Unrivalled Influence explores the exceptional roles that women played in the vibrant cultural and political life of medieval Byzantium. Written by one of the world's foremost historians of the Byzantine millennium, this landmark book evokes the complex and exotic world of Byzantium's women, from empresses and saints to uneducated rural widows. Drawing on a diverse range of sources, Judith Herrin sheds light on the importance of marriage in imperial statecraft, the tense coexistence of empresses in the imperial court, and the critical relationships of mothers and daughters. She looks at women's interactions with eunuchs, the in-between gender in Byzantine society, and shows how women defended their rights to hold land. Herrin describes how they controlled their inheritances, participated in urban crowds demanding the dismissal of corrupt officials, followed the processions of holy icons and relics, and marked religious feasts with liturgical celebrations, market activity, and holiday pleasures. The vivid portraits that emerge here reveal how women exerted an unrivalled influence on the patriarchal society of Byzantium, and remained active participants in the many changes that occurred throughout the empire's millennial history.
Unrivalled Influence brings together Herrin's finest essays on women and gender written throughout the long span of her esteemed career. This volume includes three new essays published here for the very first time and a new general introduction by Herrin. She also provides a concise introduction to each essay that describes how it came to be written and how it fits into her broader views about women and Byzantium.
Judith Herrin is the Constantine Leventis Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King's College London. She is the author of Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire, Women in Purple: Rulers of Medieval Byzantium, and The Formation of Christendom (all Princeton).
"Herrin has followed her publisher's excellent advice that she preface each piece with a generous account of when and how it came to be written. This means that, together with her general introductions for the two volumes, the reader has an extraordinary glimpse into the evolution of Byzantine studies from the 1960s onward as well as for the personal development of Herrin herself as a Byzantine historian. The two volumes are a kind of intellectual autobiography. I know of nothing quite like them in the time-honored tradition of collecting a scholar's papers. We can see clearly, step by step, how Herrin became the historian she is today as well as the environment that supported her, and through her, the field to which she has dedicated her life."--G.W. Bowersock, New York Review of Books
"[A] welcome corrective to long-standing cartoon-like images of Byzantine women as over-sexed in public and over-pious in private."--Christopher Kelly, Times Literary Supplement
"Herrin dissolves the most formidable barrier to any balanced history: the wall between women's history and men's. With an eye for details ignored and grand lines distorted by scholarly myopia, she offers a comprehensive history of Byzantium."--Thomas F. Mathews, author of The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art
"Herrin is acutely aware not only of Byzantium's place in the world, but also of its idiosyncrasies, which she illuminates by bringing into play the ecclesiastical sources in a way that few other Byzantine historians have done. Her essays reveal first and foremost her breadth of vision."--Michael Angold, editor of The Cambridge History of Christianity: Eastern Christianity
"Tracing her journey across the history of Byzantium, Herrin's elegant essays display her insightful approaches, solid methodology, and vast historical knowledge."--Christine Angelidi, Institute of Historical Research, Athens
Table of Contents
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Judith Herrin: