Research Project


Strategies for Coping and Arguing with the Future in Early Medieval Italy

Dr. Carola Föller

This project focusses on the link between future expectations and the processes of cultural differentiation. Can different ways of coping with the future be a marker for the processes of differentiation? Early Medieval Italy was a melting pot for at least four different groups, as divided by the sources: the western Romans, who are the indigenous inhabitants of the former Roman Empire; the Goths, who arrived in the late fifth century at the behest of emperor Zenon; the eastern Romans, who settled there following the Justinian invasion of Italy in the first half of the sixth century; and the Lombards, who entered the Apennine peninsula in the late sixth century. Usually, the Early Middle Ages are seen as a time of cultural synthesis but, nevertheless, processes of cultural differentiation occurred during this period. Therefore, coping with the future is not only seen as a discourse, but also as an underlying cultural practice. Which (social/cultural) functions did prognostication fulfil? How did contemporaries use the future and their prognostics during conflicts? What kinds of practices have been reported? In which way have these practices been described? Instead of taking the ethnical attributions of the contemporary commentators as a basis, the project analyzes the strategies for coping with the future due to geographical conditions in order to avoid reproducing the prejudices and perceptions of the contemporary commentators.

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