TSP Byzantium between Orient and Occident: Appropriation, translation and dissemination of knowledge, ideas and objects (2019-2023)

The overarching theme of the work programme is the question how knowledge, ideas and objects circulated in the Euro-Mediterranean area, to which cultural processes of translation they were subjected, and finally, what was the role played by Byzantium and its agents as interlocutors and cultural brokers, first diachronically between Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period, and second transregionally between Europe and the Islamicate Near East. Viewing the cultural history of the Euro-Mediterranean Area with Byzantium as the focal point opens an entirely new perspective on these complex cultural processes that aids in overcoming the dichotomy between the stereotypical concepts of Orient and Occident, and thus avoids a Eurocentric point of view concentrated on Latin Europe. The research programme that will systematically examine this dynamic is divided into two thematic areas.

Portrait of Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (1570-1631) from Vetusta Monumenta: quae ad rerum Britannicarum memoriam conservandam Societas Antiquarium Londini sumptu suo edenda curavit..., vol. I, London: Society of Antiquaries of London, 1747, pl. LXVI. The antiquarian is depicted with an illuminated Byzantine manuscript, the famous Cotton Genesis (British Library MS Cotton Otho B. VI). The illumination visible illustrates Abraham pleading that God spare Sodom and Gomorrha (Gen. 18:31-33). This abundantly illustrated manuscript of 5th or early 6th century date (or a twin edition) has been used in the 1220s as the basis for the design of 110 mosaic panels in the domes of the atrium of San Marco in Venice, presumably after it was brought to Venice following the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The manuscript arrived in England, and was acquired by Sir Robert Cotton in the 17th century. The history of the manuscript perfectly illustrates the topic of this key subject area.