Visiting Fellow, Spring 2020
Paul Stephenson is author or editor of ten books, most recently The Serpent Column: a Cultural Biography, published by Oxford University Press in the Onassis Series in Hellenic Culture, and New Rome: the Roman Empire in the East, AD 395-c.700, forthcoming with Harvard University Press/Profile. He has held teaching and research posts at universities, museums and institutes in seven countries, including four professorial chairs (Wisconsin, Durham, Nijmegen, Lincoln). His research has been supported by the British Academy, Dumbarton Oaks, the Humboldt Stiftung, the National Hellenic Research Foundation, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Onassis Foundation, and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study.
Violence is commonly understood to comprise actions that threaten or cause injury or death. This works well as a succinct definition of direct violence, which includes suicide, homicide, martyrdom, mutilation, etc., all prevalent in Byzantium and some well studied. However, this project focusses on structural and environmental violence, which is measured by broader outcomes related to public health and the environment. The greatest drivers of recent declines in global structural violence have been public health improvements: improved nutrition, vaccines, antibiotics and the eradication of infectious diseases, leading to reduced rates of mortality among infants and mothers, etc. The greatest threats to these improvements are pathogen mutations, antibiotic resistance, environmental pollution and contamination, rapid climate change, etc. There is abundant modern data that will never be available for Byzantium. However, systematic investigation of human remains discovered in secure archaeological contexts has begun to produce meaningful data about a range of factors that affected life, impaired growth, and caused disease, injury and premature death, including: diet and nutrition; disease burden and rates of morbidity; heavy metal poisoning; occupational and violent injuries. Additionally, have ever more data on historical human impacts on global, regional and local environments, which in turn have had consequential impacts on health and lifespan. A particular focus of this project is on environmental violence, in particular the impacts of metallurgy.