Nathanael Aschenbrenner and Jake RansohoffNov 30, 2022
The Invention of Byzantium in Early Modern Europe
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collection 2021
A gulf of centuries separates the Byzantine Empire from the academic field of Byzantine studies. The Invention of Byzantium in Early Modern Europe offers a new approach to the history of Byzantine scholarship, focusing on the attraction that Byzantium held for Early Modern Europeans and challenging the stereotype that they dismissed the Byzantine Empire as an object of contempt.
The authors in this book focus on how and why the Byzantine past was used in Early Modern Europe: to diagnose cultural decline, to excavate the beliefs and practices of early Christians, to defend absolutism or denounce tyranny, and to write strategic ethnography against the Ottomans. By tracing Byzantium’s profound impact on everything from politics to painting, this book shows that the empire and its legacy remained relevant to generations of Western writers, artists, statesmen, and intellectuals as they grappled with the most pressing issues of their day.
Refuting reductive narratives of absence or progress, this book shows how “Byzantium” underwent multiple overlapping and often discordant reinventions before the institutionalization of “Byzantine studies” as an academic discipline. As this book suggests, it was precisely Byzantium’s ambiguity—as both Greek and Roman, ancient and medieval, familiar and foreign—that made it such a vibrant and vital part of the Early Modern European imagination.
Nathanael Aschenbrenner is a lecturer at the University of California San Diego in the department of history. His research and publications explore empire and ideology in the medieval and early modern Mediterranean, as well as Byzantium’s imperial legacy after 1453.
Jake Ransohoff is a Hellenisms Past & Present, Local and Global Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University. He holds a BA from the University of Chicago, and defended his PhD dissertation in History at Harvard University in June, 2022. His current research focuses on the intersection between power, political legitimacy, and attitudes toward the body in the Byzantine world—especially the disfigured and disabled body.
Evan Zarkadas (MA) is an independent scholar of European and Medieval history and an educator. He received his master’s in history from the University of Maine focusing on Medieval Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, medieval identity, and ethnicity during the late Middle Ages.