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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Hybrid webinar
Event date: 
Thursday, 3 February, 2022 - 17:30
Event organiser: 

MES Public Talks Seminar given by Dr Jonas Borsch and Alexander Thies MA, University of Bern

The body of the ruler is a central medium for the representation of rulership. Studying the way ruler’s bodies are depicted, conceptualised and staged can provide conclusions about how monarchical rule is imagined and about the contexts in which it is legitimised. The late ancient Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East offer a particularly promising field for such studies. Dominated by three monarchical systems (Rome, Sasanian Iran, the early Islamic Caliphate) that simultaneously conflicted with and influenced each other, the late ancient world offers excellent conditions for comparative approaches to premodern conceptions of rule as expressed through the ruler’s body. This presentation will put up for discussion two such approaches. The first lecture will be about the body of female rulers in the late antique monarchies. It will discuss in a comparative perspective the ambivalence of the female monarchical body between the expectations of fertility and pleasure in the late Roman Empire, the Sasanid Empire, and the early Caliphate. The second lecture looks into a specific phenomenon regarding predominantly, but not exclusively, male rulers: taking into account examples from all three aforementioned monarchical systems, it investigates the practice of mutilations exercised on the bodies of deposed rulers and aspirators to the throne and its possible connection to a notion of ‘inviolability’ of the ruler’s body.

To join this talk in person, please email Dr Assef Ashraf (

If you wish to join online, please register here:


Dr Assef Ashraf: