Families and Kinship

Ruth Macrides

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Families and Kinship

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The family occupied a central place in Byzantine society, as indicated by the degree to which the family served as a model for other types of relationship. For example, the language of kin was extensively used to describe non-kin. The late ninth century was a formative period for family structures in Byzantium. In a series of novels, the emperor Leo VI introduced changes to marriage and adoption that increased the Church's role in both. The most common means of creating a wider family network was baptismal sponsorship, with the ritual of baptism creating spiritual ties of kinship that united godparents and natural parents as co-parents, and the offspring of both families as spiritual brothers and sisters. This article also looks at adelphopoiia, which could provide a means of access and intimacy between a man and a woman or people of the same sex, as well as monasticism, which was patterned on familial roles.

Keywords: family; kinship; Byzantium; Leo VI; marriage; adoption; monasticism; baptism; baptismal sponsorship; adelphopoiia

Article.  3598 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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