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9 XII (4.45 Warsaw time) Jakub Łojszczyk (UW) Fragments regarding the alliance with ‘Turks’ as an example of ethnographic categories and Kaiserkritik in the History of Menander the Guardsman

Abstract

Despite their considerable length, the fragments of the History authored by the 6th-century historian Menandros ‘Protector’ have received little scholarly attention since their edition with commentary published by R.C. Blockley. This paper aims at reexamining the most well-known part of the work of Menandros, namely the rich in detail description of the embassy to the so-called ‘Göktürk Khaganate’, carried out by Zemarchos on behest of Justin II. While Blockley saw in it an unbiased and highly accurate collection of facts about the political and material culture of the abovementioned polity, the present contribution intends to reinterpret it in the light of ethnographic categories of the period and reconstruct the full extent of the narrative about the ‘Turks’ and Avars. I will argue that the purpose of this passage was to pin the blame for the misfortunes befalling the empire, such as the sacking of Crimean Bosporos by the would-be Turkish allies and the loss of Sirmion to the Avars, on Justin II, the predecessor of Tiberius II, Menandros’ main protagonist.