Professor Antony Eastmond
The Byzantine empire was the richest and most powerful state in the Mediterranean in the early Middle Ages, and its art had a profound impact on both the Christian and Islamic societies in the region. This course builds up a core of knowledge of Byzantine culture, and uses it to examine the artistic interaction between the empire and its neighbours to east and west. From Venice to the Caucasus, Constantinople to Cairo, art was used to express the self-identity of a multitude of political, religious, social and cultural communities. The course examines works of art ranging from the decoration and design of major buildings, such as palaces, monasteries, caravanserais and mosques, to the more intimate world of icons, reliquaries and ivories.Case studies explore the ways in which audiences, ranging from emperors to monks, and pilgrims to merchants, used and manipulated the visual world around them. By studying both the allies and the enemies of Byzantium, it is possible to see how Byzantine art was imitated, altered or rejected as the relationship between the empire and its neighbours changed in the centuries after the end of Iconoclasm. How was art transformed as it moved between cultures, and how, in turn, did art transform the societies in which it was adopted? With a wide geographic and cultural span, this course seeks to introduce the diversity of artistic production across the eastern Mediterranean as well as the variety of approaches to its study that can be adopted.