Imperial Ideology After Iconoclasm: Renegotiating the Limits of Imperial Power in Byzantium, 843-912

Thesis author: 
Ivan Marić
Year of enrollment: 
Duration of thesis project: 
Sep, 2013 - Sep, 2019
Thesis supervisor: 
Niels Gaul
Thesis abstract: 

Starting from the by now well accepted assumption that Iconoclasm, in addition to the theological dispute involved, had a strong political component, empowering the emperor in ways which served him and his supporters and of which they found themselves involuntarily stripped in the years after 843, my dissertation project takes issue with the seemingly firm division of modern Byzantinist historiography into an iconoclast (until 843, or 850) and a post-iconoclast period, as this precludes, to my understanding, a proper assessment of certain post-843 events and developments. My thesis shall seek to exemplify this by analyzing the renegotiations of imperial power conducted between 843 and 912 between the respective imperial cliques and their opponents within Byzantine élite, with the special attention given to the church and its representatives. My working hypothesis is that emperors and/or their advisors sought to make up somewhat for the loss of imperial prestige with the end of Iconoclasm, and that this quest to re-establish imperial power over Christian doctrine accounts for certain developments and peculiar incidents of the period 843 to 912 – e.g. the disinterment and the destruction of the emperor Constantine V’s remains; Patriarch Photios, his policy, and political legacy; Emperor Leo VI and his efforts to establish himself as an emperor and if not priest, then preacher. The ‘battlefield’ where the presupposed ideological struggle is taking place can be (at least partly) identified. The limits of two authorities were not clear-cut and the renegotiation of power is embedded in the political discourse that occurs in this gray zone. Stepping over the invisible boundaries thus opposing, contesting, or challenging, the authority of the other is what will be under scrutiny. The task is to delineate the dominant political discourse and identify (subtle or not so subtle) statements in the discourse between the two entities which shift (or try to) the balance of power and pose a challenge, or a reaction to one posed, and analyze the dynamics and character of power-politics in Byzantium for the period under scrutiny.