A Cultural History of Disability in Byzantium, c.1000-1200: Comparative and Intersectional Perspectives


  • Dr Maroula Perisanidi

    University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Project summary

Impairments were commonplace in the Byzantine world. Emperor Constantine IX used litters and horses as mobility aids to move around the palace and participate in imperial processions. Nikephoros Diogenes, a blinded general, spent his time listening to the writings of ancient authors and studying geometry. In this project, I will use a variety of sources from c.1000?1200 to reveal neglected stories of bodily difference and interrogate what the Byzantine material can tell us about the desirability of disability, the impact of religion and the imperial court on disabled lives, and the importance of animals in expanding the concept of human autonomy. I will examine how portrayals of impairments changed depending on the intersections of disability with one?s gender, ethnicity/race, age, social and religious status. I will also compare these findings to medieval and Classical material to challenge existing ableist historiographical assumptions and deepen our understanding of pre-modern disability.