“Byzantium” is surely a word to conjure with. For some it evokes a romantic “holy city” with its lords and ladies, drowsy Emperor, and Grecian goldsmiths of W. B. Yeats’ poem “Sailing to Byzantium”. For others, the forbidding and enormous complexity of the pejorative adjective “byzantine” might come to mind. What the terms “Byzantium” and “Byzantine” really represent, however, are modern attempts to define and come to terms with the epic, millennium-long story of the eastern Roman empire’s tumultuous journey through the Middle Ages. Until the middle decades of the fifteenth century, when their civilization and their capital city of Constantinople was finally absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, these people thought of themselves as “Romans” and, as the successors to Constantine, the true defenders of Christian orthodoxy.
Byzantine studies first came to Fordham in 1967, when Protopresbyter John Meyendorff, a theologian of the Orthodox church arrived to become Professor of Byzantine History. Meyendorff, the scion of a noble Russian émigré family who was born and educated in France, had already been a professor at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Harvard University, and at Dumbarton Oaks before joining Fordham’s faculty.
Although Meyendorff left Fordham in 1984 and died in 1992, we think he would have been particularly
proud to know about the exciting events of this month, which mark a true renaissance for Byzantine studies at Fordham. Monday, October 5, sees Fordham Theology faculty member Professor George Demacopoulos installed as the Father John Meyendorff & Patterson Family Chair of Orthodox Christian Studies. Professor Demacopoulos’s talk, entitled “War, Violence, and the Feast of the Holy Cross in Byzantium” will take place at 5:30PM in the 1st Floor Auditorium of Keating Hall.
This happy event will be followed, on October 22-25, by the annual Byzantine Studies Association of North America Conference, hosted jointly by Columbia University, the CUNY Graduate Center, and Fordham. A link to the program can be found here, note that Friday’s sessions will be held at CUNY, Saturday and Sunday’s at Fordham (Thursday evening’s plenary is at Casa Italiana, Columbia).