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by Archaeology Newsroom

“Consensus” with Byzantine Historiography: The Irony

Byzantine studies, and by extension Byzantine historiography, were from the beginning a historical field, which, although was held in contempt by historians and archaeologists, was mainly useful for the complementary knowledge it could offer. It served the knowledge of antiquity, the making of national history and was regarded as the appropriate period for the study of the decline of Roman institutions. In its effort to gain self-rule and self-esteem, by stressing its specific characteristics and interests, Byzantine historiography was engaged into a contradicting and refuting course, that led to an apologetic and complicated dead end. Nevertheless, it managed to accomplish important achievements in the political, economic and institutional history, although its relation with the historical theory and the interdisciplinary dialogue has always been problematic. A crucial turn-point occurred, when social history and anthropology were introduced in Byzantine historiography, as well as the tracing and study of the interactions between the Medieval West and Islam began, in parallel with the search for the identity of the “Byzantine man”.

The historiography of Early-Byzantine Peloponnese and its Dark Ages compresses all the aforementioned qualities and features in an exemplary way. It most suitable demonstrates the problematic relation between theory and history, history and archaeology, texts and tangible objects. Furthermore, it successfully proves how fragile and risky the expectations for the relation between historians and archaeologists were and how arbitrarily the other side has adopted the reputed axioms of each field. Indeed, the historical production concerning Medieval Peloponnese represents a good example at least for the study of the prevailing trends in Byzantine historiography.

In conclusion, Byzantine historiography, participating in the issues of the contemporary history making and writing, as opposed to the Byzantine self-sufficiency, teaches us that what must be defined is primarily the need for interdisciplinary communication and continuous transformation of perception.