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Politics and Tradition Between Rome, Ravenna and Constantinople
A Study of Cassiodorus and the Variae, 527–554



Part of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series

  • Date Published: October 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107529311

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About the Authors
  • The Variae of Cassiodorus have long been valued as an epistolary collection offering a window into political and cultural life in a so-called barbarian successor state in sixth-century Italy. However, this study is the first to treat them as more than an assemblage of individual case studies and to analyse the collection's wider historical context. M. Shane Bjornlie highlights the insights the Variae provide into early medieval political, ecclesiastical, fiscal and legal affairs and the influence of the political and military turbulence of Justinian's reconquest of Italy and of political and cultural exchanges between Italy and Constantinople. The book also explores how Cassiodorus revised, updated and assembled the Variae for publication and what this reveals about his motives for publishing an epistolary record and for his own political life at a crucial period of transformation for the Roman world.

    • Challenges the authenticity of 'documents' as historical sources
    • Treats sixth-century Europe as a historical period in its own right, rather than a transitional period at the 'end' of Roman Empire, or the beginning of the Middle Ages
    • Demonstrates the sustained contact between the eastern Byzantine Empire and Italy
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'M. Shane Bjornlie explores with a depth of analysis unparalleled in previous studies of Cassiodorus … in his most original contribution, [he] argues that the Variae cannot be understood apart from the themes of political discourse then current in Constantinople, where oblique criticisms of Justinian's autocratic style of rule filled the air. By treating the Variae as a sophisticated literary enterprise written to salvage the tenuous worth of northern Italian palatines during the regime change heralded by the Gothic Wars of Justinian, Bjornlie provides us with new insights both into the rhetorical purpose of this well-known text and into the polemical context that informed its content.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107529311
    • length: 386 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Variae as Windows onto Painted Curtains: Introduction
    1. Cassiodorus and Italy in the fifth and sixth centuries
    Part II. Cassiodorus and the Circumstances of Political Survival:
    2. The age of bureaucracy
    3. The reign of Justinian
    4. Voices of discontent in Constantinople
    5. The Anicii between Rome, Ravenna and Constantinople
    6. The memory of Boethius in the Variae
    Part III. Reading the Variae as Political Apologetic:
    7. Literary aspects of the Variae
    8. Antiquitas and Novitas: the language of good governance in the Variae
    9. Natura and Law in Justinian's Novellae and the Variae
    10. Reading good governance in the Variae and the De anima
    11. The Variae as apologetic narrative
    12. Conclusion: innovative traditionalism and its consequence

  • Author

    M. Shane Bjornlie, Claremont McKenna College, California
    M. Shane Bjornlie is Assistant Professor of Roman and Late Antique History at Claremont McKenna College. His research interests include ethnography, late-antique letter collections, ancient political culture and the 'decline and fall' of the Roman Empire.

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