Byzantine Studies

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Serbian postage stamp, issued on the occasion of the 23rd World Byzantine Congress 2016 in Belgrade

The Byzantine is an interdisciplinary branch of science that deals with history , culture , religion , art , literature, science, economy and politics of the Byzantine Empire busy. The German philologist Hieronymus Wolf is considered to be the founder of Byzantine studies , a humanist of the Renaissance who began to collect, translate and publish the writings of Byzantine philosophers around 100 years after the final conquest of Byzantium by the Ottomans . The first neo-Greekist and linguist who can also be regarded as a Byzantinist was Karl Krumbacher .

The demarcation of Byzantine studies as a science

Byzantine Studies (Byzantinology) is the science that deals with the history and culture of Byzantium (Byzantium ↔ Byzantine Empire, Greek Middle Ages; Byzantium = Constantinople [as the capital of the Byzantine Empire]). The uniformity of the "Byzantium" object of investigation is opposed to a variety of perspectives (= individual disciplines, special subjects). - "Byzantine" research already existed in the high medieval Byzantine Empire. In the late Middle Ages, interest in Byzantium was given by Italian humanism (original Greek sources) and spread - especially in the 17th century - across Europe and Russia. The late 19th and 20th centuries then saw the formation of Byzantine Studies as an independent science.
Greco-Hellenistic culture, Roman state tradition, oriental influences and Christian belief with a relative uniformity of language and culture make Byzantium in the Middle Ages. Byzantine history is mostly based on the reign of Constantine the Great (306–337) and the founding of Constantinople (330). (So-called. No later than the actual division of the Roman Empire in a Western and a Ostreich Reich division of 395 ) starts the Byzantine or late classical phase Byzantine ( early Byzantine time to about 641), which not only of Byzantinists, but also from ancient historians processed becomes. Emperor Justinian (I) (527-565) conquered Italy, Africa and southern Spain, but after the violent invasion of Islam (634/98) a Byzantium, reorganized by the thematic constitution, remained only in the Greek-speaking areas of Greece, Asia Minor and southern Italy limited; Latin was given up as the official language under Herakleios , as was the old Roman imperial title.
With this came the end of antiquity and the Middle Byzantine period began. It was also the epoch of iconoclasm (717–843) and the time of the emergence of the western empire (800). Under the Macedonian dynasty (10th / 11th century) Byzantium regained power against Islam and Bulgarians, but the death of Emperor Basil II (976-1025) marked a turning point, the defeat of Mantzikert (1071) the collapse of Byzantine power Asia (Seljuks) and southern Italy (Normans). A certain stabilization could - with simultaneous western crusade movement (1096–1099, 1147–1149, 1189–1192) - be achieved under the Comnenen - at least until the battle of Myriokephalon (1176). Internal disputes subsequently favored the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders ( 4th Crusade , 1204) and the establishment of Latin states in Greece.
With the palaeologists and the reconquest of Constantinople (1261) the late phase of the Byzantine Empire as a small state begins, which was particularly threatened by the advance of the Ottomans (from 1300) and the economic influence of Venice and Genoa ( late Byzantine period ). An empire weakened by civil wars, among other things, had to capitulate to the Turks (conquest of Constantinople in 1453, Mistras in 1461). The Comnenian Empire of Trebizond (1204–1461) , which emerged in the course of the 4th Crusade, should also be mentioned .
The language level of the Byzantine period is the Middle Greek language . Three language layers of Middle Greek can be identified: Atticism (Attic literary language), Koine (Hellenistic common language), Dimotiki (modern Greek vernacular), whereby a distinction must be made between the spoken Greek and the written, classical tradition.
From the rich Byzantine tradition, historiography with the genres “contemporary history monograph” ( historia , especially widespread in late antiquity , see Prokopios of Caesarea , Agathias and others) and “chronicle” ( Johannes Malalas [6th century]; Georgios Synkellos , Nikephoros , Theophanes [8th / 9th century]; Georgios Monachos [9th century]; Constantine VII. Porphyrogennetos , Leon Diakonos [10th century]; Michael Psellos [10th / 11th century]; Johannes Skylitzes , Johannes Zonaras [12th century], Michael Glykas Sikidites, Niketas Choniates [12th / 13th century], Georgios Akropolites [13th century], Georgios Pachymeres [13th / 14th century], John VI Kantakuzenos [14th century]; Georgios Sphrantzes [15th century]).
Hagiographic writings are the biography ( bios ) and the eulogy ( egkomion ); hagiographic collections are the menaia and sinaxaria . The so-called occasional works include letters, speeches, poems (rhetoric, panegyric), also in the church sector. From the field of Byzantine administration in the broadest sense, we also know peoples and city registers as well as works on court ceremonies and rankings. Scientific works include the strategic fonts. Secular and ecclesiastical legal texts are also to be mentioned, in addition in the ecclesiastical area patriarchal catalogs of the dioceses, in secular and ecclesiastical documents and files (see diplomatics below). The vernacular literature is first documented in writing in the verse epic Digenis Akritas from the 12th century.

Auxiliary sciences of Byzantine studies

a) Traditionals. Written material was recorded mainly and alongside inscriptions, coins and medals on papyrus , parchment or paper . The papyrus scrolls of antiquity (papyrology) soon receded alongside the medieval parchment codices (codicology), while paper appeared in the 9th century (← Arabs ← China).
b) Diplomatics (= doctrine of Byzantine documents). According to the issuer principle, the documents can be divided into secular (emperor, despot, private documents) and spiritual (patriarchal, bishop's documents), according to tradition, into originals (for imperial documents only from the 11th century), imitations and simple copies. In the case of imperial documents, we distinguish between documents with a legislative content (types: edikton, typos, pragmatikos typos, thespisma, neara, nomos, sakra; mandatum principis ), documents on specific legal cases (type epistula: epistule, sakra ; type subscriptio: lysis [administration, taxes ] semeiosis ) foreign affairs documents (contracts, letters to foreign rulers) (types: sakrai, grammata, Basilikon, prokuratorikon chrysobullon ), privileges ( chrysobullos logos , chrysobullos horismos, chrysobullon sigillion) and administrative records (types: prostagmata [ horismoi ] sigillia , codicilli ). Church documents are documents and official letters of the patriarch, including gramma, homologia (creeds), diatheke (testaments), aphorismos (excommunication), paraitesis (abdication) as well as the solemn praxis ( synodike ) and the hypotyposis (synodal resolution) and the tomos (Beliefs).
c) Sphragistics (= seal studies) with gold [chrysobull], lead bulls, wax and paper seals and palaeography (= teaching of fonts) (see above language and writing) are closely connected to diplomacy .
d) Epigraphy (= doctrine of inscriptions), with inscriptions in stone, ore, ivory, in mosaics, enamel and on paintings.
e) Numismatics (= doctrine of coins and [Byzantine] coinage). Building on the late antique gold currency of the solidus, coinage in the Byzantine Empire was based on a gold currency with silver, bronze and copper coins until the middle of the 14th century. Up to the beginning of the 8th century the solidus , the semis and the triens determined the Byzantine coinage, from the 8th century there was only the solidus as gold coin, from the 10th century additionally the tetarteron ; in addition - due to a gold-silver ratio of 1:14 and 1: 8 - miliarense , siliqua and hexagram (in some cases only marginally) could assert themselves as silver coins. Emperor Alexios I (1081–1118) was able to stabilize the currency again by introducing the new gold coin of the Hyperpyron . In the late Byzantine Empire, the basilicon appeared as a silver coin. In keeping with the economic and power-political decline, there was finally no gold currency in the last hundred years of Byzantine history, but a monetary system based on four types of silver coins with the silver hyperpyron as the main coin.
f) Metrology (= study of measures and weights). A multitude of measures of length were used, such as daktylosm kondylos, anticheir, palaiste, dichas, spithame, pechys (small cubit), bema (step), orgia ( fathom ), schoinion (measure for measuring the field), plethron, milion, allage , day route. Measures of capacity were among others: litra, tagarion, pinakion, modios , area measurements among others modios, megalos modios and zeugarion . Measures for water and wine were called megarikon, metron and tetartion . Weight measures were krithokokkon, sitokokkon, gramma, obolos, drachme, ungia, litra, kentenarion, gomarion and pesa .
g) Chronology (= doctrine of the calculation of time). For the eras used in Byzantium, the following conversion applies: year 1 AD = year 754 from urbe condita = 195. Olympics 1st year = year 49 of the Caesarian era of Antioch = year 5493 of the Alexandrian era = year 312 of the Seleucid era = Year 5509 of the Byzantine World Era. The Byzantine year began on September 1st, the assumed day of the creation of the world, so that when converting to the year counting, care must be taken that for days between January 1st and August 31st, only 5508, for days between January 1st and August 31st, only 5508 September and December 31st, however, have to be deducted 5509 years. In addition, dating by indications was also common.

See also

Societies, institutes, research centers

Learned societies

University institutes in Greece

Research centers in Greece

  • National Hellenic Research Center in Athens ( Εθνικό Ίδρυμα Ερευνών: Ινστιτούτο Ιστορικών Ερευνών, Τομέας Βυζαντινών Ερευνών ; founded 1958)

University institutes in Germany

Byzantine Studies is classified as a minor subject in German university policy .

German research centers

University institutes and research centers in Austria

University institutes in Switzerland

University institutes in Great Britain

Research centers in the USA

Research centers in Italy

Research centers in France

Research centers in Turkey


Overview representations

  • Hans-Georg Beck : Byzantine Studies Today . De Gruyter, Berlin 1977, ISBN 3-11-007220-3 .
  • Falko Daim , Jörg Drauschke (ed.): Byzanz - the Roman Empire in the Middle Ages. 4 volumes. Verlag des Römisch Germanisches Zentralmuseums, Mainz 2010 (Vol. 1: World of Ideas, World of Things. ISBN 978-3-88467-153-5 ; Vol. 2, 1 and 2: Schauplätze. ISBN 978-3-88467-154 -2 ; Vol. 3: Periphery and Neighborhood. ISBN 978-3-88467-155-9 ), ( Monographs of the Römisch Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz 84, 1–3), (four-volume academic volume accompanying the special exhibition Byzantium. Splendor and Everyday Life , which the current state of research on Byzantine archeology in an interdisciplinary way).
  • Herbert Hunger : Studies on Greek palaeography. Hollinek, Vienna 1954 ( Biblos-Schriften 5, ZDB -ID 501904-7 ).
  • Herbert Hunger: Byzantine basic research. Collected Essays. Variorum Reprints, London 1973, ISBN 0-902089-55-2 ( Variorum reprint CS 21).
  • Johannes Irmscher : Introduction to Byzantine Studies. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1971 ( Collection Akademie-Verlag 21 Geschichte , ISSN  0138-550X ).
  • Elizabeth M. Jeffreys , John Haldon, Robin Cormack (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. Oxford 2008.
  • Alexander P. Kashdan , Giles Constable: People and Power in Byzantium. An introduction to modern byzantine studies. Center for Byzantine Studies, Washington DC et al. 1982, ISBN 0-88402-103-3 .
  • Ralph-Johannes Lilie : Introduction to Byzantine History. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart a. a. 2007, ISBN 978-3-17-018840-2 ( Kohlhammer-Urban Pocket Books - History / Cultural History / Politics 617).
  • Otto Mazal : Handbook of Byzantine Studies. Academic Printing and Publishing Establishment, Graz 1989, ISBN 3-201-01432-X .
  • Gyula Moravcsik : Introduction to Byzantinology. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1976, ISBN 3-534-05670-1 .
  • Silvia Ronchey : Lo Stato Bizantino. Einaudi, Torino 2002.

Trade journals

Web links

Wiktionary: Byzantine Studies  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations


  1. Page of the work center Small Subjects for Byzantine Studies , accessed on April 17, 2019. (The page gives an overview of all university locations with the subject and the development of the number of teaching staff)
  2. About us. Retrieved January 16, 2019 (UK English).
  3. See also Michael Grünbart , Mihailo Popovic: List of journals and series of the Byzantine and Neo-Greek Studies Library, University of Vienna ( Memento of November 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive ); Beate von Törn, Anke Ziemer: Directory of Byzantine and Neo-Graecist journals in institute libraries in Germany ; Georgije Ostrogorski : History of the Byzantine State , p. 11 ff.