By Michael Maas
John Lydus and the Roman Past deals a brand new interpretation of the emergence of Byzantine society as seen throughout the eyes of John Lydus, a sixth-century pupil and civil servant. Maas exhibit that keep watch over of classical inheritance used to be politically contested within the reign of Justinian. He demonstrates how the earlier can be used to express legitimacy and social definition at a time of profound swap.
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Extra info for John Lydus and the Roman Past: Antiquarianism and Politics in the Age of Justinian
In this effort he paralleled developments generated by the palace. Unlike the imperial makers of propaganda, however, Lydus carefully avoided Christian expression. He could not accept their synthesis of Roman power and Christian sanction, and so, in the long term, his theories could not enter the mainstream of Byzantine political expression. His handbooks would be only museum catalogues. The imperial position clarified by Justinian, on the other hand, would be at the center of society, joining not only heaven and earth, but also past and present in the Christian empire.
For example, Justinian’s Novel 25 (May 535) begins: We have thought it right to adorn the nation of Lycaonia with a greater form of government than its present one since we have considered those first beginnings from which comes the present nation of the Lycaonians, according to those who have written about ancient matters. They have informed us that the Lycaonian nation is most closely akin to the Roman people and, on the same evidence, practically wedded to it. Long ago Arcadia in Hellas was ruled by Lycaon, and he began the settlement of the territory of the Romans.
86 It has been suggested that the material compiled in his books originated as his “lecture notes,” but this sort of information would have fitted awkwardly into the usual curriculum. 87 On that occasion the Prefect Hephaistus88 read a decree full of praise, the terms of which show how Lydus wished to be honored and remembered. It says that Lydus preferred the sobriquet “most learned” to all his formal titles and that his erudition won him the admiration of his students. His involvement in civil affairs—that is, his service in the Praetorian Prefecture—was accomplished in harmony with his studies.