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Discovering Byzantine Lives: Evidence in Texts, Images, and Material Culture

February 20, 2016 | Byzantine Studies Teaching Fellows’ Day

The 2016 Teaching Fellows’ Day, “Discovering Byzantine Lives: Evidence in Texts, Images, and Material Culture,” will focus on how individuals presented themselves, were perceived by those around them, and were portrayed by others, and what this can tell us about the Byzantines themselves, and how they interacted with each other. In addition, we will consider how different categories of evidence—textual, visual, and material—offer multiple entry points into our understanding of Byzantine lived realities.

Please note: This event is open to students from D.C.–area universities, and is by invitation only. The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Oak Room in the Fellowship House at 1700 Wisconsin Avenue NW.

Program

9:15    Arrival and Coffee

9:30     Welcome by Jan Ziolkowski and Michael Maas

9:45     Elizabeth Williams, “Dress & Identity in Early Byzantium

10:25   Jonathan Shea, “Knowing Me, Knowing You: Seals and Self-Identity

11:05   Eric McGeer, “‘Better a lion command deer than a deer command lions’” 

11:45   Group Photograph

12:00   Lunch

1:00     Tours of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Collection, including a study session with Byzantine jewelry and textiles by Elizabeth Williams, and the coin collection (“Propaganda in the Pocket”) with Jonathan Shea

3:00     Discussion

3:30     Program Ends

Speakers and Abstracts

Elizabeth Dospel Williams, “Dress & Identity in Early Byzantium

Just as dress is an important indicator of identity today, so too did outward appearance reveal important clues about wearers' social status, occupation, and gender, among other identities in the Byzantine world. We will explore issues in early Byzantine dress in this paper using jewelry and textiles from the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. Our conversations will continue in afternoon visits to the museum galleries, where we will study jewelry in person.  

Jonathan Shea, “Knowing Me, Knowing You: Seals and Self-Identity”

The thousands of lead seals from Byzantium are an excellent source for understanding how the Byzantines viewed themselves, and wanted to be viewed by those around them. This paper will explore the changing patterns of self-representation on seals from the sixth to fourteenth century, and ask questions about what this can tell us about Byzantine society and the priorities of the Byzantines themselves.

Eric McGeer, “‘Better a lion command deer than a deer command lions’”

This paper will examine the persona of Byzantine military commanders, what attributes they had to have or been seen to have, and how they projected authority, as part of the “act” that a general had to put on.