Presenter: Ryan Strickler (Macquarie University)

In 602 CE the general Phocas overthrew the popular Emperor Maurice. His usurpation led directly to a war between the Byzantine Empire and the Sassanid Persians that resulted in significant Byzantine losses, including Jerusalem and the relic of the true cross. Although the emperor Heraclius secured a costly victory in 628, the war had left both empires bankrupt. This left the Byzantines vulnerable to the new and unknown threat of the ascendant Muslim Arabs. By the end of the seventh century significant portions of Byzantine territory had been lost to them. For the Byzantines, whose collective identity had largely been built on the idea that success was evidence of divine favor, defeat at the hands of non-Christian adversaries inflicted a major psychological blow. This was particularly true in the case of the Arabs, whose sudden rise they had initially misunderstood. Many Byzantine authors interpreted contemporary crises through the lens of apocalyptic discourse. For these authors the Byzantines and their enemies were characters in a providential narrative of divine chastisement and deliverance. In this narrative there were, of course, heroes and villains. Heroes could be found in emperors, such as Heraclius, or eschatological figures, such as the Last Roman Emperor of Pseudo-Methodius’s Apocalypse and the Messiah of the Sefer Zerubbabel. While such figures are compelling, this seminar focusses on the villains of seventh-century Byzantine literature. In particular it examines strategies of dehumanization as found in seventh-century documents by Theophylact Simocatta, George of Pisidia, Sophronius of Jerusalem and Pseudo-Methodius.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at