Symposiarchs: Clive Foss, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., Johannes Koder, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria / University of Vienna, Austria
Byzantine Asia Minor and Syria: From Art Historical Monuments to Archaeological Settlement
Cyril Mango, Exeter College, University of Oxford
When the Byzantine monuments of Asia Minor and Syria first came to the attention of scholars, in about the year 1900, they were viewed largely in an art-historical perspective focused on form and technique. Their importance lay in the contribution they made, or were thought to make, to the grand debates of the time: were the origins of Christian art to be sought in the West or the East? Was Hellenism or the Orient the formative influence during the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages? The monuments in question were above ground. They could be measured and photographed and were then classified typologically. In the same period the great excavations of the classical cities of Asia Minor started, those of Syria following later, in all of which little interest was expressed in the late antique and later, namely Byzantine phases.
What has happened in the last 60 years, since World War Ⅱ interrupted these ventures? Urban excavations resumed and their numbers expanded. At Sardis, Anemurium, Amorium, Sagalassos, Apamea, Bostra there is now an overt interest in post classical periods. This is accompanied by advances in techniques, including a greatly increased knowledge and classification of ceramics, both Late Roman and Byzantine, as well as an invasion of scientific analysis. More importantly, the continued investigation of urban life is now paired with a shift in interest to the countryside, as exemplified by Georges Tchalenko's Villages antiques de la Syrie du Nord (1953–58) where the study of monuments was replaced by an interest in settlement. Art history gave way via archaeology to economic history as the prime explanatory factor. An understanding of the city interacting with its hinterland was now possible. That is to be welcomed, but another important element cannot be overlooked. We are dealing with a historical period and without the written word even the most refined techniques will not always tell us all we want to know.
From Conquest to Conquest: Agricultural economy and rural settlement on the eastern frontiers
Dr. Michael Decker, University of South Florida
This paper outlines the major problems in constructing the agrarian landscape along the eastern borders of the Byzantine Empire. The work is a comparative one, linking two regions, distinct both in space and time, but geographically and thematically connected through their positions as frontiers. In the first place, we will explore the present knowledge of the landscape of late antique Byzantine Oriens. To complete an overview of issues of development, connectivity, the market, and ultimately, state decline, the focus then shifts to the Dark Ages and the Middle Byzantine Period in eastern Anatolia and Mesopotamia.
Prominent in the historiography are plague, enemy invasions, and meteorological events: all are cited in support of various theories that attempt to explain Byzantine decline, especially in relation to the collapse of Byzantium's fortunes in the face of Islam. This paper outlines the roles, often assumed, that settlement decline plays in our understanding of the conquest of Byzantium, first by the Arabs, then by the Turks. The triumph of the Arabs in Syria has had, for some time, as a backdrop, the notion of a decline engendered by decades of disease, poor climate, and military conflict. To some extent, a similar situation prevails in the literature on the second frontier examined, eastern Anatolia. Viewed, in part at least, as a reaction to Arab raids and border warfare, the pastoral economy of central and eastern Anatolia anchors an entire layer of scholarly assumptions. Among these assumptions is one in which Byzantine Anatolia, with its lack of urban structures, and thus the political, cultural, and social bonds that coalesce at such nodes, made a natural home for the pastoral Turks (and even, it might be said, less of a home for the city-dwelling, sedentary Byzantines). In the present work it is argued that these conventional images, while not necessarily being replaced, must be re-evaluated in light of the material and textual evidence.
For the early Byzantine state, the borderlands of the Tigris-Euphrates corridor were the scene of the long war of attrition between Byzantium and Sasanian Persia, a conflict whose battles were fought in the agricultural heartland of the Diocese of Oriens, outside of Egypt, arguably the richest region of the empire. It was during this time that Oriens witnessed an impressive demographic upswing, viewed in the archaeological traces of settlement expansion, urban growth, and agricultural development. From the material record, it is possible to obtain a broad picture of rural settlement and agricultural production of communities in Greater Syria (from Palestine to Mesopotamia) in the mid-sixth century. There follows a discussion of the data concerning the transition from Byzantine to Islamic rule in the countryside of the Levant and Anatolia in the 7th–8th centuries. Finally, comparative study on the second frontier, that in eastern Turkey after the Muslim invasions that formed the periphery with Islam until Manzikert in 1071, will be undertaken. The second frontier study rests mainly on Cappadocia. The latter region offers an example to which we might link other regions during the period of the Dark Ages and the Middle Byzantine period. This comparison will offer insights internal to the eastern frontier, but holds potential for a wider understanding of other regions within the empire.
The beginning of the end: the crisis of the sixth century
Yizhar Hirschfeld, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Byzantine period is considered an era of maximal settlement in the areas to the east and south of the Mediterranean. The empire, whose economy was founded on agriculture and trade, enjoyed an unprecedented prosperity, especially in the marginal and desert regions. Paleoclimatic studies have pointed to a substantial increase in precipitation in the Roman Near East in the early fourth century and the beginning of a generally more humid period that lasted almost three centuries. The archaeological data from Palestine that will be presented in my paper may support the hypothesis of increased humidity during this period.
However, the prosperity of the Byzantine Empire in the sixth century and its achievements, especially in trade, contributed to its rapid collapse during the first half of the seventh century. The first plague to be recognized as such in human history, known as the bubonic or Justinianic plague, broke out in Egypt in 541 and spread via merchant shipping to Constantinople a year later. The plague did not recognize political boundaries and struck both friends and foe; it is also documented in the literary sources of neighboring peoples. The slums that had developed in the large cities and the accumulations of refuse encouraged the spread of the plague. Towards the end of the sixth century, the climate changed once again, this time for the worse. For the Byzantine farmers, this was a fatal combination. Towns and villages were abandoned and food production plunged because of manpower shortages. The marginal regions could sustain only small populations and previously densely settled areas turned into wastelands that were open to invasion by nomads. The more distant parts of the empire, such as Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, were seriously weakened, making them vulnerable to Persian and Arab incursions.
In my paper I will attempt to provide some evidence from the archaeological sphere for the position that sees climatic change as the catalyst for the decline and fall of the eastern and southern parts of the Byzantine Empire in the sixth-seventh centuries.
Urbanism in Byzantine Asia Minor (500–1000 A.D.): A Retrospective
Eric A. Ivison, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Excavations and surveys in Turkey over the past century have produced massive quantities of data relating to the development of settlement in Byzantine Asia Minor. This picture is not complete or comprehensive, nor would it be possible to give a detailed overview of all of these materials in the time permitted. This paper will therefore focus upon the more recent findings within the context of conceptual and methodological questions relating to urbanism, and their significance for the history of Byzantine Asia Minor. First, this paper will review past approaches to Byzantine urbanism and the nature of the evidence, and will argue that a more sophisticated conceptual framework is needed to interpret the archaeology. Such an approach should seek to understand better the forces shaping urbanism and their expression in the material evidence. This paper will propose that cities during this period must be viewed within the context of a web of national and local forces, the most important of which were the roles of imperial functionaries, the army, and the Church. The new administrative hierarchies of cities formed by the establishment of the themes in Asia Minor in the 7th and 8th centuries were therefore central to the future development of urbanism in Byzantium. This system shaped the size, features and functions of these cities, and exerted a powerful influence upon occupation and economic patterns in the regions. I will therefore not argue at length over Byzantine terminology or the question of city or urban status judged on modern criteria. Instead, I will argue that it is more productive to accept a sliding scale of cities ranging from large to small, based upon importance and function in the imperial administrative system. This realization requires that cities of comparable status and function should form the basis for comparison, rather than an ad hoc selection. This paper will explore a number of points by examining such comparable settlements – these will include: the importance of late antique infrastructure in the medieval fabric, strategic considerations, the impact of government and local investment, and their roles as economic stimuli, questions of continuity and discontinuity, and the state of research as regards urban life, local industry and economy.
Trade and Industry in Byzantine Anatolia: The Evidence from Amorium
Christopher S. Lightfoot, Department of Greek and Roman Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Circumstances have largely conspired to focus attention on certain aspects of commercial activity in Roman and Byzantine times. The emphasis has largely been on maritime trade, reflected in the concentration of studies devoted to coastal sites, shipwrecks, and bulky items of long-distance trade such as amphorae. Inland cities, it is assumed, were largely self-sufficient, drawing on the natural and agricultural resources of their own territory. In addition, archaeologists working on the Anatolian plateau have often concentrated their efforts on temples, churches, and fortifications. These sites have rarely provided substantial evidence for the everyday preoccupations of production and supply in which the majority of the population must have been engaged.
Amorium, capital of the Anatolian Theme and a large, flourishing settlement throughout the Dark Ages and middle Byzantine period, allows a unique opportunity to investigate such aspects of Byzantine life. The excavations have provided evidence for a variety of different trades and crafts including pottery production, glass blowing, and leather working. Items that attest to contacts with the wider world have also been found; these range from fragments of Constantinopolitan glazed whiteware pottery to marine shells. Less easy to ascertain is the contribution made by imported skilled labor to the economic life of the city. However, the building materials and artistic skills that were used in the construction and decoration of the Lower City church provide some important indicators. Likewise, the recent discovery of a series of rich and prestigious burials in the church narthex supplies evidence for the availability of elaborate silk textiles at Amorium in the 10th–11th century.
Other areas of the site attest to intensive use of buildings for manufacturing and retailing purposes during the middle Byzantine period in a time when Amorium has traditionally been regarded as in decline and of minor importance. Some of this evidence can be related to industrial activity, but other finds suggest that the processing of agricultural produce also took place within the city.
The present paper aims to highlight the richness and diversity of activity that was carried on in Byzantine Amorium, drawing on both already published material and recent discoveries. What emerges is that Amorium was not just a fortified administrative center occupied by soldiers, clerics, and imperial officials but a real city, filled with a whole host of different craftsmen and trades people. As such it must have functioned as an important commercial entrepôt and a major source of both skilled and casual labor. Although a number of other cities must have served a similar function as regional centers, few have been or are able to provide the same wealth of archaeological evidence as the site of Amorium.
Between Village and City: The ‘Town’ in Oriens
Marlia Mundell Mango, St. John's College, University of Oxford
The paper's title alludes to the article written by Gilbert Dagron in 1979 which explores intrepretations of the terms
village (the French being cité, bourgade and village). The author points out that, aside from polis for city, the corresponding Greek terms are unspecific. He poses the question whether any of the range of words used in inscriptions and other texts to refer to rural communities other than monasteries, military forts, villa households etc.,—namely kome, metrokomia, komopolis, kome megiste, and chorion—, may be translated as
town, rather than
village. Matching these terms with the realities of large and small settlements on the ground presents further problems of interpretation. In the past, other authors have mistakenly called the large villages of Oriens,
Dead Cities in the Limestone Massif,
urban settlements in the Negev, and
newly emergent urban communities. After analysing a range of texts, some legal, M. Dagron concludes, nous aurons plaidé pour une histoire plus démographique et moins juridique, en attendant que l'archéologie dise son dernier mot.
Unfortunately, archaeology has yet to clarify the material character of what might be called the town or bourgade. One assumes that it would indeed have been between city and village, either a mini-city or a super-village. To better identify the town on the ground, this paper will survey relevant evidence made available by archaeological work carried out in, and just outside, Oriens, in particular epigraphy, survey, excavation and scientific analysis. Drawing on this evidence I shall address three main points concerning size, function and location of rural settlements in order to establish what could be called a town, comparing it with city and village. Assuming that size is a distinguishing factor, I shall first briefly quantify the mass and, where possible, population of what constitutes a relatively large rural settlement, drawing on survey and documentary evidence. Second, I shall explore the functional nature of a selection of large rural settlements by considering the range of building types or other material remains within them, combined with any written evidence. The third step will be to examine location as perhaps having the most important developmental influence, if it offers a site advantageous resources—natural and/or financial—and communication networks (roads, rivers, sea, etc.). The agricultural potential of particular regions (availability of good soil and water but also transport for surplus production) is assumed to be a determining factor in their settlement or expansion. The paper will pay particular attention to other, non-agricultural resources, previously overlooked in Oriens, with regard to diachronic settlement patterns there. Was Oriens composed of a network of economic micro-regions which encouraged the growth of the super-village or town?
One case study will be Androna in north Syria. Recent excavations and survey there have shed light on the size, character and developed resources of one large site epigraphically identified as a kome, optically characterized as a super-village and archaeologically revealed as an aspirant mini-city. Was this a town?
Monasteries as settlements: : an interregional comparison (ca. AD 500–800)
Lukas Amadeus Schachner, St. John's College, University of Oxford
From the fourth century onward the rise of monasticism seriously changed the physical and spiritual environment of cities, villages and towns throughout Asia Minor and the Levant. This paper examines a selection of monastic establishments classified variously, as urban, suburban or isolated. Since the available data—textual, epigraphic and archaeological—is abundant, this allows me to provide a new, comprehensive perspective on rural and suburban monasteries as settlements.
Therefore I shall consider the physical setting of monasteries
- in relation to the land (conditions of water, soil and other resources),
- in relation to the village/city (for the exchange of goods and men), and
- in relation to communication lines (for transport, pilgrimage and trade).
In particular, I shall reconsider the archaeological evidence from the North Syrian Limestone Massif, where most village settlements can be seen to have had a halo of monasteries and where monasticism continued up to the ninth century AD. This Syrian model will be assessed against the background of other monastic clusters in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia-Osrhoene, the Judean Desert and the South Syrian Hauran.
The Infrastructure of Trade and Communication: Harbors along the south coast of Asia Minor, 500–1000
Robert L. Vann, School of Architecture, Planning, and Historic Preservation, University of Maryland
The demise of cities along the eastern Mediterranean littoral during the years 500–1000 reflects the general period of unrest that followed the first Arab conquests in southwestern Asia and the loss of wealthy provinces in Syria and Egypt to the rapidly expanding Islamic world. For centuries after this first period of upheaval, incursions by land and raids by sea resulted in territories being temporarily won or lost by both sides. It was a slow process lasting centuries until that time when the Byzantine Empire was ultimately reduced to a walled city still holding out against an enemy by maintaining its harbor and securing a limited lifeline to the West.
The same pattern had been followed many times in the preceding years. The 6th through the 11th centuries were times of contrasting fortunes for cities along the southern coast of Asia Minor. As more territory was lost to first Arab and later Turkish invaders, land communications and safe sea-lanes were put at risk. Although Byzantine naval power revived and large portions of the south coast remained under the control of Constantinople, the fates of individual cities varied widely over this long period. Cilician, Lycian, and finally Pamphylian cities all eventually fell to Muslim forces, but many of their individual histories have become more complex than we once thought.
Harbors and road systems represented the infrastructure of trade and communication in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine world. Based on a wide-spread network of earlier Roman facilities, Byzantine harbors provided those same critical roles of feeding the capital city, providing bases for and supporting military units, and serving the economic life of the empire through trade. A survey of cities and their harbors will be one method of evaluating the continuity of urban life in this region. Rather than being abandoned with the first threats of invasion during the 7th century, we now discover that many towns and cities suffered periods of rapid decline, only to be followed by long years of stagnation and later, limited recovery. An increasing number of archaeological projects, both excavations and surveys, are providing a clearer understanding of these changing conditions.
It would be incorrect to assume that all changes in urban life were based on the fate of the harbor or that all changes that took place in ancient harbors came about as a result of military operations. Natural processes including earthquakes, flooding, coastal erosion, or siltation could be as devastating as accidental fire or enemy action. Disease might reduce population more rapidly and an enemy force.
One of the tasks of the architectural historian remains to reconstruct the ancient built environment. This paper will attempt to do so with cities and their harbors along the south coast of Asia Minor from the years 500–1000.
The Fifth to Tenth Century AD In Southwest Anatolia – Transformation or Decline: A Case Study – Sagalassos and its Chora.
Marc Waelkens, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
The ongoing debate on the nature of changes affecting the transition from late Roman to early Byzantine society, is still largely city-oriented and based on monumental, epigraphical and literary evidence. Since more than a decade, an interdisciplinary approach has been applied to the study of the urban site of Sagalassos (Pisidia) and the large territory, which it controlled during Imperial times. This includes landscape and vegetation changes in the wider area, its changing role in providing the urban centre with raw materials for artisanal/industrial activities and with subsistence, changing land-use and settlement patterns in the suburbs and the territory at large, changing dimensions and internal functional zones of the city itself, the role of the local elite in the latter and in its economy, the transition from a pagan to a Christian society, international contacts, exchange and trade.
Material evidence is based on the study of architecture, sculpture, and epigraphy resulting from excavations and surveys, on surface material recovered as the result of 'intensive' surveying both within the urban framework and within its primary catchment area, on extensive surveys in the wider territory and on a contextual analysis of all excavated material categories (architecture, sculpture, ceramics, glass, metal, faunal and botanical remains), which allows to establish the changing nature and use of individual spaces.
During the 3rd century AD, Sagalassos and its territory were still at the peak of their prosperity, thanks to their role in the annona of the Roman military presence in Pamphylia. The city had all urban amenities of a prosperous provincial town, and could still rely on a booming economy (export of fine table ware; production of glass and iron; export of grain and production of olive oil).
During the period 300–450 AD, business continued as usual. In the course of the 4th and near the beginning of the 5th century, elaborate repairs of old public buildings (a library, the Roman baths) took place, whereas shortly after 400 AD,the city received a new fortification wall surrounding only a third of the occupied space, both in reaction to the Isaurian threat, but possibly also a sign of civic pride as the construction was carried out with great care and monumentality. During the same period, palatial villas were constructed for the prôteuontes, who together with the bishop and the governors henceforth appointed the magistrates and ruled the cities from their palatial homes. Such a complex with nearly 50 rooms is currently under excavation. Yet, signs of internal stress are noticeable in the deliberate destruction around 400 AD of two symbols of the Greek paideia, i.e. the Neon Library and the Theatre Gymnasium. The predominant role of the church becomes visible through the construction during the 5th century AD of a first basilica dedicated to St. Michael in the former Bouleuterion and the gradual transformation of pagan temples into churches. During this period, settlements in the countryside reach a peak in numbers and activity.
The next period 450/75–550/75 AD is still a period of relative prosperity, both in the city and in its territory. Inside the city, encroachment of private structures upon former public domain becomes apparent everywhere, but can also be considered as a symbol of the efforts of a still wealthy elite to buy abandoned buildings and transform them into cash producing units. Church building continued as well. After an earthquake around AD 500, most of the city was still rebuilt with a great feeling for monumental appearance and aesthetics. In the immediate vicinity, however instability seems to have caused stress resulting into the partial abandonment of some oil producing and at the same time residential suburban villas, into the nucleation of villages located at higher altitudes, and into a more diversified type of farming and animal breeding carried out closer to the city.
Real decline of the city only set in during the period 550/575–ca 650 AD, possibly as the result of the plague and other factors promoting the collapse of complex societies. Gradually, Sagalassos becomes an agricultural rather than an urban type of settlement, with subdivision of large houses, and the abandonment of large sections of the previously occupied area. Even along the main squares, abandoned structures are now turned into public dumps. Around the middle of the 7th century, the city was completely destroyed and largely abandoned after a devastating earthquake. This catastrophe was also more or less contemporary with the first Arab raids. Yet, what disappeared before the end of the 7th century, was the old city life, but village life continued in the territory into the 10th century AD. During the mid-Byzantine period (9–11th century AD), a fortified village would even reoccupy part of the ruined city.
Economic developments and the nature of settlement in the towns and countryside of the Levant, ca. 565–705 CE
Alan G. Walmsley, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Little consensus has been reached by historians and archaeologists on economic conditions that prevailed in the Levant during the decades leading up to the Islamic conquest, let alone in the period immediately following. Earlier views identified the arrival of Islam and, shortly after, the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus as the starting point of a period of decline. The later seventh century and first half of the eighth century were typified, it was argued, by the progressive impoverishment and eventual abandonment of many settlements which had, until then, been flourishing centres; places such as Gerasa/Jarash or the villages of the Belus Massif (the dead cities). Economic dislocations, political apathy, religious antagonism and population decrease were commonly cited as causal factors. At least this thesis refuted the misguided concept of a destructive Islamic conquest, inflicted by rampaging Bedouin tribesmen, which infused much of the literature beforehand (and occasionally still does, especially in the popular market). More recently, it has been argued that Levantine towns offered little resistance to an expanding Islamic hegemony because of the weakened condition of the region—politically, militarily and financially—at the start of the seventh century. Structurally and economically, the reasoning goes, the Levant was already medieval before Islam (the polis to madînah question). In all instances, archaeological evidence has often been pressed into arguing the case, be it sudden destruction, gradual and ultimately permanent decline, or the pre-Islamic orientalization of the Levant.
How does recent archaeological work and new approaches to the analysis of archaeological evidence support or refute these theories, or require their modification? What fresh and possibly unexpected insights are offered by these recent discoveries? Additionally, what new understandings has this research brought to the question of urban conditions in the transition from Late Antique to early Islamic times? This presentation will seek to elucidate developments in the urban and rural economy of the Levant during the later sixth and seventh centuries by analysing the ever-growing body of archaeological evidence on production, distribution and trade of commodities, primary and secondary. Particular attention will be directed to evaluating the impact of these economic activities on settlement activity in the region over a century and a half.
The evidence to be applied to this question includes regional surveys, site excavations, and material culture studies relevant to the later sixth and seventh centuries. This period, however, is especially difficult to identify archaeologically due to an insufficient understanding of the ceramics, coins and other material culture current at the time, and the impression that there were few stylistic changes until the early eighth century. As a result, any such study based on archaeological data is fraught with difficulties, but not impossible.
The fact that the arrival of Islam in Bilâd al-Shâm can not be identified in the cultural record is significant, as is the continuity in the material culture throughout the seventh century. In this context, ceramics are particularly illuminating, for instance the material from Jarash and Pella in Jordan, with parallel work in Palestine and Syria. Also relevant is the maintenance of an urban-based monetary economy during the seventh century, at first mostly informal but later regularized and institutionalized under Abd al-Malik at the end of the century. The distribution patterns of both the ceramics and the coins reveal significant levels of regional economic activity from the later sixth century until the wide-ranging social and economic reforms of the Marwânid Umayyad caliphs, after which new economic structures were to evolve.
As this study will attempt to show, recent archaeological work—with its growing emphasis on the Late Antique and early Islamic periods in the Levant—is continually improving our understanding of the later sixth and seventh centuries, and especially continuities and discontinuities in the interconnected economies of town and countryside.
The Problem of early Islamic urban foundations: Amsar Revisited
Donald Whitcomb, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
The phenomenon of the amsar may be seen as a new phase in the urbanization, or more precisely, the urban process in the history of the Middle East. Wheatley has proposed that such developmental processes are of two types, urban imposition or urban generation (1983, 5).
Urban imposition … is virtually inseparable from the expansion of empire and is usually accompanied by the establishment of an administrative organization designed to sustain the value system of the colonial power The amsar may represent such a program of urban imposition, implying that early Islamic culture intentionally reconstituted the social organization of the conquered lands. On the other hand, these cities may be seen as a generational process in which cultural traits of the fully urbanized milieu of the Middle East were integrated into a distinctive Islamic urbanism.
Wheatley views the urban landscape of Bilad al-Sham as essentially filled up in Late Antiquity, with little potential or need for new Islamic cities (2001). This paper will survey the amsar, traditionally described as the camps of the Arab conquest and reflecting a militaristic nature (Reitmeyer 1912), and offer an archaeological description of these urban foundations as a major characteristic of early Islamic culture. The working hypothesis is that the amsar developed from two differing urban traditions. The first is the orthogonal city plan found in the Classical cities of the Near East and particularly those of the Decapolis. A morphological correlate of this city type was the legionary camp, which became a model for the core of the amsar. Examples of this developmental trajectory are Ayla, the desert castles, 'Anjar, and Ramla. The second, but no less important, tradition of urban planning was that of south Arabia. This urban type is far less defined but a model may be constructed from Umm al-Jimal, with amplifications based on Mabiyat and especially al-Madina.
Anatolian castles in context: new approaches to Dark Age Byzantium
Mark Whittow, St Peter's College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
The last thirty years have seen the transformation of Byzantine studies. Thanks to a generation of scholars, many of whom associated with Dumbarton Oaks, we enjoy new editions, new bodies of material, and a newly vibrant secondary literature. But we shouldn't rest on our laurels. There is much still to be done, and above all the archaeology of Byzantium, especially in its Asia Minor heartlands and in the centuries between the 500 and 1000, remains a largely untapped resource. If there is an open frontier for Byzantinists, this is it.
What I, and many other archaeologists and historians of Byzantium, want to see is a new generation of integrated survey and excavation projects, that will open up the rural world of Byzantium, the world of estates and villages, of hamlets and market towns. We want to gather data on land use and settlement patterns, on coinage and pottery, that will give Byzantinists an equivalent quality of evidence to that enjoyed for other periods and other areas, and will allow us to write a properly based comparative history of the middle ages. I want to see the sort of projects taking place in Turkey that have become the norm for Italy, France and Britain.
But archaeology is expensive and time-consuming. What will be the pay-offs? Can we point to work done to date that shows further investment is likely to be worthwhile?
One area that can be cited is castle surveys, which stand out as projects specifically focused on the middle Byzantine period, and I shall be considering above all the evidence of the surveys carried out in the 1980s and 1990s by Professor Foss and myself. What do they show? They certainly show that a lot more was going on in early medieval Byzantium than a picture derived from looking at classical city sites alone might imply. To go further they also suggest interesting things about the social and political structures of the Byzantine world. These are evidently not seigneurial sites. If one is looking for parallels in the west, Spanish Muslim fortresses come to mind, or rather better the example of Anglo-Saxon English burghs.
What Spain and England have in common is that these fortresses are the products of societies where a broad section of the peasant population had a role as members of the arms-bearing and law-worthy political community, and that can lead us back to reread Byzantine sources with new questions in mind.
A very familiar body of material to most Byzantinists is the land legislation of the tenth century. A crucial breakthrough in its interpretation was Rosemary Morris's 1976 paper, The Powerful and the Poor in Tenth Century Byzantium. Since then it has been usual to argue that the issue behind this legislation was not fiscal or military concerns, but political alarm at the rise of a landed aristocracy in Asia Minor; however, reread with the castle evidence in mind, a different picture seems to emerge, a picture of what I am tempted to dub mass politics.
The issues tackled in this paper relate to the Feudal Revolution debate, and are an attempt to bring Byzantium into a wider context, and to bring approaches to texts and material evidence familiar to historians of the Latin West to the attention of historians of Byzantine Anatolia.