Each session will bring together doctoral students from various fields such as history, archaeology, theology, and the social sciences.
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Creation and Maintenance of Communal Boundaries Real and Imagined in Syriac Hagiography during the Early Islamic Period
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World- New York University
Recent scholarship investigating local societies of the Middle East during the Late Antique and Early Islamic periods has made significant strides, shedding light on the importance of communal boundaries. In particular, hagiographical literature written in Syriac offers one of the best insights into the process of social boundary creation and maintenance for this period. This paper will use the Syriac Life of Mār Simeon of the Olives (d. AD 734) as a case study to demonstrate how communal boundaries—both real and imagined—were developed by Miaphysite Christians in Northern Mesopotamia during the late seventh and early eighth century. During that time, the previous frontier between the Roman and Sasanid empires was transformed into the Umayyad province of al-Jazīra. Simeon’s Life is a key witness to the shifting social dynamics of Northern Mesopotamia then. At its core, I will argue, the Life is a testament to the expansion in real estate and imagined–topography of the Monastery of Qartmin, Simeon’s monastic institution located on the Ṭûr ʿAbdîn plateau.
Ibrahim the Protospatharios, the Melkites of Antioch, and Local Autonomy under Byzantine Rule
Joseph Glynias (Princeton)
This paper will focus in on a Byzantine official who became prominent in the decades after the Byzantine reconquest of Antioch in 969, Ibrāhīm ibn Yūḥannā, a Melkite elite born in Antioch. While he would become famous because of his association with the Greco-Arabic translation movement in his home city, this paper will put its focus on his career as an imperial official. New evidence offered by this paper will help illuminate his complex path to Byzantine power, the role he played as a participant in both Constantinopolitan and Antiochene attempts to standardize their Christian canons, and explain his somewhat ambivalent relationship to Byzantine authority. This paper argues that, in Ibrāhīm, we can glimpse the paths to power offered to local elites in an expanded Middle Byzantium. This power, however, would come with a price: namely, that Ibrāhīm and other Melkite elites would have to participate in the project of Byzantine ideology and help advance Byzantine claims about appropriate Christian text and praxis among their compatriots. With that said, the career of Ibrāhīm shows how peripheral elites could ascend to power within the center and help shape Byzantine ideas about Orthodoxy that they then participated in disseminating.