Dr Foteini Spingou (Ptychion, MPhil (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon))
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.
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:
Open to PhD supervision enquiries?
- Near East
- Ancient Civilisations
- Comparative & Global History
- Landscapes & Monuments
- Language & Literature
- Medieval & Renaissance
Current research interestsTracing 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).
Past research interestsDr 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.
Affiliated research centres
- Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies
- Edinburgh Centre for Global History