A Byzantine Narrative of the Future and the Antecendents of the Last World Emperor

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education




Leadbetter, B. (2017). A Byzantine narrative of the future and the antecedents of the last World Emperor. In Byzantine Narrative (pp. 368-382). BRILL. The XIVth Conference of the Australian Association for Byzantine Studies.


In 1985, in the course of an article discussing the different ways in which Malalas and Procopius had read and represented the same body of material, Roger Scott mused a little on sixth-century apocalyptic speculation. At the end of his article, he posed a significant question: 'For is it just possible that the arrival of the millennium had its effect too on an equally superstitious Justinian and, in consequence, really did affect the course of history?' 1 This is a fundamental question which raises the deep and recurrent issue of the relationship between apocalyptic narratives and history. Scott raises the recursive question: at what point might such narratives become self-fulfilling prophecies? The irony of this question lies in the response which is at the heart of this paper: it is not so much history which changes in response to prophecy, but prophecy which changes in response to history. This can be most clearly seen in the great gift of Byzantine apocalyptic to Christian prophetic discourses: the figure of the Last Christian Emperor.2

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