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SNF Supports the Expansion of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at Oxford University

May 08, 2019
The $3.9 million SNF grant will support the generous endowment of the prestigious Bywater and Sotheby Professorship of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language and Literature and the Associate Professorship of Byzantine Archaeology and Visual Culture and will ensure the long-term vitality of teaching and research in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at Oxford.

Additionally, SNF will provide support for the transformation and expansion of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research as a global centre of excellence in Late Antique, Byzantine, and Post-Byzantine studies. Over two years, the new SNF grant will build the Centre’s capacity with the introduction of a new Directorship, a core administrative operating role, and three graduate scholarships. This will allow the University to set a framework for the expansion of the discipline, while facilitating international engagement with research and teaching institutions and outreach to the wider public.

For more than a millennium, Byzantium sat at the heart of a huge network linking together Asia, Europe, and Africa. Consequently, the study of the Byzantine Empire’s influence in shaping Europe, Russia, and the historic relations between Christianity and Islam has the ability to yield transformative insights into today’s world. However, the area remains under-explored.

Oxford is a world leader in the field of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, which incorporates a range of disciplines, from history and archaeology to languages and theology. The concentration of Byzantine scholars at the University is no accident: the Bodleian Library and Ashmolean Museum house remarkable resources, including many relating to the Byzantine Empire, while Oxford’s excellence in the humanities provides a stimulating cross-disciplinary environment.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is a longstanding and generous supporter of the humanities at Oxford. SNF has contributed to the building of the Stelios Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, and has funded graduate scholarships in Classics and the endowment of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Clarendon Associate Professor and Fellow of Ancient Greek Philosophy, held jointly by the University and Oriel College.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “The Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s generous gift to Late Antique and Byzantine studies will have a tremendous impact on the academic community here in Oxford, in Europe and across the world. We are enormously grateful to the foundation for their support, which will ensure that the field of Late Antique and Byzantine studies continues to thrive for many years to come.”

Professor Peter Frankopan, Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, said: “This magnificent gift is testimony to the work done in the field of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at Oxford. It is wonderful that one of the world’s great philanthropic foundations has chosen to support the community of distinguished scholars, early career researchers, graduate and undergraduate students. It sends a powerful message about the importance of the humanities and the role we can play in helping make sense of the past in the fast-moving 21st century.

Andreas Dracopoulos, Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, said: “Understanding today’s world requires tracing the dots of history and connecting them through to the present. The Byzantine Empire sat at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa for over a thousand years. As a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, global empire, its legacy on our modern world remains far-reaching and continues to influence cultural and religious practices in Europe, Russia, and beyond. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is proud to help Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at Oxford, and the field as a whole, grow and flourish in the years to come. The grant to secure two important endowed academic positions and fund graduate scholarships is very timely, since support for the humanities in general and Byzantine studies in particular has declined in recent years.”