Obituary: Professor Dionysios Zakythinos

Dionysos A. Zakythinos, historian, born Lixouri Kephallonia 1905, died Athens 16 January 1993.

BYZANTINISTS, like the empire they study, are a peculiarly international community. In Greece Byzantinists suffered untimely losses in Laskarina Bouras in 1989 and Doula Mouriki in 1991, both lively art historians. They were survived until 18 January by a much earlier generation, Constantine Trypanis (obituary by Peter Levi, 21 January) and Dionysios Zakythinos. One generation could not have come without the other.

From 1821 Greek scholars have had problems with handling their Byzantine past, just as did Turkish historians with the Ottoman Empire a century later. Both 'revolutions' or 'wars of independence' had been fought partly against the concept of empire, whether based in Constantinople or Istanbul, and both were rewarded with the newfangled notion of a nation state (complete with a National Debt) whose citizens had to wear trousers. In Paris young scholars conceived national histories and ended up ruling Albania, Romania or Vietnam. But Dionysios Zakythinos entered the beginnings of a quite different sort of historiography in Paris, later called the Annales School, with a concern for social and economic history which by extension brought Byzantium in Greece, and the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, into a different and common light.

Zakythinos's credentials were impeccable for such a task. He was born an Ionian Islander in 1905. After graduating from Athens University in 1927, his acknowledged masters in the Sorbonne in Paris were Charles Diehl (1859- 1944) and Ferdinand Lot (1866- 1952), giants in any academic genealogy; but Hubert Pernot (1870- 1942), the neo-Hellenist, and Germaine Rouillard, a pioneer of Byzantine rural economic studies, were there too. His thesis was an edition of a golden bull of the Grand Komnenos Alexios III of Trebizond in favour of Venice in 1364, and is a model. In 1932 come the first volume of his major work on the Despotate of the Morea. Held up by the war, the second volume was not published as a book until 1953, when it was still unusual in tackling demographic, fiscal and social aspects of late Byzantine Greece, as was his lest major work of 1972, a balanced study of Ottoman Greece in the Tourkokratia.

Dionysios Zakythinos held chairs in Byzantine and Modern Greek History in the University of Athens from 1939 to 1970 and at the Panteios from 1951 to 1965. He was founding director of the Byzantine Research Institute in Athens. As President of the Athens Academy, Foreign Fellow of the British Academy and Honorary President of the International Association of Byzantine Studies, academic honours fell upon him. After the fall of the Greek junta in 1974 he was elected a New Democracy member of parliament and minister until 1977. But by example this kindly and careful Cephallonian may best be remembered for ridding Greek Byzantine historiography of past problems, exemplified by the work of generations of students - one of whom became Rector of the Sorbonne.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum