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Virtue and Politics: A Byzantine Debate

The Oak Room, Fellowship House
March 26, 2020
06:00 PM to 07:30 PM
Fully Booked
CANCELLED | Dimiter Angelov considers the cultivation of political virtue and the debate on character in Byzantine politics.

Out of an abundance of caution in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Dumbarton Oaks will cancel all public events through the end of May.

How virtue and politics were connected was a key question continually exercising the minds of philosophers and orators in the empire governed from Constantinople that we know as the Byzantine Empire. The rise of tyrants and the ruinous actions of rulers necessitated a search for solutions, one of which was the cultivation of virtue and political virtue in particular. What virtues are necessary in a leader? What is the source of political legitimacy? This talk considers through specific examples how Roman ideals of public service, Greek philosophy, and early Christian thought were blended in a lively Byzantine debate on the all-important role of character in politics.

Dimiter Angelov, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine History at Harvard University, has published on court rhetoric, political thought, intellectual culture, geographical imagination, empire, institutions, and biography in the later centuries in Byzantium. His most recent book is a personal, intellectual, and ruler’s biography of the leading medieval proponent of political Hellenism, the emperor of Nicaea and philosopher Theodore II Laskaris (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Before joining the Harvard History Department in 2016, where he teaches a wide variety of graduate and undergraduate courses on the medieval eastern Mediterranean, Angelov worked for over a decade at the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies of the University of Birmingham.

Emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates enthroned, flanked by Truth and Justice. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Coislin 79, 1078–1081, fol. 2r (image courtesy