"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Imperial Geographies

As my students know only too well, I am forever banging on about the importance of understanding geography before you can understand things like the encounter between Eastern Christians and Muslims. Thus we spend a good deal of time looking at maps, ancient and modern, and watching borders, countries, and populations shift. The geography of Constantinople is in itself a fascinating study: the capital of one empire that resisted the advances of another empire for more than 700 years, thanks in no small part to its geographic location which conveyed supreme advantages on the defenders and made the job of invaders fiendishly difficult.

A new book will take a look at those two empires: Sahar Bazzaz et al, eds., Imperial Geographies in Byzantine and Ottoman Space Center for Hellenic Studies, 2013), 282pp.

About this book we are told:

Imperial Geographies in Byzantine and Ottoman Space opens new and insightful vistas on the nexus between empire and geography. The volume redirects attention from the Atlantic to the space of the eastern Mediterranean shaped by two empires of remarkable duration and territorial extent, the Byzantine and the Ottoman. The essays offer a diachronic and comparative account that spans the medieval and early modern periods and reaches into the nineteenth century. Methodologically rich, the essays combine historical, literary, and theoretical perspectives. Through texts as diverse as court records and chancery manuals, imperial treatises and fictional works, travel literature and theatrical adaptations, the essays explore ways in which the production of geographical knowledge supported imperial authority or revealed its precarious mastery of geography.

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