Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

Urban patronage and social welfare in the early Byzantine Mediterranean

Joost Snaterse (Radboud University, Nijmegen)

In June and July 2019, the Netherlands Institute in Turkey, Istanbul provided me with a home away from home to work on my PhD-project on early Byzantine urban history, poverty, and social welfare provisions. It was a great experience to be able to stay in the heart of Beyoğlu, so close to the incredible Byzantine (and Ottoman) heritage of the old city. Following my two-week stay at the NIT, I transferred to Boğaziçi University to attend their intensive three-week Byzantine Greek Summer School. It was a wonderful opportunity to combine the training of this summer school programme with a period of focussed research on my own doctoral project.

The unlimited access to the library collections of the NIT as well as the extensive Byzantine holdings of the ANAMED-library were of great help for my research, allowing me to consult specialised literature and catalogues often not available in Dutch library collections. During my stay I was able to make progress in two distinct areas of my research: the topography of early Byzantine Constantinople and sigillographic evidence of Byzantine charity. Working on my database of charitable loci in late antique and early medieval Constantinople, I was able to considerably expand my overview of urban spaces and places related to poverty and social welfare. Comparable material from the later medieval and early Ottoman periods provided me with interesting parallels for and new modes of thinking about my own material. Additionally, I was able to review the archaeological data for some important examples of seals and weights related to practices of charitable transactions in the Byzantine Empire. Besides the many fruitful hours in the library, I also took ample time to visit several important Byzantine archaeological sites and the Byzantine collections of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, as well as several afternoons of wandering through the city trying to get a sense of the urban landscape.

The generous NIT-fellowship thus provided with the ideal circumstances to experience and submerge myself into the cultural and academic life of Istanbul. I should very much like to thank Fokke Gerritsen and Ülker Sözen for their generous hospitality and their kind assistance during my stay. Although my research stay was relatively short, it was a highly rewarding and thought-provoking period of time.