Ethnography After Antiquity
Foreign Lands and Peoples in Byzantine Literature
Publication Year: 2013
Although Greek and Roman authors wrote ethnographic texts describing foreign cultures, ethnography seems to disappear from Byzantine literature after the seventh century C.E.—a perplexing exception for a culture so strongly self-identified with the Roman empire. Yet the Byzantines, geographically located at the heart of the upheavals that led from the ancient to the modern world, had abundant and sophisticated knowledge of the cultures with which they struggled and bargained. Ethnography After Antiquity examines both the instances and omissions of Byzantine ethnography, exploring the political and religious motivations for writing (or not writing) about other peoples.
Through the ethnographies embedded in classical histories, military manuals, Constantine VII's De administrando imperio, and religious literature, Anthony Kaldellis shows Byzantine authors using accounts of foreign cultures as vehicles to critique their own state or to demonstrate Romano-Christian superiority over Islam. He comes to the startling conclusion that the Byzantines did not view cultural differences through a purely theological prism: their Roman identity, rather than their orthodoxy, was the vital distinction from cultures they considered heretic and barbarian. Filling in the previously unexplained gap between antiquity and the resurgence of ethnography in the late Byzantine period, Ethnography After Antiquity offers new perspective on how Byzantium positioned itself with and against the dramatically shifting world.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Table of Contents
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Th is book is a study of ethnography as a literary practice in Byzantium; that is, it focuses on accounts of foreign peoples the Byzantines themselves wrote. It is not a study of the population of Byzantium according to the methodolo-gies of modern ethnography, something that would be impossible to do given the nature of the evidence. In ancient texts that the Byzantines inherited and ...
1. Ethnography in Late Antique Historiography
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Th is chapter will focus on “classicizing” ethnographies that we fi nd embed-ded mostly in historical texts. I distinguish this secular mode of ethnogra-phy, which was an extension of ancient genres and could be written by both Christian and non- Christian authors, from specifi cally Christian genres of ethnography that appeared in late antiquity and after, which I will discuss in ...
2. Byzantine Information-Gathering behind the Veil of Silence
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Th e contention of the next section will be that the writing of ethnography declined severely in the middle Byzantine period (in fact, until the four-teenth century), certainly in comparison to the rich collection of sources that we have for late antiquity. Th is decline was not, however, due to a lack of knowledge, and that is what this section establishes. Th ere were many people ...
3. Explaining the Relative Decline of Ethnography in the Middle Period
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Th e decline of Byzantine ethnography draws our attention fi rst to the genre of historiography, for that, given ancient pre ce dents, is where we most expect to fi nd it. If we look closely at the historical sources for the middle period, and also realize that our expectations are preconditioned by the classical and late antique evidence that we wrongly take to be normative, some of the mys-...
4. The Genres and Politics of Middle Byzantine Ethnography
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Th e genre of Byzantine ethnography that has received the most attention is the military manuals, especially Maurikios’ Strategikon (ca. 600) and Leon VI’s Taktika (ca. 900), but largely from a positivist point of view, that is, from historians who are searching for facts about military history and are evaluat-ing the reliability of the manuals from that standpoint. In the pro cess, it was ...
5. Ethnography in Palaiologan Literature
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In 1204 the armies of the Fourth Crusade captured Constantinople and set about the conquest and dismemberment of the Byzantine empire. Th ey were to have only partial and temporary success. Th e Byzantines- in- exile managed to hold on to many regions, chiefl y western Greece, Trebizond and its hinter-land, and most of western and northwestern Asia Minor, from where they ...
Epilogue: Looking to a New World
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Until the 1360s, the Palaiologan empire produced a diverse range of sources that pertain to our theme, written by intelligent men who recast traditional forms and images to fashion new perspectives and arguments. Byzantium was now a much smaller fi sh in a more dangerous ocean, but it nevertheless produced some of the most innovative thinkers in its history. Th is produc-...
List of Abbreviations
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As with much that I have written, this book owes its inception to a question casually posed to me by Stephanos Efthymiades in 2001: Why does it seem that the Byzantines abandoned the classical genre of ethnography after the seventh century? Th e question nagged at me for years, but I did not take it up in earnest until later, when Paolo Odorico generously invited me to teach a ...
Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Empire and After
Series Editor Byline: Clifford Ando, Series Editor