Poor in This World But Not in the Next?: The Commemoration of the Dead among Byzantine Peasants, Freedmen and Slaves (ca. 300-1100)
This paper draws on material from the presenter’s current book project, a history of the commemoration of the dead (memoria/μνημόσυνα) in the Byzantine world. Though we possess a great deal of information about the commemoration of the Byzantine elite (the imperial family, churchmen, high civil and military officials), details regarding how the non-elite (peasants, freedmen and slaves) commemorated their dead are quite sparse, particularly for the Early and Middle Byzantine periods. Drawing on a wide variety of sources (monastic literature, testaments and both canon and civil law), this lecture argues that the available evidence, rather than presenting a complete picture of non-elite commemoration during this period, instead emphasizes that certain groups within the non-elite, in particular slaves and freedmen, played an important role in commemorating, and therefore securing the salvation, of their masters and patrons.
Zachary Chitwood completed his dissertation at Princeton University in 2012. He was a post-doctoral scholar from 2012 to 2016 on the ERC-funded project “Foundations in Medieval Societies: Cross-cultural Comparisons” at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Since September of 2016 he has been a Lecturer in Byzantine Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. He is the author of the monograph Byzantine Legal Culture and the Roman Legal Tradition, 867-1056 (Cambridge 2017) and cofounder and executive editor of the peer-reviewed journal Endowment Studies (Brill).