A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from History's Most Orthodox Empire

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, Sep 1, 2017 - History - 240 pages
0 Reviews
Weird, decadent, degenerate, racially mixed, superstitious, theocratic, effeminate, and even hyper-literate, Byzantium has long been regarded by many as one big curiosity. According to Voltaire, it represented "a worthless collection of miracles, a disgrace for the human mind"; for Hegel, it was "a disgusting picture of imbecility." A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities will churn up these old prejudices, while also stimulating a deeper interest among readers in one of history's most interesting civilizations. Many of the zanier tales and trivia that are collected here revolve around the political and religious life of Byzantium. Thus, stories of saints, relics, and their miracles-from the hilarious to the revolting-abound. Byzantine bureaucracy (whence the adjective "Byzantine"), court scandals, and elaborate penal code are world famous. And what would Byzantium be without its eunuchs, whose ambiguous gender produced odd and risible outcomes in different contexts? The book also contains sections on daily life that are equally eye-opening, including food (from aphrodisiacs to fermented fish sauce), games such as polo and acrobatics, and obnoxious views of foreigners and others (e.g., Germans, Catholics, Arabs, dwarves). But lest we overlook Byzantium's more honorable contributions to civilization, also included are some of the marvels of Byzantine science and technology, from the military (flamethrowers and hand grenades) to the theatrical ("elevator" thrones, roaring mechanical lions) and medical (catheters and cures, some bizarre). This vast assortment of historical anomaly and absurdity sheds vital light on one of history's most obscure and orthodox empires.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Chapter I Marriage and the Family
1
Chapter II Unorthodox Sex
15
Chapter III Animals
31
Chapter IV Food and Dining
45
Chapter V Eunuchs
57
Chapter VI Medical Practice
69
Chapter VII Science and Technology
79
Chapter VIII WarBy Any Means
95
Chapter XIII Punishments
145
Chapter XIV Foreign Lands and People ad 330641
159
Chapter XV Foreigners and Stereotypes ad 6411453
171
Chapter XVI Latins Franks and Germans
185
Chapter XVII DisastersMostly Acts of God
197
Chapter XVIII The Emperors
209
Glossary
223
Coin Images
229

Chapter IX A Menagerie of Saints
109
Chapter X Heresy and Scandal
119
Chapter XI A Gallery of Rogues
131
Chapter XII Inventive Insults
141
Illustration Credits
233
Notes
235
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2017)

Anthony Kaldellis is Professor of Classics at The Ohio State University, and the author of The Christian Parthenon: Classicism and Pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens, Hellenism in Byzantium: The Transformations of Greek Identity and the Reception of the Classical Tradition, and Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade.

Bibliographic information