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Imperial Outliers

Building and decorative works in the borderlands and beyond

Authored by: Jonathan Shepard

The Byzantine World

Print publication date:  February  2010
Online publication date:  December  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415440103
eBook ISBN: 9780203817254
Adobe ISBN: 9781136727870

10.4324/9780203817254.ch27

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Abstract

That Byzantine emperors occasionally sent craftsmen, builders and decorators to build or embellish monumental structures for the use of other regimes is known well enough. The ambivalence of this grand gesture is consistent with the “principles and methods” of Byzantine diplomacy, an underlying assumption that other peoples were, ultimately, indebted to the emperor. Grants of money, luxury goods, court titles together with vestments or other emblems of rank, and even of dominion over portions of territory, could be passed off as acts of sovereignty, displaying imperial philanthropia for all the world to see. That the recipients were apt to see things rather differently, as tribute, payment of respects or recognition as heads of legitimately separate regimes, was, from the Constantinopolitan perspective, neither here nor there. 1 “Ignorance” was, after all, characteristic of barbarians, and outsiders’ misinterpretations of the emperor’s largesse were unlikely to carry conviction within the City’s walls; besides, the resultant monuments in faraway places might betoken the emperor’s cultural centrality in the eyes of some beholders.

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