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Colloquium: The Boundaries of Byzantine Friendship

March 5-6, 2010 Colloquiarchs: Margaret Mullett and Stratis Papaioannou

Friendship is a human connection which appears to be recognisable in many societies, indeed to be universal, but which has the capacity to surprise. It is also the subject of interest in many periods (the ancient world, the eighteenth century) and disciplines (anthropology, political science, philosophy, history). The debate over Byzantine friendship in the 1980s led to a general agreement that is a profoundly important social tie, though it may have taken very different forms at different times and in a different milieux. The has been some agreement that is important to examine friendship in a comparative context and different schools and networks have used different comparators: the Freiburg Graduiertenkolleg looks at varieties of friendship from antiquity to the modern world; the Münster Exzelenzcluster sees it in the context of religion and politics; the British Academy Friendship network has looked comparatively at the nature of friendship in western medieval Europe, Byzantium and Scandinavia. The boundaries of Byzantine friendship were investigated in two ways: first, how friendship differs in other medieval societies, and second, in terms of its difference from other similar personal relations, from biological and fictive kinship, form patronage and lordship, from teacher-pupil relationships and erotic dyads. The presence of the three projects and of significant American scholars of friendship allowed consideration of future agendas, as well as conclusions about personal relations in Byzantium and its neighbours.

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