Experiencing Death in Byzantium

A Day Conference hosted by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University

Experiencing death in Byzantium

29th May 2015

To what extent can we approach the individual experiences surrounding death in Byzantium and what relevance do they have for our knowledge of Byzantine self-understanding? How can we approach experiences that played tangible social roles and yet were so irreducible to literal language and meaning that they remained couched in the language of allegory? To what extent were shared experiences and understandings of death and dying orchestrated for individuals? Can remaining physical and historical evidence reveal such intended experiences to us? This conference sought to access the personal and contingent experiences surrounding death and dying in middle Byzantine mortuary practices.

We considered the affects of the objects, images, literatures and theologies connected to death, dying and the otherworld in Byzantium. In this way, both the material and immaterial aspects of death in Byzantium were discussed from grave goods and eschatological literature, to the emotions and sensations of death along with images of death, dying and judgement. This conference took seriously the evident dearth of systematic eschatological doctrine in Byzantium and Byzantine preference for allegorical understandings of death and the otherworld. It sought instead to create a space to discuss and integrate the separate, and at times disparate and opaque, bodies of eschatological practice and knowledge across various spheres of Byzantine life.  It revealed to us more profound and fundamental insights into eschatological thought, sentiment and action in Byzantium and their contribution to Byzantine self-understandings.

Speakers included: Rosemary Morris, Rasmus Brandt, Mary Cunningham, Sophie Moore, Niamh Bhalla and Mark Jackson.