Public Lecture

Hellenic Studies Seminar Series Presents Aleksandar Jovanovic

October 13, 2017

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies is pleased to present a talk by Aleksandar Jovanovic, a PhD Candidate and member of the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies, entitled "John III Vatatze's Italian Venture: Imperial Agency in the Time of Decline."

This public talk is presented as part of the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies Fall Seminar Series, which features exciting, new research in Hellenic Studies from disciplines such as Archaeology, Classics, Literature, and Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern Greek History.

Date: Oct. 13, 2017
Time: 2:30pm
Campus: SFU Burnaby
Room: Academic Quadrangle 6204

This event is free, but seating is limited, please RSVP to


Three Greek letters by the Holy Roman emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen to the Eastern Roman emperor John III Vatatzes, dating from the year 1250, cast light on the Laskarid involvement in Italian politics outside of the Balkan Peninsula. In two of the letters, the Holy Roman Emperor informs his son-in-law and ally John III about the war he is waging against the papal forces in Italy; in the third, Frederick II openly appeals to his Byzantine counterpart not to engage in unionist negotiations with the Holy See. Examining the content of these three letters, I suggest, helps us to redefine the role that the Laskarid polity played in the wider Mediterranean world of the mid-13th century. In this talk, I focus on the Italian case in order to illustrate that the Laskarid Roman Empire was an active political agent that sought to influence the politics of polities well outside its assumed political sphere of interest.

The Italian example allows us to understand that the Byzantine Empire of John III Vatatzes and his successors had enough vigor and resilience from the 1240s to the 1280s to project an image of itself as a dominant power invested in determining international affairs throughout Christendom. By reading Frederick II’s letters to John III vis-à-vis the papal records regarding the Byzantine Empire, as well as the epistolary output of Byzantine secular and ecclesiastic officials to such places as Italy and Cyprus, I further contextualize the relations between the two emperors in order to improve our understanding of Mediterranean diplomacy and the prominent position the Byzantine Empire maintained in this part of the world after 1204. Ultimately, focusing specifically on John III Vatatzes’s venture in Italy allows us to recognize a continuity in Byzantine imperialist endeavours to shape the Apennine affairs from Manuel I Komnenos’s Italian campaign of 1155­–1156 until Michael VIII Palaiologos’s endorsement of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282.