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2. Phthonos: A Pagan Relic in Byzantine Imperial Acclamations?

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Chapter Summary

The spoken word is of eminent importance for most rituals. Ritual speech normally is highly formulaic and symbolic, whereas in the context of ceremonies words unfold an even greater power than in everyday communication. This chapter investigates the semantic shift that words of special significance for certain imperial rituals underwent, and analyses the meaning of the rituals concerned, which was also changed as a consequence. It examines closely the concept of phthonos, which occurs in several imperial acclamations in similar ceremonial contexts. The author has chosen the imperial acclamation at the iconoclastic Council of Hieria, because this is the latest occurrence of the word phthonos in the context of an imperial acclamation. The investigation of the meaning of phthonos in the context of imperial acclamations also demonstrates how Byzantine attitudes about dangerous supernatural powers threatening the emperor and the empire itself are reflected in imperial ceremonies.

Keywords: Byzantine text; council of Hieria; imperial ceremonies; phthonos; ritual speech

10.1163/9789004258150_004
/content/books/b9789004258150_004
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