Professor Apostolos Spanos from the Department of Religion, Philosophy, and History at the University of Agder will give a lecture titled: Innovation and Innovations in Byzantium. The lecture will take place at the Norwegian Institute at Athens on Friday, February 1o, 2017, starting at 19:00.


A topos in Byzantine studies is that Byzantium was a conservative civilization, negative –if not hostile– to innovation. This general idea influenced the study of innovation in Byzantium, which has been presented by modern scholars as either absent or as being decisively opposed to. This is obviously wrong: common logic says that you simply cannot survive for over a millennium without innovating and without being constantly open to innovations. The lecture will discuss both innovation, i.e. the notion of innovation, in Byzantium, as well as specific innovations in various areas.

Before proceeding to Byzantine innovation and innovations, the speaker will briefly present some theoretical and methodological approaches on how to study innovation in any past society. The presentation of specific innovations will focus on two different categories of innovations, what the speaker refers to as “hardware innovations” and “software innovations.” Hardware innovations are related to the material world: e.g. military innovations, such as the Greek fire or the trebuchet; technological innovations, such as the famous automata of the imperial palace; or architectural innovations, like the pendentives of Hagia Sophia may all be called hardware innovations. The lecture will not focus on them, since the speaker believes that “software innovations” are much more interesting, since (what we like to call) the “western world” still uses the Byzantine software in many areas. In this category we may include innovations in art, the close relationship between politics and religion, a new understanding of the world and the human, an innovative understanding of philanthropy and its realization, or the sexualization of the human body and the demonization of Eros.


spanosDr. Apostolos Spanos is a professor of History at the University of Agder, in the Department of Religion, Philosophy and History. His research interests lie in the historical study of innovation, the study of games as historical sources, and the relationship between politics and religion in Byzantium and the Orthodox world. In a previous life, he worked in Byzantine Palaeography and the edition of Byzantine texts. He also did some local history, focusing on the island of Lesbos.