Jeff Beneker and Leonora Neville organize symposium to be held in May


Jeff Beneker and Leonora Neville have organized a symposium to be held at Dumbarton Oaks this May. The symposium, titled “Ancient Histories and History Writing in New Rome: Traditions, Innovations, and Uses,” explores issues of identity, community, and memory in the eastern Roman Empire by examining the ways medieval historians engaged with and used classical Roman and Greek traditions of historical writing. The description is below:

History writing is a key site for the construction of ethical and political consciousness as well as historical memory. It allows individuals and communities to create and articulate their identity and positionality within the sweep of human history. In ancient Greece and the classical and medieval phases of the Roman empire, histories not only recorded past events, but either implicitly or explicitly told audiences how the past defined current communities and set moral and political agendas for future action. Different conceptualizations of the past amount to debates about who the authors thought they were, what was moral, and who their contemporaries ought to be. The study of traditions of historical writing is therefore an archaeology of civic identity, ethics, and politics.

This interdisciplinary symposium brings together scholars of ancient and medieval historical writing to explore connections and interactions between ancient Greek, biblical, classical Roman, and medieval Roman histories. Authors writing histories in eastern Roman society interacted variously with earlier Roman and Greek histories, as well as biblical histories, to construct conceptions of their community’s identities and relationships with the past. Rhetorical alignments signaled conformity with or breaking from pervious strands with these complex cultural traditions. Our explorations of the various ways medieval writers used, adapted, distorted, or ignored earlier texts will help us understand the complexities and nuances of medieval eastern Roman culture, community identity, and politics. In turn, the study of medieval uses of the classical historiographical tradition will yield fresh insights into the ways medieval attitudes and decisions shaped the preservation and creation of the classical canon.


  • Leonora Neville (University of Wisconsin–Madison)
  • Jeffrey Beneker (University of Wisconsin–Madison)


  • Emily Baragwanath (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), “Mirroring Herodotus: Sources, Truth, and Truth Effects in Laonikos Chalkokondyles”
  • Sarah Bassett (Indiana University), “The Romanitas of “Hellenism” in Byzantine Art”
  • Jeff Beneker ( University of Wisconsin–Madison), “John Zonaras and the Fall of the Roman Republic”
  • Sarah Ferrario (The Catholic University of America), “Xenophon on Leadership in 12th Century Historiography”
  • Noreen Humble (University of Calgary), “Symeon Metaphrastes and Plutarch’s Lives”
  • Anthony Kaldellis (University of Chicago), “A Preoccupation with Decline and Other Roman Aspects of Byzantine Historiography”
  • Scott Kennedy (Bilkent University), “The Clash of East and West: the Subversive Classicism of Kritoboulos, the Biographer of the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II (1451-1481)”
  • Leonora Neville (University of Wisconsin–Madison), “Getting from Adam to Alexios: Roman History Looks Back”
  • Stratis Papaioannou (National Hellenic Research Foundation), “The Synaxarion of Constantinople as Historiography”
  • Aglae Pizzone (University of Southern Denmark), “Historiography, Novel, Schedography: The Many Lives of Xenophon’s Cyropaedia in the 12th Century”
  • Christopher Mallan (University of Western Australia), “Rewriting the Republic in Byzantium: Republican History and Political Memory in 10th Century Byzantium”
  • Jesse Torgerson (Wesleyan University), “Changing Continuities: Eighth and Ninth Century Reckonings with the Eusebian Revolution”Ancient Histories and History Writing in New Rome: Traditions, Innovations, and UsesAncient Histories and History Writing in New Rome: Traditions, Innovations, and Uses

View the full program and registration details here >