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Jankofsky Lecture

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Paul Magdalino Presents “Byzantium as the New Israel”

Paul Magdalino

The UMD Department of English will present the lecture, “Byzantium as the New Israel” on Tuesday, April 5, 2011, at 4 pm at UMD in the fourth floor Library Rotunda.

The speaker, Paul Magdalino, is the Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Byzantine Studies at the University of St. Andrews and a professor of history at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. The presentation is the 11th Annual Jankofsky Lecture, held in memory of UMD English professor Klaus Jankofsky (pronounced yon-KOFF-ski). The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the lecture.

Paul Magdalino’s teaching and research interests are the society, culture and economy of the Byzantine world from the 6th to the 13th centuries. His special interests at present are the city of Constantinople, prophecy, astrology and religion, as well as the relations of Byzantium with Western Europe. He has written and edited numerous books, including Studies on the History and Topography of Byzantine Constantinople (2007); The Occult Sciences in Byzantium (2006); and Byzantium in the Year 1000 (2003).


Throughout history, a number of Christian societies have seen themselves as heir to the ancient Israel, identifying their triumphs or tribulations with the experiences of God's Chosen People as chronicled in the Old Testament. One of the first political regimes to claim such elect status was Byzantium, the Christian Roman Empire with its capital at Constantinople.

This lecture traces the emergence of the motif of Byzantium as the New Israel from the supersessionist ideology of the early Church, which defined itself as the True Israel in order to justify its appropriation of the Jewish Scriptures. It observes how the spiritual ideal became politicised as the Christian Empire increasingly took on the role of the earthly manifestation of the Kingdom of God.

The great invasions of the seventh century, and notably the expansion of Islam, were seen as a replay of God's chastisement of the Kingdom of Israel. Imperial religious reforms, especially the banning of religious images (Iconoclasm) in conformity with the Second Commandment, aimed to regain divine favor by stricter conformity to God's Law.

Although the Byzantine Church eventually rejected such literal adherence to the Law of Moses, the idea that the Byzantines were the new Chosen People continued to flourish after the restoration of icon veneration in 843, becoming an integral part of the culture of militant Orthodoxy that accompanied the political revival of the Empire over the next two centuries. It was most forcefully articulated in official rhetoric of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

For more information, contact Krista Sue-Lo Twu, associate professor, Department of English, 218-726-5998,

Written by Cheryl Reitan

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