Tandem Project

Secrets and Secrecy in Late Antiquity, Byzantium, and Early Islam


A plethora of literary texts from late antique, Byzantine, and early Islamic times contain aspects of secrecy that have not been treated separately. Moreover, these topics have never been studied from a diachronic and comparative perspective until now.

The international AGYA conference, organized by AGYA members Konstantin Klein and Anis Ben Amor, aimed at closing this gap in scholarship by deciphering and contrasting the social modes of concealment that are inherent in:

  1. Protagonists: Christian celibate marriages, figures who hide their powers or wisdom that is often bestowed by God, or people who have to practise their faith in secret.
  2. Storylines: believers hiding from persecutors, holy figures hiding from too many followers, adventurers travelling foreign lands in masquerade, or spies who – by disguising themselves – set out to discover secrets themselves.
  3. Objects: the secret letter that is suddenly discovered, magic cloaks and masks as precious items, as well as signs that reveal a protagonist’s sanctity such as the light of Muḥammad.
  4. The dynamics between author and audience: secrets and secrecy pose a simultaneous dynamic duality by conferring a sense of control as well as legitimation upon the protagonists and by placing the onus back onto the audience. This is because the recipients can only attain of a ‘true’ understanding of a literary text if they penetrate what lies right in front of them. Thus, the reader adopts the role of an initiate, learning to infiltrate what lies beneath the mask.

Invited speakers included: Anne Alwis (Kent), Lale Behzadi (Bamberg), Tina Chronopoulos (New York), Stavroula Constantinou (Nicosia), James Corke-Webster (London), Kirill Dmitriev (St Andrews), Julia Doroszewska (Warsaw), Klaus van Eickels (Bamberg), Laura Franco (London), Benjamin Gray (London), Christa Gray (Reading), Enass Khansa (Beirut), Konstantin Klein (Bamberg), Jan-Markus Kötter (Düsseldorf), Georg Leube (Bayreuth), Jenny Oesterle (Heidelberg), Bilal Orfali (Beirut), Christodoulos Papavarnavas (Vienna), Benjamin Pohl (Bristol), Klazina Staat (Ghent), Dionysios Stathakopoulos (London), Leah Tether (Bristol), Isabel Toral-Niehoff (Berlin), Lieve Van Hoof (Ghent), Peter Van Nuffelen (Ghent), and Marlena Whiting (Amsterdam).

Disciplines Involved
History, Literature, Arabic Studies
Cooperation Partner
University of Bamberg, Germany
University of Bamberg, Germany
Project Title
Secrets and Secrecy in Late Antiquity, Byzantium, and Early Islam
Funding Scheme
Tandem Project
Countries Involved