This book introduces the great civilization of Byzantium and shows the centrality of Byzantium’s role in world history. It also celebrates the founding by Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Bliss of one of the major institutions devoted to the study of that civilization, the Byzantine Center at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C.
Through seven interrelated chapters, which were originally given as lectures at two meetings held in Washington in 1990 and 1991 to honor the fiftieth anniversary of Dumbarton Oaks, the contributors demonstrate the place of Byzantine civilization in world history—both Eastern and Western. At the same time, they show the place of Dumbarton Oaks in interpreting that civilization for what its founders called “an everchanging present.”
The first essay, written by Milton Anastos, a scholar who first came to Dumbarton Oaks in 1941, one year after the founding of the Byzantine Center, is devoted to the institution itself and to the role that it has played in Byzantine Studies over the past fifty years. The four following chapters, by Speros Vryonis, Dimitri Obolensky, Irfan Shahîd, and Angeliki Laiou, discuss the relationships between Byzantium and its neighboring civilizations, Islamic, Slavic, and Western European, and display the great legacy that Byzantium left to those cultures. The two final essays, by Gary Vikam and Henry Maguire, present Byzantine art, today the best known aspect of Byzantine achievement, and discuss its reception by modern critics and historians.