My research interests lie in the textual and material culture of Byzantine and Norman Italy, particularly relating to questions of community structure and ethnic and religious identity on the imperial frontier with Islamic North Africa. My thesis focuses especially on synthesising the Arabic sources for Byzantine Italy with their Greek and Latin counterparts, and I aim to show that, through relationships between Italo-Greek Christians and different religious and ethnic communities, the westernmost Byzantine province of Calabria was deeply connected to the Fatimid world of North and sub-Saharan Africa, certainly more so than its connection to the imperial centre at Constantinople.

In this vein, my MPhil thesis analysed the construction of authority in Calabrian hagiographic texts and Arabic documents from Tunisia, observing the ways in which the highly stylised portrayal of the ‘holy man’ revealed tensions in local society between Orthodoxy, loyalty to the imperial government, and the attractions of the Islamic world.

My secondary interests are the reception and portrayal of the far south of Italy in modern Italian cultural discourse and the life of Matilda of Canossa.

I am interested more broadly in Byzantine and Early Medieval history, hagiography, historical geography, numismatics, and cultural history. I am always keen to debate comparative questions on the history of religious pluralism and identity in frontier societies.

Outside of my academic research, I am determined to improve the accessibility of Byzantine Studies to students and lay-readers alike. I am passionate about the translation of foreign-language sources into English, and work on this myself, and about challenging the underlying Eurocentric assumptions in medieval studies that lead to Byzantine history being relegated from medieval curricula. I would be delighted to be contacted by western medievalists wishing to work collaboratively on this matter.

I am the president of the Oxford University Byzantine Society.


I am studying for a DPhil (PhD) in Byzantine History at St John’s College, Oxford, where I completed the MPhil Late Antique and Byzantine Studies in 2017 with Distinction. I previously studied for the BA History at Brasenose College, Oxford, graduating in 2014 with First Class Honours.

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    Adele Curness

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