- Series: Studies in Early Medieval History
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Bristol Classical Press (May 10, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1853997501
- ISBN-13: 978-1853997501
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 8.3 x 233.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,259,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm (Studies in Early Medieval History)
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
About the Author
Leslie Brubaker is Professor of Byzantine Art and Director of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. She is the author of Vision and Meaning in Ninth-century Byzantium (1999), co-editor of Gender and the Transformation of the Roman World, 300-900 (2003) and Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era c. 680-850: a history (2011).
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The subject is the debate and controversy over icons in the Byzantine Empire between about 680 and 850 or “iconoclasm”, to use what the author shows to be a modern term that the contemporaries never used themselves. The purpose is to discuss, challenge and dispute what has become commonly held views, and to show to what extent these views are derived from and have been influenced by what the author has termed Byzantine spin. In other words, the author seeks to demonstrate that history has - once again – been largely rewritten by the victors or, at least, that it has been deliberately recast after the facts to fit political Byzantine agendas and serve particular interests. She also seeks to demonstrate
Specifically, the author seek to demonstrate that there is little evidence, and, in some cases, perhaps no real evidence that back a number of statements that have become “received knowledge.” These start with the view that Byzantine iconoclasm was instigated by Leo III, that it deeply divided society and lead to violent persecutions and that it was largely opposed by monks and women which were deeply - and supposedly more - attached to the worshiping of icons.
I will not explain the various arguments put forward here (and once again) to explain why all of these assumptions are incorrect. However, one of the main interests of this book is to show that the portrait that is shown of iconoclasm is essentially a very biased one. This is becomes it comes essentially from their enemies, with many of the iconoclast sources not having survived the struggle. It was largely (although not entirely and perhaps not quite as much as the author claims) developed after the end of the crisis. In particular, she demonstrates to what extent many of the holy lives of presumed “martyrs” of iconoclasm were written after the events and painted as victims of religious persecutions people which probably were also plotting to unseat the incumbent Emperor.
A related benefit is to show the essential ambiguities surrounding the different 6and not necessarily related) phases of the struggle over almost a century and a half. There was a religious dimension and it may not have been only or mainly about purity of dogma but about religious power and control over the faithful through intermediation. Icon worshiping could be viewed as dangerous to the extent that the worshiper could relate to God through the intercession of the Virgin Mary or the Saints and could bypass the ecclesiastical hierarchy. There also were some political dimensions, with Emperors taking sides and, perhaps even more so, being portrayed as taking sides and behaving as tyrants by their opponents.
While the lists of references and maps are rather good, I do however have one significant reservation with this book that has to do with its format. It is essentially too short to do justice to what is a much more complex topic than what is generally believed. It is too short to allow the author to present a fully developed – and therefore a fully convincing – case. Finally, it is perhaps also too short to allow the author to avoid the risks of simplification and exaggeration at times. Four stars.
The prevailing understanding of Byzantine iconoclasm is that it was instigated by Leo III, it was a period of massive destruction across the Byzantine world, that it greatly divided society, that it was a period of artistic stagnation, and that its fiercest opponents were monks and, possibly, women. Brubaker claims that every single one of these assumptions of incorrect. For example, she makes a case that the classic account of iconoclasm starting with the emperor Leo III removing the icon of Christ from the palace gate is fictitious. It was his successor Constantine V who got the ball rolling against icons, but his only action was to convene a council to discuss the matter, and there is no evidence of actual destruction of images. One ought to look past writings from decades after, which can be seen as politically motivated smear campaigns, and hold that instead of true iconoclasm, there was a much calmer "iconomachy".
Some of the findings announced to the general public here are interesting, but as someone with more than a passing interest in this subject, I'm not entirely content with the book. So many details were brought up but quickly passed over that I feel like I have to get the author's BYZANTIUM IN THE ICONOCLAST ERA anyway. Plus, writing for a Western and thus mainly Roman Catholic or Protestant audience, Brubaker seems unwilling to get into the specifics of Orthodox belief. However, Byzantine society was so defensive about Christological positions, and the icon controversy played into that, that those theological minutiae must indeed be delved into in order to give the reader a full account of the subject. Still, the long bibliographies and Further Reading lists provide at least some consolation for a reader wanting more.