Vienna Dialogues Continued: Mobility in Byzantium and Beyond

Vienna Dialogues: Conversation and Cooperation began in 2011 with the aim to create a platform for the exchange of research and ideas in Byzantine studies among scholars in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe in the hope of identifying a common theme for further collaborations.

In four successful meetings that saw the participation of historians, philologists, theologians, archaeologists, and art historians from Switzerland to Ukraine and from Latvia to Cyprus, a common theme emerged: mobility of people, of objects and of ideas.

This broad concept addresses social and political issues (e.g. vertical mobility in Byzantine society, non-sedentary peoples within and outside of Byzantium, diplomatic travel and gift exchange), but also deals with questions of migration and trade and their cultural impact (e.g. the spread of artistic or literary motifs, the dissemination of religious movements).

Ultimately, the exploration of mobility in Byzantium and beyond contributes to a more nuanced understanding of its cultural and political role within the global middle ages, at the intersection between Europe and Asia.

The 2014 and 2015 meetings of the Vienna Dialogues explored issues of mobility in greater depth. The first workshop (October 18, 2014) and dedicated to "People on the Move and the Things they Carry", included contributions on Byzantine relations with the Avars, Seljuqs and the Western Rus as evidenced in narrative sources and archeological finds; diplomacy and encounters between Byzantine and foreign rulers; and the reception and adaptation of Byzantine art in other cultures. The second meeting "People on the Move and the Ideas they Bring" (May 29-30, 2015) focused on transfers of ideas and texts. Papers inquired into the meaning and function of translations of Greek texts into other languages and vice versa; the question of oriental models for Byzantine narrative literature; the transfer of philosophical ideas within the Byzantine Empire; and the knowledge of foreign languages as facilitator of ecclesiastical careers. 

The 2016-2017 Vienna Dialogues aim to pursue these issues in greater depth, with a view to exploring different kinds of sources from textual and material culture and establishing methodological approaches. "Mobility and Migration in Byzantium: Sources and Concepts" (17-18 June, 2016) focused on written sources, the methodological challenges they pose and their potential to contribute to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of social permeability and intercultural contact in the Byzantine Middle Ages.