Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaft

"People on the move" in byzantine insular world in the passage from Late Antiquity to the Early Medieval Ages

I am currently working on a chapter of my forthcoming book on the major islands of the Byzantine Mediterranean in the passage from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages (ca.550-ca.800 C.E.); the book is under contract with ARC-Camden, and it will focus on large "Byzantine" islands -like Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearics, Malta, Crete, and Cyprus. These islands will be explored through a metaphorical dialogue between different methodologies and a wide array of sources in a comparative perspective. It will deal with transversal themes revolving around the peculiar political and economic structures of insular societies. Moreover, it will also reassess the exaggerated space historiography on Byzantine islands has traditionally granted to literary and documentary sources for archaeological evidence (in particular pottery, small finds, numismatics, and lead seals) rather points to a less violent and disruptive phase in the islands' history during the passage from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages. This mainly by exploring the role of islands as hubs of connectivity where the Islamic and the Byzantine cultures encountered and heavily influenced the local "insular" political, economic, and social structures across the centuries
In this light, I will focus on four categories of "people on the move" along the Mediterranean shipping routes: this by relying not only on the documentary, literary and hagiographical sources (the latter particularly abundant for islands like Sicily and Cyprus), but mainly on the material evidence (seals, coins, and ceramics) and archaeology. Indeed, one should dwell upon the importance of changes to material in shaping local identities, as archaeology can help to identify moments when cultures and identities are re-worked vis-a-vis new types of political, military, and social connections.
The first category concerns administrators and diplomats. The latter, in particular, will allow us to understand the diverse trajectories of the local bureaucratic machinery; for Byzantium did not apply a one-size-fits-all model of administration but instead showed the ability to adopt "elastic" modes of government defined by its capacity of withstanding the adversity of the hour and as a measure of their sensitivities to the change of different regional and supra-regional variables
The second category, also socially and politically preeminent, is represented by the clergy and the ecclesiastical institutions. In particular, the role of monks, holy men, and bishops will be examined as they migrated to or transited through islands.
The third category consists of tradespeople and merchants. Indeed, the early Medieval Mediterranean was characterized by two major exchange systems (the Byzantine and the Caliphal one), which -although not in full communication with one another- often interlocked on major islands 
The fourth category of people concerns members of the Byzantine army and naval troops. This will also allow the chapter to intercept issues of interaction between local and foreign ethnicities; this is in light of the fact that numismatic and sigillographic evidence, as well as prosopography and archaeology, seem to tally in showing the mobilization of troops as transferred from different areas of the empire to small and large islands from which they could control the Mediterranean shipping lanes.