Second Lecture Series:
From the Euphrates to the Red Sea:
cultural exchanges in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Byzantine period

Κ. Takirtakoglou – “The Arab conquest of Syria in the 7th century and the reconstruction of the defence network during the reconquest efforts in the 10th century” (22/11/2023)

This lecture examines the connection between the Arab conquest of Syria, the uninterrupted conflicts between the Byzantine Empire and the Arab Caliphate on the border between them (al-tuġūr) and the great Byzantine counter-attack of the 10th century. After pointing out the problems of the sources, the similarities and analogies in the strategy, operational action and tactics of the two rivals in the conflicts between them on the Syrian front (Bilad Al-Sham) during the two periods under consideration are analysed. It focuses on: a) the influence of geography in the planning of both Byzantine and Arab strategy; b) the reasons why during this period both powers seem to have avoided the siege of enemy positions and their preference to accept enemy surrenders through capitulation agreements; and c) the real reasons behind the phenomena of non-resistance of local populations to enemy forces.

A. Tantsis – “The city and architecture in Syria and Jordan during the Byzantine period: challenges in research” (06/12/2023)

In the archaeological sites of Syria, Jordan and the wider region, our knowledge of the cities and settlements of the Byzantine period grows. The impressive ruins of the cities in the Roman provinces of Arabia and Palestine, the Decapolis and the desert castles reveal many facts, which help us to understand the relationship between urban organization and the architecture of the individual buildings of the period. However, issues of interpretation and dating remain open and affect the assessment of the historical course of the communities in the area as well as the correct evaluation of their development in the area.

C. Stavrakos – “Lead Seals from Syria: an archaeological and historical approach” (10/01/2024)

Byzantine seals are a direct, absolutely reliable historical source which highlights or completes the picture of Byzantine society not only in the capital but also in the provinces. There are not a few cases in which they provide us with information completely unknown from other sources. The lecture will highlight the importance of Byzantine seals as a historical source for Syria, while relating them to the geostrategic importance of this region. The most beautiful pieces will be presented selectively, but also those of greatest interest from a historical and archaeological point of view.

S. Thatharopoulou– “…ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου κατ’ ἀνατολὰς ἡλίου”: monuments in the desert, in cities and small towns at the turn of the 7th and 8th century (* IV Vasilion, 10.33) (24/01/2024)

The Holy Land was a bone of contention between Byzantium and its neighbours, who claimed the eastern provinces of the Empire throughout the first half of the 7th century. The second half of the 7th century finds the provinces of Arabia and Third Palestine definitively outside the Byzantine edifices. Little impact is made on the local Christian population by the change of dominance. Inscriptions and archaeological data attest to the continuous use, repair, renovation and reconstruction of Christian religious buildings in the 7th and 8th centuries in towns, rural settlements and isolated locations, documenting the long-standing presence of the local Christian element in the region. However, methodological approaches to the past and questions of dating still leave open the questions of the end of the use of these buildings and subsequently the evolution of Christian communities from the 9th century onwards.