Constantinople as Palimpsest: Now with Words!

Our beta-version of the Constantinople as Palimpsest (a modest encyclopedia of Byzantium) has now had a few issues corrected and has been updated.

Introductory essays now explain each of the different categories of analysis that were generated by the Traveler’s Lab researchers and students of COL 128 in Spring of 2017: Monumental Architecture; Water Infrastructure; Exchange Economy; Administrative Regions; Religious Life (Christian); and, Private Life.

A new introduction to the website as a whole has also been added, and I copy that here. Enjoy! Explore!

 

Welcome to Constantinople as Palimpsest

This is an in-progress place-based encyclopedia of Byzantium.

The goal of this web-based encyclopedia is to present to the public—in a layered, interactive format—what interdisciplinary scholars of Byzantine Studies have uncovered about the medieval life of the city of Constantinople (or Byzantium).

Please scroll down to read about the goals of this project, and how to use the resource, even as we continue to develop it. Much more will be coming in the Spring of 2019!

 

What is a Place-Based Encyclopedia? And, Why?

Please read about the ongoing development of this encyclopedia here. Our goal is to make it possible to explore the current historical image of Constantinople in the way that it lives in the minds of Byzantinists — the academics who study this city and its empire.

The traditional heading-based encyclopedia is not a helpful introductory tool. Traditional encyclopedias (even digital versions such as Wikipedia) require the reader to already know something—often quite a bit—about what they are looking for. Furthermore, even advanced scholars who use traditional encyclopedias will tread the same trails over and over again, turning to entries on subjects they know rather than reading ecumenically to discover what they do not. Maps are much easier ways to orient oneself (quite literally!) to an unfamiliar field of study, and they are dynamic means to re-conceptualize information that is already known via other formats.

 

How would I use the Encyclopedia?

The students behind Constantinople as Palimpsest have taken the most up-to-date scholarly historical map of Constantinople, and added clickable over-drawings to it, as GREEN lines, points, and polygons. The result can serve the entire possible range of readers equally well.

Persons with no knowledge of Byzantium at all can “walk” the imagined medieval city by simply working through our curated, manipulable maps (see the tabs above): zoom in and out, drag the map across their screens, and click on items that look interesting. Size is a fair guide to introductory-level importance. By clicking on the largest items on the map to the right, (Monumental Architecture) one will discover the main routes in the city, its walls and harbors, the Hippodrome and major Fora. This provides a good orientation to the layout of the City, and a context for working through the smaller items expressed as green “pins”–statues, columns, fountains, gates, etc.

Experts in Byzantium may explore what they already know in a new form. Ordering artefacts by historical location rather than historical narrative, disciplinary focus, or alphabetical order opens up a field in which alternate associations and ideas can germinate. Historians, scholars of Literature, Art Historians, and Archaeologists will–as the map continues to be more fully populated–be reminded of neglected or underappreciated material. Finally, the nature of the medium makes it possible to (once an editorial team is formed) update discoveries and incorporate new analyses into the encyclopedia in real time.

 

How do I read the Encyclopedia’s places?

Each line, point, or polygon on the map may be clicked to activate a small pop-up window (note: pins or points respond to being clicked at their base rather than on the sphere at the top of the post). These pop-up windows contain a description and images (where possible or relevant) of the site or item in question. In each entry the item is briefly defined and dated, followed by a fuller commentary, and then a bibliography of relevant images and sources.

Each item is catalogued: by its name, by the nature of our knowledge of it in the present, and by its date.

First, there are four categories for item “type”.
These are:

Region—neighborhood, geographic area, etc.
Site—forum, harbor, palace, etc.
Monument—obelisk, church, etc.
Object—statue, lamp, hairpin, etc.

Then, there are three categories for nature of survival.
These are:

In Place (IP)—intact/visible; object never been moved
Displaced (DP)—survives but moved or only traces remain
Textually Attested (TA)—completely gone, but texts attest

Thus, the label on the item opened on the right

Monument IP_Column of Constantine_330

tells the reader that this is a surviving Monument that is still In Place and so can be seen (at least mostly intact) in-person today, and is identified as the Column of Constantine raised in the year 330.

Please contact Jesse W. Torgerson with questions or feedback.