The Byzantine Hellene: Emperor Theodore II Laskaris and the Transformation of Byzantine Culture after 1204
My spring-term Fellowship in Byzantine Studies was devoted to work on the historical biography of the emperor and philosopher Theodore II Laskaris (1221/22–1258). In many ways Theodore Laskaris can be seen as the Byzantine counterpart of the thirteenth-century western emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen. Revolution from the top down, youthful radicalism, and experimental originality are among the terms best describing his unconventional spirit. As a reformer of the resurgent Byzantine empire in Anatolian exile, Theodore stirred up a dramatic political and ideological strife in the 1250s that set the stage for the rise to power of his archenemy Michael Palaiologos. Endowed with an inquisitive mind and an ever-observant eye, Theodore embarked in his mid-twenties on a pioneering series of literary, philosophical and theological works, where he often entered new and uncharted territory. The four months of my fellowship have enabled me to progress significantly with my writing. I have drafted five chapters or appendices and have completed fully my research for the book, including the study of key philosophical texts and all his letters as well as the transcription of a few essays by Theodore Laskaris in a Vienna manuscript that came to my attention only in the autumn of last year. I have also completed the critical edition, translation, and commentary of a hitherto unpublished text by Theodore Laskaris, Moral Pieces, which is due to appear in a forthcoming issue of Dumbarton Oaks Papers.