About PBE I


The Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire aims to record all surviving information about every individual mentioned in Byzantine textual sources, together with as many as possible of the individuals recorded in seal sources, in the period 641-1261. This website covers the period 641-867. The data is stored in a fully relational database which will be accessible on-line at a later stage of the project. The information contained in this website complements the on-going book-publication in German by our colleagues of the Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit (PmbZ), a research project of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, led by Professor Dr Ralph-Johannes Lilie under the guidance of Professor Dr Friedhelm Winkelmann (see 'History of the Project'). You can view their website by clicking here.

PBE's work is directed by a committee appointed by the British Academy: Professor Averil Cameron (chair), Professor John Haldon, Professor Judith Herrin (deputy chair), Dr James Howard-Johnston, Professor Paul Magdalino, Mr John Robert Martindale (secretary), Dr Rosemary Morris, Professor Margaret Mullett, Mr Harold Short, Dr Dion Smythe and Dr Mary Whitby; Mr P.W.H. Brown and Dr Ken Emond attend from the Academy. Former committee members include Professor A.A.M. Bryer, Dr Larry Conrad, Professor Donald Nicol, Sir Dimitri Obolensky and Mrs Charlotte Roueché. Professor Robert Browning was chair of the project until his death in 1997, when Professor Averil Cameron took over as his successor. The principal compiler and editor of the material is John Robert Martindale; Dr Dion Smythe is Research Associate and Dr Mary Whitby is Research Assistant to the project. Anne Alwis, Jonathan Bardill, Emma Clarke, Tim Greenwood, Maria Kouroumali, Regine May, Evaggeli Skaka and Anna Watson assisted with various aspects of the work of the project. The computer development of the project was carried out by John Bradley, Gordon Gallacher, Mark Stewart and Harold Short. An agreement of collaboration was signed in 1993 between the British Academy (for PBE) and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (for PmbZ).

The publisher of the original CD version of this material was Ashgate Publishing Ltd www.ashgate.com, who have very kindly given their consent to make this material freely available via the internet.

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A project of this nature relies on the good will and co-operation of fellow scholars. The editorial team of PBE I gratefully acknowledge the help of the following scholars who have read primary sources directly for the project, have made their work available for the project's use or have in various other ways given their help: Dr Sebastian Brock; Dr Peter Cowe; Dr Mary Cunningham; Dr Raymond Davis; Dr Peter Hatlie; Professor I. Jordanov; Professor Alexander Kazhdan; Dr Avi Laniado; Dr Nikolai Lipatov; Dr Ann Moffatt; Dr Andrew Palmer; Professor Lennart Rydén; Professor Werner Seibt; Professor Robert Thomson; Dr Caroline Tondeur; Dr George Vassiadis; Professor Michael Whitby; and Dr Witold Witakowski. We also acknowledge with gratitude the advice and co-operation of our colleagues of the Prosopographie der mittelbyzantin-ischen Zeit, Professor Dr Ralph-Johannes Lilie; Dr Claudia Ludwig; Dr Ilse Rochow; and Dr Thomas Pratsch; and of their guide and mentor, Professor Friedhelm Winkel-mann. We thank Dr Wolfram Brandes. In addition we mention the help received from students at The Queen's University of Belfast and at King's College London who combined source reading with practical computer work, under the guidance of Professor Margaret Mullett, Mrs Charlotte Roueché and Dr Dion Smythe. For their role as 'beta-testers' in checking the user-friendliness of thsi material and in offering comments and suggestions, we thank Dr Peter Hatlie, Professor Elizabeth Jeffreys, Professor Ann Moffatt, Professor Claudia Rapp, Dr Benet Salway and Professor Alice-Mary Talbot.

With special gratitude, we thank the British Academy for its initial and continuing support and encouragement, and the Arts and Humanities Research Board, which continues to support the project. In particular we thank the Secretary of the British Academy, Mr P. W. H. Brown, the Chairman of the Committee for Academy Research Projects, Professor Rees Davies, and the British Academy representative on the PBE Committee, Dr Ken Emond, for their help and advice. A considerable debt of gratitude is owed to King's College London which has provided accommodation for the project since its inception and the computing support and facilities that underpin the project.

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History of the Project

Fifty years ago A.H.M. Jones launched a proposal for a prosopographical dictionary of the Later Roman Empire. His intention was to bring to fruition an undertaking which had been conceived and begun by Theodor Mommsen, as a complement to the Prosopographia Imperii Romani, but which had been a casualty of the two World Wars. The project launched in 1950 was characterised from the outset by international co-operation. Material from Mommsen's original project within the Prussian Academy was made available to Jones' project by the Academy of the DDR. The prosopography of a Christianised world presented particular issues, which were resolved by the agreement that Jones' Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire (the PLRE) should cover the secular world, working in co-operation with the Prosopographie chrétienne, of which volumes on North Africa directed by André Mandouze were published in 1982 and on Italy directed by Charles and Luce Pietri in 1999.

After the death of Jones in 1970, the project was adopted by the British Academy. The first volume (covering the years 260-395) which he had compiled with two of his pupils, John Morris and John Robert Martindale, was published later that year by Cambridge University Press. Volume II (395-527), edited by John Robert Martindale, came out in 1980, and the third and final volume (527-641), also edited by John Robert Martindale, appeared at the end of 1992. The work was conducted under the auspices of a British Academy committee, chaired for volumes II and III for the most part by E. A. Thompson and Philip Grierson respectively.

In 1982 the British Academy agreed that on completion of work on PLRE the project should continue into the middle Byzantine period; but by 1988, it had become clear that the project should make use of advances in computer technology. In particular, the material should be available in electronic form and should be capable of being searched by the user, rather than being presented as a traditional lexicon. Once again, international co-operation characterised the undertaking; in 1993 the British Academy and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy signed a formal agreement to co-operate in the complex task of assembling a continuation of the PLRE prosopography to cover the period from 641-1025. 1998-2000 saw the publication (in book form) of Prolegomena and 3 volumes of the Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit, Abteilung I: 641-867, and 2001 saw the first CD-ROM from the British Academy project, The Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire I, (641-867). We are extremely grateful to all those associated with the PmbZ for this co-operation. The period from 1261 is covered by the Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit, a project of the Austrian Academy, directed by Professor Erich Trapp and published between 1976 and 1991.

At the time that PBE was published, the team saw the PBE project as covering three periods, I (641-867); II (867-1025); III (1025-1261); and expected that its eventual product would be an on-line, fully relational database of all known individuals in the Byzantine Empire during these periods. The present website, covering PBE I, was extracted from the database, and represents almost exactly the same material as that published on CD-ROM (with Ashgate) in 2001.

The PBE was established as a British Academy Research Project in 1989. The project was housed in the School of Humanities at King's College, London, and was based in the Centre for Computing in the Humanities (CCH), now the Department of Digital Humanities (DDH). When PBE was first published CCH belonged within King's College London to both to the School of Humanities and to Information Services and Systems, which gave more general infrastructural support to the project. The initial technical work was carried out by Mark Stewart. The relational database was designed and implemented by Gordon Gallacher, with the design work done jointly with Dr Dion Smythe. By the time the data was published -- originally in CD -- in 2001 John Bradley had joined the PBE team and had responsibility for developing the database and the procedures that extract data and generate the materials you see here. Harold Short was technical director of the PBE project.

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Byzantium was a literate medieval society with a highly developed bureaucracy. Even given the attrition of time, there remains a large corpus of textual sources. The methodology is as follows. Concentrating on the Greek-language sources, a sequence of chronographic and historiographic sources are identified (chosen for one or more of the following reasons: because they form a continuous sequence; they are near-contemporaneous to the events they describe; there are grounds to believe that they are truthful transmitters of other sources now lost; they provide independent testimony unavailable from other sources). The sources of the compiled core-list are then worked through in order. The information for each individual mentioned (named or not) is extracted and recorded; material, including direct source-quotation and the source reference, is added to the individual person record. Further information or additional corroborating evidence from less important historical narratives and secondary chronologies is then added to records for individuals already created. Additional information from other types of sources - letter collections; government edicts, decrees and charters; acts of ecclesiastical councils and episcopal courts; legal collections; trade archives; rhetorical speeches of occasion etc., as well as seals - is added to the records of individuals mentioned in the narrative sources; and records are created for individuals who appear for the first time in these additional types of source. The information is not reconciled; though some sources are clearly more accurate than others, all available testimony is recorded. The PBE data-set is a guide to what is said in the sources; it has not set itself the task of source criticism, establishing which sources are more 'valuable', 'accurate' or 'truer'. The project committee decided that such work, already begun by our colleagues on the PmbZ project and now achieved in detail, should not be duplicated. The project is pleased to be able to encourage scholars seeking source criticism to turn to the published volumes of the PmbZ project.

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Only published sources have been used in compiling the individual records. The basic principle of PBE is simple: only information contained in the text should be recorded and every relevant piece of information in the text should be recorded, with a source reference. Where interpretation hinges on the actual words used, the original source is quoted after the information itself and the source reference. All information about all people, whether they are named or not, is to be recorded. Mythical and biblical figures are excluded, as are persons who lived outside the time limits of the PBE project (641-1261). Generally, undifferentiated groups of people ('the crowd'; 'the barbarians'; 'the enemy'; 'the unbelievers') are excluded. Sometimes it is impossible to make sensible entries for named individuals without making reference to group-entities. If it is possible to identify individuals within such a group (say an eldest brother, middle brother and youngest brother), this is done. Where this is impossible, we have created an entry for a 'group entity'. Examples of such 'group anonymi' are the genikoi kommerkiarioi recorded on two seals [Anonymi 15] or the nuns of Trichinareai on Mount Auxentius [Anonymae 1]. With the exception of information of a prosopographical nature from seals, material evidence is not represented in this website. It has long been a desideratum of the project to include evidence from material sources and we regret that constraints of time and funding precluded the inclusion of such evidence here.

This website represents the materials in the first publication of the data collected by the research project. The information presented here has been 'pre-sorted' by the provision of a number of indexes (displayed on the Home Page: see further 'Using the PBE I website'), which allow access to a number of ways in which people are connected. We are confident that many of the questions that historians would wish to make of a prosopographical database can be posed and answered using this site.

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Structure of PBE I Articles

The articles were originally planned to follow the pattern established in PLRE and earlier prosopographical works in order to form the basis of a publication in book form as well as of an online computerised database (not originally relational). The agreement to share work on the project with the PmbZ involved abandonment of book publication by PBE and concentration on publication in electronic form.

The decision was made to change the database to a relational model and to continue with the plan to build an online database, but also to publish material from the database in the form of a CD-ROM. It is this material that is now visible through the website you are now looking at. The publication would employ relatively simple search tools, while the database would in time offer more sophisticated search tools than this site could accommodate. At the same time, taking advantage of the new publication format (digitally, rather than as a book) it was decided to present the primary evidence in greater detail. The purpose of this was to collect together the often scattered source material and to encourage scholars and particularly students to work closely from the sources themselves. Editorial intervention was deliberately kept to a minimum, limited by and large to the clarification of obscurities and the inclusion of references to secondary discussions of particular difficulties, with the general aim of making the primary evidence usable. In consequence PBE and PmbZ, which has adopted a more traditionalist approach in its book publications, are complementary.

One consequence of this approach is that the structure of the articles became much looser and more diffuse. Material from sources of different types and traditions is often presented separately, with a degree of repetition of circumstances and events that would not be acceptable in a more traditionalist approach.

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PBE I: Technical Note

The material presented here is extracted from the master relational database, which used Ingres software. The extraction process is carried out by means of Perl scripts, and the extracted material is encoded using XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language). The process extracts the Articles associated with each person for display as continuous text, but also extracts the structured data, with two purposes: first, for display alongside the Article text, and second, in order to create a series of thematic indexes, which allow many different ways of accessing the information. Finally the complete XML material is reformatted into HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language), so that it can be accessed by any conventional web browser program. The system includes Search Refinement processes; these are coded in JavaScript.

The technical design of this website's materials deliberately aims to make the information as readily accessible as possible to the widest possible audience of scholars, and tries to avoid creating any technical barriers for those who may not have much familiarity with computers. For this reason, plus the fact that it was originally published on a CD-ROM, there are no form-based query facilities nor free text word searches. These could be features of the on-line database if it is published in that way in the future.

Ingres is a relational database management system supplied by Computer Associates International, Inc.
Perl is a freely available scripting language initially devised by Larry Wall.
The XML standard is specified and published by the World Wide Web Consortium.
The system uses JavaScript as implemented in all modern browsers.

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