Institute for Mediterranean Studies


Byzantine Agricultural Landscape Across the Aegean: Historical Analysis of the Landscapes of Messene in the Peloponnese (GR) and Amorium in Asia Minor (TR)

Principal Investigator: Nikos Tsivikis
Collaborating Institutions: Anadolu University, Eskişehir and Society for Messenian Archaeological Studies

BALAAHow did byzantine peasantry experience their relationship with agricultural space? How did the byzantine fields they cultivated look like? And how did their relationships with the state and the great landlords molded the productive agricultural space?

Messene in the Southeast Peloponnese and Amorium in central Asia Minor represent respectively the inland features of the landscape of the two large geographical zones that historically formed the core of the medieval Byzantine Empire after the 7th century: the Greek and the Asia Minor peninsula. The two settlements followed inverse paths of development in time which shed different lights on the common historical processes of the Byzantine society. After the crisis of the 7th century, Messene, an important city of Late Antiquity, evolved into a rural medieval town. On the contrary, due to the same crisis, Amorium transformed from a small provincial town into an important regional center and the seat of the military and the political administration.

BALAA collects and processes through a holistic approach a multitude of elements that can reconstruct the rural landscape, the rural practices and the ways in which the countryside and the “urbs” of the above-mentioned areas were linked during the period between the 7th and the 12th centuries. The tools chosen bring together innovative methods of historical landscape and environmental history analysis with historical and archaeological evidences.

We study: 1) the rural area immediately surrounding the settlements (in our analysis we use the methodologies of Historic Landscape Characterization, Retrospectivee Landscape Analysis, and Geographic Information Systems), 2) paleoclimate and its changes in the two areas, 3) archaeological evidence of rural life from relevant excavations, 4) literary sources referring to rural life in the period under study in reference to the two sites.

Through BALAA a series of scientific studies on the rural landscape and the material culture of Amorium and Messene will be produced, focusing on the relationship between the two sites. At the same time, we are building free access databases which will include: i) analysis of the rural landscape of the two sites, ii) distribution of fields today and historically, iii) characteristic samples of material culture related to agricultural production in both sites (tools and structures), iv) historical information on rural life, v) a record of archaeo-environmental data related to the areas under study.

Our aim is through the parallel study of the two cases to achieve a comprehensive systematic comparative archaeological analysis of the Byzantine rural landscape and the historical and environmental conditions that contributed to its formation. Based on this analysis, we will attempt for the first time to identify the characteristics of the medieval Byzantine field, as something distinct from its Roman and Hellenistic predecessors and to include it in an ongoing academic debate which until today focuses basically on similar phenomena of the Western medieval Europe.

Project Team

Nikos Tsivikis

Postdoctoral researcher
Curriculum vitae

Elli Bia

Ph.D. candidate

Thanasis Sotiriou

Ph.D. candidate
University of Crete
Curriculum vitae
Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) General Secretariat for Research and Innovation (GSRI)