In 1960, the French medievalist Philippe Ariès inaugurated the history of childhood as a serious field of study with the publication of his book L'enfant et la vie familiale sous l'Ancien Régime
(translated two years later as Centuries of Childhood
). Famously known for the abrupt statement that 'in medieval society the idea of childhood did not exist'-Ariès established the framework for the field, advancing continued scholarship through controversy as much as anything. For years the debate has rested on two motivations: 'to show that it was as good then as it is now, and...to show that it is not worse now than it was then' (Papaconstaninou). Until now, Byzantium was absent from the debates. Arietta Papaconstaninou and fellow editor Alice-Mary Talbot have assembled this group of papers in an attempt to reveal a virtually unknown world, and maybe more crucially, to introduce these debates to Byzantine history in the hopes of advancing our understanding of Byzantine society. Both the encouraging and grimmer aspects of Byzantine childhood are equitably addressed: patterns of breastfeeding and weaning, the legal status of children, the presence of abuse in monasteries, death and commemoration, the material culture of childhood, the role of women in the conception and survival of a child, and the models of ideal childhood circulated through the biographies of emperors and patriarchs, as well as in the Lives of the saints. 330 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Despite increased interest over the last fifty years in childhood in Byzantium, the bibliography on this topic remains rather short and generalized. "Becoming Byzantine: Children and Childhood in Byzantium" presents detailed information about children s lives, and provides a basis for further study. This collection of eight articles drawn from a May 2006 Dumbarton Oaks symposium covers matters relevant to daily life such as the definition of children in Byzantine law, procreation, death, breastfeeding patterns, and material culture. Religious and political perspectives are also used to examine Byzantine views of the ideal child, and the abuse of children in monasteries. Many of these articles present the first comprehensive accounts of specific aspects of childhood in Byzantium.