University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Fotini Kondyli, "Citizen Participation and Urban Planning in Byzantine Athens"

Project Summary: My project on Byzantine urbanism and Athens in particular, seeks to reconstruct the topography and spatial layout of Byzantine Athens (4th-15th c AD), and better understand contemporary living conditions and socio-economic activities in the city. Emphasis is placed on city-making processes and particularly the role of non-elite, ordinary people in them. Similar to modern cities, Byzantine ones were stages of key political events ranging from rituals that celebrated imperial power to riots and acts of resistance. I thus approach Byzantine cities as highly political environments and explore city-making activities as political actions. In doing so, I pay equal attention to monumental public spaces such as churches, fora and hippodromes as well as streets, open areas, and common areas out and around houses. I also examine changes in the urban environment that point to ordinary people’s involvement and consider the impact of such activities in enhancing their social capital and political influence. My project provides new approaches to the reconstruction of Byzantine cities by attempting to rewrite Athens’ history from the perspective of ordinary people’s individual and collective experiences. It also contributed to a diachronic study of urban phenomena placing emphasis on the relation between different civic groups, urban planning and political action.