Late Antique Empresses at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, July 2018


The International Medieval Congress, held annually at the University of Leeds, is the biggest event on the European medieval studies calendar. The 2017 conference hosted 2,100 actively-involved participants coming from over fifty countries to present their research or contribute to round-table discussions. The WCC established a presence at the IMC in 2017 with two round-tables on feminist pedagogy and periodisation. Following the success of these events, the WCC is pleased to announce that a double-panel on late antique empresses will feature at the forthcoming IMC, organised by Prof. Julia Hillner (University of Sheffield) and Dr Victoria Leonard (Institute of Classical Studies, London). The panels are jointly sponsored by the WCC and the Medieval and Ancient Research Centre, University of Sheffield (MARCUS).

All are welcome!


Session 218 – Mon. 02 July – 14.15-15.45 

Panel 1: The Late Antique Empress, I: How to Read, Write, and View Imperial Women

Historical studies on late antique empresses have usually been biographies of well-known empresses or single dynasties. This session – the first of two proposed – offers an interdisciplinary perspective on imperial women’s representation and agency. It explores three methodological approaches to the topic: biography, topography, and iconography. Paper
A assesses the benefits and challenges of the biographical approach in light of gender history; paper B investigates how the study of public space impacts on our understanding of imperial women’s role at court; and paper C analyses the relationship between the late antique empress’s image and the cult of the Virgin Mary.

Organised by Julia Hillner, Department of History, University of Sheffield and Victoria Leonard, Institute of Classical Studies, University of London

Chaired by Robin Whelan, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) / Brasenose College, University of Oxford

Paper A: Julia Hillner, ‘Empress, Interrupted: Writing the Biography of a Late Antique Imperial Woman’
Paper B: Robert Heffron, Department of History, University of Sheffield, ‘Women on the Move: Representations of Imperial Women and Urban Space in Late Antique Rome and Constantinople’
Paper C: Maria Lidova, British Museum, London / Wolfson College, University of Oxford, ‘Late Antique Empresses and the Queen of Heaven: On the Correlation between   Sacred and Secular in the Imagery of a Female Potentate’


Session 318 – Mon. 02 July – 16.30-18.00

Panel 2: The Late Antique Empress, II: Imperial Women between Court Politics and ‘Barbarian’ Kings

This is the second session offering new work on late antique empresses. It focuses on case studies that are rarely discussed or in need of reassessment, as they have significant things to tell us about late antique ecclesiastical, military and political developments. Paper A investigates the changing relationship between state and church through Justina’s role in 4th-century Milan; paper B asks how a reinterpretation of Galla Placidia’s Visigothic marriage as war captivity affects our understanding of Roman-Barbarian relationships; and paper C explores the rising power of late 5th-century imperial women through the burial of the disgraced Verina by her daughter, Ariadne.

Organised by Julia Hillner, Department of History, University of Sheffield and Victoria Leonard, Institute of Classical Studies, University of London

Chaired by Richard Flower, Department of Classics & Ancient History, University of Exeter

Paper A: Belinda Washington, Independent Scholar, Edinburgh, ‘Reviewing the Roles of 4th-Century Imperial Women: The Case of Justina’
Paper B: Victoria Leonard, ‘Galla Placidia as ‘Human Gold’: Consent and Autonomy in the Early 5th-Century Western Mediterranean’
Paper C: Margarita Vallejo-Girvés, Departamento de Historia y Filosofía, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, ‘Return of the Confined Empress: The Burial of Verina’


If you can’t attend in person follow on Twitter: Victoria Leonard (@tigerlilyrocks) and Julia Hillner (@WritingHelena)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *