Two Byzantinists are putting together an international reading group.

With universities and libraries closing throughout the world, Byzantinists have increasingly been cut off from each other and holed up inside their residences. As Prokopios writes about the Justinianic plague, “Everyone sat at home, who were well, either caring for the sick or tending to the dying… All artists gave up their crafts and whatever else each person had in hand” (Prokopios, History of the Wars 2.23.17-8). While the world around us gives up its crafts, scholars in the humanities and social sciences feel the moral duty to do their best to help each other even in the isolation of self-quarantine.

For this reason, Scott Kennedy (Bilkent University) and Ugo Mondini (Università degli Studi di Milano), are putting together a reading group for scholars scattered across the world. “We think that this tragic situation could be also seen as an opportunity to build solidarity among scholars and to lay the foundation for future exchanges and collaboration. Like countless other plagues before it, COVID-19 will eventually extinguish itself, but we hope that the flame of Byzantium will burn on and even grow brighter,” they explain.

Reading group meetings will be conducted weekly on Sundays at 8 pm (Central European Time) in English. Graduate students, post-graduates, and faculty members from across the world are kindly encouraged to participate. All meetings will be conducted through Zoom, a video conferencing service. Zoom easily allows large groups to meet and break up into smaller groups for discussion. The service is free to download and use: In each meeting, the themes and ideas present in each reading as a group will be discussed. Group discussion will be moderated by either Scott or Ugo.

For this first week’s theme, the effects of plague, war, and death on Byzantine society will be explored. Every week, Scott and Ugo will share a poll with a few articles or chapters united by a common topic. Each week’s reading will be selected in this way and then shared via email.

Those who intend to attend the first meeting are kindly invited to visit the poll, submit their email so the organizers can keep in touch with them, and select their preferred reading for the first session. The first poll is here: