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Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm
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Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm


Bloomsbury 2012

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


Byzantine “iconoclasm” is famous and has influenced iconoclast movements from the English Reformation and French Revolution to Taliban, but it has also been woefully misunderstood. This book shows how and why the debate about images was more complicated, and more interesting, than it has been presented in the past. It explores how icons came to be so important, who opposed them, and how the debate about images played itself out over the years between AD 680 and 850. Many widely accepted assumptions about “iconoclasm”—that it was an imperial initiative that resulted in widespread destruction of images, that the major promoters of icon veneration were monks, and that the era was one of cultural stagnation—are shown to be incorrect. Instead, the years of the image debates saw technological advances and intellectual shifts that, coupled with a growing economy, concluded with the emergence of medieval Byzantium as a strong and stable empire.

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Key Features

  • Presents the history of icons and the early debate over them
  • Explores how images became so important
  • Challenges widely accepted assumptions about iconoclasm


  • Introduction: What Is Byzantine Iconoclasm?
  • The Background
  • The Beginnings of the Image Struggle
  • Constantine V, the 754 Synod, and the Imposition of an Official Anti-Image Policy
  • The Iconophile Intermission
  • The Iconoclasts Return
  • The ‘Triumph of Orthodoxy’ and the Impact of the Image Crisis
  • Conclusions: The Impact of Iconomachy and the Invention of ‘Iconoclasm’

Product Details

About Leslie Brubaker

Leslie Brubaker is professor of Byzantine art and director of the Center for Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern Greek Studies at the University of Birmingham. She is the author of Vision and Meaning in Ninth-century Byzantium, coeditor of Gender and the Transformation of the Roman World, 300–900 and Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era c. 680–850: A History.

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