Symposium/Prog - Rethinking Empire, 21-22 April 2017, Washington, USA

Publish Date: Mar 22, 2017

Event Dates: from Apr 21, 2017 12:00 to Apr 22, 2017 12:00


What do we mean when we call Byzantium an empire? A flurry of studies in recent years by historians of other hegemonic civilizations have situated empire and imperialism as historical phenomena across different periods and geographical areas. Until now, the involvement of Byzantinists in this reevaluation has been relatively marginal.

This symposium frames the issue of Byzantium’s imperial identity by setting it within wider contexts in the light of new research by Byzantinists as well as the approaches and methods profitably used by historians of other premodern and modern empires. The speakers will tackle fundamental problems of definition and will question Byzantium’s culture and institutions of empire, relations between core and periphery, territoriality, and ethnic diversity.

The centenary of the First World War, which has stimulated research on the competitive dynamics of the imperial powers that went to war in 1914, makes this symposium particularly timely. There is something highly symbolic in its venue, Dumbarton Oaks, whose founders Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, were close eyewitnesses to the bitter end of the modern “Age of Empire” during Robert Bliss’s diplomatic service in the U.S. Embassy in Paris (1912–19). Thirty years after the outbreak of the First World War, as the Second World War drew to a close, the Blisses and Dumbarton Oaks hosted the conference of world powers that led to the foundation of the United Nations.



Friday, April 21, 2017 - Saturday, April 22, 2017
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Eastern Time


Dumbarton Oaks Music Room
1703 32nd Street, NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20007


  • General Registration: $100.00
  • Student Registration: $75.00

The program

Friday, April 21, 2017

Morning Registration and Coffee
Welcome: Elena Boeck
Introduction: Paul Magdalino & Dimiter Angelov, Defining Empire
  • The Roman and late antique matrix
Emma Dench, Learning from the Past, Learning from the Future: Contemporary Approaches to the Earlier Roman Empire
Sylvain Destephen, From Moving Center to Centralization: The Foundations of Byzantine Imperial Government
  • Territoriality and ethnicity
John Haldon, Empire and Territory: Perceptions and Realities
Vivien Prigent, One for All, All for One? Provincial Elites and the Empire
Anthony Kaldellis, Was Byzantium a Multiethnic Empire?
Commentator: Michael McCormick. Discussion
Reception in the Orangery

Saturday, April 22, 2017

  • Early medieval empires in the Roman world
Morning Registration and Coffee
Jennifer Davis, Rethinking Empire: The Carolingian Perspective
Angel Nikolov, The Imperial Project of Symeon I of Bulgaria (893–927): Byzantine Frameworks and Aftermath
  • Byzantium’s culture of empire
Niels Gaul, Recording, Writing, and Enacting Empire: Officeholders as Agents of Empire in the Middle and Later Byzantine Periods
Annabel Wharton, Imperial Peripheries and Holy Sepulchres
  • Comparative contexts
Cemal Kafadar, The Long and Winding Road to Empire: The Sublime State from the Late Fourteenth to the Mid-Sixteenth Century
Michael Puett, Comparative Reflections on Empires in Chinese Late Antiquity
  • Concluding paper
Paul Magdalino, Rethinking Theocracy
Commentator: Maya Jasanoff

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Location Map

Dumbarton Oaks Music Room
1703 32nd Street, NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20007 USA

For more information click "Further official information" below.

Further Official Information

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