Re-assembling the Past: Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, Early Syriac Historiography, and its Byzantine and Arab Context (582-842)  (2018-2020; FWO)

The crucial importance of Syriac historiography for the general history of the Mediëval Middle East has recently been highlighted. Even if the genre has hence received attention beyond a small circle of specialists, there is still much work to be done to create the tools that make thorough and critical use of Syriac historiographical texts possible. This project focuses on early West-Syrian historiography (6-9th c.), with a particular focus on the most important fragmentary Syriac historian, Dionysius of Tel-Mahre (d. 845). He is a unique source for the history of the Middle East from 582 until 843, including relations with the Byzantines and the Arabs. The project seeks to make extant fragments of Dionysius and his predecessors available through an edition, translation and commentary, to contextualise his work by studying its ties with Syriac, Byzantine and Muslim Arabic historiography, and to provide a close analysis of its value for the political, cultural, religious history of the Middle East in the Early Middle Ages. It seeks to do so by introducing methodologies common in Classical and Mediëval Studies. Shedding new light on the intercultural make-up of Middle-Eastern society in this period, this project contributes to Byzantine history, Arabic history, Syriac Studies and the history of historiography.

Collaborators: Dr. Marianna Mazzola


Memory of Empire: The Post-Imperial Historiography of Late Antiquity (2013-2017; ERC)

This project offers the first comprehensive interpretation and reconstruction of all historiographical traditions in the Mediterranean from 300 to 800 A.D., the crucial transitional period from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Including all languages and traditions (Greek, Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic and Arabic) in a single study, it advances the hypothesis that the historiography of this period should be understood as ‘post-imperial’: the literary, cultural, and political traditions of the Roman empire remained the point of reference at a time when that empire had, by the seventh century, largely disintegrated. New realities were thus still understood and described with long-lived categories – a situation that generated both tensions and great creativity in the genre. In order to be able to test this hypothesis, the project makes new sources available, increases the accessibility of existing ones, and explores various methodologies.
Collaborators: Dr. Maria Conterno, Dr. Lieve Van Hoof, Panagiotis Manafis, Marianna Mazzola.


The Cultural Meaning of Antiquarianism in Late Antiquity (2013-2017; FWO/NWO; co-directed with Dr. J.W. Drijvers, Groningen)

Late ancient interest in the distant past developed under the influence of an increased awareness of the fundamental changes the world was undergoing, which increased the sensibility for the distance from the classical past. To study this phenomenon, this project will edit fragmentary antiquarian authors and situate the genre in its proper socio-literary context, namely the continued practice of rhetoric in late antique society.
Collaborators: Lorenzo Focanti, Raf Praet


Living texts: Historiography and Literature in the Early Byzantine Period (2012-2016; FWO; co-directed with Prof. M. De Groote)

Many histories were repeatedly and thoroughly reworked by copyists or other authors. Nevertheless, they often continued to circulate under the name of their first author as if they were the unchanged work of that author. This phenomenon serves as a lense to show that discussions about authorship, authority, and audience in early Byzantine historiography have so far been predicated on the idea of a text as a fixed entity produced by a single author.
Collaborator: Emerance Delacenserie


Defeating Doom with History: Syriac Historiography of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (2010-2014; BOF)

This project seeks to revaluate the largely neglected Syriac chronicle of 1234 as an important source for the reconstruction of earlier Greek and Syriac historiographical traditions.
Collaborator: Andy Hilkens