About our staff
Dr Foteini Spingou
Ptychion, MPhil (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon)
Research Fellow in Byzantine Intellectual/Cultural History
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 for the Department of Art and Archaeology of Princeton University, the Classics Faculty of Oxford University, the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies (University of Toronto), and the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Harvard University). Her research has received recognition from a number of sources, including the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, the A. S. Onassis Foundation, the A.G. Leventis Foundation, and the Nikos & Lydia Tricha Foundation for Education and European Culture. Dr Spingou has taught at a number of institutions, including the University of Oxford and the Open Universities in Greece and Cyprus.
Member of the Editorial Team of the Journal of Modern Hellenism
Research visitor, Classics Faculty, Oxford
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Ancient Civilisations
- Comparative & Global History
- Landscapes & Monuments
- Language & Literature
- Medieval & Renaissance
Dr Spingou's work bridges the gap between visual and literary culture by unearthing previously unknown texts, mentalities and events. By asking the five Ws, Spingou places text and image in context and uncovers the road to identity transformation in pre-modern societies of the Mediterranean.
Dr Spingou's first monograph, Words and Artworks in Byzantium: Twelfth-century Poetry on Art from MS. Marcianus Gr. 524, explores the ramifications of the joined production of epigrammatic poetry and objects for the Middle Byzantine social structure. Her second book, Devotion and Propaganda in Byzantium: Anonymous poetry from the Anthologia Marciana (Oxford, forthcoming), edits 256 so-far unknown poems all to be found in a manuscript in Venice. The texts reveal previously unseen sights of intellectual life, politics, and society in the Medieval Balkans and the East Mediterranean. The book discusses the use of poetry as a commodity in and beyond Byzantium presenting texts that were to be inscribed on objects or performed on a particular occasion and were then to be discarded.
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, 2021) explores the full range of the connotations of Byzantine aesthetics in the Medieval world. This work is conceived as an 'exhibition' of texts that will allow specialists and non-specialist to read and engage with primary sources on the cultural and intellectual life of Byzantium and the wider Mediterranean. The two volumes include more than 150 medieval sources from nine medieval linguistic traditions (Greek, Latin, Slavic, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Old Norse) that refer to the Byzantine visual culture. All texts are presented in their original language with facing English translation accompanied by introduction and commentary.
Dr Spingou has also prepared studies on late antique textiles and published on a wide range of topics, including poetry, dialogues, epistolography, political theology in Byzantium, the interplay between religious rituals and literature, as well as medieval mathematics.
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 idea 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. In an era of decolonisation of knowledge, the book explores how the Byzantines dealt with their own, often uncomfortable, intellectual choices.
Research questions addressed in the book however are not confined in 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.
An ardent promoter of digital humanities, Dr Spingou is currently responsible for the development of the Database of Byzantine literati. DBL is an open resource that generates 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 society (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 Arabs
In the past, Dr Spingou has organised public events on videogames and ancient history 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.) (forthcoming) Sources for Byzantine Art History: Volume 3. The Visual Culture of Later Byzantium (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