Preparatory Period (1933 – 1955)
Following the university reform and the establishment of Istanbul University in 1933 and the Faculty of Languages and History-Geography in Ankara in 1935, foreign scholars invited to these institutions began to offer courses on Byzantine history and art, planting the first seeds of studies in the Byzantine field in Turkish universities. In the early Republic period, when studies in the field of archaeology and history were viewed as significant steps for the building and modernization of the young nation-state, Byzantine civilization was not given as much emphasis as ancient and classical civilizations. However, the excavations conducted by foreign researchers and Turkish museologists during this period, the courses started to be given in universities, and the efforts shown for the 10th International Byzantine Studies Congress to convene in Istanbul in 1955 can be considered as a preparatory period for the development of academic studies in the Byzantine field.
Pioneers Period (1955 – 1975)
During this period, when pioneering Turkish scholars specializing in Byzantine studies were active, studies were conducted in the fields of history and art history at Istanbul University and the Faculty of Languages and History-Geography in Ankara, as well as research on Byzantine architectural history conducted at Istanbul Technical University. These trailblazing academics, who were either educated abroad or trained by foreign professors in Turkey, made significant contributions to Byzantine studies. Semavi Eyice greatly contributed to Byzantine art studies with his research and scholarly output and founded the Byzantine Art Chair at Istanbul University in 1963. Fikret Işıltan, a medieval historian at the same university, contributed through the key sources he introduced to the Turkish language. Akdes Nimet Kurat, an academic from the Faculty of Language, History, and Geography in Ankara, contributed to the discipline with his work focusing on the use of Byzantine primary sources in Turkish historiography. Şerif Baştav contributed with his Turkish language source books on Byzantine history, and Doğan Kuban, who conducted his research at Istanbul Technical University, contributed with his studies on Byzantine architectural history. These scholars pioneered the expansion and development of Byzantine studies in Turkish universities through the students they trained, the works they produced, and the research they conducted.
Expansion Period (1975 – 1990)
Byzantine studies conducted at Istanbul University, the Faculty of Language, History, and Geography in Ankara, and Istanbul Technical University up until the mid-1970s gained a new center when Ebru Parman, a student of Semavi Eyice, and Yıldız Ötüken, who completed her doctorate in Germany, joined the Art History Department of Hacettepe University. The students trained here facilitated the spread of Byzantine art history studies to many universities in Anatolia in the following years. During this period, along with the increasing number of universities where academic studies in the Byzantine field were conducted, research areas also began to diversify due to the participation and contributions of young scholars trained by pioneering academics and those who studied abroad. Metin Ahunbay, a student of Doğan Kuban who earned his Ph.D. in Germany, extended the reach of studies on Late Antique and Byzantine period structures and settlements beyond Istanbul. Concurrently, Byzantine art history, which had been centered primarily on Byzantine architecture and monumental art, began to incorporate a more diverse array of artifacts, such as architectural sculptures, glass, ceramics, and metal objects. This expansion was largely driven by the students of Yıldız Ötüken, who were involved in the excavation of Saint Nicholas Church at Demre. The use of Ottoman historical primary sources alongside Byzantine historical primary sources in the studies of Melek Delilbaşı, a student of Şerif Baştav and Akdes Nimet Kurat, and the translation of contemporary Byzantine historians’ works into Turkish by Işın Demirkent, a student of Fikret Işıltan who worked on the Crusades, can be cited as examples of the enrichment of research during this period and the formation of new areas of expertise.
Institutionalization and Internationalization Period (1990 – 2010)
A significant step towards the institutionalization of Byzantine studies in Turkish universities was the conference entitled “Byzantine Istanbul: Monuments, Topography, and Everyday Life” organized in 1999 by Nevra Necipoğlu, who joined the History Department at Boğaziçi University in 1990 after completing her Ph.D. in the United States. For the first time in 44 years since the 10th International Byzantine Studies Congress held in Istanbul in 1955, an international academic event focusing on Byzantium was held in Turkey, bringing together scholars based in Turkey and leading Byzantine experts from around the world. This conference, which enhanced the visibility of academic research conducted in Turkey on an international scale, was followed by the International Sevgi Gönül Byzantine Studies Symposium, which began in 2007 and is held every three years. Another key development in this institutionalization process was the establishment of the National Committee for Byzantine/Eastern Roman Studies in Turkey in 2001, and its acceptance as a member of the International Committee of Byzantine Studies. During this period, the number of students focusing on Byzantine studies at universities in Turkey and abroad increased, and more Turkish scholars were able to participate in international academic events.
Maturation Period (2010 - )
The period that followed the institutionalization and internationalization of academic work in this field saw the establishment of two research centers dedicated to Byzantine studies in Turkey, at Koç University and Boğaziçi University, respectively. The need for such centers had been felt for a long time, and these research centers, founded in 2015, have played a crucial role in supporting Byzantine studies by organizing events, granting scholarships, and conducting projects. Another significant development during this period was Istanbul’s candidacy for the International Byzantine Studies Congress. First put forth as a candidate in 2011, Istanbul won the bid in 2016 to host the congress planned for 2021. However, a decision made in the summer of 2020 resulted in the 24th International Byzantine Studies Congress being postponed to 2022 and relocated. Despite this setback, the congress saw an unprecedented level of participation from Turkish researchers, demonstrating the continued growth and interest in Byzantine studies within the country.