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Unrivalled InfluenceWomen and Empire in Byzantium$
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Judith Herrin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691153216

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691153216.001.0001

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The Icon Corner in Medieval Byzantium

The Icon Corner in Medieval Byzantium

(p.281) 13 The Icon Corner in Medieval Byzantium
Unrivalled Influence

Judith Herrin

Princeton University Press

From classical times onward, one of the basic tasks of women was to take care of the household lares, representatives of the ancient gods, whose presence was felt to protect and assist the family. In every dwelling with a hearth female members attended these deities with appropriate rituals. In the form of statuettes, often gilded, as well as framed wooden panel paintings, local deities occupied a prominent domestic space long into the Christian era. When the family converted to Christianity the ancient household gods were replaced by Christian icons, which took over the same role and protected the same space. It seems likely that women's responsibility for, and devotion to, the household protectors was transferred from the old deities to the new Christian God. Although there is no direct evidence for a removal of the older representations in order to institute new ones, when icons are later found in a domestic setting, they are in precisely that part of the home that is the particular preserve of women. It is this association between domestic cult and the veneration of icons in Byzantium that this chapter explores.

Keywords:   Christian icons, Christianity, Byzantium, Byzantine women, local deities, domestic cult, icon veneration

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