“And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heaven and to everything that creeps on the earth”: animals in Byzantium
This thesis examines the relationship between the Byzantines and animals (in particular small ones like worms and bees) in terms of practical, socio-economic, and religious terms mainly using the written sources (hagiographies, ancient scientific sources, miracle stories, or legal documents), archaeological, zooarchaeological, and architectural remains from different areas of the Byzantine Empire. The main idea of the thesis stems from socio-cultural and religious studies of the Byzantine society, which (with the exception of a few scholars like Sophia Germanidou, Henrietta Kroll, Nancy Sevcenko, and Tristan Schmidt, who have studied the Byzantine animals and their mentality about the world of bestiary), has mostly focused on the economics of animals and their rearing. In fact, and contrary to the mainstream historiography, this study tries to bridge a gap between the role of the animals, especially the smallest ones like worms, bees, insects, and silkworms, as they have tended to be forgotten when examining the socio-cultural and economic dynamics of Byzantine society at large. Bearing in mind the limits and the problems of sources, both primary and secondary, the main goal of this thesis is to scrutinize the Byzantine narrative about these animals, to recreate the Byzantine perception and utilization of the other living beings as well as to understand the multi-faceted benefits of the presence of animals in the daily life of the Byzantines.