This book is equally about people and their texts. It seeks to explore how a Byzantine emperor negotiated his authority in the troubled waters of late Byzantium where churchmen and court-based interest groups vied for the attention of wider audiences. And it is about the construction of discursive strategies by adapting the rules of rhetorical genres to historical circumstances. The focus of the book is Manuel II Palaiologos, both emperor of Byzantium (r. 1391–1425) and prolific author of a range of oratorical and theological texts. The argument is that the emperor maintained his position of authority not only by direct political agency but also by rhetorically advertising his ideas about the imperial office. Throughout his reign, Manuel II created a parallel literary court where he presided over a group of peer literati who supported his position and did not contest his imperial prerogatives. It was within this group that his texts were copied and subsequently disseminated in order to promote a renewed version of the idea of imperial authority. His ideological commitments valued education and the use of rhetorical skills as instruments of social and political change. His vision evolved and changed according to the opportunities and conditions of his reign. In order to understand it one needs to attend not only to his texts but to other contemporary written sources. This will allow us to further scrutinise the late Byzantine understanding(s) of the imperial office as well as the extent to which Manuel II’s writings mirrored or obliterated contemporary concerns....
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