Nathanael Aschenbrenner

Mary Seeger O’Boyle Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2020-2021

Degree
Ph.D., History, Harvard University, 2019
Dissertation
Reframing Empire: Byzantium and the Transformation of European Identity, c. 1400-1520
Research Project
Reframing Empire: History, Identity, and Power in the Fifteenth-Century Mediterranean

Nathanael Aschenbrenner is a late medieval and early modern historian whose research investigates the intersection of ideas and power in the Mediterranean world. He received a joint MA in Global and Medieval History from Georgetown University and King’s College London in 2012 and his PhD in History from Harvard University in 2019. His current book project examines political and ideological conflicts between Byzantium and the West over the legacy of the Roman empire, and how those conflicts transformed concepts of empire in early modernity. Other publications have investigated early modern encounters with Byzantine ceremony and late Byzantine imperial panegyric. A forthcoming volume he has co-edited (The Invention of Byzantium in Early Modern Europe, Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Humanities, 2021) reexamines the emerging foundations of Byzantine Studies in early modern scholarship.

About the Research Project
Reframing Empire: History, Identity, and Power in the Fifteenth-Century Mediterranean

This project explores how conflict over the history and identity of the Roman empire between the thirteenth and sixteenth century transformed the way Europeans conceptualized imperium. It asks how alternative genealogies of Roman imperial authority—mediated through Constantinople, rather than through Italy and Rome—expanded conceptions of who and what could be “imperial” in the Mediterranean world. Drawing on sources varying in language, venue and medium across the Mediterranean world—court histories and crusade orations, liturgies and genealogies, imposing monuments of art and manuscript annotations—this project considers not only political elites, but a host of more marginal figures as well: impoverished and anonymous orators, aristocratic women, diplomats and poets, preachers and mapmakers. Bringing these people, ideas, and texts together for the first time, this study shows how the margins of the Mediterranean helped furnish the intellectual foundations for new imperial endeavors across the globe—and exemplified how imperium could animate ambitions beyond the horizons of the ancient Roman world.