The imperial court in Constantinople has been central to the outsider’s vision of Byzantium. However, in spite of its fame in literature and scholarship, there have been few attempts to analyze the Byzantine court in its entirety as a phenomenon. The studies in this volume aim to provide a unified composition by presenting Byzantine courtly life in all its interconnected facets.
One important theme that unites these studies is the attention paid to describing the effects of a change in the social makeup of the court during this period and the reflection of these changes in art and architecture. These changes in social composition, mentality, and material culture of the court demonstrate that, as in so many other aspects of Byzantine civilization, the image of permanence and immutability projected by the forms of palace life was more apparent than real. As this new work shows, behind the golden facade of ceremony, rhetoric, and art, there was constant development and renewal.
Henry Maguire has edited a splendid volume of essays on the court culture of the great palace [of the Middle Byzantium Empire] in its heyday, before the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The great palace of the Middle Byzantium Empire was a byword among westerners for its magnificence—and a throne that went up and down. There is rich information in these essays on this technology, costume, and the use of relics and icons… [The essays’] most original contribution lies in the hints they provide as to how this much misunderstood society worked. Plenty of black-and-white illustrations make this a handsome book.
At once eclectic, insightful, and deeply learned, the essays in this excellent volume usher the reader into a complex and dynamic intellectual, artistic, and social milieu: the Byzantine imperial court.
- 372 pages
- Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection
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