Margins and Metropolis across the Byzantine Millennium: Essays on an Empire

Margins and Metropolis across the Byzantine Millennium: Essays on an Empire

Margins and Metropolis across the Byzantine Millennium: Essays on an Empire

Margins and Metropolis across the Byzantine Millennium: Essays on an Empire


This volume explores the political, cultural, and ecclesiastical forces that linked the metropolis of Byzantium to the margins of its far-flung empire. Focusing on the provincial region of Hellas and Peloponnesos in central and southern Greece, Judith Herrin shows how the prestige of Constantinople was reflected in the military, civilian, and ecclesiastical officials sent out to govern the provinces. She evokes the ideology and culture of the center by examining different aspects of the imperial court, including diplomacy, ceremony, intellectual life, and relations with the church. Particular topics treat the transmission of mathematical manuscripts, the burning of offensive material, and the church's role in distributing philanthropy.

Herrin contrasts life in the capital with provincial life, tracing the adaptation of a largely rural population to rule by Constantinople from the early medieval period onward. The letters of Michael Choniates, archbishop of Athens from 1182 to 1205, offer a detailed account of how this highly educated cleric coped with life in an imperial backwater, and demonstrate a synthesis of ancient Greek culture and medieval Christianity that was characteristic of the Byzantine elite.

This collection of essays spans the entirety of Herrin's influential career and draws together a significant body of scholarship on problems of empire. It features a general introduction, two previously unpublished essays, and a concise introduction to each essay that describes how it came to be written and how it fits into her broader analysis of the unusual brilliance and longevity of Byzantium.


This book and its companion volume, Unrivalled Influence: Women and Empire in Byzantium, bring together forty years of research and writing about the Byzantine Empire. Each chapter has been very lightly edited and notes selecting some of the most important, relevant new publications have been added. At my publisher’s suggestion I have also introduced each essay with a personal account of how I came to write it and who and what influenced me in doing so.

Each volume traces a historian’s journey across the Byzantine Empire. This one maps my research into its political and intellectual power and authority, the other my discoveries of the role and influence of women. The request to situate each chapter throws some personal light on each particular step of my journey, but it also seems to demand this overall introduction about how I decided to pursue these interests and to write the books I have. The double trek began in the 1960s, at Cambridge, when I chose to become a historian. They were radical and innovative times that naturally left their influence. I still feel myself linked to that period, am proud to have contributed to its spirit, and am happy to say that it has marked my work ever since.

At that time there was a very strong tradition in Britain of historians working from primary material, archives, and documentary evidence. Sometimes this led to narrow, empirical parochialism. But it could also be combined with efforts to build up a large picture, seeking to embrace the totality and to understand the underlying explanation for what happened, especially by scholars on the left. These ambitious aims were invigorated by the anti- authoritarian, anti- hierarchy radicalism of the 1960s. E. H. Carr’s What Is History? (1961) questioned many assumptions and stimulated as many unanswered issues but made us think. For historians, Marx was perhaps the dominant theorist, whose ideas were taken up and applied by Christopher Hill, for example, in his work on the English Civil War. His Century of Revolution was a compelling read. I was also deeply . . .

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