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Volume 78

Abstracts for articles forthcoming in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 78 (2024)

Articles have not yet been paginated and are presented in alphabetical order by author.

Jack J. Lennon and Nicholas Wilshere, “The Role of Pollution in Agathias’s Histories.”

Throughout Agathias’s Histories, he makes frequent use of religious pollution. This has often gone unnoticed in discussions of his work, as scholars have typically approached the debate in terms of his attitudes to sin. This article aims to correct this by highlighting the numerous occasions in which pollution is not only present, but also plays a pivotal role in Agathias’s narrative and worldview. In particular, Agathias uses pollution to denigrate the actions and customs of outsiders and non-Romans, while simultaneously presenting Romans such as Justinian’s general Narses as being especially concerned with avoiding pollution and maintaining purity.

Yannis Stouraitis, “Whose War Ethic? Dominant versus Subaltern Ideas about Just War in Byzantine Society.”

This article explores subaltern views of just war in Byzantium in an effort to trace overlaps and differences with the imperial ideology of just war. The first part deals with the issue of emic and etic approaches to conceptions of “just war” and “holy war” in medieval East Roman culture. Focusing on the content of modern categories of analysis and their relationship with the categories of practice attested in our sources, the article argues that the former can better help us interpret and understand Byzantine ideas about the justification of war. The second part is focused mainly on Byzantine sources from the period between the seventh and the tenth centuries. It revisits evidence using an innovative theoretical lens to examine the existence of differentiated ideological approaches to just war within Byzantine society.

David Wagschal, “The Old Gloss on the Nomocanon in Fourteen Titles: Introduction and Edition.”

This article provides an edition of a set of scholia that frequently accompany the nomocanonical portion of the Nomocanon in Fourteen Titles. Particularly common in pre-twelfth century manuscripts, these scholia represent the only extant “commentary” on the nomocanon stricto sensu before the well-known work of Theodore Balsamon. The introduction to the edition situates the scholia within the broader context of Byzantine canonical literature, reviewing their content, form, and their general significance within the tradition of Byzantine church law. Possible dates for the scholia are considered, and it is concluded that the scholia must date to at least the tenth century, and likely earlier—perhaps even as early as the seventh century.

Justin Willson and David Jenkins, “Theophanes of Nicaea and the Diagram That Draws and Erases Itself.”

In the late Byzantine period, theologians began drawing diagrams of the Trinity to argue against the Catholic doctrine of the Filioque. Neither as iconographic as an icon panel, nor as abstract as a syllogism, the drawings, usually executed with pen and ink, articulated the relationship between the three persons of the Christian God. Almost all of the diagrams were designed on the format of an equilateral triangle inscribed in a circle, but an important, overlooked exception is the cycle of diagrams that is the focus of this article. In book three of his Contra Latinos, written after 1368 in response to the Latinophile monk Demetrios Kydones, Theophanes of Nicaea introduces a sequence of twenty-one diagrams. Unlike his predecessors’ trinitarian drawings, Theophanes’ cycle is based on the format of a center point and concentric circles, a design that has a late antique, Neoplatonic precedent. This article introduces the intellectual context of Theophanes’ text, sketches the argument of his drawings, examines the concept of regress in the diagrams, and relates the concentric-circular design to mandorlas in Byzantine art. It concludes with the first edition and translation of his cycle of diagrams.