Migration Histories of the Medieval Afroeurasian Transition ZoneAspects of mobility between Africa, Asia and Europe, 300-1500 C.E., ed. by Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Lucian Reinfandt, & Yannis Stouraitis (Leiden – Boston: Brill 2020), 478pp.

This is an open-access publication. You can download the whole book for free from the website of Brill

The transition zone between Africa, Asia and Europe was the most important intersection of human mobility in the medieval period. The present volume for the first time systematically covers migration histories of the regions between the Mediterranean and Central Asia and between Eastern Europe and the Indian Ocean in the centuries from Late Antiquity up to the early modern era. 

Within this framework, specialists from Byzantine, Islamic, Medieval and African history provide detailed analyses of specific regions and groups of migrants, both elites and non-elites as well as voluntary and involuntary. Thereby, also current debates of migration studies are enriched with a new dimension of deep historical time. 

Contributors are: Alexander Beihammer, Lutz Berger, Florin Curta, Charalampos Gasparis, George Hatke, Dirk Hoerder, Johannes Koder, Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Lucian Reinfandt, Youval Rotman, Yannis Stouraitis, Panayiotis Theodoropoulos, and Myriam Wissa.

24 June 2019, 09:30 to 26 June 2019, 16:30
King’s College, Strand Campus, London

Organisers: Irene Polinskaya (Classics, KCL), Alan James (War Studies, KCL), Hans van

Wees (History, UCL), Ioannis Papadogiannakis (Theology and Religious Studies, KCL)


The conference, hosted by the Departments of Classics and War Studies, and the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War at King’s College London, will mark the launch of a new international research network Religion and War through the Ages dedicated to exploring the nexus between religion and war as a recurring cross-cultural phenomenon attested in a great variety of historical societies from antiquity to the present and presenting a particularly poignant modern challenge.

With wide geographic coverage encompassing the Mediterranean basin, Near East, North Africa, and Europe, and taking Classical Antiquity as a starting point, but looking as far back as the second millennium BCE and forward to the Westphalian settlement of 1648, this conference will be a comparative and cross-cultural exploration of the persistent question about the role of religion in motivating, guiding, and explaining the causes and conduct of war.


MONDAY, June 24

9:30-10:00 Registration

10:00-10:10 Introduction 1: Our questions and aims: Irene Polinskaya and Alan James
10:10-10:30 Introduction 2: Modern context: WHETHAM, David (King’s College London) Professional Military Education in the Modern World: The Role and Influence of Religion

10:30-11:30 Session 1: Near East
RICHARDSON, Seth (Chicago) “The plans of the gods are destroyed”: Babylonian scribal views of war and the gods
WANG, Xianhua (Shanghai International Studies University) The Holy War of Eanatum in Light of the Early Dynastic Central Babylonian Tradition

11:30-11:45 Coffee Break

11:45-12:45 Session 2: Near East
NEBIOLO, Francesca (ATER at Collège de France) Gods bless war! Oath and perjury in the Mesopotamian perception of war
GILAN, Amir (Tel Aviv University) Religion and War in Hittite Anatolia

12:45-14:00 Lunch

14:00:15:00 Session 3: Near East
ZAIA, Shana (University of Vienna) The Gods Who March Alongside Me: Religion and War in the Neo-Assyrian Empire
ALLEN, Lindsay (King's College London) Ethnicity, Religion and War: Othering Disruption in the Achaemenid Empire

15:00-15:15 Coffee Break

15:15-16:15 Session 4: Egypt
SPALINGER, Anthony (The University of Auckland) Pharaoh and God before and during Battle: Three Cases from the Egyptian New Kingdom and the Late Period
ALLON, Niv (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) War and Order in New Kingdom Egypt (1550-1070 B.C.)

16:15-16:30 Coffee Break

16:30-17:30 Session 5: Near East
BACHVAROVA, Mary (Willamette University) God as Judge: The Interlocking Hittite Genres of Treaty, Prayer, and Historiography and their Nachleben in the Hebrew Bible
ZUCCONI, Laura (Stockton University) Their Seed is No More: Rhetorical Strategies of Genocide in Ancient Egypt and the Bible

18:00-19:00 Keynote address
MORRIS, Ian (Stanford University) Violence, great men, and the gods: religious and military sources of social power, 10,000 BC-AD 2019

TUESDAY, June 25

09:45-10.00 Coffee

10:00-11:00 Session 6: Biblical Studies
NEVADER, Madhavi (University of St. Andrews) and MEIN, Andrew (Durham University) Religion and War, War and Religion: Jerusalem 586 as Test
WAZANA, Nili (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) Biblical "Laws of War": A View of War from the Side of the Vanquished

11:00-11:15 Coffee Break

11:15-12:45 Session 7: Greece
VAN WEES, Hans (University College London) Genocidal Gods in Archaic Greece
POLINSKAYA, Irene (King's College London) Cui bono? Religious Motivations in
Greek Wars of the Classical Period
FRANCHI, Elena (University of Trento) Religion as a medium of war memories in
Ancient Greece

12:45-14:00 Lunch

14:00-15:00 Session 8: Rome
CIANO, Nunzia (Universita degli studi Roma Tre) Religion, civil war, and the power of word in Cicero's speeches
BERTHELET, Yann (Liège Université) Military auspices of the Roman generals at the end of the Republic

15:00-15:15 Coffee Break

15:15-16:15 Session 9: Rome
KOLBECK, Benjamin (King's College London) The Early Church and War: The Evidence of Tertullian
PAPADOGIANNAKIS, Ioannis (King's College London) The Christian Emperor at War

16:15-16:30 Coffee Break

16:30-17:30 Session 10: Late Antiquity and Middle Ages
STOYANOV, Yuri (SOAS, London) The Religious Dimension of the “Last Great War of Antiquity” (603-628) and its Medieval Legacies
STOURAITIS, Yannis (The University of Edinburgh) Fighting against their own kind: war between Christians in Byzantine thought


9:15-9:30 Coffee

9:30-11:00 Session 11: Middle Ages
PLESHAK, Daniil (State University of St. Petersburg) The Virgin Who Gave Birth to Victory: Divine Help to Besieged Cities during Avar-Byzantine Wars
MARIC, Ivan (The University of Edinburgh) The effects of the Arab siege of Constantinople 717-8 on Byzantine ideology and Muslim-Christian polemic
FERNÁNDEZ-SANTOS, Jorge (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid) Queen Regnant and Holy War: Isabel I of Castile

11:00-11:15 Coffee Break

11:15-12:15 Session 12: Middles Ages
BENNISON, Amira (University of Cambridge, Magdalene College) The religious ideology of the Almohads and their imperial conquests in the twelfth-century Maghreb
NEGGAZ, Nassima (University of Oxford, Faculty of Oriental Studies) The Role of Religion in the Mongol Conquest of Baghdad in 1258

12:15-13:00 Lunch

13:00-14:30 Session 13: Early Modern
HONIG, Jan Willem (King's College London) Divine Judgement, Battle and Strategy in the Early Part of the Hundred Years’ War
ROBERTS, Penny (Warwick University) God’s Warriors in the Most Christian Kingdom: a Reconsideration of the French Religious Wars
BJÖRKLUND, Jaakko (University of Helsinki) Huguenots in the Baltics: religious identity and religious motives for service in the Swedish army 1605 – 1614

14:30-14:45 Coffee Break

14:45-15:45 Session 14: Early Modern
RYRIE, Alec (Durham University) Was Religious War a Secularising Force in the Reformation Era?
JAMES, Alan (King's College London) Cardinal-Ministers and Warrior Priests: Religion and the Making of the Westphalian World Order

15:45-16:15 Concluding discussion

International Workshop
24-25 January 2019

Seminar Rooms 50 and 49
Hollandstraße 11-13, 1st floor
1020 Wien 

How were peoples, ethnic groups and tribes called in different languages in the Early Middle Ages? And how did this semantic field change over time? This workshop is intended to access this controversial (but also under-researched) field from a historical perspective. To what extent is our concept of "ethnic" adequate to the meaning of these terms in this period?

New Publication!

The Bible is the foundational text for the Byzantine Empire. The papers of this volume explore its reception through appropriation, adaptation and interpretation as articulated in all aspects of Byzantine society. Several sessions at the ISBL held in Vienna, 6 to 10 July 2014 on ‘The Reception of the Bible in Greco-Roman Tradition,’ ‘The Bible between Jews and Christians in Byzantium,’ ‘Biblical Scholarship in Byzantium,’ and ‘Biblical Foundations of Byzantine Identity and Culture’ built the basis of this volume.

Various angles shed light on the Byzantine experience of the Bible. The wide range of source materials that inform the contributions to this volume—from manuscripts and military handbooks to lead seals and pilgrim guides— allows insights into a vivid liturgical tradition, which shapes Orthodox Christianity up today. As a thoroughly Christianized society, the Bible had sunk deep into the cultural DNA of Byzantium. The volume shows the multitude of strategies for the engagement with the Biblical text and the manifold ways in which the Bible message was experienced, articulated and brought to life on a daily basis.


2nd Annual Edinburgh International Graduate Byzantine Conference
30th November – 1st December 2018

Appleton Tower, Lecture Theater 2, 
11 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9LE

Reception and appropriation (whether reuse, imitation, or variation) have long been recognised as necessary tools for the interpretation of Byzantine literature, art, architecture and archaeology, while research on innovations is still at a relatively early stage.
The key theme of this conference is dialogue – dialogue between Byzantium and its neighbouring cultures. The conference will explore all three of the fundamental modes of dialogue and discourse (reception, appropriation and innovation) between Byzantium and its neighbours during any time period from the 5th-15th c. Confirmed invited speakers include Professor Claudia Rapp (Vienna), Dr Andrew Marsham (Cambridge), and Father Justin Sinaites (Librarian of St. Catherine’s, Mt. Sinai), in addition to confirmed internal speakers, both Byzantinists and Islamicists.
There will be a small registration fee of £10, and lunch will be provided on both days.We will aim to publish a selection of the papers in a peer-reviewed volume that will bring together the strongest contributions in each area in order to produce an edited volume of high-quality, deep coherence and rich variety. 

The Organising Committee, 
Mathew Barber, Alasdair Grant, Mark Huggins, Matteo Randazzo, Margherita Riso 

New Publication!

András Németh, The Excerpta Constantiniana and the Byzantine Appropriation of the Past, Cambridge University Press 2018, 338pp.


The Excerpta project instigated by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII turned the enormously rich experience offered by Greek historiography into a body of excerpts distributed across fifty-three distinct thematic collections. In this, the first sustained analysis, András Németh moves from viewing the Excerpta only as a collection of textual fragments to focusing on its dependence from and impact on the surrounding Byzantine culture in the tenth century. He introduces the concept of appropriation and also uses it to study some other key texts created under the Excerpta's influence (De thematibus, De administrando imperio and De ceremoniis). Unlike world chronicles, the Excerpta ignored the chronological dimension of history and fostered the biographical turn in Byzantine historiography. By exploring theoretical questions such as classification and retrieval of historical information and the relationship between knowledge and political power, this book provides powerful new ways for exploring the Excerpta in Byzantine studies and beyond.

  • The first in-depth analysis of the historical excerpts, including many key historians from classical and late antiquity, in the context of their production in Byzantium
  • Proposes a new and coherent interpretative framework of several key works produced at Byzantine Court in the tenth century
  • Tackles theoretical problems beyond Byzantium, such as the understanding of time, history, textual coherence, the practical reading of history and managing information overload

New Book!

Geraldine Heng, The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press 2018, 493pp.


In The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages, Geraldine Heng questions the common assumption that the concepts of race and racisms only began in the modern era. Examining Europe's encounters with Jews, Muslims, Africans, Native Americans, Mongols, and the Romani ('Gypsies'), from the 12th through 15th centuries, she shows how racial thinking, racial law, racial practices, and racial phenomena existed in medieval Europe before a recognizable vocabulary of race emerged in the West. Analysing sources in a variety of media, including stories, maps, statuary, illustrations, architectural features, history, saints' lives, religious commentary, laws, political and social institutions, and literature, she argues that religion - so much in play again today - enabled the positing of fundamental differences among humans that created strategic essentialisms to mark off human groups and populations for racialized treatment. Her ground-breaking study also shows how race figured in the emergence of homo europaeus and the identity of Western Europe in this time.

·       Covers a wide range of groups in seven chapters, including Jews, Muslims, Africans, Native Americans, Mongols, and Romani; currently, books on premodern race only address Jews, Muslims, and blackness of skin
·       Women, children, and issues of sexuality are represented and discussed in each chapter making this a pertinent resource for feminist and gender studies, as well as race, medieval, and early modern studies
·       A genuinely interdisciplinary work that contains translations for all foreign and premodern languages discussed within the text

New publication!


This book examines the strategies and military tactics of the Byzantines and their enemies in Eastern Anatolia, Syria and in Upper Mesopotamia in the tenth century. This period of conflict is difficult to define: it was too inactive to be called a ‘war’ but too active to be called a ‘cold war’. Nevertheless, it was a ‘war’, even if it lacked the numerous pitched battles or protracted sieges that defined other periods or other operational theatres of war. This study examines the way the Byzantines innovated and adapted their strategies and tactics to those of their enemies in the East, giving a rich picture of tenth-century Byzantine warfare.
  • Examines the major and most important pitched battles of this period and the Byzantine and Arab military manuals which show how armies were organized and deployed in the battlefield
  • Looks at how the Byzantines adapted their strategies and tactics to those of their enemies in the 10th century Anatolia, Syria and Mesopotamia
  • Shows the transmission of military knowledge through the ages by comparing the military treatises of the 10th century with those from the Roman and Ancient Greek periods


18-20 October 2018
Universität Mainz

Conflicts significantly influenced medieval societies. The martial cultures which arose as a result developed not only in opposition to, but also under the influence of other cultures. Cultures of war are here understood as the norms, interpretations, attributions of meaning and reflections on war, as well as the forms and practices of war itself. The goal of this workshop is to analyze Euro-Mediterranean cultures of war and the importance of Byzantium for them in a comparative perspective on the basis of three concrete sets of topics: 

1) Remembering Victory and Defeat
2) Practices of Celebrating Victory and Triumphs
3) The Culture of Dealing with the Vanquished

Coping with victory and defeat in war touches upon questions of the legitimation of authority, for instance in historiography, panegyric, pictorial representations and architecture. The celebration of a triumph, by contrast, represents a means of direct communication between rulers, the army and the populace. In this context thanks is expressed to the army, generals, the ruler or another higher authority, and it is here that the embedding of the martial in each individual culture is expressed. The treatment of prisoners of war and the enemy dead likewise belongs to the frame of inquiry, yet is of greater importance for its praxis, as a similar treatment of one's own captives and possibly exchanges of prisoners would have been expected.

In order to facilitate a fruitful discussion and start a concise transcultural comparison, on the one hand, various regions are to be included, Latin Europe as well as the Slavic world, Byzantium or the Islamic-ruled Middle East. On the other hand, disciplines that principally work with texts as well as those that analyze material culture are to be called upon to produce a scholarly contribution.

A Conference of the Leibniz-WissenschaftsCampus Mainz at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Organized by: Johannes Pahlitzsch and Jörg Rogge

New Book!

 The Byzantine emperor Leo VI (886–912), was not a general or even a soldier, like his predecessors, but a scholar, and it was the religious education he gained under the tutelage of the patriarch Photios that was to distinguish him as an unusual ruler. This book analyses Leo's literary output, focusing on his deployment of ideological principles and religious obligations to distinguish the characteristics of the Christian oikoumene from the Islamic caliphate, primarily in his military manual known as the Taktika. It also examines in depth his 113 legislative Novels, with particular attention to their theological prolegomena, showing how the emperor's religious sensibilities find expression in his reshaping of the legal code to bring it into closer accord with Byzantine canon law. Meredith L. D. Riedel argues that the impact of his religious faith transformed Byzantine cultural identity and influenced his successors, establishing the Macedonian dynasty as a 'golden age' in Byzantium.