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Special Topic: The Golden Age of Byzantium (HST945)

In 867 Basil the Macedonian secured imperial power for his family by the ruthless elimination of his patron (and possibly lover), the emperor Michael III. Despite the bloody beginnings of its history, the Macedonian dynasty proved to be one of the longest lived and most successful of the Byzantine empire. Its rule coincided with the political and cultural flourishing of the empire, following a period of crisis and decline. The empire regained territory in east and west, and witnessed the peak of its cultural influence over its neighbours, such as the Bulgarians and early Russians. The module allows students to examine an aspect of the period, often described as a golden age. Possible aspects are: the literary culture of the period; the foundation of the Macedonian dynasty, its ideology and its history; cultural trends in Byzantium and the cultural influence of the empire; relations with early Russia, Bulgaria, western Christians and Arabs; the power of court eunuchs in the period; the relations between imperial government and the social elite.