The increasing interest in the formative role of the Byzantine Empire to Christian Europe can perhaps only be matched by the booming market of studies on the rise of Islam. Since the two historical topics are intertwined for a period of some two to three centuries, it seemed like a promising initiative to bring together scholars that are active in the study of them both. We are grateful in particular to Ingela Nilsson and Ragnar Hedlund, both from the NBN, for making it possible; and to the institutes of Greek and Semitic languages, respectively, for contributing to the multidisciplinary character of the event.
Olof Heilo (Vienna) and Hesham Hassan (Athens) shared the first panel of the seminar with an overview of primary Arab and Byzantine sources from the seventh to eighth centuries, with particular focus on Monastic and Ecclesiastical perceptions of the Arab-Muslim rule, and possible overlaps in Jewish, Roman, Syriac and Muslim apocalyptic expectations during the same period. The second half of the seminar was shared between Christian Høgel (Odense), who offered some fascinating glimpses into the peculiar terminology and syntax of the early Greek translation of the Qur’an that is quoted in the polemics of Niketas Byzantios, and by Ewa Balicka-Witakowska (Uppsala), who offered equally fascinating glimpses into decorated Coptic manuscripts that reveal a cultural cross-pollination of Byzantine and Islamic decorative elements.
The seminar was concluded on the second day by a discussion at the Coin Cabinet, where the participants agreed to try and arrange thematically affiliated events in 2015 and, if possible, create a broader platform for Nordic scholarly exchange and research on the transitional era from Roman Late Ancient World to the Byzantine and Islamic Middle Ages. It is to be hoped that it can turn into a new branch of the activities of the Nordic Byzantine Network.