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The Orphans of Byzantium

child welfare in the Christian empire

Timothy S. Miller

Publication Year: 2012

In The Orphans of Byzantium, Miller provides a perceptive and original study of the evolution of orphanages in the Byzantine Empire.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-xii

When I began research for The Orphans of Byzantium in 1990, I planned it as a sequel to my first book, The Birth of the Hospital in the Byzantine Empire (published in 1985). Just as the East Roman Empire of Byzantium supported charitable medical hospitals to offer health care to ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-xiv

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I. Introduction

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pp. 1-21

In this passage of her famous Alexiad, Anna Komnena, the daughter of the emperor Alexios I, described her father’s efforts on behalf of the orphans he had rescued while on his campaign of 1116 against the Turks. During the course of this expedition in Asia ...

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II. The Ancient World

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pp. 22-48

Classical Greco-Roman civilization underlay many facets of East Roman society. Ancient Greece and Rome inspired Byzantine political concepts, literary tastes, ideas about the material universe, and philosophical systems, as well as the more mundane aspects ...

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III. The New Jerusalem

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pp. 49-77

Toward the end of his reign, the emperor John II Komnenos (†1143) appointed Alexios Aristenos head of Constantinople’s great orphanage for the second time in Aristenos’s public career. The famous twelfth-century poet and rhetorician Theodore Prodromos dedicated ...

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IV. Byzantine Guardianship

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pp. 78-107

During the eleven hundred years of its existence, the Byzantine state preserved many of the rules and definitions of Roman guardianship, but, as we have seen, the Christian emperors began to alter substantially certain aspects of the Roman system as early as the ...

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V. The Byzantine Church

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pp. 108-140

Byzantine laws of guardianship developed from the Roman legal system of tutela and cura. Although Christian concepts of God’s special love for orphans probably inspired Constantine to legislate greater protection for such children and surely led Justinian to ...

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VI. Abandonment and Adoption

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pp. 141-175

Regarding abandonment and adoption in the Byzantine Empire, one can formulate the key issues with two simple questions: Did the people of East Rome abandon as many babies as their pre-Christian ancestors had? And, second, were devout Christians ...

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VII. The Orphanotropheion: Administration

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pp. 176-208

At the center of the Byzantine program to assist orphans stood the great Orphanotropheion of Constantinople, founded by Saint Zotikos probably during the reign of the emperor Constantius and still functioning nine hundred years later at ...

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VIII. The Orphanotropheion: The Orphan School

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pp. 209-246

According to Anna Komnena, her father, Alexios, placed a grammar school for the children of the Orphanotropheion to the right of the ancient church of Saint Paul.1 The historian Zonaras also credited Alexios with having first established this orphan ...

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IX. Did It Work?

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pp. 247-282

Despite the Judeo-Christian belief that the God of the universe especially loved orphans and protected them with a father’s care, the Byzantines recognized that from a worldly point of view orphania was the greatest disaster that could befall a child. Archbishop ...

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X. Epilogue: The West

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pp. 283-300

During the fifteenth century, the silk merchants of Florence hired the renowned Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi to build a beautiful orphanage for their city. The silk merchants decided to name this new institution the Ospedale degli ...

Appendix: Seventy-Seven Orphan Cases

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pp. 301-305


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pp. 307-325


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pp. 327-340

Production Notes

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p. 341-341

E-ISBN-13: 9780813220796
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813213132

Page Count: 357
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Orphanages -- Byzantine Empire.
  • Child welfare -- Byzantine Empire.
  • Alexius I Comnenus, Emperor of the East, 1048-1118.
  • Guardian and ward -- Byzantine Empire.
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