Byzantium & the Christian East

Christ and St Menas
Christ and St Menas
on an icon from Egypt

Within a century of Constantine’s re-foundation of the ancient city of Byzantium, his ‘New Rome’ of Constantinople had become a great imperial capital, creating a new focus for political, cultural and economic activity in the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. Fifth-century emperors presided from Constantinople over a ‘Greek Roman Empire’ which enjoyed prosperity, cultural cohesion and security against external attack; in the sixth century the emperor Justinian even launched a programme of reconquest of several of the western provinces. In the seventh century, however, the empire underwent a severe crisis, with the loss of its southern provinces, first to Sasanian Persia, and then to Muslim Arabs.

Late Antiquity saw the development of a new style of imperial authority in Byzantium, now expressed in explicitly Christian terms; this was part of a broader transformation of the role of Christianity in culture and society, affecting everything from literary production to patterns of civic life. Distinctive Christian cultures also flourished in the southern and eastern provinces of the empire, and beyond, both in independent states (like Armenia) and under Sasanian or Arab rule. These communities worshipped and wrote in indigenous languages, such as Syriac, Armenian and Coptic. Increased interest in recent decades in the politics, society, economy and culture of the Byzantine and east-Christian worlds, and vigorous dialogue between historians, archaeologists, and literary and theological scholars, has led to recognition of the creativity and dynamism with which this complex society responded to challenges and change.

Oxford has a very strong tradition of Byzantine and east-Christian studies, which embraces all the disciplines and relevant languages, and is supported by first-class research-libraries (the Bodleian and the Sackler, both of which attract scholars from all over the world).

Details of the researchers, events and courses within the field of Byzantium and Eastern Christianity, that are based in Oxford, can be found by clicking the various links set out on the left of this screen.

Copyright © University of Oxford 2007–12

Webmaster: ocla@history.ox.ac.uk

Web design: Richard Rowley