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7-08-2015, 20:15

Short-cuts to byzantium

There are many forms of short-cut to the study of Byzantium, literally so by way of atlases. Most aspects of its historical geography are authoritatively covered by JohnHaldon in The Palgrave atlas of Byzantine history,68 and the early phases of the empire and of the Christian church are charted in detail in The Barrington atlas and The atlas of the early Christian world.69 Detailed historical atlases of neighbouring peoples and regions are also available in English;70 likewise with the religious and other movements from outside that had some bearing on the empire’s fate.71 Online guides are likely to extend horizons further, in terms not only of geography but also of art and visual culture.72 TheOxford dictionary of Byzantium covers virtually every aspect of Byzantium across the ages, from the spiritual to the archaeological, while a broad canvas is presented in The Oxford handbook of Byzantine studies.73 Several other introductory multi-authored works or broad synopses appeared early in the twenty-first century.74 The main papers and abstracts of the Twentyfirst International Congress of Byzantine Studies (2006), together with other proceedings published shortly afterwards, summed up the scholarly state of play across the field, the greater part of these papers having been presented in English.75 The economic history of Byzantium, covering the Byzantine world from the seventh to the fifteenth centuries, has already been mentioned (see above, pp. 36–7). So have the many accessible introductions to the art and archaeology of Byzantium, the introduction to alternative forms of imagery by Maguire and Maguire (2007) among them (see above, n. 19 on p. 79). Entries on all forms of Byzantine art history (in German) are supplied by the Reallexikon zur byzantinischen Kunst,76 while studies in English as well as other western languages on virtually every aspect of late antique history and culture are published in the compendious Aufstieg und Niedergang der r¨omischen Welt.77 A pithier synopsis emerges from the thematic essays and articles in Bowersock et al. (eds.) (1999), covering the antique Christian and Islamic worlds from the mid-third century until the end of the eighth. A chronology of salient political, military and ecclesiastical events year by year from 330 until 1461 is provided by A chronology of the Byzantine empire.78 These works can be supplemented in highly flexible ways by the online Prosopography of the Byzantine world.79 This offers a full, reliable chronology for most of the eleventh and twelfth centuries and gives details about individuals eminent or obscure. Its gateways also open up to the enquirer a range of thematic topics: for example, ‘murder’ will bring up a list of all those persons said to have been murdered during that period. Traditional reference works for the cultures and religions most closely linked with Byzantium remain of value as introductions and suppliers of background information, notably The Oxford classical dictionary, The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church and The early Christian world.80 The revised edition of The encyclopedia of Islam contains many entries on places within the Byzantine empire, encompassing the period before they came permanently under Muslim rule.81 The Dictionnaire d’histoire et de g´eographie eccl´esiastiques contains entries on places, rites and persons of significance treatment in depth of Byzantium as well as the west.82 Those wishing to follow the short-cuts through to the point of learning something of the language as written and spoken by the Byzantines have a number of choices. They may start with the classical Attic Greek to which members of the elite aspired, or with New Testament Greek, which is not so far removed from the everyday language of the earlier medieval Byzantines. Standard grammars and self-help courses offer instruction in these forms of Greek. Good introductions are also available for persons wanting to trace the historical connections between Byzantine Greek and theGreek in use today, or to learn something of the grammar of the modern language.83 The Greek script is explained in detail for newcomers as well as specialists by contributions to Greek scripts, while the new lexicon of Byzantine Greek, supplementing the classical dictionary of Liddell and Scott, is nearing completion.84 Finally, those who embark on systematic self-tuition or who contemplate offering a lecture or two or even a course on Byzantine history may turn to offerings in the online ‘overnight expert’ series.One of these is dedicated to the teaching of Byzantium by non-specialists. It provides some suggestions for essay questions or coursework, together with reading lists, and it points out where a Byzantine dimension can usefully be added to standard western medieval teaching topics. The closely related history of the Armenians is also covered in this series.85 The short-cuts mentioned in this section should help make basic facts and historical issues reasonably clear and communicable to and by nonspecialist teachers. They and their students have online access to sources in English translation and to guides to those sources (see above, pp. 77–8 and nn. 14, 15), while Byzantine landscapes, buildings and imagery can be accessed cheaply and accurately. In that sense, the many roads to Byzantium are wide open to travellers as never before.

 

 

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