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Response to Review no. 1019

Flattering as it is to be identified as the companion of the volume title by Paul Stephenson, I fear it is an honour I cannot accept. I am but an editor, separating the wheat from the chaff. At least, however, I can explain, gloss and clarify here some of those editorial choices and decisions. Some have very practical answers. Thus, there is no introductory essay to the volume as a whole, with nice little overviews of each paper so no-one has to read them; this, however, is the house style of the series, which means that such introductions are the exception not the rule among the Companions. The index is limited, I agree. I don’t know how Stephenson found doing the index to his volume, but, I confess, I lost the will to live on it. I did tell myself, however, that if the worst reviewers did was criticise the index, I could live with it – so be it! As for pictures, please do not get me started on pictures!

The bigger question, however, is what makes a Companion or Handbook or World-of- type book? How does one fit a quart into a pint-pot? Why one topic and not another, one author and not another? If only all of these different versions on a theme could be planned together. I saw the Companion as very distinct to the Oxford Handbook of Byzantium, which is a more detailed and factual account. Instead, the Companion aimed to reflect questions and issues that I have both wondered about and come across in my teaching – what was the Macedonian Renaissance? Do ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’ matter? Why bother with post-Byzantine art? – and topics that seemed to me interesting but relatively little-discussed within Byzantine studies – memory, emotions, beauty, children – as well as themes that I thought were fairly central to understanding Byzantium – religion, economics. I also wanted a few broader ‘introduction to …’ type papers (archaeology, literature, for example) to get readers started, and have been kicking myself ever since about forgetting art. These choices were inevitably subjective and inevitably leave many gaps, but my hope is that other guides to Byzantium fill some of these. All contributors were asked much the same thing: write on this topic but please make it clear what the issues are and summarise and comment on them. Contributors were left to express this as they saw fit, to their interpretation, not mine. I wanted the chapters to be short and snappy where possible, because my hope was then both that such chapters would inform an interested public and also, as Stephenson astutely observes, that the chapters could be used as a basis for discussion with students. Finally, I wanted to break away from the standard topics of many of the handbooks and indeed the standard topics of certain authors. Having been asked to write on Byzantine women/gender for at least four different handbook-type volumes, not all Byzantine, I decided that it would be a change to miss out some of these well-worn themes, or at least to recast them (hence Dion Smythe on otherness rather than on gender; Shaun Tougher on ‘having fun’ rather than eunuchs) and to try to spread the net of topics and contributors.

As a Companion, this volume is a different animal to a Handbook or a Byzantine World. It isn’t an ‘everything you ever wanted to know’ or even a ‘complete guide to’; rather, it looks to escort the reader down some of the highways but a few more of the by-ways of Byzantium. I hope that answers the question of where it’s coming from.