Orbis Romanus? Byzantium and the Roman Legacy in the Frankish World (594–1024)

This research project aims to be a first attempt to understand the importance of anything Roman in the Frankish world. It uses a wide perspective by focussing on relevant political, historical and cultural relations between the Byzantine east and the Frankish west. The Byzantine empire was closely linked to its Roman history and its legacy, two elements to which the Frankish world saw itself as a part. The interdisciplinary investigation intends to show that the Frankish world that emerged from within the Roman empire remained closely connected to it beyond the late fifth century.

The study deals with the medieval process of alienation on the different levels of society (politics, diplomacy and travel, conceptions of the past, language, identity, religion and culture) by offering a critical discussion of current research on the basis of a re-evaluation of the relevant sources. The conceptions associated with the term Romanus rsp. Ῥωµαῖος prove to be central identification factors that could relate to very different areas of life in both the east and the west and which were subject to fundamental processes of change in the course of the early Middle Ages.

The study aims to show that the Franks always saw themselves as part of the imperial and Roman world as it had emerged from Antiquity. Against this background, they increasingly met the Byzantines on an equal footing, albeit with their own understanding of what connected the two. The study therewith challenges the still widespread view that the Franks had entered Mediterranean history as strangers to the Roman world and therefore had no claim to a share in the ancient Roman heritage.

By connecting questions of the Medieval and Byzantine Studies the present investigation wants to provide a new look at the relationships and social processes of change in these two pivotal domains of European history. The investigation is prone to offer new insights into topics such as the transformation of identity or the early medieval worldview and self-perception in a time when what we call Antiquity was the only reference available.


  • L. Sarti, „Frankish Romanness and Charlemagne’s Empire“, Speculum 91.4 (2016), 1040–1058.
  • L. Sarti, „Totius terrae circulum oceani limbo circumseptum. Das Meer aus der Perspektive gotischer und langobardischer Historiographen“, eds. v. G. Huber-Rebenich, C. Rohr und M. Stolz, Water in Medieval Culture. Uses, Perceptions, and Symbolism. Das Mittelalter. Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung, Beihefte 4 (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2017), 78–89.
  • L. Sarti, „From Romanus to Graecus. The identity and perceptions of the Byzantines in the Frankish West“, Journal of Medieval History 44.2 (2018), 131–150. 
  • Y. Hen, S. Esders, Y. Fox, L. Sarti (eds.), East and West in the Middle Ages. The Merovingian Kingdoms in Mediterranean Perspective, Cambridge: CUP, 2019.
  • L. Sarti, „The Digression on Pope Martin I in the Life of Eligius of Noyon“, in Y. Hen, S. Esders, Y. Fox, L. Sarti (eds.) East and West in the Early Middle Ages, Cambridge: CUP, 2019, 149–164.
  • L. Sarti, „Die Namen zukünftiger Herrscher. Die Vergabepraxis im byzantinischen Osten und dem karolingischen Westen im Vergleich (717–905)“ in M. Becher and H. Hess (eds.), Machterhalt und Herrschaftssicherung. Namen als Legitimationsinstrument in transkultureller Perspektive, Macht und Herrschaft (Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2019), 151–173.
  • L. Sarti, „Die langsame Scheidung vom Imperium. Wahrnehmung und Bewältigung im Zeugnis gallo-fränkischer Briefe (476 bis 800)“, hrsg. v. M. Becher / H. Hess, Kontingenzerfahrungen und ihre Bewältigung zwischen imperium und regna. Beispiele aus Gallien und angrenzende Gebiete vom 5. bis zum 8. Jahrhundert (Göttingen 2021) (in press).
  • L. Sarti, „Byzantine history and stories in the Frankish Chronicle of Fredegar (c. 613–660)“, Francia. Forschungen zur westeuropäischen Geschichte 28 (2021) (in press).
Roman street, Sicily (©Dr. Laury Sarti)

Roman street, Sicily (©Dr. Laury Sarti)


Dr. Laury Sarti

B. Cultural Contacts and Cultural Transfer