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Equines and the Margins of Byzantine Power: Humility or Humiliation?

King's Building, Strand Campus, London

9 Oct
Sappho statue
Part of CHS Late Antique & Byzantine Studies Seminar Series

Riding a donkey is often associated with Jesus’ humble but triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. However, the donkey and its hybrid offspring the mule could signify humiliation as well as humility. In histories of the Middle Byzantine period being paraded on a donkey or mule was presented as a form of punishment particularly associated with rebellions, usurpations, and depositions. Often combined with other punitive measures such as exile or forced tonsure, such parades were meant to discredit those being punished – marginalising them from power by the very act of making them the centre of attention and ridicule. This was especially effective in the case of military and imperial figures who would be used instead to riding a horse with pride. This paper will examine the 11th-century histories of Attaleiates, Psellos and Skylitzes, together with the 12-century illuminations of the Madrid Skylitzes, to analyse the logic of this process of marginalisation and its impact on the masculinity of those involved.

Dr Maroula Perisanidi is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Leeds, UK, researching the roots of clerical authority in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. She has published articles on canon law and on the history of sexuality in several major journals. Her book on Clerical Continence in Twelfth-Century England and Byzantium has recently been published with Routledge.

Part of the Late Antique and Byzantine Studies seminar series.

This event is open to all and free to attend. No booking is required.

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