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22.01.30 Cosentino (ed.), A Companion to Byzantine Italy

22.01.30 Cosentino (ed.), A Companion to Byzantine Italy

Now more than thirty years old, the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium has as its entry for “Italy” only two and a half pages, part of which includes a large map. The length of this entry is roughly the same as those for Syria, Asia Minor, or Bulgaria; from this scale it might seem that these areas are roughly equal in their orientation within Byzantine History. Under closer scrutiny, however, each unique territory underscores the complex history of the Empire, whose power and interest extended across the Mediterranean and into Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East, and Africa, in various configurations, for a millennium. A Companion to Byzantine Italy marks the eighth volume in Brill’s new series, Companions to the Byzantine World, is the first volume dedicated to a specific region, and provides a much needed set of synthetic overviews of Italy’s position within the sphere of Byzantine hegemony and its trajectories immediately beyond it to an English-language audience. This volume takes on the various facets of Byzantine administration at both large and small scales, the production and movement of agricultural and material goods and the human geography of Byzantine Italy, and the various nodes for understanding the contours of culture and their evolution from the sixth through the eleventh century.

The physical layout of the volume contains 28 total contributions (including the introduction), organized into three parts: Society and Institutions; Communications, Economy and Landscape (which is further divided into subsections on “General Frameworks” and “Settlements and Landscapes,” and includes contributions on various regions of peninsular Byzantine Italy as well as the islands under its control), and Culture and Education. There are thirty-three maps, which are mostly clear and helpful in support of the contributions. The figures, some in black and white and others reproduced in color, are also suitable, with the majority accompanying the chapter on “Medieval Art in Italy and Byzantium.”

In the introduction to the volume, “Mapping the Memory of Byzantine Italy,” Salvatore Cosentino and Enrico Zanini do not begin by defining the contours and objectives of the volume as one might expect, but rather frame the unique status of Byzantine Italy through its rich written and material sources, which for the period of the sixth to the tenth century were considerably more extensive than any other area of the Empire.

In Part One, Society and Institutions, the contributions set the stage for Byzantine Italy, divided between institutions and their evolutions and the entanglements with other communities in Italy. Cosentino, who also edited the volume, offers two contributions: the first on “Politics and Society” which broadly sketches the political history and social evolution of the “Byzantine West,” from Justinian’s conquest to the long end of Byzantine Italy in the tenth and eleventh centuries. His second contribution discusses “Ecclesiastic Life and Its Institutions,” which considers the different responsibilities that bishops and popes took on, as well as the institutions that supported them (ranging from jurisdictional control to administration of ecclesiastical estates). Enrico Morini’s contribution on “Monastic Life” is organized geographically and explores the various forms of monasticism that appeared in Ravenna, Rome, and Southern Italy, and their evolution and divergence from Latin models over time. The final set of institutions covered in this section is the Byzantine administrative apparatus and the army by Vivien Prigent; the chapter clearly lays out this development, beginning with Provincia Italiae of the sixth century and the introduction of the exarchs, moving to the growing power of the military in administrative affairs, to the various themes, and finally to the Katepanaton which was established at the end of the first millennium to reassert imperial control over the remaining territory in Italy. The remaining contributions to Part One examine the arenas of conflict across Italy, “Byzantines and Lombards” (Federico Marazzi) and “Byzantium and Islam in Southern Italy” (Annliese Nef); they conclude with a chapter tracing the survival of Greek communities in Norman and post-Norman southern Italy, “Greek Communities in Post-Byzantine Italy” (Annick Peters-Custot).

Part Two, “Communications, Economy and Landscape,” turns the focus to material culture, the physical realm, and human activities. The movement of goods by sea and overland is clearly presented in Denis Sami’s contribution on “The Network of Interregional Roads and Harbours,” while Jean-Marie Martin presents the “Rural Economy” and its products. More durable materials are the focus of the following two contributions, with Zanini’s exploration of pottery, glass, and metalwork in “Non-Agricultural Items” and Prigent’s excellent overview of “Mints, Coin Production, and Circulation.” The remaining chapters compose a section on the various regions of Byzantine Italy as well as the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and the often-overlooked Malta, under the subheading of “Settlements and Landscapes” (the contributions are listed below).

In Part Three, the volume turns to various issues of religion, culture, and education, first through a chapter on the status and application of Greek and Latin by Vera von Falkenhausen. What follows includes a chapter by Deborah Deliyannis that examines the role of historical memory in text through both episcopal biographies and saints’ lives, the latter of which serves as the focus of Mario Re’s contribution “Telling the Sanctity in Byzantine Italy,” and an investigation of the many varieties of devotional practices by Francesco D’Aiuto. The next chapter by Massimo Bernabò, “Medieval Art in Italy and Byzantium,” offers a variety of perspectives on the levels of influence of eastern traditions on art in Italy, and the ambiguity governed by different cultural and administrative arrangements as well as other external and internal factors, and divided by period and region. The discussion of architecture in Isabella Baldini’s chapter is approached through typology, ranging from public works and palaces to ecclesiastical buildings. The final two chapters tackle the production of books and secular texts (Paola Degni) and legal texts and judicial practice (Cristina Rognoni).

Companions should serve as a trusted research tool to use while pursuing a more focused study on the various “Byzantine Italies,” or to get a sense of the current scholarship and relevant sources. To this end, the volume performs admirably, its contributions offering concise overviews along with the most pertinent primary and secondary literature. Conciseness, however, sometimes comes with a price, and in the case of this volume, the narrow focus leaves out dedicated sections that would help to position Byzantine Italy within a wider medieval framework. Although touched on in a number of contributions, a greater emphasis on the Byzantine-Carolingian/Ottonian relationships at play in Italy, as well as a more expansive discussion of the Normans and their absorption of Greek language, culture, and scholars (not to mention the threat they represented for the rest of the Empire) would benefit the comprehensiveness of this volume. Despite this, the precision of A Companion to Byzantine Italy is ultimately a benefit and not a liability, as the work stands as an overview of the current scholarship (primarily Italian and French) on this important region of the Byzantine world. Alongside other works, including the recent multi-volume L'héritage byzantin en Italie (VIIIe-XIIe siècle) published by the École française de Rome, A Companion to Byzantine Italy makes available the current state of research on, and serves as gateway to, the many iterations of Byzantine Italy.

Table of Contents

Salvatore Cosentino and Enrico Zanini, “Mapping the Memory of Byzantine Italy” (1–25)

Part One: Society and Institutions

Salvatore Cosentino, “Politics and Society” (29–67)

Salvatore Cosentino, “Ecclesiastic Life and Its Institutions” (68–105)

Enrico Morini, “Monastic Life and Its Institutions” (106–139)

Vivien Prigent, “Byzantine Administration and the Army” (140–168)

Federico Marazzi, “Byzantines and Lombards (169–199)

Annliese Nef, “Byzantium and Islam in Southern Italy (7th–11th Century)” (200–224)

Annick Peters-Custot, “Greek Communities in Post-Byzantine Italy” (225–251)

Part Two: Communications, Economy and Landscape

Denis Sami, “The Network of Interregional Roads and Harbours” (255–278)

Jean-Marie Martin, “Rural Economy: Organization, Exploitation and Resources” (279–299)

Enrico Zanini, “Non-Agricultural Items: Local Production, Importation and Redistribution” (300–327)

Vivien Prigent, “Mints, Coin Production and Circulation” (328–359)

Sauro Gelichi, “The Venetiae, the Exarchate and the Pentapolis” (360–386)

Alessandra Molinari, “Rome and the Roman Duchy” (387–404)

Federico Marazzi, “Byzantine Naples and Gaeta” (405–433)

Ghislaine Noyé, “Byzantine Calabria” (434–452)

Paul Arthur, “Byzantine Apulia” (453–471)

Lucia Arcifa, “Byzantine Sicily” (472–495)

Pier Giorgio Spanu, “Byzantine Sardinia” (496–521)

Brunella Bruno and Nathaniel Cutajar, “Byzantine Malta” (522–538)

Part Three: Culture and Education

Vera von Falkenhausen, “Greek and Latin in Byzantine Italy (6th–11th Century)” (541–581)

Deborah M. Deliyannis, “Bishops, Cities, and Historical Memory in Byzantine Italy” (582–608)

Mario Re, “Telling the Sanctity in Byzantine Italy” (609–640)

Francesco D’Aiuto, “Devotion and Prayer in Byzantine Italy” (641–668)

Massimo Bernabò, “Medieval Art in Italy and Byzantium (ca. 550–1050): A Viaticum” (669–694)

Isabella Baldini,“Conceiving Social Space in Byzantine Italy: Monumental Architecture and Building Typologies” (695–732)

Paola Degni, “Literary and Book Production in Byzantine Italy” (733–759)

Cristina Rognoni, “Legal Texts and Juridical Practice in Byzantine Italy” (760–796)

Index of Names (797-821)

Index of Subjects (822-829)