Robert Browning (Byzantinist)

Robert Browning FBA ( born January 15, 1914 in Glasgow, † March 11, 1997 in London) was a British Byzantine Studies and Professor of Classics and Ancient History from Birkbeck College in London.


Browning has the Kelvinside Academy, a private school in Glasgow, and subsequently visited classics and ancient history at the Humanities Department at the University of Glasgow (1931-1939) studied, interrupted by a year as Snell Exhibitioner at Balliol College ( 1935-1936 ). After seven years of military service during the Second World War, which led him to various countries of the Balkans and the Middle East and to Egypt, Browning was first Harmsworth Senior Scholar at Merton College, Oxford (1946-1947), then a lecturer (1947-1955) and Reader (1955-1965) at University College London. In 1965 he was appointed Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck College, where he remained until his retirement in 1981. In 1978 he was admitted as a Fellow in the British Academy. After his retirement Browning was at Dumbarton Oaks, the branch of the University of Harvard for Byzantine Studies in Washington, DC, and worked for the establishment of the University of Cyprus in an advisory capacity.

Since his student days at Oxford Browning was, like many of his contemporaries there, Marxist, belonged to the Communist Party Historians Group at (Eric Hobsbawm was a close friend) and was added to the editorial board of the historical journal Past & Present 1965.

Browning was also the chairman of both the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies and served as editor of the review section of the Journal of Hellenic Studies such as the bibliographic supplement of the Byzantine magazine. In 1981 he was also Vice- President of the Association Internationale des Etudes Byzantines (International Byzantine Association).

In 1983, Browning and the filmmaker Eleni Cubitt following the Melina Mercouri public demand in London, the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles ( BCRPM ) have established that is committed to the return of the so-called Elgin Marbles to Greece.

Browning had been married since 1946 with the Bulgarian Galina Chichekova, with whom he had two daughters. In 1972 he married his second wife Ruth Gresh.

Research priorities

Browning began as a classical philologist and historian, but then worked in all areas of Gräzistik and Greek history from Mycenae to modern Greece. As Byzantinist he has become also known for his masterful books on Byzantine history and society, the Emperor and Empress of Justinian I and Theodora and the Emperor Julian, which were also translated into German, about professionals.

In addition, Browning was known for his stupendous language skills. Already as a student he had David Hume's essay Of Avarice translated as part of a competition at the University of Oxford from Latin. In addition to the common scientific language he mastered not only Slavic (Russian and Bulgarian), but also more remote south-east European languages ​​such as Albanian and Georgian, he learned partly during his studies, partly during his military service, partly through self-study using the radio.


Browning was appointed by the University of Birmingham, an honorary doctorate from the City of Athens a freeman. The Republic of Greece honored him by directing the funeral.

Writings (selection )

  • With Costas N. Constantinides: Dated Greek manuscripts from Cyprus to the year 1570 Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection and Cyprus Research Centre, Washington DC. 1993, ISBN 0-884-02210-2 ( Dumbarton Oaks studies, Volume 30 ).
  • Post in: L' Uomo bizantino. A cura di Guglielmo Cavallo. Laterza, Rome 1992, ISBN 8-842-03979-9.
  • History, language and literacy in the Byzantine world. Variorum Reprints, Northampton, 1989, ISBN 0-860-78247-6.
  • Post: Christopher Hitchens: The Elgin Marbles: Should They be returned to Greece. With essays by Robert Browning and Graham Binns. Chatto & Windus, London, 1987, ISBN 0-701-13163-2, Neuaufl. under the title: The Parthenon marbles: the case for reunification. Preface by Nadine Gordimer. With essays by Robert Browning and Charalambos Bouras. London: Verso 2008, ISBN 1-844-67252-2
  • As Publisher: The Greek world: Classical, Byzantine and Modern. Thames & Hudson, London, 1985, reprint 1999, ISBN 0-500-28162-9.
  • Introductory, Poetry, Biography, History, Oratory and epistolography, Learning and the past, minor figures. In: EJ Kenney (ed.): The Cambridge History of Classical Literature. Volume II: Latin Literature. Part 5: The Later Principate. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1982, ISBN 0-521-27371-4.
  • Church, state and learning in twelfth century Byzantium. Dr William 's Trust, London 1981, ISBN 0-852-17042-4.
  • The Byzantine Empire. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1980, ISBN 0-297-77821-8; revised. Ed Catholic University of America Press, Washington, DC 1992, ISBN 0-813-20754-1. to German: Byzantium, Rome's golden daughter. The history of the Byzantine Empire. Luebbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1982, ISBN 3-7857-0306-6.
  • To German: Justinian and Theodora: gloss and size of the Byzantine Emperor and Empress. German Diether Eibach. Luebbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1981, ISBN 3-7857-0274-4; Neuaufl. under the title of Justinian and Theodora: ruler in Byzantium. German by Dieter Eibach. Pawlak, Herrsching 1992, ISBN 3-88199-931-0.
  • To German: Julian: The apostate emperor. Biography. German Ulla Leippe. Nymphenburg Verlagshandlung, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-485-00330-1; License issue under the title: Emperor Julian - The apostate Roman rulers. German Ulla Leippe. Heyne, München 1988, ISBN 3-453-00821-9.