Monday, May 19, 2014

Waldemar Ceran - Poland's Antiochiologist

Recently in my hunt for new sources of research on Antioch, I stumbled upon the existence of a body of works in Eastern Europe that were seldom quoted by Western scholars, presumably due to language issues. The most prominent scholar in recent times was Professor Waldemar Ceran. He was an eminent Polish academic with a focus on Byzantium. He was born in Lodz in 1936 and died on the 20th June 2009.

Interestingly his work was not only in Polish, but also in French. His most important contribution to the Antioch oeuvre was Byzantina Lodziensia XVIII: Artisans et commercants a Antioche et leur rang social, Wydawnictwo: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego ISBN: 978-83-7969-071-8. I shall be focusing on this work anon in a standalone posting. 

Professor Ceran was, for many years, the director of the Department, then the Chair of Byzantine History, at the University of Łódź – the first, and largest, of such academic units in Poland. Throughout his long academic career, he held a number of roles, amongst which he was the director of the Institute of History, University of Łódź, as well as the president (subsequently honorary president) of the Commission of Byzantine Studies at the Committee of Ancient Culture, Polish Academy of Sciences (the Polish national committee of the Association Internationale des Études Byzantines). He began his studies as a student, and then became a close collaborator, of Professor Halina Evert-Kappesowa, the doyen of Byzantine studies in Łódź. He received substantial specialized training from such noted foreign scholars in the field such as Professor Paul Lemerle and Professor Nina V. Pigulevskaya. 

Professor Ceran specialized in the history of Antioch during Late Antiquity, the relations between the Church and the Byzantine state as well as the history of the Mount Athos monasteries. He was an indefatigable propagator of ancient and medieval history (especially of the Byzantine Empire). Thus, the decision to name the newly founded Waldemar Ceran Research Centre for the History and Culture of the Mediterranean Area and South-East Europe after him seemed fitting to the founding members. The creation of the Ceraneum in a way fulfills the aspirations of Professor Ceran himself. He devoted all his life to developing the Byzantine studies community in Poland and popularizing the research on the history of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Some of his other works with Antiochene focus:

„Emporoi” we wczesnobizantyńskiej Antiochii, „Acta Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Historica” 23, 1986, s. 17-28.

„Basileia” i „patris” w ujęciu Antiocheńczyków okresu wczesnobizantyńskiego, [w:] Pamiętnik XV Powszechnego Zjazdu Historyków Polskich, Gdańsk-Toruń: Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek 1995, t. I, cz. 1, s. 107-116.

Libanius et Jean Chrysostome – deux attitudes envers la centralisation et la bureaucratisation de l’Empire byzantin au IVe siecle, [in:] Mélanges d’histoire byzantine offerts a Oktawiusz Jurewicz a l’occasion de son soixante-dixieme anniversaire, Byzantina Lodziensia III, Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwerstytetu Łódzkiego 1998, s. 29-42.

Antiochology - Works in Russian

Works in Russian on Antioch remain largely off limits to Western scholars. During the years of the Cold War, academic interaction was limited and yet Russia had a great tradition of Byzantinology, with much of the Russian ethos rooted in a belief that Russian culture was the main inheritor of the Byzantine tradition. 

While Western academics could switch about between English, French and German sources in their studies, the Russian language remained beyond simple perusal. Therefore the most important Russian scholar of matters Antiochian, Georgiĭ Lʹvovich Kurbatov (born 1929, Leningrad - died 2003, Leningrad), who worked at the Leningrad University and was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, remained outside the Western purview and scarcely quoted in Western works. I only came to learn of him through my recent delving into the Polish works on Antioch, which are similarly off-limits linguistically, but at least can sometimes be accessed via French (in the case of Waldemar Ceran, on whom I shall write more anon).

With the fall of the Iron Curtain, Kurbatov was liberated into the Western academic world and was briefly a visiting scholar of the subject of "The Byzantine City" at Dumbarton Oaks in the 1991-2 season. He also lectured at several Canadian universities in the same season. 

His work should be read in the context that he was operating in the Soviet Union and thus had to tailor his works to the mood of the times there. Pawel Filipczak, a Polish academic in the Byzantine space, noted to me that in the Soviet Union and in other socialist countries – with regard to economic life in late antiquity (or antiquity in general) all topics relating to the material situation of the poorest groups in society were welcomed by the authorities… This does not change the fact that during this time many good books and articles were written despite the trying circumstances.

Digging around in the bibliographies of his works, I have been able to divine that his major pieces on Antioch were: 

Rannevizantiĭskiĭ gorod : Antiokhii︠a︡ v IV veke, [book] Leningrad, 1962

Razlozhenie antichnoj gorodskoj sobstvennosti v Vizantii IV-VII vv, Vizantijskiij Vremmenik, 34 (1973), pages 19-32. 

K voprosu o korporacii khlebopekov v Antiokhii, Vestnik Drevnei Istorii, 109 (1965), pages 141-153 

Polozenie narodnye mass v antiohii (The state of the popular masses in Antioch in the fourth century), Vizantijskiij Vremmenik, 8 (1956) pages 42-60.

Obviously the citations are lacking and I shall back-fill the details as I hunt them down.