD, as recounted by chroniclers John Skylitzes and Leon the Dean, during which Byzantine forces under the command of Emperor John Tzimiskes reconquered the fortress from Tsar Svyatoslav I of Kiev. The city was then renamed to Theodoropolis, from the name of St. Theodorus Stratilates, who is rumoured to have secured victory for the Byzantines. The students then visited the museum at Adamclisi, especially designed to house all the bas-reliefs and the colossal trophy of the monument at Tropaeum Traiani, together with all the archaeological material discovered in the Roman-Byzantine citadel located nearby.


September 14th, 2018

The day was dedicated to lectures from Professor Charis Messis, PhD (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France) and Professor Athanasios Semoglou, PhD (“Aristotle” University in Thessaloniki). Charis Messis presented the subfields, the instruments and the methodological difficulties of hagiography, on which a wealth of literature was written in Late Antiquity. Professor Messis underlined the evolution of Byzantine – but also Byzantinologists’ own – perceptions of this constantly evolving literary genre, which closely followed the literary trends and artistic tendencies of Byzantine society and which the clergy constantly tried to censor in accordance with the appropriate intellectual criteria of a pious Christian. Be it the naïve hagiography of Late Antiquity, the rhetorical and sophisticated forms of the High Byzantine period, or the classicist attitudes dominant during the Palaiologos dynasty, the heroes presented to the Byzantine public – the saint, the monk or the hermit – have a timeless history as perennial tropes which continue to foster interest and fascination. In turn, Professor Semoglou spoke about the particularities of fortified Byzantine cities, at the same time laboriously and subtly reconstructing the history of the mosaic found in the apsis of the Latomos Monastery (Hosios David) in Thessaloniki.


September 15th, 2018

Professor Athanasios Semoglou, PhD, ingeniously highlighted the profound hermeneutical content and the scheme of the rich iconography found at the famous Palaeo-Christian depiction at Hosios David, portraying a beardless young Christ in a mandorla. Associated Lecturer Adriana Cîteia, from the “Ovidius” University in Constanța, explored the notion of the frontier, both in a purely geographical, spatial sense and in its symbolic representations in Byzantine imagination. The flexibility of the frontiers reflected the dynamics of the relationships between the Empire and barbarians, and served to define a space within which a particular identity could be crafted along political and religious lines. In turn, Gabriel Talmațchi, PhD, from the Museum of National History and Archaeology in Constanța meticulously focused on the iconographic representations on the coinage minted in Histria in the late Hellenistic period – according to him, the effigy of the god Helios would signify the consecration of an official cult of Helios at Histria and in other cities on the Black Sea, which had strong commercial ties to the island of Rhodes. In the afternoon, the Masters and PhD students in attendance had the opportunity of presenting their research themes and to receive suggestions and further insight from their colleagues and professors.


September 16th, 2018

The participants had the opportunity to visit the Museum of National History and Archaeology in Constanța, one of the organizers of the School, and to admire a number of artefacts of the millennial history of Dobrogea, as well as the Mosaic Edifice, a monument unique in Eastern Europe due to its sheer size and quality of preservation. Also, Professor Alexandros Alexakis, PhD (University of Ioannina, Greece) presented the fundamentals of the field of palaeography, a discipline predating philology and textual criticism, and offered representative examples of types of handwriting, different materials and of a number of writing implements.


September 17th, 2018

The Annual School of Byzantine Studies continued, in the monumental Painted Hall of the Museum of National History and Archaeology in Constanța, by highlighting the diversity of approaches to Byzantine representations. Professor Polymnia Katsoni, PhD (The “Aristotle” University in Thessaloniki, Greece) elegantly tackled the topic of coinage and the fiscal administration of Byzantium, highlighting the centuries of tax exempt privileges granted to certain categories of individuals or to certain cities. Later, Professor Alexandros Alexakis, PhD (University of Ioannina, Greece) continued his foray into the study of palaeography by presenting the techniques used to decipher Byzantine writings, while Professor Paolo Odorico, PhD (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris), the Scientific Director of the Annual School of Byzantine Studies, spoke about the ways in which both the Byzantines and Byzantinologists conceive and express their own literary representations, and presented a recommended reading list tailored according to the audiences targeted by Byzantine writers and by the socio-political context within which they would write. After the lectures, the Masters and PhD students once again had the opportunity to present their research themes and projects, and to receive suggestions and invaluable insight from their peers.


September 18th, 2018

The day was spent visiting the citadel of Histria, under the captivating and erudite guidance of Associated Lecturer Valentin Bottez, PhD, of the Faculty of History at the University of Bucharest. The archaeological site at Histria is one of the most important sites in Romania, due to both the quality of the finds uncovered here, and the sheer volume of artefacts unearthed.  It is singular also in the fact that the site spans an uninterrupted period of over 1000 years, ranging from the 7th century BC to the 7th century AD. The archaeological digs carried out in the last several years have yielded important results: the dig by the team from the University of Bucharest in the Acropolis – Centre-South sector – of which team Lecturer Valentin Bottez is also part, together with Associated Lecturers Alexandra Ţârlea, PhD and Alexandra Lițu, PhD  - has led to the discovery of a new insula of Roman-Byzantine habitation dating from the 6th century, the first at the site to be analysed in its entirety using contemporary and interdisciplinary methods.


September 19th, 2018

On the last day of the Annual School of Byzantine Studies, the participants were treated to a follow-up lecture on the numismatics of the Byzantine Empire between the 9th and 11th centuries, from Professor Polymnia Katsoni, PhD (The “Aristotle” University in Thessaloniki, Greece). Furthermore, Professor Daniela Ţurcanu Caruțiu, PhD, Director of the Institute for Science, Culture and Spirituality at the “Ovidius” University in Constanța, presented a vibrant image of a Byzantine universe filled with passion and colour under the watchful icons that are the physical testament to the veracity of her arguments. In turn, Professor Dan Grigorescu, the Scientific Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, brought the proceedings of the Annual School of Byzantine Studies to a close, expressing his gratitude to the individuals and the institutions that made this event possible, and at the same time sharing his hope that the project of this School will be carried forward in the following years. At the close of the proceedings, those in attendance were awarded their diplomas of participation in a festive atmosphere.

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