Space, population, and economy in a frontier region: Liguria in the context of the western Byzantine provinces (500-700 CE)

Carabia, Alessandro ORCID: 0000-0002-6709-5302 (2022). Space, population, and economy in a frontier region: Liguria in the context of the western Byzantine provinces (500-700 CE). University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis constitutes the first comprehensive assessment of the north-western frontier province of Liguria in present-day Italy, from the Byzantine reconquest of the region in 553 until its surrender in 643/44 to the Longobards. The work, following an extensive review of archaeological data, both published and unpublished, integrated with the scarce textual sources available, ultimately reassesses the role of Byzantium in its westernmost domains, at times considered of marginal importance and largely disconnected from the broader Imperial system. The study goes beyond the recognized role of Liguria as a militarized frontier province, showing instead the complexity of a region still integrated into the Imperial economic and cultural network inherited from Rome and mediated by Byzantine rule. After an historical overview, subsequent chapters examine key topics such as the transformation of urban centres (Ch. 2), the landscape (Ch. 3), the economic and cultural aspects (Ch. 5), closely related, but not directly controlled, by the military sphere (Ch. 4). Most of these themes were part of the so-called “Byzantine variable”, a paradigm postulated by Enrico Zanini in 1998 to distinguish Imperial and Longobard domains across the peninsula. The combined analysis of these elements over the course of this work has led to a redefinition of the “variable”, reducing the role of urbanism, and introducing an ex-novo focus on rural landscapes. This new model, potentially applicable to other parts of Byzantine Italy as well as to the wider western Byzantine world, shows how, in spite of the growing cultural and economic fragmentation of the Mediterranean from which Liguria was not immune, the Byzantine presence helped preserve, at least for some time, certain distinctive material and cultural elements.

This model is structured to carry out a comparative analysis on urban (Luna, Genoa, Albingaunum, and Albintimilium), rural (Corti and Filattiera-Sorano), ecclesiastical (Noli) and military (Castrum Perti) sites. In the last chapter this is tested through a preliminary comparative analysis with Byzantine (Sicily) and non-Byzantine domains (Provence, Tuscany). This is an essential step to define the patterns of change and resilience which affected Liguria in this period. Such an approach considers the effective role the Eastern Roman Empire had in every part of the “variable”, distinguishing the direct and indirect consequences of the policies of Constantinople beyond its hypothetical area of influence. The results offer new insights into the Byzantine West during a time of critical changes throughout the Mediterranean.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DG Italy


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