This fifth Memorial Lecture examines the circulation of imperial portraits in the early Palaiologan period, taking as its starting point those – often fragmentary – images discovered and analysed by Dr Anna Christidou in her Courtauld PhD thesis. Quite a few of her finds were located along the western end of the Via Egnatia on the territory of modern-day Albania. This makes sense in the context of Byzantine attempts to reestablish empire after the catastrophic events of the Fourth Crusade, and can be further corroborated with evidence from a perhaps unexpected source: a letter by Constantinopolitan scholar Manuel Moschopoulos surviving in two manuscripts nowdays in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Finally, I shall analyse an all but neglected epigram by Manuel Philes that seems to testify to imperial semi-relief portraits at the gates of the Thracian town of Medeia (present-day Kıyıköy). In conclusion, my paper will suggest that at least during the early Palaiologan period, imperial portraits were a somewhat more ubiquitous phenomenon than hitherto realised – but did they succeed in what they set out to achieve?
Niels Gaul taught Medieval Studies at CEU for eight rewarding years (2007–2015) and is now the A. G. Leventis Professor of Byzantine Studies in the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on the middle and, especially, later Byzantine empire; his recent work has looked at various types of social performances – be it in the form of rhetorical ‘theatre’, (staged) miracles, or processions –, at the scholarly networks permeating late Byzantine society and at the so-called ‘classical tradition’ in the ninth century. He is currently the co-director, together with Prof. Curie Virág (Toronto/Budapest), of a Byzantinist-Sinologist project funded by the European Research Council, ‘Classicising learning in medieval imperial systems: cross-cultural approaches to Byzantine paideia and Tang/Song xue’ (CoG 726371, 2017–2022).