Research Project


Signs and prodigies at the Byzantine Court: Their Significance and Function in Political Prognostication from the 6th to 15th centuries

Prof. Dr. Michael Grünbart

Signs, omina, prodigies and portents were present and recorded even after the late antique centuries. In comparison to other areas of research a comprehensive analysis of the importance of political mantics in Byzantium has not been undertaken. Although both the imperial centre and the ecclesiastical hierarchy tried to control all kinds of fortune-telling in order to stress their authority, prognostication still played an important role in the process of decision-making. In my project I will collect relevant cases (from historiography, military handbooks, letters, hagiography) to develop a typology. The context of prodigies reflects narrative strategies, but also gives hints of the need of external support by experts in various fields of techniques of prognostication (e.g. astrology, lekanomanteia). Main fields of my investigation will be: The historical development and limitations of signs, supporting and destabilizing power at the Byzantine court, reflections of contemporaries and the significance of written ressources (e.g. books of thunder, dreambooks).

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