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Dr Peter Sarris

Dr Peter Sarris

Reader in Late Roman, Medieval and Byzantine History

Fellow of Trinity College

Trinity College
Cambridge CB2 1TQ
Office Phone: 01223 3 39927


Peter Sarris read Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford (1990-93), after which he was elected to a Prize Fellowship (by examination) at All Souls College, Oxford. He came to Cambridge as a University Lecturer and Fellow of Trinity College in 2000, and has held Visiting Fellowships at Rice University, Texas, and the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, Washington D.C. (Harvard University).

Subject groups/Research projects

Ancient and Medieval History:
World History:

Departments and Institutes

Trinity College:

Research Interests

Peter Sarris' general area of research is late Roman, Byzantine and medieval social, economic and legal history from c.300 to 1200. His most recent work has concentrated on relations between aristocrats, peasants and the state in the Roman Empire and Byzantium from the fourth to eleventh centuries, the background to the rise of Islam, and resistance and hostility to the Church in early medieval society. He is especially interested in comparative approaches to pre-modern economic history, and is currently writing a history of Western Eurasia from the fifth to fifteenth centuries

Research Supervision

Peter Sarris has supervised a number of students for the M.Phil. in Medieval History, the M.Phil. in Historical Studies, and the M.Phil. in Classics, and has supervised doctoral students on topics ranging from early Byzantine monastic literature, scepticism towards the cult of the saints in early Byzantine Constantinople and Rome, Byzantine merchants, imperial ideology in the Iconoclast era, the Byzantine presence in early medieval Spain, and Byzantine law. He is especially keen to work with students interested in breaking down the lines of intellectual demarcation between Byzantine studies and ancient and medieval history, and between the history of pre-modern Western Eurasia and World history


Lectures and supervisions on late Roman and early medieval history, including the history of Sasanian Persia and the early Islamic world, in Part I of the Historical Tripos (Papers 13 and 14); lectures and supervisions on 'The Transformation of the Roman World' and 'The Near East in the Age of Justinian and Muhammad' for Part II of the Historical Tripos.

Other Professional Activities

Peter Sarris is an Associate Editor (for late Roman, Byzantine, and early medieval social and economic history) of the Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity and sits on the advisory board of the Journal of Agrarian Change. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a member of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies.

Key Publications

Books and Edited Volumes

  • Economy and Society in the Age of Justinian (Cambridge, 2006; paperback 2009)
  • Procopius – The Secret History – Translated by G.A. Williamson and Peter Sarris with Introduction and Notes by Peter Sarris (Penguin Classics, 2007)
  • Aristocrats, Peasants and the Transformation of Rural Society, c.400-800 – Journal of Agrarian Change 9.1 (2009) (special issue) Edited by Peter Sarris and Jairus Banaji
  • Empires of Faith - The Fall of Rome to the Rise of Islam, c.500-700 (Oxford, 2011; paperback 2013) (= volume one of the Oxford History of Medieval Europe)
  • An Age of Saints? Power, Conflict and Dissent in Early Medieval Christianity Edited by Peter Sarris, Matthew Dal Santo and Phil Booth (Leiden, 2011)
  • Byzantium - A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2015)
  • The Novels of the Emperor Justinian - An Annotated Translation by Peter Sarris and David Miller (Cambridge University Press) (in press)

In Preparation

  • Beyond the Jade Gate: Western Eurasia From Attila to Columbus (for Princeton University Press)

Articles and Chapters

  • ‘The Justinianic Plague: Origins and Effects’, Continuity and Change 17.2 (2002) pp.169-82
  • ‘The Eastern Roman Empire from Constantine to Heraclius’, in The Oxford History of Byzantium, ed. C. Mango (Oxford, 2002) pp.19-59
  • 'The Arab Conquests’, ‘Byzantium 700-1000’, and ‘Byzantine Culture’, in R.D. McKitterick (ed.) The Times Medieval World Atlas (2003) pp.28-31, 72-73, and 74-77 (reprinted by O.U.P. in 2004 as Atlas of the Medieval World)
  • ‘The Origins of the Manorial Economy: New Insights From Late Antiquity’, English Historical Review 119 (2004) pp.279-311
  • ‘Rehabilitating the Great Estate: Aristocratic Property and Economic Growth in the Late Antique East’, in Late Antique Archaeology 2: Recent Research On the Late Antique Countryside, eds. W. Bowden, L. Lavan and C. Machado (Leiden, 2004) pp.55-71
  • ‘Is This the Face of Britain’s Forgotten Emperor?’, The Times, February 25 2004, p.1 and p.4
  • ‘On Jairus Banaji’s Agrarian Change in Late Antiquity’, Historical Materialism 13.1 (2005) pp.207-19
  • ‘Continuity and Discontinuity in the Post-Roman Economy’, Journal of Agrarian Change 6.3 (2006) pp.400-413
  • ‘Aristocrats and Aliens in Early Byzantine Constantinople’ in E. Jeffreys (ed.) Byzantine Style, Religion And Civilization – In Honour of Sir Steven Runciman (Cambridge, 2006) pp. 413-27
  • ‘I anatoliki Romaiki aftokratoria apo Konstantino eos ton Irakleio ‘ in C. Mango (ed.) Istoria tou Vizantiou (Athens, 2006) pp.43-102
  • ‘Bubonic Plague in Byzantium: The Evidence of Non-Literary Sources’, in L.K. Little ed. Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541-750 (Cambridge, 2007) pp. 119-32 (revised version of ‘The Justinianic Plague’ – see above)
  • ‘Social Relations and the Land – The Early Period’, in J. Haldon (ed.) A Social History of Byzantium (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) pp. 92-111
  • ‘Introduction: Aristocrats, Peasants, and the Transformation of Rural Society, c. 400-800’, Journal of Agrarian Change 9.1 (2009) pp. 3-22
  • ‘Culture aristocratique et croissance économique  dans l’empire protobyzantin’, in F. Bougard, R. Le Jan, and R. Mc Kitterick (ed.) La Culture du Haut Moyen Âge – Une Question Des Élites? (Brepols, 2009) pp.127-138
  • ‘Economics, Trade, and “Feudalism”’, in L. James (ed.) A Companion to Byzantium (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) pp. 25-42
  • ‘Landwirtschaft: Spätantike’ in H.Heinen (ed.) Handwörterbuch der Antiken Sklaverei (CD ROM, Lieferung I-III, Stuttgart, 2010)
  • ‘Aristocrats, Peasants, and the State in the Later Roman Empire’ in P. Eich, S. Schmidt Hofner and C. Wieland (ed.) Die wiederkehrende Leviathan: Staatlichkeit und Staatswerdung in Spätantike und Früher Neuzeit (Heidelberg, 2011) pp.377-94
  • ‘The Early Byzantine Economy in Context: Aristocratic Property and Economic Growth Reconsidered’ in  Early Medieval Europe 19.3 (2011), pp. 255-84
  • ‘Lay Archives in the Late Antique and Byzantine East: the Implications of the Documentary Papyri’, in W. Brown, M. Costambeys, M. Innes and A. Kosto (eds.) et al. Documentary Culture and the Laity in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge, 2012)
  • ‘Restless Peasants and Scornful Lords: Lay Hostility to Holy Men and the Church in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages’, in Sarris, Dal Santo and Booth An Age of Saints? (see above), pp. 1-10
  • 'Large Estates and the Peasantry in Byzantium, c. 600-1100' in  Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire 90 (2012) pp. 29-50.
  • 'Law and Custom in the Byzantine Countryside from Justinian I to Basil II (c.500-1000)' in  A. Rio (ed.) Law, Custom, and Justice in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (CHS, 2011) pp.49-62
  • 'Integration and Disintegration in the Late Roman Economy: The Role of Markets, Emperors and Aristocrats', in L. Lavan (ed.) Late Antique Archaeology Volume 10: Local Economies? Production and Exchange of Inland Regions in Late Antiquity (Leiden, 2014) pp. 153-74
  • 'Urban and Rural Economies in the Age of Attila' in M. Maas (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila (Cambridge, 2014) pp.44-60
  • 'The Formation of the Post-Roman Economy and the Cultural Legacy of Rome' in D. Boschung and C. Radtki (eds.) Politische Fragmentierung und Kulurelle Kohärenz in der Spätantike (Paderborn, 2015), pp. 123-36
  • 'Beyond the Great Plains and the Barren Hills: Rural Landscapes and Social Structures in Eleventh-Century Byzantium', in M. Lauxtermann and M. Whittow (eds.) Being In Between: Byzantium in the Eleventh Century (London, 2017) pp. 77-87.
  • 'Merchants, Trade, and Commerce in Byzantine Law From Justinian I to Basil II', in P. Magdalino and N. Necipoglu (eds.) Trade in Byzantium: Papers From the Third International Sevgi Günül Byzantine Studies Symposium (Istanbul, 2016) pp. 11-24.
  • 'Landownership and Rural Society in the Writings of Procopius' in C. Lillington-Martin and E. Turquois Procopius of Caesarea: Literary and Historical Interpretations (London, 2017)).
  • 'Christianity and Family Law in the Reign of Justinian', in J.Witte Jr. and G.S. Hauk Christianity and Family Law - An Introduction (Cambridge, 2017)
  • 'Economy and Society in the Age of the Sons of Constantine', in S. Tougher and N. Baker-Brian (eds.) Sons of Constantine (Cambridge, forthcoming, expected 2017)