Constructing heroes and inventing saints in the context of ninth-century Byzantine-Arab warfare

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


after the sack of Amorion by the armies of the caliph al-Mutasim in 838, were taken prisoners to the caliphate and were publicly executed there roughly seven years later by order of the caliph al-Wathiq due to their denial to convert to Islam. In my talk, I shall argue that the event of the public execution is most probably a mid-ninth century Constantinopolitan invention for propagandistic reasons. Mid-tenth century Constantinopolitan historiography reproduced the information of the martyria which were the first sources to report on a public execution, thus irrevocably sealing the historicity of an invented event in the collective memory of eastern Roman society, along with the historical image of the events of the sack of Amorion. The early versions of the martyrion, which were written in the mid-9th century and which established the basic features of a story of heroism on behalf of empire and faith, were intended to turn hagiography into history in order to invert the image of a bitter defeat and exonerate the still ruling Amorian dynasty. The new version of the story that came about with the later versions of the martyrion, written in the late-9th century, was intended to serve different socio-political needs which promoted a new historical interpretation of the defeat as God’s will due to the heretical beliefs of emperor Theophilos (829-842).
Period6 Oct 2020
Held atThe Scottish Hellenic Society of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionRegional