The Israel Association for Byzantine Studies Workshop

What Happened in the Sixth Century? - The Israel Association for Byzantine Studies Workshop 2021-22

The sixth century CE is commonly depicted as a period of prosperity in the Levant as a whole and in the Holy Land in particular. This prosperity is evident in the significant expansion of settlements both in arable and arid landscapes / zones?, followed by a flourishing in monumental building initiatives in villages and cities. Lavish Churches, widespread monastic institutions and impressive synagogues are apparent in almost every corner of the provinces of Palaestina and in its neighboring provinces of Arabia and Phoenice.

Archaeological surveys and excavations shed light also on the economic infrastructure of the region in that period, by revealing the vast distribution of olive oil and wine presses – which manifests the significant economic strength of local society, augmented by the contribution of the growing pilgrimage to the holy places.


However, studies of  higher resolution conducted over the past two decades in various parts of the country revealed a more nuanced picture enabling the identification of contrasting trendsthe decline of settlement in the Eastern  Galilee as early as the fourth century, rapid decline of the Negev settlements in the mid-6th century, the absence of rural communities dated to  the Byzantine period in the countryside of  Jerusalem, and the decline of rural settlements in northern Transjordan, perhaps associated with geomorphological events of erosion and land accumulation. In contrast with these processes, the religious imprint on the landscape in the sixth century seems to intensify, reflected in the construction and expansion of churches and monasteries throughout the country. Parallel with these insights, recently discussion on the influence of environmental factors on the settlement system during this period was resumed: The Justinianic plague as a factor that might had changed the demographic balance and may have caused a deterioration in Mediterranean trade, as well as local environmental factors such as continuous drought years.


The workshop will  examine these processes through a comparative survey of various settlements patterns – rural and urban – and through a thematic examination of issues such as religious buildings and environmental processes.


The workshop will be held monthly on Sundays between 18:00-20:00 Jerusalem Time. Three sessions in which non-Hebrew speakers will lecture, will be held in English; the rest – in Hebrew.





Session 1 (October 31, 2021) - Opening session; the sources for the study of the sixth century (in Hebrew)


Opening remarks – Joseph Patrich

Historiography – Avshalom Laniado

The Jewish Sources – Hillel Newman

Epigraphy – Leah Di Segni

Respondent – Oded Irshai


Session 2 (December 12, 2021) - The Rural Settlements – Part One (in English):

The Golan Heights – Michael Osband

Western Galilee – Mordechai Aviam

Transjordan – Basema Hamarneh (Austria)

Respondent (with emphasize on Easter Galilee) – Uzi Leibner


Session 3 (January 6, 2022) - The Rural Settlement – Part Two (in Hebrew):

The countryside of Jerusalem – Jon Seligman

The Judean plains and the Mediterranean coast – Itamar Taxel

The Negev – Yotam Tepper

Respondent – Gideon Avni


Session 4 (February 13, 2022) - The Urban Settlement – Part One (in English):

Beth-Shean-Scythopolis – Benjamin Arubas and Gabi Mazor

Gerasa – Achim Lichtenberger (Germany)

Sepphoris – Zeev Weiss



Session 5 (March 6, 2022) - The Urban Settlement – Part Two (in English):

Jerusalem – Oren Gutfeld

Caesarea – Peter Gendelman

Gaza – Catherine Saliou (France)

Respondent - Joseph Patrich


Session 6 (April 3, 2022) - Religious Buildings (in Hebrew):

Synagogues – Chaim Ben-David

Churches – Joseph Patrich

Monasteries - Tamar Backner

Respondent (With emphasize on Mosaics) - Rina Talgam


Session 7 (May 8, 2022) - the Environmental impact: Earthquakes, Climate Changes and Plagues (in Hebrew):

The new finds from the Negev – Guy Bar-Oz

The Justinianic Plague and its impact – Lee Mordechai

Evidence for the plague in the provinces of Palaestina and Arabia – Nancy Benovitz

Respondent (with emphasize on climate changes) – Rehav (Buni) Rubin



In-person conclusive roundtable: Details to be provided later.


The organizing committee: Joseph Patrich, Gideon Avni, Uzi Leibner and Jacob Ashkenazi