Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Session 4 – Remembering the past in a time of transformation

Session 4 – Remembering the past in a time of transformation

Moderator: Emanuele Intagliata

A: N. Kıvılcım Yavuz

                ‘Before and After the Chronicle of Fredegar: The Trojan Narrative and the Franks’

For three millennia the fall of Troy has been a popular topic in European culture. Besides several historical accounts of the Trojan War and literary works that include characters from Troy, there is a long tradition of European peoples and dynasties claiming Trojan ancestry. Whether through chronicles, genealogies, annals, or universal histories, medieval legends of Trojan origins connect most of the European peoples to Troy. The first surviving written claim of the medieval legend of Trojan origins comes from the seventh-century Chronicle of Fredegar that provides an account of peoples who are descended from the Trojan stock: the Franks, the Macedonians and the Turks. By the ninth century the British and, early in the eleventh century, the Normans were also traced back to the band of Trojans. From the twelfth century onwards legends of Trojan origin multiply even faster; they are not only found in historical accounts but also in vernacular poems and romances.

Among the peoples who claim descent from Troy, the case of Franks is especially significant due to the fact that the legend was appropriated and tailored to their needs in such a manner that it continued to find passionate advocates well into the eighteenth-century France. Discussing how and why the story of Troy was adapted to provide genealogical origins for peoples, the paper will focus on the claim of the Trojan origins of the Franks in the Chronicle of Fredegar. It will first investigate the relationship of the Chronicle of Fredegar with the narratives on the Trojan War that were in circulation at the time such as the De excidio Troiae historia attributed to Dares of Phrygia, the Ephemeridos Belli Troiani attributed to Dictys of Crete and the Ilias Latina. Based on both textual and manuscript evidence, it will further look at the impact of the Chronicle of Fredegar on the later early medieval historiographical sources that contain the origin legend of the Franks including the anonymous Liber historiae Francorum. The paper will be concerned with such questions like What prompted the account of Trojan ancestry to be written down in the seventh century? Could the Trojan legend of the Franks be just one person’s imagination and invention? If it indeed was one person’s creation, how should we interpret its existence in various accounts for over a millennium? Can we easily dismiss the Trojan ancestry of the Franks as being ‘fiction’ and thus treat it differently than the other accounts that are told in the Chronicle? How much of historical writing is shaped by narrative conventions? Can the historian construct an imagined past and call it history? and finally, What is the significance of the seventh century, and therefore the Chronicle of Fredegar, in terms of the development of the Trojan narrative?

Response: Alessandro Gnasso

B: Jane Freeborn

                Power, Pride and the Environment in Later Merovingian Gaul

The topic of my paper concerns the perceptions and usages of the natural world by the later Merovingian dynasty. It considers whether the royal family was forced from urban centres as they ceded control of the kingdom to the franci aristocracy and Pippinid mayors, or if their relocation to rural Roman villae was a display of cultural pride and power, akin to the symbolic retention of their long hair and ox-carts. Nicholas Howe's concept of the “landscape as nationalism” provides the main ideological tenant of the paper, and a survey of contemporary Gallic Christians and Celtic concepts of the environment, as well as those of the proceeding Romans and the Carolingian legacy are used to examine the Merovingian movement and private occupation around the key royal seat of Soissons from the mid seventh century to the end of the dynasty. Because the countryside in Merovingian Gaul was synonymous with danger, paganism, barbarism and uncertainty, those who controlled it had not only great physical but spiritual power. The late Merovingians capitalized on the mythos and tradition that had grown up around rural Roman structures, as well as the association between their fearful pagan heritage and the Christian wariness towards the untamable power of nature, and purposefully left urban centres as a final (ultimately unsuccessful) display of dynastic strength. The paper's conclusion agrees with recent scholars such as Ian Wood who argue that the later kings exerted more control and were far more involved in court politics than previously posited, and sees logical continuity from the Classical period to the end of Late Antiquity in concepts of the environment.

Respondent: Yaniv Fox

C: Majied Robinson

                Quantitative approaches to the rise of Islam

The rise of Islam took place in what is historiographically a ‘dark’ century of Near Eastern history; most of what are purported to be direct accounts were actually written 200 years after the events they describe. But some of these late sources seem to be much more reliable than others. It has frequently been held that one category of sources that should be considered as more trustworthy than others is the Arab genealogical genre of the early 9th century. Despite this recognition, the volume and structure of the information preserved in these sources is such that they have not been given the attention they deserve.

This paper will demonstrate a novel means of tackling the problems associated with the genealogical sources. After encoding the marital behaviour they record in a database and structuring the information generationally, statistical analysis will be used to illustrate trends in social behaviour from the time of Muhammad’s birth to the fall of the Umayyad caliphate. Quantitative approaches will also be used to compare changes of behaviour in tribal and generational terms. These findings can then be correlated with events and circumstances as described in the traditional historical record in order to help us better understand the how conversion and conquest affected a person’s choice of spouse.
The results will be of interest to all those concerned with early Islamic history as well as social historians of the pre-modern period. These findings and methodologies will also be relevant to historians interested in using modern tools to handle old sources.

Respondent: Sarah Bowen Savant

See the full schedule for more!

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