The conference is organized by Leif Inge Ree Petersen, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Historical Studies and Faculty of Humanities at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. It is funded by the Research Council of Norway as part of his postoctoral project Captive Women: The social history of female captives of war in the former Roman Empire, 400-1000 AD, with support from the Faculty of Humanities and Department of Historical Studies.

Serving as respondents and panel chairs  from the Department of Historical Studies:

Department Chair, Associate Professor Tor Einar Fagerland

Associate Professor Erik Opsahl

Associate Professor Magne Njåstad

Associate Professor Randi Wærdahl

Postdoctoral Fellow Sebastian Salvadó

Professor Marek Thue Kretschmer

Assistants include newly minted doctors Ian Peter Grohse and David Brégaint.

Leif Inge’s postdoctoral project investigates the personal fates, legal and social status, and cultural impact of female captives of war in late antiquity and the early middle ages (400-1000 AD) in the post-Roman societies of the Mediterranean basin, with a special focus on the East Roman/Byzantine empire and her neighbors. As opposed to those who were born into slavery and were socialized into a pre-existing cultural environment, captives crossed boundaries between cultures that could be very different in language, religion and socio-economic organization. Wars in this period often produced immense numbers of captives, whose impact on the conquering society could be profound, e.g. in the transmission of technological knowledge and social organization. In the monograph Siege Warfare and Military Organization in the Successor States I have investigated how male captives formed new social structures as slaves, clients or full members of their new societies, and were thus fundamental to the transmission of advanced military technology and organization from the Romans to e.g. Huns, Slavs, Avars, Persians and Arabs. Similar mechanisms apply to women, since in late antique society women actively participated in economic activity, often on an industrial scale in women’s workshops (gynaecia) that produced clothing for the Roman state and army, or in private enterprise such as olive oil and silk production. In addition their cultural and religious impact would have been significant. Even if taken as concubines or wives by conquerors, they often preserved their language, religion and cultural forms, which they could pass on to their children. Furthermore, conquering societies took captives from populations that ended up under their political control. This produced a situation where female captives could still maintain contact with their cultural origins, reinforcing ties and influences. In contrast, deportation to new lands would lead to all loss of contact. A main focus is therefore be the long-term cultural effects of their household experience and cultural influences in daily life, language and rituals.

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