Tag Archives: Aphrodisias

The conference before the storm: Leeds International Medieval Congress, 2019

Looking back on the last pre-Covid International Medieval Congress seems like a different world by now, even though we’ve but recently had the 2022 one, where, ironically or not, I caught my first dose of Covid. I guess that, because of that and because of the big push towards online hybrid participation that the pandemic gave us, it’s clear already that we’re never going back to quite the same experience of a campus full of medievalists meeting and interacting, but will now live with the sense, firstly, that that may be dangerous as well as desirable and that some people just aren’t going to be able to take part, and secondly that a lot of the action is in fact happening off-stage, in the ether.1 So this was the end of an era, or the last stop before a change of trains, or some other metaphor. And, to be honest, because of that, before picking up my notes on it I would have said I remembered very little of what happened at the 2019 Congress, as opposed to any other year since the IMC moved to the Central campus. I didn’t organise anything myself, is all I would have told you this morning, and on inspection that is completely untrue: Rethinking the Medieval Frontier ran for a full day, with people speaking from two continents about places from the Canaries to Kashmir. So as it transpires, I was there (obviously) and was pretty busy (nearly as obviously) and learnt a good few things (thankfully), and it was actually an impressively international and intersectional gathering that had all kinds of promise for the future threaded through it, and it still seems worth writing a report on it. It’s just that the future took a different turn… Because these reports are always huge, however, and not necessarily of interest to all (certainly not throughout), I’ll do what has become my practice and give you the running order of my conference experience, and then put actual commentary below a cut and let you decide (the few of you reading on the actual site rather than in your e-mail, anyway) how much further you care to go.

Monday 1st July 2019

119. Materialities at Birkbeck, I: between mind and matter in medieval monetary policy

  • Rebecca Darley, “Discourses on Absence, or Kalabhra and Vakataka Monetary Policy in Early Medieval Southern India”
  • Chris Budleigh, “Surplus and Scarcity: the contested relationship between monetary supply and aristocratic land management in Comnenian Byzantium”
  • Sidin Sunny, “The Lighter Dirham: power relationships in medieval Spanish society and tendencies in coin fineness and debasement.”

240. The Use and Construction of Place, Space, and Materiality in Late Antiquity

334. Seas and Floods in the Islamic West

  • Andrew Marsham, “Nile Flood Levels and Egyptian Revolts in the Early Medieval Period”
  • Xavier Ballestín, “Ships, Seafarers, Sails and Bows: a source approach to marine networks and coastal settlement in the Western Mediterranean basin on the eve of the rabaḍ uprising in Córdoba, 202 AH/818 AD”
  • Maribel Fierro, “Sea in the Life Narratives of Andalusi Scholars and Saints”

Tuesday 2nd July

530. Rethinking the Medieval Frontier 2018, I: Iberian Spaces

  • Jonathan Jarrett, “Ends of Empire: Two Island Frontiers between Byzantium and Islam”
  • Stacey Murrell, “Centering the Marginal: concubines on Castilian frontiers, c. 1050-1350
  • Sandra Schieweck, “Iberian Border Regimes: the case of Castile and Navarre in the late Middle Ages”

630. Rethinking the Medieval Frontier, 2018, II: Administration and Control

  • Luca Zavagno, “‘The Byzantine Liquid Frontiers’, or How to Administer Insular and Coastal Peripheral Spaces and Stop Worrying About It”
  • Davor Salihović, “The Distribution of Bordering in Late Medieval Hungary”

730. Rethinking the Medieval Frontier 2018, III: between religions

  • Roberta Denaro, “Far from the Corrupting City: building the frontier as a stage for martyrdom and asceticism, 8th-10th centuries”
  • Turaç Hakalmaz, “‘Islandness’ of a Coastal Kingdom: the case of Cilician Armenia”
  • Aniket Tathagata Chettry, “Exploring the Complexities of a Brahmanical Frontier in Bengal”

830. Rethinking the Medieval Frontier 2018, IV: dealing with power on the frontier

  • Jakub Kabala, “Claiming Authority over the Edge of the World: Frontier Strategies in Salzburg, c. 870″
  • Zeynep Aydoğan, “Conquest and Territoriality in the Late Medieval Anatolian Frontiers”
  • Andreas Obenaus, “To Whom Might/Do They Belong? Claims to Newly-Discovered Atlantic Islands in the Late Medieval Period”

Wednesday 3rd July 2019

1048. Forging Memory: false documents and historical consciousness in the Middle Ages, I

  • Graham Barrett, “Charters, Forgeries, and the Diplomatic of Salvation in Medieval Iberia”
  • Daria Safranova, “Using and Detecting Forged Charters in Northern Iberia, c. 900-1100″
  • Levi Roach, “True Lies: Leo of Vercelli, Arduin of Ivrea, and the Struggle for Piedmont”

1140. Byzantine Materialities, II: Ephemera and Iconoclasm

  • Rachel Banes, “You Can’t Write That Here! Mapping Religious and Secular Graffiti in Asia Minor, c. 300-700 CE”
  • Daniel K. Reynolds, “Images, Icons and Apologetic: Christian Iconoclasm in Early Islamic Palestine”
  • Leslie Brubaker, “Dancing in the Streets: the ephemera of Byzantine processions”

1252. Transport, Traders, and Trade Routes in Early Medieval Europe

  • Ewa Magdalena Charowska, “Dugout Builders: the trademark of the Sclaveni in the 6th and 7th Centuries”
  • Daniel Melleno, “From Strangers to Neighbors: Franks and Vikings in the late 9th century”
  • Thomas Freudenhammer, “Rafica: early medieval caravan trade between the West Frankish kingdom and al-Andalus”
  • Victor Farías Zurita, “Response”

1340. Byzantine Materialities, IV: workshops, trade and manuscripts

  • Shaun Tougher, “Macedonian Materialities: the Menologion of Basil II”
  • Chris Wickham, “Materialities of Middle Byzantine Exchange in the Aegean”
  • Flavia Vanni, “Men at work: stucco workshops on Mount Athos”

Thursday 4th July 2019

1509. Gold, Coins and Power in the Early Middle Ages

  • Marco Cristini, “The War of the Coins: Numismatic Evidence for the Gothic War”
  • Nicholas Rogers, “Angels and the King’s Evil: projections of royal authority”
  • Vera Kemper, “‘All that glitters is not gold’: heroes and material wealth”

1652. The Monetary System and Currency in Eurasia in the Pre-Modern Era, II: money and its circulation in British Isles and Scandinavia

  • Yuta Uchikawa, “Commerce and Coin Circulation around the Irish Sea in the 9th and 10th Centuries”
  • Hiroko Yanagawa, “The Irish-Sea Imitations and their Circulation during the Middle Ages”
  • Kenji Nishioka, “The Use of Money in Scotland during the 12th and 13th Centuries”
  • Takahiro Narikawa, “Church and the Money Circulation in High Medieval Norway”

1738. Materialities and Religion in Medieval Armenia and Byzantium

  • Katherine New, “The Representations of Material Objects in Medieval Culture: statue or doll in Byzantine mythography”
  • Carmen Morais Puche, “Medieval Byzantine Coinage in Patrimonio Nacional: image, materiality and religions”

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Seminary XXX: Ephesan epigraphy and Byzantinist jibes

Professor Charlotte Roueché

Professor Charlotte Roueché

The Earlier Middle Ages seminar at the Institute of Historical Research on 8th October was by Charlotte Roueché, under the title of “Late Antique Ephesus: Walking the Streets”. As you may be able to tell from the title, Professor Roueché has a lively sense of humour, which made this one of the most amusing papers I’d been to since Roger Collins last addressed the seminar, though the number of jokes at the expense of classicists and archaeologists and well, anyone who wasn’t a Byzantinist epigrapher rather did in the end pile up a bit like Frank Zappa’s works, snarking at so many people that there’s no way for the listener not to be attacked.

The restored Prytaneion at Ephesus

The restored Prytaneion at Ephesus

This is, admittedly, not to say that she doesn’t have a point. Even if one didn’t know full well that classicists are likely to want to dig up a fourth-century site to find what’s under it, and quite likely restore the early Roman stuff which was probably robbed to build the later stuff (of which she used the example above, the Prytaneion of Ephesus whose columns had been dismantled and reused in the sixth century), one could easily believe that Byzantine inscriptions, written of course in classical languages (both Latin and Greek at Ephesus at least—more on that in a minute), would not rate high in the publications of this material, done of course by classicists for the most part. She had one very sharp example, of a column at Ephesus on which had been inscribed an acclamation of the Empress Eudoxia, which was therefore published in the relevant corpus for the year 395 or thereabouts, because Emperor Theodosius I (379-395)’s wife was called Eudoxia and therefore, &c. Unfortunately, Emperor Heraclius (610-641) also had a wife of that name, and since the other thing on the pillar is an acclamation of him, it seems overall more likely that it’s the later not the earlier. But the corpus puts the one early and Heraclius’s late and there’s no indication in the edition that these things are associated in any way. This is a problem about which we heard a great deal. (The relevant pillar is one of many on what’s called Marble Street, shown below, though I am informed by Prof. Roueché herself that properly speaking Marble Street starts beyond that, and the below is really Kuretes Street, as confirmed here. The photographer didn’t know that, then, is all I can say…) Ephesus also has the additional problem that, being in Turkey even if at the very western end of it, the government is more interested in Ottoman archaeology than Christian archaeology, so funding tends to have to come from overseas and then be successfully got into place. (That this can be done is shown by the huge Inscriptions of Aphrodisias project, which has them all online now, a process in which Professor Roueché had no small part.)

Kuretes Street, Ephesus, crowded with tourists

Kuretes Street, Ephesus, crowded with tourists; Marble Street lies beyond

Because Professor Rouché was conscious that she was talking to an audience who primarily work on Latin, Western, parchment texts, she spent perhaps more time than she really needed emphasising the particular difficulties of an epigrapher: the fact that the evidence comes out of the earth without much ability to choose it, that it has to be cleaned, has often been reused, and so on. I think we got all of this quite easily but I’m no-one to criticise for making the most of the special nature of one’s field after all. What she was actually doing was coming to ask for comparanda, because what you can’t easily see on that image above is that the actual paving stones are also heavily inscribed, and what the inscriptions mean is rather unclear because they’re only symbolic, in the literal sense of being composed of symbols. They are traditionally dismissed, as Professor Roueché was inclined to see it, as gaming circles, which as she said belongs to a very Gibbonesque view of the late Empire where everyone’s so decadent that they’re playing dice in the middle of the street, perhaps because there’s nothing else to do till the barbarians arrive and so on. Of course, in Ephesus, which was a provincial capital till the seventh century (there’s a relatively neat and well-illustrated account of its history here, and Philip Harland has a page up about the site), that takes a bit longer, and the classicists and classical archaeologists have to deal with the fact that very little of the visible fabric is older than fourth-century and had even then seen centuries of use, modification and rearrangment. She wonders, anyway, if they may not be positions marked out for groups in ceremonies, for which there would be more readily intelligible parallels both from earlier Greek cities and later Rome, or even market-stall stances, which one wouldn’t want in text as market-stall holders would probably change faster than you wanted to replace your paving-stones…

The Great Theatre of Ephesus, where St Paul is supposed to have preached

The Great Theatre of Ephesus, where St Paul is supposed to have preached

Two other interesting things struck me as being worth remark about this paper. The first was that the extent of stone-carving in these cities, which is huge—Professor Roueché had a picture of a fair-sized wall at Aphrodisias covered in imperial edicts—was apparently dwarfed by the number of more temporary painted inscriptions. Such an amazingly lettered culture is implied by this that it does seem quite alien to Westerners, who too often acquire an idea that writing is the preserve of the Latin Church. At Aphrodisias, the theatre seats are covered in carved graffiti; as Professor Roueché said you begin to think that everyone was carrying a chisel and hammer in their back pocket in case they passed a blank surface… The other thing was language shift. A lot of the inscriptions are Latin, but most are in Greek, and at Aphrodisias almost overridingly so (because it’s not a capital, was in fact a free city which Romans have to have notional permission to enter, and so on). All the same, when dealing with the Emperors Latin creeps in. I’ve been noticing this myself with Roman Provincial coins lately that I’ve been cataloguing for the exhibition I mentioned, over time what was ‘SEBASTOS’ (transliterated) becomes the Latin word that translates, ‘AVGVSTVS’, but still in Greek (so usually AUGOUSTOS, again transliterated). She pointed us at an acclamation of Justinian I that ends, “TOU UINCAS” in Greek letters, that is the Latin ‘tu vincas’, thou shalt conquer, simply transliterated into Greek without translation. There are others like this, but by this Latin is on the retreat in the Eastern Empire: all the same, apparently when dealing with emperors of the Romans, as the Byzantine rulers consider themselves, one uses the language of the Romans, at least a bit. Both of these things involve mindsets very different from those I’m used to thinking of, but as Professor Roueché observed during the questions, it presupposes that the people making these inscriptions are trying, if rather diffidently, to identify with the West as a larger thing that includes them, and from which scholarship tends instead to divide them. Worth remembering.

Fragment of a letter of Emperors Valerian and Gallienus (260-68) preserved in stone at Aphrodisias

Fragment of a letter of Emperors Valerian and Gallienus (260-68) preserved in stone at Aphrodisias