Byzantine Winds at the National Conference of Italian Association of Byzantine Studies

A weblog entry by Laura Borghetti

When the honour of an official invitation to an important conference matches a bit of homesickness, travelling for academic reasons might turn into a truly marvellous experience. This is the way I felt after being invited to present a paper at the "XIV Giornata di Studi dell’AISB – Bisanzio nello spazio e nel tempo. Costantinopoli, la Siria", which took place in Rome on November the 10th-11th, 2017. The two day-long conference was organized by the "Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini" – in particular by Prof. Dr. Silvia Ronchey and Dr. Francesco Monticini – under the patronage of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale in Rome that kindly made the grand Aula Magna and other rooms available to the speakers and the audience [fig. 1]. 

Figure 1. Prof. Dr. Silvia Ronchey (Università degli Studi Roma Tre), Prof. Dr. Peter Schreiner (Universität Köln), Laura Borghetti (Universität Mainz) (Photo by Laura Borghetti).

The main aim of the "XIV Giornate" was to offer a wide overview of several aspects of the more recent research in the framework of the Byzantine Studies, from the philological, historical and artistic points of view. What distinguished this conference was its intention to match the authority of university professors – both Italian and international – with the more recent results of younger PhD students’ ongoing projects. This is how students from all over the world (Bloomington – Indiana, Mainz, Oxford, Roma) had the chance to sit and discuss together with outstanding academic personalities, such as Prof. Dr. Giuseppe De Gregorio (Università degli Studi di Salerno), Prof. Dr. Marc Lauxtermann (Oxford University), Prof. Dr. Paolo Odorico (EHESS Paris), Prof. Dr. Antonio Rigo (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari, president of the Associazione Italiana di Studi Bizantini), Prof. Dr. Yuri Saveliev (Russian Imperial Academy of Arts), Prof. Dr. Peter Schreiner (Universität Köln) [fig. 2]. The dean of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale himself, Father David Nazaar, also underlined how important it is to support younger scholars in their scientific path, especially in our historico-political era, when much of the former territories of the Byzantine Empire – together with their heritage of artistic masterpieces and manuscript tradition – are constantly threatened by dictatorships, internal wars and terrorism.

Figure 2. The Aula Magna at the Pontificio Istituto Orientale (Rome) (Photo by Laura Borghetti).

In conclusion, I can say that the experience of the "XIV Giornate dell’AISB" was for me very positive and fruitful. Going back to places such as the rooms and library of the Pontificio Istituto Orientale, where I spent long days during my studying time, and having the chance to present the most recent results of my dissertation project ("The Wind in the Macedonian Constantinople. Physics, Topography and Literary Role of a Natural Phenomenon") in that very framework, has been exciting and bracing. Both the exchange of ideas about sources and methodology with PhD colleagues and the positive feedbacks that I received from several academic personalities have made the conference in Rome a great incentive for my upcoming months of research.