• Anne McClanan
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


The emperor and empress stood at the apex of the Byzantine state. Even when their very persons were unrecognizable to the functionaries who circled the periphery of the court, the imperial image was replicated endlessly throughout the Empire in their stead. Although Liutprand’s anecdote concerns an emperor, we will see that the same conundrums apply to empresses when we look earlier in Byzantine history at the imperial women of the late fifth and sixth centuries. At once accessible and remote, their representations circulated everywhere at the same time that the individuals receded into the infinity of the concept of divine rule. To their medieval audience, the multiple meanings of imperial images rested on a foundation of visual, political, and cultural traditions that buttressed the institutions of authority. The early Byzantine period presents the chance to study the nascent form of these practices as we see the transition from Roman imperial norms to new paradigms. The role and representation of imperial women demonstrates how those traditions diverged and coincided on the basis of gender.


Textual Source Sixth Century Visual Culture Female Court Byzantine Period 
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© Anne McClanan 2002

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