The proposed project focuses on the exploration of an ideology of the ‘subaltern’ within Byzantine society in the period from the reign of Heraclius (610-641) to the conquest of Constantinople by the crusader armies (1204). The period under scrutiny has been singled out due to certain geopolitical and cultural developments such as the de-Latinization of Roman imperial culture and the confinement of Roman territorial rule to the empire’s eastern parts, the geopolitical core of which consisted of Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula and in which the Hellenic language and culture were predominant, thus favouring greater political cohesion and cultural – religious homogeneity within the empire’s territories.
The research aim is to scrutinize the lower strata’s assimilation to, or deviation from, the ruling ideology of the imperial government, that is, the common people’s perceptions of and attitudes towards the centralized imperial power and its ideals, with particular focus on the population of the provinces. The study will deal with core questions such as the image of the imperial office among the mass population, the common people’s perceptions of the imperial ‘state’ apparatus, of the Roman political and legal order, and the political and cultural content of ‘Romanitas’ as a collective identity.
Our working hypothesis is that the empire’s population was not characterized by a high degree of ideological coherence as conveyed to us through the historiographical sources compiled in Constantinople. There was ideological differentiation, i.e. deviation and discrepancy with regard to the ruling imperial ideals, which has to be further scrutinized on the basis of certain dichotomies, such as ruling class vs. lower strata, centre (Constantinopolitan population) vs. periphery (provincial population), ruling ideology vs. oppositional ideologies, monolithic identity vs. discrepant identity.
Our method is based on an understanding of ideology as an analytical concept which refers to sets of ideas and beliefs of a society as a whole, not simply of a society’s ruling group or class, and that it is interrelated with power relations and social divisions. The research foresees a close reading of various sources, with primary focus on hagiographical and other similar texts, which allow insights into the social action and concerns of the common people on the periphery. The material provided by the systematic scrutiny of these texts will serve as a basis for a comparative analysis with the material from historiographical and other sources that primarily reproduce imperial ideology.
The expected results will provide insights into the ideas and beliefs of the lower strata, thereby enabling a bottom-up view of ideology and social structure within Byzantine society. Thus, they will complement the various studies that have focused on imperial ideology and the ideas of the upper class, and will round out the image of the Byzantine society’s ideology in the period from the seventh to the twelfth century, while promoting interdisciplinary research between the research fields of Byzantine Studies, Mediterranean Studies and Social History.
Webseite des Projekts: ByzIdeo