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The Byzness, 24th May 2015

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‘A herald of Greek-Orthodoxy in Umayyad Syria and Palestine: John of Damascus’, 5pm Monday 25th May, Goodheart Seminar Room, University College,  Oxford University Greek Society Talk

Vassa Kontouma is Assistant Professor at the School of Advanced Studies (École pratique des hautes études, Paris, France), and President of the French Institute of Byzantine Studies (Institut français d’études byzantines).

The OUGS is particularly honored that Professor Kontouma will be coming to town to deliver to our community a presentation, titled: ‘A herald of Greek-Orthodoxy in Umayyad Syria and Palestine: John of Damascus’.

It will be a talk, based on Professor Kontouma’s most recent research, that will enquire on central issues concerning the work, days and influence of that very important literary figure of the middle-Byzantine period, and of the relation of the Greek/Byzantine world to the Arab East of that era. Such themes would be: the cultural background and achievements of that great Christian scholar in the Arab Empire ; his political choices between the Calif and the Byzantine Emperor ; the revival of the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the 8th Century ; as well as his post mortem influence, and the discussion about whether he might be considered an Arab or a Byzantine saint. By focusing, from a novel perspective, on these issues, the speaker will highlight previously less-emphasized aspects in the life and legacy of that very significant historical figure, often with challenging conclusions.


​’Liberty: an Ancient Idea for the Contemporary World: a conference on the ancient notions of liberty and their relevance to the contemporary political discourse, 5th-6th June, University College, London​

Full programme:

The event aims to investigate the ancient understandings of liberty in the interconnected societies of the Near East (including ancient Israel), Greece, and Rome as well as to establish the potential impact of the ancient intellectual world on contemporary political debates. It shall focus on the idea of liberty articulated in its constitutional, individual, and religious dimensions and aims to unearth rival understandings of this concept and to explore key episodes in the history of liberty in these ancientsocieties. Our objective is to bring together scholars of the ancient world, anthropologists, political theorists, philosophers, and legal scholars to formulate the first synchronic account of the ancient notions of liberty, from the Ancient Near East (including ancient Israel) to Greece, Rome, and Byzantium in order to identify rival intellectual understandings of this value and bring intellectual clarity to the conceptualisations of liberty in contemporary political discourse.

Based on the belief that historical inquiry can function as a means of political analysis, the aim of the proposed research is to investigate whether alongside the Republican way of thinking about liberty, the ancient world can offer us other ways of conceptualising this ideal.

The event will conclude with a roundtable discussion with Richard Bellamy (UCL); Kinch Hoekstra (Berkeley), and Quentin Skinner (QMUL).
Attendance is free. However, to register for the event, please go to:


Visiting Research Assistant Professor in Syriac Studies and Digital Humanities, Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University and invite applications for the open position of Visiting Research Assistant Professor in Syriac Studies and Digital Humanities.

The term of appointment is one full year, beginning in fall 2015, with the possibility of renewal for one further year.
The committee will begin review of applications immediately, with priority given to those applications received by May 22. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
Full details of the position can be found here:

The Visiting Research Assistant Professor will work full time under the direction of Prof. David Michelson on the publications of The Syriac Reference Portal, a digital reference project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The researcher will be affiliated with an academic unit at Vanderbilt University depending on expertise (Classics, Divinity, History, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Religion, etc.). The scholar will also be invited to take an active role in the life of Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, including its Digital Humanities seminar.

The person hired for this position will be a specialist in Syriac studies with strong linguistic skills (ancient and modern) and considerable experience working with Syriac texts, both editions and manuscripts. There will be a strong preference for a candidate who has experience with digital humanities, especially TEI XML, but additional training in digital technology specific to the project will be provided as needed.

The researcher will be a contributing author to SPEAR (Syriac Persons, Events, and Relations), the New Handbook of Syriac Literature, Gateway to the Syriac Saints, and publications as needed.

Please contact me with any questions about the position or about the online application system.


David A. Michelson

Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity, Divinity School
Affiliate Assistant Professor of Classics & Islamic Studies, College of Arts & Sciences


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