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Beyond the Periphery: The Byzantine Insular World between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Luca Zavagno, Bilkent University, Summer Fellow 2016–2017

I researched and prepared the introductory chapters for my book, The Islands of the Byzantine Mediterranean in the Transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, which focuses on the Byzantine insular world as explored through a metaphorical dialogue between different methodologies and a wide array of sources in comparative perspective. I completed the study of two islands discussed in my volume: Malta and the Balearics, which I intend to compare to Cyprus. This comparison is mainly based on material evidence such as ceramics, seals, and coins. By comparing these three islands, one can grasp how, while retaining strong links with Constantinople, they adjusted their loyalties to survive difficulties, chiefly the Arab incursions. These case studies demonstrate how local governments, which were common to territories located on the fringe but integrated into the empire’s culture and religion, adapted and took advantage of their strategic position along Mediterranean trading routes. I also explore how local authorities sought to economically bridge the political gap between Muslim Africa and the Byzantine world. The results of my research will be published in an article to bolster the completion of my forthcoming book.