July 2019

Plagues Past, Paths Forward

July 29, 2019 Just about this time five years ago, I was finishing up what had been an extraordinary adventure. I had spent the year at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, ostensibly to work on the impact Arabic medicine had had on 11th- and 12th-century Europe. I made good headway on that project, discovering at least a dozen new manuscripts, “cracking the code” on several key developments in intellectual history, and finally putting a human face on my key protagonist, the immigrant Tunisian monk, Constantine the African. But at the opening reception for Visiting Members in September 2013,...

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Elite Byzantine Kinship

By the end of the twelfth century, Byzantine aristocratic families looked in many ways like the more familiar noble lineages of Western Europe. Marked by a surname and a strong sense of collective identity, these families both dominated imperial politics and developed a distinct system of cultural values and social hierarchy. Within this system, the genose merged as the cornerstone of aristocratic self-awareness and factional politics. The Byzantine aristocratic genos (γένος, pl. γένη/genē)is alternately treated by modern scholars as a western European-style lineage, some kind of nebulous “clan,” or is simply left untranslated. Most scholars have viewed it as a kind...

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