“And the Stone Fell by Reason of Its Weight”
State, Arts and Weighing Instruments in Byzantium
Brigitte Pitarakis

Online Talk

November 22, 2022 / 18.00

The Art of Weights and Measures exhibition, featuring a selection from the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation’s Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection, aims to explore the economy, culture, intercultural system relations, the dynamics of public trust and the journey of standardization of units, anchored around weights and measuring instruments, through the eyes of civilizations, gods, merchants, masters and apprentices, from the 2nd millennium BCE to the present, and sheds light on the transformations and continuities. Expert speakers in the talk series titled “And the Stone Fell by Reason of Its Weight” with inspiration from a verse in Homer's Iliad will examine trade, weighing and measurement systems used in the cultures the exhibition covers, namely the Age of Assyrian Trade Colonies, the Hittite Civilization, the Hellenistic Kingdoms, as well as the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire.

Based on the relationship between money and weight measures in Byzantium, this talk aims to examine the weighing devices produced in the 4th-7th century from the perspective of imperial ideology and the state control mechanism, in order to place them within the context of their use.  

While busts, both those of empresses and those of Athena –prominent images in the decorative repertory of steelyard counterpoises– served the imperial propaganda, inscriptions and decorations on the double-pan balance scale weights point both to the development of the state offices responsible for their control and to the unity of religion and State. Religious inscriptions and motifs not only secured honest and abundant trade under the protection of God, but also prepared those engaged in trade with fair judgment in their occupation. Invested also with aesthetic qualities, steelyard counterpoises and double-pan scale weights offer testimony to the multifaceted meanings of functional objects in Byzantium. References to daily life in Late Byzantine iconography and religion and moral education also suggest comparison of the penal legislation of the state with divine justice.

The talk will be broadcast live on Pera Museum’s YouTube channel. The language of the event is Turkish. 

About Brigitte Pitarakis

Brigitte Pitarakis, a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris (since 2002), holds a doctorate in Byzantine art and archaeology from Paris 1 Sorbonne University (1997), where she also taught during 1992–97. In 2020 she earned an habilitation to direct research at the École Pratique des Hautes Études.

Pitarakis specializes in Byzantine metalwork and the Byzantines’ use of objects in daily life, setting them within their artistic, economic, historical, political, religious, and social contexts. She has also published on the occupations, preoccupations, and beliefs of the Byzantines. Her current book project explores Byzantine culture through metalwork.

As scientific advisor to the Istanbul Research Institute of the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation, Pitarakis has curated several popular exhibitions on Byzantine Constantinople for the Pera Museum. Among her international collaborations are Artefacts and Raw Materials in Byzantine Archival Documents, an online database for the study of the vocabulary on material culture (http://typika.cfeb.org/index), and Discovering Byzantium in Istanbul: Scholars, Institutions, and Challenges, 1800–1955 (Istanbul Research Institute Publications, 2022).

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