Art and Society in Another Age of Crisis
The seventh and eighth centuries CE were an age of crisis for the Late Roman/Early Byzantine Empire, a period dominated by the rise of Islam and the threat it posed to engulf Christian Europe (both east and west). These political and religious events were accompanied by near financial collapse. As the Arab tide swept away most of its eastern and North African provinces, it is estimated that the revenues of the Roman state fell by 75% in the seventh century, and to demonstrate further what was interpreted as divine displeasure, these man-made events were accompanied by cataclysmic geophysical activity in the eastern Mediterranean. The parallels with our own time are striking. This course will examine through readings and discussion the ways in which the imperial government in Constantinople dealt with those problems, their reflection in the visual art of the period, and attempted solutions.