Monthly Archives: January 2015

First Advisory Board Workshop, Sheffield 8-10 January 2015

[this post was written by our Co-I Dr Jakob Engberg, Aarhus University]


January 8-10 we had the First Advisory Board Workshop in Sheffield. The workshop was attended by Hanns Christof Brennecke, John Drinkwater, Jill Harries, Uta Heil, Katie Hemer, Simon Loseby, Harry Mawdsley, Elisabeth O’Connell, Hannah Probert and the project team (Julia Hillner, Harry Mawdsley, Dirk Rohmann, Jörg Ulrich and myself, Jakob Engberg).

The main purpose of the workshop was twofold. Firstly to test a pilot version of the clerical exile database with a view to identifying where it needs improvement and secondly to give the advisory board, the project team and other invited scholars the chance to discuss how the database may benefit (and be designed to benefit) different research interests. The seminar was divided in four sessions.

In the first session Julia Hillner, Jörg Ulrich and I presented the project aims: To arrive at a better understanding of exile in terms of the reality and conditions of exile itself and its consequences. The three of us come to the research from three angles, Julia Hillner from the perspective of legal history, Jörg Ulrich from the perspective of the significance of exile for the dissemination of theological ideas and the development of dogma, I from a ‘cultural’ perspective, where the reactions on exile is in focus. In addition Dirk Rohmann presented the pilot version of the database and its potential for the making of tables, network graphs and maps. Finally Julia Hillner discussed the possibilities and some methodological pitfalls in the application of Social Network Analysis on material from antiquity in general and our material in particular.

In the second and third sessions chaired by Uta Heil and Simon Loseby we were offered four presentations. Firstly Hanns-Christof Brennecke discussed the role of synods in sending clerics in exile and in recalling them. Secondly Jill Harries discussed John Chrysostom’s letters to Olympias as sources for the experience of the actual travel into exile and how such travels were rhetorically exploited. Thirdly Elisabeth O’Connell presented the case of non-Chalcedonian bishops living in the Theban necropolis in the 6-7th centuries and raised the question of how self-styled and voluntary ‘exile’ relate to exile as a penalty and exile as flight from persecution. Fourthly Harry Mawdsley presented how his PhD-work on Exile in the Post-Roman World is progressing and how he has so far been able to catalogue, categorize and order some of the interesting cases he has been analyzing so far.

In the fourth and final session Dirk Rohmann presented his work on how to collect data on clerical exile. This was followed with a very useful group-work on a number of sources selected by Dirk Rohmann and Julia Hillner. The sources had been divided in genres and they were chosen so as to represent some of the tough questions confronting Dirk Rohmann in his work with the design and entry of the database. The participants were able to provide many useful comments for the future work.

In conclusion the workshop fulfilled its purpose and on top of it established and furthered academic connections between the participants. Dinners were excellent with an English meal the first evening and an Indian the second. All academic and social interaction in and outside the seminar room was conducted in an engaged and friendly atmosphere.

Vienna trip

New Blog written by Harry Mawdsley:


On the 11th of December, the project’s Sheffield contingent – Julia, Dirk and I – travelled to Vienna for the “Linking the Mediterranean” international workshop. The theme of the workshop, as implied by its title, was regional and trans-regional interactions during late-antiquity 300-800 AD. Given the persistent academic debates concerning the impact of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, there was much scope for discussion. And so, eagerly anticipating the conference papers, we arrived at Manchester Airport (very!) early that morning.

After a relatively straightforward journey, notwithstanding our slight confusion when navigating the Viennese transport system, we reached at the hotel by the afternoon. This gave us a few hours to do a spot of sightseeing before the evening’s keynote speech. It was my first time in the city and I was impressed – the architecture was ornate, grandiose and, above all, imperial.

We arrived at the academy building at around five o’clock. Professor Bryan Ward-Perkins opened proceedings by introducing his current research; a major five year project that will investigate the origins and development of the cult of the saints. Like our Clerical Exile project, it will produce a searchable database freely available online.

On Friday morning we were feeling more rested and ready for a long day of a discussion. A wide variety of topics were addressed by the speakers, the full programme can be found here; The followers of our project’s twitter feed were provided with a running commentary as I dutifully tweeted from the audience. In the second session Julia herself presented on the relationship between exile and monastic confinement during the fifth and sixth centuries. Far from indicating shrinking political horizons, Julia instead argued that the growth of monastic confinement represented a new method of social control. These issues will receive fuller treatment in her forthcoming book – Prison, Punishment and Penance in Late Antiquity – but it was great to hear Julia give the first paper linked with the project.

The papers continued on Saturday, including one from our Sheffield colleague Dr Katie Hemer who works within the Department of Archaeology. Using stable isotope analysis to examine the remains from an early medieval cemetery, Katie had found surprising evidence for population movement from the Southern Mediterranean to Western Britain. This brought out one of the central themes of the workshop; rather than a collection of static, parochial societies, the post-Roman west was a highly inter-connected world in which goods, ideas and individuals moved across large distances and political borders. Of course, this is something that I hope to demonstrate in my own research on exile in the barbarian successor states.

By the afternoon the conference had concluded; our gracious host, Dr Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, then gave us a highly informative tour of the city. There was even time to visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum, where we marvelled at the impressive late-antique collections as well as at the (surely exaggerated?) prognathism of the Habsburg portrait busts.

After a final night in the hotel we were ready to depart. During the journey home I reflected on the last few days. It was the first conference that I had attended, and before arriving I felt slightly intimidated at the prospect of meeting so many distinguished academics. However, these feelings were soon overcome due to the friendly atmosphere, and the genuine interest showed by fellow attendees in my own research. The conference itself was highly stimulating, with the speakers approaching the issue of connectivity from a variety of disciplines and approaches. This made the experience truly worthwhile, and I returned to Sheffield with a renewed enthusiasm for our own project. For that I owe thanks to everyone who made the event possible, in particular its organiser Dr David Natal.