Representing Byzantium

Iro Katsaridou
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Katerina Biliouri
MPhil, University of Cambridge

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Ingår i: NaMu; Making National Museums Program; Setting the Frames; 26-28 February; Norrköping; Sweden

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 22:16, s. 183–197

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Publicerad: 2007-09-19


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


This paper focuses on the narrative of the Byzantine Middle Ages introduced by the Greek national museums. It aims to shed light on the historical and sociopolitical events that led to the creation of these museums; as well as on the changes that this narrative underwent in certain times in Modern Greek history.

As departments of the Greek Ministry of Culture; Greek archaeological museums are state museums and thus represent the state’s cultural policies. During Enlightenment the Byzantine Ages were considered as a period of darkness and decadence. The recognition and presentation of this period as an integral part of the Greek nation’s history came only in the 1840’s with the development of national historiography. Major historical and sociopolitical events marked the course of this rediscovery of the Byzantine past. In the 1914 Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens; Byzantine monuments and findings were regarded as objects certifying national identity and affirming the nation’s historical continuity.

A second time in the history of narrating the Byzantine past was in the 1980s; as Greece became a member of the European Union in 1981. The Byzantine past had to be integrated within the broader European historical context. The establishment of the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki in 1989 has to be examined through this same prism. Informed by new museological theories; the Museum of Byzantine Culture sheds light on discourses neglected in earlier periods; always influenced by the “myth of Europeanism”; as analyzed and presented in the following paper. Through the museum displays the Byzantine narrative that is presented becomes part of the common European past.


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