Research Topic: Pharmacological substances Exported from the Islamic World to Byzantium
Dr. Durak, after receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University in History and Middle Eastern Studies in 2008, started teaching at the Department of History at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey. He has been teaching courses on the history of the medieval Mediterranean region, the Byzantine history, and the history of Byzantine Constantinople. The main areas of his research interest include Byzantine and medieval Islamic trade and networks of exchange, Byzantine historical geography, geographical imagination in the Middle Ages, and medieval imperial ideology. His project for the ANAMED is a comprehensive examination of medicinal substances that were imported into Byzantium from/through the Islamic Near East, especially in the middle Byzantine period (7th to the 12th centuries). Most of the plant products (spices/herbs), mineral substances, and animal products – named aromatics by the Byzantines- were primarily employed in pharmacology as well as perfume making and cooking. He attempts to answer questions concerning the ratio of foreign aromatics to the local ones, their origins and possible routes as well as whether they were finished products or raw materials. Studying medical and non-medical historical sources in Byzantine writing, he investigates the geographical as well as class distribution of imported aromatics. Moreover, he pays attention to the perception of these “exotica” in the Byzantine imagination.
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