Procopius and the Language of Buildings

Prokop und die Sprache der Bauten

Project description


The Language of Buildings is a three-year joint project sponsored by the DFG which has been running since November 2018, led by Prof. Dr. Gunnar Brands (Halle-Wittenberg) and Prof. Dr. Marietta Horster (Mainz).

Our main cooperation partners are Prof. G. Greatrex (Ottawa), Prof. Dr. M. Meier (Tübingen), Prof. Dr. H. Leppin (Frankfurt), Dr. F. Montinaro (Tübingen), Prof. Dr. R. Pfeilschifter (Würzburg), and Prof. Dr. G. Makris (Münster). We also cooperate institutionally with the Leibniz-ScienceCampus Mainz Byzantium between Orient and Occident, the Malalas project in Tübingen, and the Anecdota project in Würzburg.


De Aedificiis (DA) features in its six books a total of at least 1128 buildings, which Procopius ascribes to the East Roman Emperor Justinian (527-565). read more...

While our database will not be available online for another year, in the meantime we have compiled a bibliography supported by Zotero, an open-access reference software. This bibliography will be constantly updated throughout the duration of this project, so as to be as exhaustive and current as possible.

We are glad if you draw our attention to missing titles:

Imagery and Aesthetics of Cityscapes in Late Antiquity

The full programme is now online. Guests are welcome to join the event yet should announce their coming at


This symposium will be organized within the framework of Procopius and the Language of Buildings, a DFG funded project led jointly by Prof. Dr. Marietta Horster (Mainz) and Prof. Dr. Gunnar Brands (Halle-Wittenberg).
The project bridges traditional chronological and disciplinary divisions to understand 6th-century building activities in the empire, and their literary representation. Marking the halfway point of the project, this symposium focuses on the cities of the empire, as they figure much more prominently in the written record than the countryside. Recent scholarship of the past twenty years has seen the emergence of a more sophisticated vision of late antique urbanism, throwing light on the distinctiveness of Late Antiquity and breaking from a simplistic narrative of decline. We would like to build on this by exploring representations of cityscapes in the literature of the period across all genres and languages, including its relationship to material culture. Here are some of the topics that will be covered: the aesthetics of cityscape representations in literature and art, the evolution of city ideals in relationship with imperial ideology, how competing elites shape the imagery of cityscapes, the role of urban poles in the perception of space.


12 February, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, Senatssaal 7th floor

17.00 welcome address and introduction – Marietta Horster / Gunnar Brands

17.15 inside view of on-going textual commentary projects:

1) Procopius’ Buildings project, Mainz – Max Ritter

2) Cassiodorus Variae project, Mainz – Anna-Lena Körfer

3) Procopius’ Anecdota project, Würzburg – Johann M. Thesz

4) Malalas project, Tübingen – Olivier Gengler

18.00 keynote lecture: Catherine Saliou, An Historian in the City: Evagrius Scholasticus and the Urban Space of Antioch on the Orontes

19.00 reception


13 February, Institute for European History (IEG), conference room 1st floor

9.00 panel 1: chair Christoph Begass

Caroline Belanger, Splendid City or Ramparted Town? Constantinople in Late Latin Geographies – respondent: Olivier Gengler

Panagiotis Manafis, Exposition of the Constantinopolitan Statuary and Monuments in Late Antique Literature – respondent: Federico Montinaro

10.30 coffee

11.10 panel 2: chair Gunnar Brands

Bea Leal, Why Depict a City? Architectural Imagery in the Early Medieval Eastern Mediterranean – respondent: Philipp Niewöhner

Julian Richard, The Dawn of Urban Waters? Maintaining and Upgrading Roman nymphaea in Late Antiquity – respondent: Marlena Whiting

12.40 lunch break

14.30 panel 3: chair Johannes Pahlitzsch

Arianna Rotondo, From the City of Indians to Jerusalem: Nonnus of Panopolis' Real and Imagined Cities – respondent: Simon Zuenelli

Gianfranco Agosti, Images of the City in Late Antique Verse Inscriptions – respondent: Jochen Althoff

16.00 coffee

16.40 panel 4: chair Stephan Westphalen

Olivier Gengler, The Emperor as a Builder in Malalas’ “Chronographia” and Procopius’ “Ktismata” – respondent: Hartmut Leppin

Lea Niccolai, From Constantinople to Edessa: Syriac Historiography and the Justinianic City – respondent: Philip M. Forness

18.10 end

19.00 conference dinner


14 February, IEG, conference room

9.00 panel 5: chair Ute Verstegen

Conor Whately, The Beautiful Wall: Militarized Cityscapes in the Age of Justinian – respondent: Alexander Sarantis

Jan R. Stenger, Vision and Words: The Aesthetics of the City in Choricius of Gaza – respondent: Elodie Turquois

10.30 coffee

11.10 panel 6: chair Hendrik W. Dey

Dan-Vladimir Ivanovici, Building with Light: Aesthetic and Power in 6th-c. Byzantium – respondent: Christine Stephan-Kaissis

Delphine Lauritzen, Writing the Decor of Architecture in 6th-c. Byzantine Literature – respondent: Paolo Cesaretti

12.40 conclusion by Dey, Agosti, Saliou

13.30 end




Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät (NatFak)

Johann-Joachim-Becher-Weg 21

55128 Mainz


Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (IEG)

Alte Universitätsstraße 19

55116 Mainz

Prof. Gunnar Brands
Christian archaeology and history of arts

Prof. Marietta Horster
Greek sanctuaries, cult organisation and economy of cult, Roman administration and organisation of the Empire, Roman provinces: processes of transformation and social interaction, Greek and Latin literary education and the diffusion and tradition of knowledge

Dr. Max Ritter 
Economic history, Byzantine pilgrimage, Byzantine historiography, Roman and Byzantine Paphlagonia, Medieval Cyprus

Dr. Elodie Turquois
Late Antique and Byzantine literature, literary criticism and literary theory, Ekphrasis and the representation of material culture in literature, technological treatises and their literary status, aesthetics and art criticism in Antiquity

Dr. Marlena Whiting
Archaeology of the Late Antique and Byzantine Near East, Byzantine pilgrimage, travel and travel infrastructure in Late Antiquity, gender in Late Antiquity

Clemens von Cramon-Taubadel, student assistant
History and linguistics (B.A.)

former team members:

Julia Krüger-Pfannebecker, student assistant
Digital Methodology in the Humanities and Cultural Sciences (M.A.)