Bibs, Bobs and Some Thoughts on Kaldellis

Sorry I have been off-line for a bit. My old Toshiba bit the dust last week, so I have just been trying to rescue my old files and have upgraded to a much better lap top. This has included upgrading to office 2013. This blog is a brief rundown on some of my current projects and a few thoughts on the plethora of recent publictations and growing influence of the Byzantine scholar Anthony Kaldellis.

Ten days ago medievalists.net posted one of my favourite recent papers: http://www.medievalists.net/2014/07/16/goths-lombards-romans-greeks-creating-identity-early-medieval italy/?

I enjoy and respect that web site so am happy that they keep utilising my work: four so far this year. This paper, which is an updated version of a paper I first wrote as a grad student in 2002, has proven to be very popular with 1400 shares and 600 downloads in two days. Once again it is not something I will send off to any journal, but it still has found an audience, which is satisfying. I am distraught that I had about ten of these other papers that I could have updated, but ended up getting thrown out when we moved to Australia in 2004.

I also had a more serious paper come out in June on the Greek concept of Andreia in Procopius’ Gothic Wars: http://ejournals.lib.auth.gr/parekbolai

As minor side projects, I have also been sending off some of my book reviews to various journals. Three of these should be out early in 2015. I have put a great deal of work into to two of these since they are in my field. Luckily all three were books I enjoyed immensely, though as followers of this blog already know, I have a tendency to find the soft underbelly of even the best studies.

If you are a scholar just starting out, I would recommend saving your more critical reviews for when you are more established. I made the mistake of publishing a critical review as a grad student that I regret to this day….though I stand by my original assessment.

August will see me finishing my paper: Breaking Down Barriers: Eunuchs in Italy, 400-620 that I am preparing for the AABS conference in November. I will hold off sharing any of this until after the conference. I am also getting ready to write something significant on Justinian’s reconquest and the notion of “return”. I will blog some of it here. It will concentrate how both sides in the Gothic Wars reacted to Justinian’s presentation of this campaign as the return of the “true” Romans, whilst the Goths and their backers promoted the notion of the Eastern Romans as Greeks and Theoderic’s martial Goths as “true” Romans. It compliments an excellent unpublished paper by the noted Theoderican scholar Jon Arnold that dealt with the topic of manly Goths and unmanly Romans.

A book project on construction of gender in Procopius’ Wars is also in the works. I will continue my exploration in this blog of Procopius’ characterisation of Narses for two other articles that should be ready sometime in 2015 as well. So too am I hoping to rework an old paper on notions of Christian heroes in Procopius. Here is a rough version of the project. It was written primarily in 2002 before Kaldellis’ work questioning that Procopius was a Christian came out: https://www.academia.edu/4622597/Holy_Heroes_and_Notions_of_Christian_Courage_in_the_Writings_of_Procopius

Finally a trimmed down version of my most popular paper on academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/2776322/The_Soldiers_Life_Roman_Masculinity_and_the_Manliness_of_War will be published sometime next year either as an article or a book chapter.

I will also be reading Anthony Kaldellis’ 2013 book on Byzantine Ethnography and bounce some ideas off his provocative thesis. Not sure if I will be brave enough to review it. Slight digression: I could probably write an entire blog on Kaldellis’ abundant recent work in the field. In short my views on him are mixed; Kaldellis loves the big idea and like myself often takes a macro view of Late Roman and Byzantine history. I enjoyed his books on Hellenism and the Parthenon, but disliked his work on Procopius, and find his views in various books and articles on Justinian, Procopius, Christianity, causation, and in particular tyche unconvincing, and sometimes strange (a view shared by other scholars). He is one of those historians whom irks as he stimulates. His mastery of the vast array of Late Roman and Byzantine literature is unquestioned. So too has he provoked needed debate in a generally stodgy field. Still he is more popular amongst generalists than specialists. Primarily I think is so because he frequently simplifies in order to drive his big ideas. He also tends to misrepresent or simplify other scholars’ positions e.g.  most modern Byzantine scholars recognise that the Byzantines saw themselves as Romans. He also crossed the line from critical to rude in his book on Procopius, something that he has refrained thankfully from doing in his most recent monographs (I received an interesting email from Averil Cameron on this topic in 2004).

In closing, most everything Kaldellis publishes is lucid, stimulating and elegantly written. Indeed, I am amazed that one academic can produce so many important works on a wide array of subjects and time-periods.   However, one must be careful to not always take his conclusions as doctrine.

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