Texas Tech University

A Tale of Too Many Romes: Competing Byzantine and Medieval Claims to the Roman Legacy

Dr. Anthony Kaldellis

Professor of Classics at Ohio State University

The Roman legacy has changed its meaning often in modern times. Once upheld as a model for free republican states, Rome is today seen more commonly as an imperial colossus that must inevitably "fall." Its culture is consumed mostly in popular entertainment, even if its language remains in sacred use. Likewise in the Middle Ages, Rome's legacy was contested among many powers and interested parties. The eastern (Byzantine) and western (German) emperors insisted that each was the sole legitimate owner of the title "Emperor of the Romans." Rome and New Rome (Constantinople) also competed in the arena of church politics and doctrine. This talk will explain the contours of these debates. What did the Byzantines mean when they said that they were Romans? And why was there so much competition and so much confusion in the medieval west over who or what was Roman?

Anothony Kaldellis is a Professor of Classics at Ohio State University with a PhD in History from the University of Michigan (2001).  Raised in Athens by an American mother and father from Mytilene, he came to the US to Study physics, but ended up a Byzantinist in Ohio. Professor Kaldellis has written extensively on many aspects of Byzantine history, literature, and culture. His work has focused on the reception of the classical tradition, including authors (Procopius of Ceasarea), genres (Ethnography after Antiquity), identities (Hellenism in Byzantium), and monuments (The Christian Parthenon). His most recent monograph proposes a new, Roman interpretation of the Byzantine political sphere (the Byzantine Republic: People and Power at New Rome). He has also translated many Byzantine texts, most recently the histories of Prokpios, Michael Attaleiates, and Laonikos Chalkokondyles (the last two for the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library).

Dr. Kaldellis' lecture was held in the Escondido Theatre at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, on October 7, 2015.

The Institute for the Study of Western Civilization