STELNIK E.V. The Tent in the Context of the Byzantine Power Symbolism in the 10th–12th Centuries


Evgeny V. Stelnik

Candidate of Sciences (History), Associate Professor,

Department of Service and Tourism, Volgograd State University,

Prosp. Universitetsky, 100, 400062 Volgograd, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. The tent (σκηνή, τέντα) was a simple and everyday object of Byzantine life. Diplomats, merchants, pilgrims, soldiers, travelers, and simply wanderers spent a considerable part of their lives in a tent. It was a natural element of the Byzantine landscape, and geographical mobility was an important part of the lifestyle of the Byzantine elite and its psychology. But this simple, everyday thing in a certain context took on an extremely important meaning and turned into an important religious and social symbol. A simple object could indicate complicated social and ideological constructions of the 10th–12th centuries. The task of the study is to reveal the implicit power context which in certain cases endowed simple everyday objects (like a tent) with an extremely important meaning.

Methods. The article is written in the general context of structuralist methodologies. We regarded the tent as a simple sign indicating the complex representations that lie behind its content. Structuralist methods allow for a correct reconstruction of Byzantine everyday representations in different strata of society.

Analysis and Results. The rich tent in Byzantine society of the 10th–12th centuries was not just a part of the daily military life of the aristocracy, but also an important element of power relations. Tents defined the social status of their owners, emphasized their power and importance. Aristocratic tents of that time were a space where power decisions were made and court life took place. The tent as a power symbol relied on a broad religious context. The Tabernacle of Moses, which was the model for every tent in the Byzantine Empire, was also created by the Lord’s will, with Moses himself acting as “royal scribe”. The folkloric tent of Charos in the Acritic songs turns out to be the center of the “lower” world in which Charos ruthlessly reigns. Behind each reading of the symbolic meaning of the tent lie different social practices of different groups of Byzantine society, but they are all filled with their own understanding of the essence of power.

Key words: power, aristocracy, war, tent, tabernacle, cosmology, Charos, death.

Citation. Stelnik E.V. The Tent in the Context of the Byzantine Power Symbolism in the 10th–12th Centuries. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2021, vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 331-338. (in Russian). DOI:

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The Tent in the Context of the Byzantine Power Symbolism in the 10th–12th Centuries by Stelnik E.V. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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