About our staff
Dr Foteini Spingou
Ptychion, MPhil (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon)
Research Fellow in Byzantine Intellectual/Cultural History
Affiliated research centres
Foteini Spingou specialises in the cultural and intellectual history of the interconnected medieval Mediterranean world (with a special focus on Byzantium). Her areas of research and teaching include the formation of identity and memory in imperial societies and cultures, the history of collections and collecting, visual and textual aesthetics, and manuscript culture from the late antique East to the early modern Europe.
Born in Nice, France, and raised in Athens, Greece, Dr Spingou earned her first degree in Greek Philology from the University of Athens (2007). She subsequently received a MPhil (History/Wolfson, 2010) and a DPhil (MML/Keble, 2013) from the University of Oxford. Before joining Edinburgh University, Dr Spingou conducted research at Dumbarton Oaks of Harvard University, the Department of Art & Archaeology of Princeton University, the Classics Faculty of Oxford University, and the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research has received recognition from a number of institutions, including the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture, the A. S. Onassis Foundation, the A.G. Leventis Foundation, and the Nikos & Lydia Tricha Foundation for Education and European Culture. Dr Spingou has a long teaching experience in in-person, blended and online teaching and she has taught at a number of institutions, including Oxford and Princeton.
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Near East
- Ancient Civilisations
- Comparative & Global History
- Landscapes & Monuments
- Language & Literature
- Medieval & Renaissance
Dr Spingou’s work bridges the gap between the visual and the literary by placing texts and objects in their social and political context.
Dr Spingou’s first monograph, Words and Artworks in Byzantium (Tolworth, 2021), is a pioneering discussion on twelfth-century Greek ekphrastic epigrams that blends Digital Humanities with traditional methods of historical research. The book reveals the top-down direction of the inscriptional habit in the middle-Byzantine era and argues that the epigrams were social commodities able to nurture social networks and amplify an individual’s cultural capital at the centre of the Byzantine administration.
Her second monograph, Devotion and Propaganda in Byzantium (Oxford, forthcoming), is the first comprehensive study of a thirteenth-century anthology with equal importance to the Greek Anthology, the Anthologia Marciana. The book includes the first systematic analysis of the manuscript and the first edition (accompanied by translation and commentary) of 256 unattributed poems on objects, funerary monuments, and special occasions (e.g., imperial triumphs and literary gatherings). This is a rich corpus of texts that testifies to monuments that did not withstand time and attests to otherwise unknown events and people in East Europe and the broader Mediterranean region.
Dr Spingou is also the editor of the two-volume work The Visual Culture of Later Byzantium (c.1081– c.1350) for the series Sources for Byzantine Art History (Cambridge, 2022). The 1,700 pages of this work explore the full range of the reception of Byzantine aesthetics in Medieval Eurasia. Contributions signed by seventy-five leading scholars link the textual and visual culture and offer for the first time a broad perspective on Byzantine aesthetics by bringing together texts in Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, medieval Greek, Hebrew, Italian, medieval Latin, Old Norse, Slavic, Syriac.
Dr Spingou has also published on a wide range of topics, including political theology, gift-giving, the potency of literature, rituals and ritual performances, as well as medieval mathematics and recipes for making inks. For a complete list of publications please see below.
Current research activities
Tracing traditions but escaping from an area-bound field of study, Dr Spingou’s work seeks to place research questions in a comparative framework while highlighting continuities and changes within a culture. Her current book project, Byzantine Kállos/Classical Éthos, examines the transformation of the traditionally conservative value of kállos (beauty) in the Byzantine longue durée (c.700–c.1350). The book traces Byzantine descriptions and understandings of beauty that echoed the ethos of the Greco-Roman classics and explains transformations of a cultural idea within a socio-political context. Additionally, research questions addressed in the book are not confined to a singularly 'Greek' context. The collaboration with Sinologists, in separate articles, allows the comparison of parallel phenomena in Song China and Byzantium and brings to light supra-cultural patterns of change in the history of ideas.
Additionally, Dr Spingou is currently co-editing with Curie Virág a volume entitled Performing Antiquity: Classics, Community and Power in Medieval Eurasia. This highly interdisciplinary collection of studies aims to offer a global, historically-contextualised approach to classicising learning as a site of performance that took place both within and beyond the world of texts, and that was central to the development of cultural, intellectual and political life in diverse traditions across pre-modern Eurasia.
An ardent promoter of digital humanities, Dr Spingou, is currently responsible for developing the Database of Byzantine literati. DBL is an open resource that generates relational data in forms allowing to map the movement of literati in space (maps) and society (graphs of social/cultural/financial capital), as well as their connections in community (social networks).
For further information see Dr Spingou's profile in PAIXUE
Knowledge Exchange and Impact
Available for media contacts:
- Late Antique and Byzantine aesthetics: e.g., reception and response to religious and secular iconography, expressions of devotion
- Medieval history: e.g., Byzantium and the Crusaders, Byzantium and the 'Ros
Dr Spingou has also organised public events on videogames and ancient history, curated an exhibition of Ethiopian manuscripts and has given public talks on Byzantine devotion and classicisms at Oxford and Edinburgh.
Dr Spingou has taught courses on church and empire in Byzantium, late antique and Byzantine art, Greek culture and literature from the Hellenistic times to Byzantium, as well as Greek language and palaeography.
Courses at Edinburgh:
Dr Spingou does not accept students currently.
Books - Authored
Spingou, F. (2021) Words and Artworks in Byzantium: Twelfth-Century Poetry on Art from MS. Marcianus Gr. 524. Surrey: Grosvenor House
Books - Edited
Spingou, F. (ed.) (2022) Sources for Byzantine Art History: Volume 3. The Visual Culture of Later Byzantium (c.1081–c.1350). Cambridge University Press
Virag, C. and Spingou, F. (2021) The pleasures of virtue and the virtues of pleasure: The classicizing garden in eleventh- and twelfth-century China and Byzantium. Medieval Worlds, 2021(13), pp. 229-265DOI: https://doi.org/10.1553/medievalworlds_no13_2021s229
Spingou, F. (2018) Γράμμα από την φυλακή: Η φυλακή ως συλλογική εμπειρία στο έργο του Μιχαήλ Γλυκά και του Καισάριου Δαπόντε. Mandragoras, 2018, pp. 76–79
Spingou, F. (2016) John IX Patriarch of Jerusalem in Exile: A “Holy Man” from Mar Saba to St Diomedes/New Zion. Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 109(1), pp. 179–206DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bz-2016-0010
Spingou, F. (2015) Snapshots from the eleventh century: The Lombards from Bari, a chartoularios from “Petra”, and the complex of Mangana. Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 39(1), pp. 50–65DOI: https://doi.org/10.1179/0307013114Z.00000000052
Spingou, F. (2015) Thinking about letters: The epistolary of “Leo the Wise”. The Annual of Medieval Studies at Central European University, 21, pp. 177-192
Spingou, F. (2014) Πῶς δεῖ εὑρίσκειν τὸ δακτύλιον: Byzantine game or a problem from Fibonacci's Liber Abaci?: Unpublished notes from Codex Atheniensis EBE 2429. Byzantion: Revue Internationale des Études Byzantines, 84, pp. 357–369DOI: https://doi.org/10.2143/BYZ.84.0.3049188
Spingou, F. (2012) Revisiting Lips Monastery. The Inscription at the Theotokos Church Once Again. The Byzantinist, pp. 16–19
Spingou, F. (2011) A poem on the refortification of Dorylaion in 1075. Byzantina Symmeikta, 21, pp. 137-168DOI: https://doi.org/10.12681/byzsym.1029
Spingou, F. (2006) Οἱ χαιρετισμοὶ τῆς Πανηγυρικῆς Α´ τοῦ ἁγ. Νεοφύτου τοῦ Ἐγκλείστου. Epistimoniki Epetirida tis Philosophikis sholis tou Panepistemiou Athenon , pp. 159–171
Spingou, F. (2019) Byzantine collections and anthologies of poetry. In: Hörandner, W., Rhoby, A. and Zagklas, N. (eds.) A Companion to Byzantine Poetry. Leiden; Boston: Brill, pp. 381-403DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004392885_017
Spingou, F. (2019) Ritual and politics in the Pantocrator: A lament in two acts for Piroska's son. In: Sághy, M. and Ousterhout, R. (eds.) Piroska and the Pantokrator: Dynastic Memory, Healing and Salvation in Komnenian Constantinople. Central European University Press, pp. 305-322
Spingou, F. (2017) The supreme power of the armour and the veneration of the Emperor’s body in twelfth-century Byzantium. In: Mroziewicz , K. and Sroczyński, A. (eds.) Premodern Rulership and Contemporary Political Power: The King’s Body Never Dies. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp. 47–72DOI: https://doi.org/10.5117/9789462983311
Spingou, F. (2017) A platonising dialogue from the twelfth century: The logos of Soterichos Panteugenos. In: Cameron, A. and Gaul, N. (eds.) Dialogues and Debates from Late Antiquity to Late Byzantium. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, pp. 123–136
Spingou, F. (2014) The anonymous poets of the Anthologia Marciana: Questions of collection and authorship. In: Pizzone, A. (ed.) The Author in Middle Byzantine Literature: Modes, Functions, and Identities. Degruyter, pp. 137–150DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9781614515197.139