Online Workshop, University of Cambridge, 7 December 2021
Imperial power in the sixth-century Roman empire could be fragile. ‘Every emperor had to perform a delicate balancing act to remain in power’ by responding to and accommodating the shifting demands of public opinion and various interest groups: senators, bureaucrats, bishops, soldiers and generals, urban factions, and more (Greatrex 2020; Meier 2016; Kaldellis 2015; Bell 2013; Pfeilschifter 2013). Each of these groups have individually assumed increasingly important roles in political narratives of the period, but comparatively little attention has been paid to how those in power – emperors, patriarchs, governors, magistrates, and others – were subjected to pressures and attempted to build power bases across these interest groups. In particular, modern scholarship has established a boundary between “secular” and “ecclesiastical” politics, creating the impression that these were unrelated fields of thought and action. Yet sixth-century political actors did not experience these separate worlds and did not refrain from crossing this boundary as they tried to secure or challenge power.
The purpose of this workshop is to close the artificial divides, especially between “secular” and “ecclesiastical” politics, imposed on the sixth century by the specialisations of modern scholarship. Instead, the workshop will explore how power was contested and secured “without limits”, because only such an all-encompassing approach can adequately take account of the interconnectedness of the sixth-century world, the flexible array of political pressures to which those in power were subjected, and the sometimes unexpected consequences of responding to these pressures. The goal of this approach is to produce a more holistic, comprehensive understanding of sixth-century power struggles in order to better reflect their multivalent nature. Potential topics, in addition to the examples mentioned above, include:
The deadline for submitting abstracts is 31 August 2021; we will announce our decision by mid-September. The workshop will take place online on 7 December 2021 and consist of 30-minute papers followed by 10-15 minutes of discussion.
We envisage the publication of a volume based on the papers delivered at the conference. The inclusion of the papers in the publication will be dependent upon their passing a peer-review process.