We think of the Byzantine empire as rooted in marble and mosaic on the Bosporos, but for much of the middle Byzantine period the capital and the court moved with the emperor as he campaigned in Asia Minor, Syria, and later Macedonia.
Narratives of the period are full of tents, and manuscript illuminations show the Byzantines with their ephemeral structures. Tent poems comment on the way tents appeared to the Byzantines and how they were experienced. The empire functioned during the campaigning months of the year, and tents represented a space which reflected and influenced uses of settled space by the Byzantines.
Bureaucracy, diplomacy, ceremonial, worship all took place in soft architecture for part of the year, and maintained a mobile empire. In this Byzantium was not unusual among the states of the Mediterranean; tents were popular diplomatic gifts and had ceremonial functions in unexpected places; court culture in many contemporary states was rooted in tents, and Byzantium in some ways more resembled Byzantium’s neighbours on the move than our concept of a fixed capital at Constantinople. The paper will consider tents in the space of the empire, and what happened and how it happened inside the ephemeral structures themselves.
Date: December 16, 2019
Time: 2.30 p.m.