Mrs Annika Asp-Talwar

Mrs Annika Asp-Talwar

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Title of thesis: East meets West – the relationship between Trebizond and Constantinople, 13th – 15th centuries

Supervisor: Dr Ruth Macrides

Funding: AHRC


  • BA in History and South Asian Studies (School of Oriental and African Studies, First Class Honours)
  • MSt in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies (University of Oxford, Distinction)


Byzantine history is like a mosaic: its scholars come from an exceptionally wide variety of backgrounds and some end up on the field through twists and turns – I certainly did. My interest for the Middle Ages was sparked 20 years ago, through the discovery of Early music and Latin. As a result, I soon found myself translating medieval Latin songs, with a special interest in the 12th century poems of Hildegard of Bingen. Right after finishing my secondary high school, I fulfilled my dream and embarked on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela – which was the beginning of a pilgrimage into medieval history. Before my academic career, I studied a range of topics from Mathematics and Geography to Modern History and Political sciences. I spent many years living abroad and working in roles including teaching and team leadership, gaining useful experience and skills that cannot be learnt in schools.

My interest in all things medieval took a turn to the east during the three years I worked as a guide in locations including India, Greece, Bulgaria – and Istanbul. There is no word to describe the importance of inspiring people. I wanted to share my enthusiasm for history gained from seeing, touching and visiting monuments and sites. A career in doing the same on a scholarly level was set for me. I moved to London and enrolled on a degree on Medieval India, with a special interest on Sanskrit and the Delhi sultanate.

Soon, the domes of golden Constantinople called me back westwards – and I ended up pursuing an academic career that would give the possibility to study Europe, Asia and their meeting points. All roads had led me to Constantinople and I thought my pilgrimage had reached its goal. During my Masters research, I began from the end: I passionately studied the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the whole Byzantine millennium that it ended. This research introduced me to the eastern lands of Trebizond, which became the focus of my second Masters research project and the subject of my PhD thesis. The rest is history – the details of which are specified below. 


Doctoral research

PhD title East meets West – the relationship between Trebizond and Constantinople, 13th – 15th centuries
Supervisor Dr Ruth Macrides
Course Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)


The empire of Trebizond is officially studied as part of Byzantine history, but the question of what exactly its existence meant for Byzantine history has only received vague answers. Trebizond is best known in Byzantine history as one of the three successor states after the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204. This was a starting point only – the political entity around Trebizond survived for two and a half centuries and indeed outlived the Byzantine empire, only falling to the Ottomans in 1461. Yet, the evolution of its relations with Constantinople has received surprisingly little scholarly attention, especially for the period from the late 13th century onwards. Aspects of the relationship between Trebizond and Constantinople have frequently been discussed in various contexts, but the topic has never been the subject of a separate monograph. In my research, I study the development of this relationship during its formative period, from the mid-13th to the end of the 14th century. My aim is to define the processes and degrees of interdependence and its underlying reasons during the period in question.

In my research, I use a large number of Greek textual sources. One of the challenges in working with Trebizond is the challenge of reconstructing the history of a state situated in a peripheric position in most of the sources used, whilst only a small number of sources from the Trapezuntine perspective have survived. The most famous out of these is the chronicle by Michael Panaretos, which I have translated and will discuss in detail in my thesis. Another Trapezuntine source that has nearly escaped scholarly attention is the Periegesis written by Andrew Libadenos, who worked in the Trapezuntine court in the 14th century. During my research, I have participated in several summer schools, research workshops and conferences that have enriched my approach and enabled exchanges of ideas during a work in progress.

Other activities


  • 2011 – 2014
    AHRC funding for PhD studies at the University of Birmingham.
  • August 2009
    Undergraduate School Prize for the best result in History, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Undergraduate School Prize – best result in South Asian Studies, SOAS
  • August 2008
    Vernon Parry award, for the best undergraduate result of the year, SOAS
  • June 2000     
    School award for the best combined examination result of Latin and German, Helsingin normaalilyseo. My final grade was the 2nd best in Finland in 2000.

Workshops, Summer Schools and Study Trips

  • August 2013
    Birmingham Byzantine Greek summer school, advanced level. Peter Jancar memorial fund.
  • October 2012          
    Acceptance and fully sponsored participation on the PhD and early career researcher workshop ‘Dynamic Middle Ages’ in Moscow
  • August 2012
    The Lincoln College Summer school of Palaeography, University of Oxford
  • July 2012      
    Summer programme ‘Istanbul Through the Ages’, Koç University. Full funding offered. The programme included visits of the Byzantine sites of Istanbul.
  • Study trip to Trebizond and Maçka, during which I visited the medieval sites of the city of Trebizond (the city walls, the churches of Hagia Sophia, Chrysokephalos and St Eugenios) and the monasteries of Soumela and Vazelon.
  • June 2012     
    Dumbarton Oaks medieval Greek and Palaeography summer program. Full funding offered.


Founder and President in the academic year 2012-2013 of GEM – Gate to the Eastern Mediterranean, Postgraduate Society of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek studies. Organised and arranged funding for a new society. Planned and realised its activities, the most visible of which were the GEM Forum (a biweekly seminar with talks and discussion by research students), the newsletter, the website and a forthcoming online journal. GEM gathered active and enthusiastic students, who both assisted in organising and attending the events – the most brilliant example of which was an undergraduate introductory day organised by an active GEM member. Ensured the continuity of the society for the following year with the further development of ideas initiated in the first year.


Conference papers

  • 9 July 2013, University of Cambridge
    ‘Tourism in religious scenery – Andre w Libadenos’ journey to Egypt and the Holy Land’ at ‘Trade, Travel and Transmission in the Medieval Mediterranean’, biennial conference of the Society for the Medieval Mediterranean.
  • 31 May 2013, Central European University, Budapest
    ‘Religion and Biography in the Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos’ at ‘Tradition and Transformation: Dissent and Consent in the Mediterranean’, Third CEMS International Graduate Conference.
  • 25 May 2013, University of Birmingham  
    ‘A personal journey – the Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos as a Byzantine autobiography’ at ‘The Individual and The Society’, 14th Annual Postgraduate Colloquium of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies,.
  • 24 April 2013, University of Birmingham
    ‘A Byzantine man in Trebizond – The Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos’ at the annual IAA Colloquium.
  • 25 March 2013, University of Birmingham
    ‘Who was Anna Anachoutlou?’ at ‘Byzantine Greece: Microcosm of Empire?’, the annual Symposium of the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies.
  • 22 February 2013, University of Oxford
    ‘Landscapes and power in the Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos’ at ‘Landscapes of Power’, the 15th international graduate conference of the Oxford University Byzantine Society.
  • 11 October 2012, University of Birmingham       
    ‘Travellers’ tales’ – presentation given at the departmental seminar of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies.
  • 26 May 2012, University of Birmingham  
    ‘Megalomania’ in Trebizond? The usage of the term ‘Grand Komnenoi’ at ‘Middle Earth’ – 13th annual international postgraduate colloquium of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies.
  • 18 February 2012, University of Oxford  
    ‘Despoina Hatun, Palaiologina et aliae – Women in the Chronicle of Michael Panaretos’ at Reality and Illusion: Seeing through the ‘Byzantine Mirage’, organised by the Oxford Byzantine Society.
  • 6 October 2011, University of Helsinki     
    Annual colloquium of the Finnish Society for Byzantine Studies. Title:‘Trebizondin keisarikunnan (1204-1461) tähänastinen tutkimus ja tulevaisuudennäkymiä’ (In Finnish).
  • 26 August 2011, University of Sofia          
    ‘Apocalypse Now. The significance of prophecies, signs and omens in accounts on the Fall of Constantinople.’ at the XXI Byzantine Congress in Sofia, Bulgaria.
  • 21 May 2011, University of Leiden           
    ‘For all the Christians you were the joy, Stamboul.' The Byzantine connection of two Armenian laments on the Fall of Constantinople in 1453’ at the conference ‘Eastern Christianity in Context’.
  • 5 March 2011, University of Oxford          
    ‘The End is Near – Signs and Omens of the Fall of Constantinople’ at the conference ‘Between Constantines’ organised by the Oxford Byzantine Society. profile:


  • Forthcoming 
    Article in the proceedings of the third biennial CEMS conference, CEU Budapest
  • Forthcoming 
    ‘Great men and women – the usage of the term megas in the chronicle by Michael Panaretos’ in the Proceedings of the 13th Annual Postgraduate CBOMGS, University of Birmingham.
  • March 2012  
    ’Vallankaappaaja, äiti, ”toinen nainen” ja despoina hatun – Trebizondin naisia Mikael Panaretoksen kronikassa’ in Skholion 2012 (1), Helsinki
  • March 2011  
    ‘It was predicted – Prophecies on the Fall of Constantinople’ in The Byzantinist, newsletter of the Oxford Byzantine Society, 2011 (1), Oxford