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Late Byzantine Thessalonike

Byzantine Symposium, 2001, Symposiarch: Jean-Michel Spieser

After the conquest of the Byzantine Middle East by the Arabs in the 7th century, Thessalonike remained the only major town in the Byzantine empire, except of course Constantinople; despite the Slavic attacks, it continued to serve as a real urban center, the most important in Greece. The significance of Thessalonike increased paradoxically in the last Byzantine centuries, after the re-establishment of the Byzantine empire by Michael VIII Palaiologos in Constantinople. Even in the middle of the civil wars, which were so frequent in the 14th century, Thessalonike on occasion became almost a rival of the capital. Despite its troubled situation, Thessalonike experienced a flourishing religious, intellectual and artistic life: in no other period since early Christian times were so many churches built and decorated.Despite (or because of) this complex historical situation, whose political, economic, artistic and intellectual aspects deserve to be addressed as well, since the beginning of the 20th century no real synthesis has been attempted about late Byzantine Thessalonike. The increasingly rich documentation and numerous valuable studies on specific topics now provide the basis for a new approach. Through this symposium we tried to give some fresh insights and to begin to fill this gap.

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