Mosaic in the Hagia Sophia, late 10th century - Mary enthroned with the Christ Child, surrounded by the church-donor Emperor Justinian offering a model of Hagia Sophia and by the city-founder Emperor Constantine presenting the city of Constantinople.
Welcome to the Website of the Division of Byzantine Studies in the Historical Institute of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität!
Traditionally, Byzantine Studies has been conceived of as a body of scholarship devoted to the history, language and culture of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire. Though specialists still debate when the “Roman” Empire ended and the “Byzantine” Empire began, with suggestions ranging from the time of the establishment of the Tetrarchy (late third century) to the reign of Constantine the Great (fourth century) or Justinian (sixth century) or even as late as the seventh century, most scholars agree that this polity ended on May 29, 1453, when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople. This arbitrary division between Roman and Byzantine is, it must be stated, a heuristic innovation of the Early Modern period, as the Byzantines identified themselves in general as “Romans” (Rhōmaioi).
The classic definition of what we term “Byzantine” is a mixture of three elements, namely Roman political institutions, the Christian Orthodox faith and Hellenic culture. In recent decades, however, Byzantinists have sought to expand the remit of their discipline beyond these criteria. While the Slavic (and Romanian) Orthodox peoples have long been understood to belong to some greater cultural sphere of Byzantine influence (famously described by Dimitri Obolensky as a “Byzantine Commonwealth”), greater attention has been given to the language and culture of the empire’s at times substantial non-Greek yet Orthodox (the Georgians and Melkites) or non-Greek and non-Orthodox (the Miaphysite churches) minorities in the Near East and Caucasus.
In view of these developments in the discipline, the cluster of Byzantine Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University encompasses not only the traditional core of Byzantine culture, but also places emphasis on what can be termed “Byzance après Byzance”. This is particularly evident in the research interests of the cluster’s chair, Prof. Dr. Johannes Pahlitzsch, a leading expert on Melkite Christianity, as well as that of apl. Prof. Dr. Klaus-Peter Todt, are focused on interactions between Byzantium and the Near East. Dr. Miriam Salzmann researches Cyprus under the Lusignans and Dr. Zachary Chitwood the multicultural monastic federation on Mount Athos and its connections with the entire Eastern Mediterranean world. However, this does not mean that traditional aspects of Byzantine Studies are neglected within the cluster, where further expertise might be found in Byzantine prosopography and fiscal administration (PD Dr. Thomas Pratsch), Byzantine relations with the Slavic world and church administration (emeritius Prof. Dr. Günter Prinzing), economic history and pilgrimage (Dr. Max Ritter), Byzantine literature (Prof. Panagiotis Agapitos) and Byzantine philosophy (PD Dr. Sergej Mariev). Last but not least, Byzantine culture of war is a point of emphasis within the Research Training Group 2304 “Byzantium and the Euro-Mediterranean Cultures of War”.