Imperial Visions of Late Byzantium

Manuel II Palaiologos and Rhetoric in Purple

Florin Leonte

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Explores a Byzantine emperor’s construction of authority with the help of his rhetorical texts
  • Examines the changes in the Byzantine imperial idea by the end of the fourteenth century with a particular focus on the instrumentalization of the intellectual dimension of the imperial rule
  • Integrates late Byzantine imperial visions into the bigger picture of Byzantine imperial ideology
  • Provides a fresh understanding of key pieces of Byzantine public rhetoric and introduces analytical concepts from rhetorical, literary, and discursive theories
  • Offers translations of key passages from late Byzantine rhetoric

Manuel II Palaiologos was not only a Byzantine emperor but also a remarkably prolific rhetorician and theologian. His oeuvre included letters, treatises, dialogues, short poems and orations.

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Part I: Dissent and Consent1. Voices of Dissent: Preaching and Negotiating AuthorityOrganization of the ecclesiastics' groupMajor political and social themes in the ecclesiastics’ writings

2. Voices of Consent: Imperial Rhetoricians, Theatra, and PatronageTheatra and imperial involvementProfile and organization of the rhetoriciansConnections among the members of the literary courtThe rhetorical landscape in the late Palaiologan periodMain themes in the rhetoricians’ writings

Part II: Other Voices, Other Approaches: Manuel II’s Political WritingsIntroduction3. The deliberative voice: The Dialogue with the Empress Mother on MarriageContents and structureGenreConstructing dialogic authority

4. The Didactic Voice: the Foundations of Imperial ConductContext of productionContents and structureGenreAuthorial voice

5. The didactic voice: The Orations (Seven ethical-political orations)IntroductionThe dramatic settingThe contents of the OrationsMajor themes in the OrationsThe contents and form of the orationsBetween teaching and preaching: constructing the genre of the OrationsAuthorial voice: teaching the son and admonishing the emperor

6. The narrative voice: The Funeral Oration on Brother Theodore, Despot of MoreaContexts of productionThe rhetorical template and the compositional structure of the Funeral orationThe narrator and the narrativeAuthorial voice

7. Towards a Renewed Vision of Imperial AuthoritySociety and social "classes"Enemies and alliesMarkers of Byzantine IdentityRenewal of imperial ideology in Manuel's textsManuel II’s Imperial vision and Style of government


This book brings together the politics of the reign of Manuel II and the writings of the emperor in an organic way which emphasises the agency of rhetoric in Byzantine society. The literary analyses, particularly of voice and genre are masterly, and Leonte's own imperial vision of Late Byzantium is subtle, nuanced and convincing.
Margaret Mullett, Queen's University Belfast (emerita)
Florin Leonte is Assistant Professor at the Department of Classics, University of Olomouc, Czech Republic. He received his PhD in Byzantine Studies from the Central European University, Budapest. After graduating, he held a number of postdoctoral positions including a two-year lectureship at Harvard University, Department of the Classics, a fellowship at Villa I Tatti, The Research Center for Renaissance Studies in Florence, and a fellowship from the International Society for the History of Rhetoric.

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