Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.01.48 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.01.48

Chryssa Kontogeorgopoulou, Η βυζαντινή Αττική.   Athens:  Siatras, 2016.  Pp. 296.  ISBN 9786188111820.  €48.00.  


Reviewed by Marina Loukaki, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (mloukaki@phil.uoa.gr)

This book is the published version of Chryssa Kontogeorgopoulou’s doctoral thesis Η Αττική κατά την πρώιμη και μέση βυζαντινή περίοδο (324-1204) (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, 2011). The author, inspired by Johannes Koder’s and Friedrich Hild’s Hellas und Thessalia (Tabula Imperii Byzantini, I, Vienna, 1976), has set herself the ambitious goal of deepening and enriching that work by focusing exclusively on the geographic area of Attica in the early and middle Byzantine period. She first studies the region as a whole during Byzantine times, and goes on to catalogue in detail all the toponyms and monuments mentioned in Byzantine sources. She envisages a "Tabula Atticae Byzantinae" (p. ΙΧ).

The book is divided into two parts. The first part, entitled ‘History and Geography of Byzantine Attica’, includes two chapters. In the first one, ‘Byzantine Attica as a Natural and Historical Unit’ (p. 11-85), Kontogeorgopoulou discusses a variety of topics such as the spatial expansion of Attica and its different names (p. 11-20), the question of Megaris and whether it is a part of Attica or Korinthos (p. 20-23), the natural environment (landscape, climate, geomorphology, mineral resources, rivers, flora, fauna, p. 23-41), civil administration, church organization and the development of the ecclesiastical administration, education and culture in Athens, question of worship, institutions, enemy invasions and wars from the early 4th century to the beginning of the 13th century (p. 42-85). In the second chapter, ‘Byzantine Attica as an Anthropogeographic Space’ (p. 87-148), the author examines communication and means of transport (land and sea routes, ports, urban roads), defense and fortifications, the society and the economy (social structure, occupations, residences, crafts), demography, settlements, churches and monasteries in urban areas, monastic centers in the mountains of Panion and Hymettus that she considers "sacred" (p. 141).

All the issues discussed by the author in these two chapters are very interesting, and the pieces of information offered to the non-specialist reader are helpful and instructive. However, the way in which certain issues are approached and discussed is rather hasty and uncritical, in light of the fact that she disregards the Byzantine reality and does not refer to the extensive relevant bibliography. For example, the author regards as remarkable the fact that Photius knew the ancient names of Attica and mentioned them in his Lexicon (p. 14-15), without taking into consideration, first, his classical education – to which she, nevertheless, refers extensively later while discussing the landscape (p. 23-25), – and, second, how the Byzantine lexicographers in general relied on earlier works when preparing their entries. It is also due to the classical education of the writers that the ancient names of Attica are found in biographies of saints and are deployed by Christian writers; Kontogeorgopoulou should not to be surprised (p. 14-15). Moreover, the pursuit of philosophy, the development of philosophical thinking, the School of Athens and its professors during the early Byzantine period, all constitute topics that have consistently drawn the attention of scholars and researchers. Although one would not expect such a general study on Attica to address and develop this issue in detail, the references to the relevant bibliography should have been more updated and specific. The same can be said for other important subjects, such as the Byzantine inscriptions of Attica, the governors and civil administrators of Attica, the question about the invasion of the Normans of Sicily under Roger II in the mid-12th century, which might have included Athens.

The second part of the book includes, in the form of an alphabetical index, all the Byzantine toponyms and monuments of Attica (p. 149-227). Each entry is identified by type (monastery, church, port-settlement, not fortified settlement, fortress, non-fortified town, walled town, village, place of production or economic interest, mountain, plateau etc.) and includes three sections: a) name and location, b) historical information and a brief comment on the etymology or development of the name, c) list and examination of standing monuments or ruins. Sometimes photographs (33 photos), not always of good quality, accompany the description of the monuments. In regard to the monuments, it should be noted that this book is mostly a printed version of the electronic database of Byzantine monuments of Attica, created at the National Hellenic Research Foundation / Institute of Historical Research.1 The database was edited by Dr. Kontogeorgopoulou who was in charge of the historical research.

At the end of the book, there is a list of sources and a bibliography. Despite the weaknesses mentioned above, the amount of information that is collected and offered especially to the Greek reader is very useful and Dr. Kontogeorgopoulou has achieved the goal of creating a "Tabula Atticae Byzantinae".


Notes:


1.   Under the scientific supervision of the Research Director Kriton Chrysohoides and the academic support of Evangelos Chrysos, Emeritus Professor of Byzantine History at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and thanks to archaeological research carried out by archaeologists of the 1st Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities. The database is complete.

Read comments on this review or add a comment on the BMCR blog

Home
Read Latest
Archives
BMCR Blog
About BMCR
Review for BMCR
Commentaries
Support BMCR

BMCR, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010