Dr Ruth Macrides
Colleagues, students and the academic community will be saddened to learn of the death of Dr Ruth Macrides on Saturday 27 April 2019.
Ruth was Reader in Byzantine Studies at the University of Birmingham where she had worked for twenty-five years and where she was a much loved colleague and friend. We will miss her terribly.
Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family at this time.
The staff of The Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies/The Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
The University of Birmingham
Ruth has been a wonderful colleague for a long time - we came to the university together as a job share and have worked together - though we haven't shared a position since the mid-90s - for the past 25 years. Ruth was a meticulous scholar, and a wonderful supervisor and teacher; but what I most loved about Ruth was her sense of humour. We laughed uncontrollably more often than seems possible. My last memory of her is from two weeks ago, when we both attended a Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks. She was brilliant, effervescent and sparkling, and resplendent in a new dress and with a new haircut. That is the Ruth I loved, and will remember forever.
Professor of Byzantine Art
Director, Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Ruth was a wonderful colleague and a great scholar with an international reputation, who was invited to give lectures and attend conferences and other academic events from Dumbarton Oaks to Belgrade, Paris to Athens. She was a pillar of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies in Birmingham establishing friendly relations with all colleagues, organizing its general seminar for many years and offering help and advice to research students from all disciplines. She took over the editorship (jointly with Peter Mackridge) of the journal Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies in 2005 and her passion for clarity and superb editorial skills hugely benefitted both contributors and readers alike. For years she was the welcoming face of the fourth floor of the Arts Building and her door was always open to those with a question or who just wanted a chat.
She was a diaspora Greek with connections to the Pontos in Turkey where her family came from originally, Boston where she was born and grew up, London where she did her PhD, St Andrews where her home was, Birmingham where she taught and Greece where she used to go on holiday every year at the end of June, visiting a different island each time. This year she was planning to go to the island of Chios. Though she only lived in Greece for a few years, her Greek was excellent and she used to complain that I didn’t speak Greek with her. Her recent lecture on ‘The Scottish Connection in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies’ can be found here:
Ruth was also a marvellous hostess and a great cook. Her last email to me was just a week ago, on the Tuesday of Orthodox Holy Week, a period of fasting. She told me that she was making a dish of chickpeas and bread with kalamata olives, good Lenten fare. She signed this last message with her other Greek name Iouliani (Juliana). She will be remembered most fondly.
Professor of Modern Greek Studies
I first met Ruth 41 years ago, where else but in the Mason Lounge (or whatever it was then called) at the spring British Byzantine Symposium that in those years was always hosted at Birmingham. Subsequently I was a colleague of hers in St Andrews for seven years before connecting up again in the College of Arts and Law. The quality of Ruth's scholarship needs no tribute but what made her stand out in all contexts, quite apart from her passionate engagement, was her style and poise. A couple of decades ago she was chatting to my wife Lynne (a kindred spirit on this issue) on Market Street in St Andrews about how she just could not understand why so many British academics did not bother about how they looked. Ruth was a presence which will be deeply missed by all who knew her warm spirit.
Professor Michael Whitby
Pro-Vice Chancellor, Head of the College of Arts and Law, University of Birmingham
Ruth was such an inspirational and meticulous graduate supervisor, and an empathetic, kind colleague. I got to know her particularly well when we both had roles associated with graduate programmes in CAHA, but I also had the privilege to have many lively and passionate conversations with her, about her scholarship and research plans, over the past few years — she was always looking forward to new projects and to exploring their development from her deep enthusiasm for her subject. Yet my most abiding memory of Ruth goes back over a decade, to when I was being treated for cancer. Ruth, in a typically exuberant gesture, took part in a sponsored run to raise money for cancer research…and wore a very elegant pair of shoes. I made it to the finish line to congratulate her and she looked stunning (and without a hair out of place!). As she said, we can choose not to go with the flow. I’ll miss her greatly.
Professor of Classics
The first time I met Ruth was in a tent at an open day for the University of Birmingham. I had been passed on to her because I had expressed interest in the Eastern Mediterranean History course, and Ruth was, as she ever was, trying to convince students to pursue Byzantine Studies. Of all the 13 universities I visited that year, and the many, many people I met, I still remember my encounter with the very enthusiastic short, dark-haired American lady at Birmingham that I would later come to know as Ruth Macrides.
This memory sums up Ruth for me. She was a passionate enthusiast for Byzantine Studies, who encouraged all students she met along this path with a boundless energy that led me to believe she was much younger than she was. I will never understand how she managed to do so much so efficiently. She almost single-handedly kept the important Whitting Room Library and CBOMGS seminar series going, as well as running the Centre’s journal, running an extra-curricular Byzantine Greek translation class, organising conferences, the list goes on.
The Centre for Byzantine Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, the University of Birmingham, and the entire field of Byzantine Studies has been so much richer for Ruth’s involvement, and it will not be the same without her.'
Dr. Maria Chantal Vrij
Coin Curator, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
I met Ruth as a nervous fresher in 2012. I didn’t know anything but after one lesson with her I knew I loved Byzantium. She was so full of joy and overflowing with knowledge and true appreciation for her subject. I went on to take as many of her modules as possible.She was my personal tutor, my dissertation tutor and upon my graduation a dear mentor. I spoke to her about three weeks ago and we shared stories of our travels. We could’ve talked about Istanbul for hours. My dearest memory of Ruth is one morning sat in her office eating coffee beans and discussing whether Michael VIII was really a romantic character. When you were with Ruth there was always laughter- she was always honest, always supportive and always giving of her time. It was an honour to have known her. I will miss her dearly.
Ancient and Medieval History 2012-2015
As a sophomore aspiring to be a Byzantinist, I was so inspired and impressed by Dr Macrides’ work that I immediately decided to pursue my graduate studies with her. For the following three years, we regularly corresponded; I was also overjoyed to meet her in person in a symposium. After completing my undergraduate degree, I finally started working with Dr Macrides for my MA and PhD. She was an extraordinary supervisor in every aspect and soon, she also became a friend. Her enthusiasm for all things Byzantine, her support and affection, her joy of life and humour came to occupy a special place in my life. Even after I left Birmingham, we continued sending streams of e-mails to each other, laced with our ‘themed’ jokes and invented expressions – our record for mutual silence was around 10 days. I have wonderful memories with her in Birmingham, Athens, Washington DC and Istanbul: funny stories, our bagel and breakfast rituals, office picnics, shopping excursions and many more. I am very grateful for having had Dr Macrides in my life for the past eight years; I will always miss her and cherish every single of our precious memories.
University of Birmingham, PhD 2016
I was devasted to find out of the sudden death of Dr. Ruth Macrides. Ruth was a distinguished scholar in her field and a very special presence of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies in Birmingham. She was also a very warm-hearted person. She was the referee in my viva voce examination (July 2004) and I will always remember how she tried to calm me down and encourage me to deliver the best possible presentation. The last memory I have of Ruth is from this January (2019) when I was in Birmingham again during my academic leave, and she tried her best to secure me some reasonable accommodation -even helping with the budget from her own research resources.
Her generosity, her spirit and her love for academic life will continue to inspire her students, friends, and colleauges. She will be greatly missed.
Assistant Professor of Modern Greek Literature, Hellenic Open University
Honorary Research Fellow Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Birmingham
Anyone who was fortunate enough to have met Ruth admired her elegance, poise, energy and kindness. She gave her time and expertise generously to anyone who asked for it. She flew tirelessly from conference to conference all over the world, finding it hard to say ‘no’ to the many invitations she got every year, a testament to her scholarship and academic presence. Her numerous academic publications inspired many scholars of Byzantine and medieval studies. Her great editorial skills and clarity of expression helped her navigate the editorship of the journal of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies since 2005. Her senior fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks Centre for Byzantine Studies and her recent membership of the Committee for Society, Arts, and Letters of the British School at Athens are indicative not only of her academic standing, but also of her continuous commitment to scholarship and dissemination of knowledge. When I last saw her a few weeks ago, she was beaming with enthusiasm for her new adventure; her membership to the School of Historical Studies at Princeton University for the next academic year. And she was excited to have announced the topic of the next Spring Symposium of the SPBS in Birmingham.
I first remember Ruth opening the blue door of her St Andrews house, having invited us for dinner, 19 years ago, when I was a doctoral student. Ruth was a great hostess, an inspiring cook, always in search of recipes and of the perfect mahlepi for her Easter tsourekia. All of her friends have tasted her famous spanakopita (a secret recipe she inherited from her mother and which she only revealed to close friends) and have sat around her dinner table, always short of time but never of conversation. Ruth had a unique quality to connect with people, whether they were 5 or 85 years old. She became our life-long friend, our koumpara (bestwoman) in our wedding, our sons’ trusted ‘aunt’. I was always looking forward to her emails and phone calls, full of wit and humour. Ruth was also a woman of impeccable taste and style, which she never sacrificed for any reason. Some years ago she run (i.e. walked) 5 miles in support of cancer research wearing her favourite dress and high heels!
She will be greatly missed and will remain always in our hearts and memories.
Dr Lenia Kouneni
Associate Lecturer, School of Art History
University of St Andrews
I first met Ruth in 1993. I'd just arrived in St Andrews as the most junior of research assistants, and Liz Craik had kindly invited me along to a dinner party at her big Arts and Crafts house. At dinner I found myself sitting opposite Ruth. She was brilliant - bright, dynamic, obviously intelligent, and the perfect person to bring a shy young colleague out of himself. Ruth made the evening memorable and enjoyable for me. We lost sight of each other a little, but when I moved to Birmingham I was delighted to discover she was again a colleague. And I was touched that she remembered me too; typically of her, as I would learn. In all the time since, I don't think we had a bad moment. She was sharp, sceptical when necessary, always kindly and patient, the same to everyone. Our last conversation was about Byzantine influences on Arts and Crafts architecture -- back to where we began. We were hoping to have a quiet coffee about it some time.
Dr Philip Burton
Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
University of Birmingham
Ruth MacRides has one of the kindest attitudes towards people who are mental health service users. This is an observation that came to me when I first met Ruth as a final year undergraduate in 2013, doing my dissertation under her supervision, and from my experiences of being periodically in psychiatric care since the age of 7 and continuously in this routine for the last 21 years, dating back to when I was approaching my 24th birthday. Ruth's understanding of the human mind is greater than that of many psychologists and psychiatrists. When she looks at someone, she sees an individual, not a social category! I could have ended up back in a psychiatric hospital ward if it were not for all the emotional support Ruth gave me as an undergraduate student in Birmingham, as a postgraduate student back down in my native London, and as a postgraduate student for the second time back up here in Birmingham. Now, my readers are probably asking themselves why is this person writing about Ruth in the present tense? Well, the answer is simple: people like Ruth are way too big and awesome to die. When they leave this world, they just go into another realm which in her case is Heaven. Therefore, we must not think of her as dead since she is fully alive right up there in Heaven where she is probably socializing with the great figures of the Byzantine past.
Zakaria Riad Hijra
BA Ancient History FT 2011-2014, MA Antiquity PT 2017-Present
My first contact with Ruth was by email in the summer of 2017. I only met her in person in October 2018 when I was invited to present at the General Seminar of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek studies in Birmingham. These two days in Birmingham I felt like I knew her for a long time. We talked for hours about Byzantine historiography and the ups and downs of life. She had an excellent sense of humour and an amazing ability to make people feel comfortable around her. Ruth was a truly successful person, not only an excellent scholar but also a balanced and integrated character. She was not antagonistic and never showed off. On the contrary, she was modest, dedicated, kind and willing to support and help students and new scholars. My time in Birmingham was most rewarding both academically and personally and it was mostly thanks to Ruth.
Ten days before her death we were updating each other about career matters and talking about the future so it struck me as a lightning when I read the terrible news. I am sure her memory will live on through her significant contributions to the field, and in the minds and hearts of those who knew her.
Teaching Fellow, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
I met Ruth in 2008 three months before I begin with my Phd degree. I had a few options then, but her graceful character in combination to her proficiency in the study of Late Byzantium convinced me to seek for a supervisor no further than Birmingham. I do not really know from where to begin and what to remember first about Ruth. She guided me in changing the proposed topic of my thesis, convincing me – how stubborn had I been then! – that this would be only for my good. Throughout my studies she had been a real tutor, supporting me with all possible ways, more than her duties as a simple supervisor. She also became a friend to whom I could tell my trips and plans, but also my misfortunes and she would then say: “Ach, Christo!”.
She continued to support after my graduation by writing constantly reference letters but also looking at my applications, correcting often my awful English and providing with all sort of academic advice still six years after my graduation. We spoke just one day before her unexpected stroke, exchanging our news and wishes for the Orthodox Easter season. I know that I was more than lucky for having her as a supervisor and I know that I was not the only one whom she supported whole-heartedly. I failed her in one respect: I had promised to cook for her pastitsio (which is my specialty) and although once she reminded me of it, I never found the chance to fulfill my promise, for which I now feel sorry.
I will not speak about her scholarly achievements, everyone is aware of it, but I would like only to note that for more than forty years she struggled for the promotion of Byzantine Studies both in the UK and internationally. She will be a grave loss for the Byzantinist community and to all her family and people that she knew.
Humboldt Research Fellow
University of Cologne
Having known Ruth for 25 years (I now realise!) as a perfect colleague who quickly became a friend, her sudden passing will, I am sure, keep on presenting itself as a palpable absence in our midst. Collaborating with her at different times at all levels of teaching and supervision was a real pleasure: she was generous, wise, straight-talking, self-deprecating (though she had no need to be), and just funny about everything, but despite everything.
Teaching Fellow in Byzantine Archaeology, University of Birmingham
My first contact with Ruth Macrides was when I was a doctoral student at the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies around 1999. I have worked with and alongside Ruth in many different capacities since, and the news of her passing is devastating. Ruth was a dear colleague and a friend, whose friendship, willingness to listen and support colleagues and students alike left a lasting impression on generations of people who have come and gone through CBOMGS. The CBOMGS I experienced as student and lecturer was a mutual space of exchange and cross-dissemination, where Bryer’s vision of a shared world of scholarship came to life. This was exemplified in the CBOMGS Colloquium we set up in 1999, which is still going on stronger than ever, celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. Ruth has been supportive of, and present in every single one of these events, supporting all of us fledgling researchers with her warmth and genuine engagement.
Our community is much poorer without her.
Dr Marios Hadjianastasis
Higher Education Futures Institute, University of Birmingham
When I think of Ruth, I think first of her beautiful speaking voice. It was so clear and melodious, whether she was speaking in English or Greek. It conveyed so well her vivacity, her engagement, her joie de vivre. Only occasionally did it become frazzled - I remember it rising in frustration as she pitted her meticulous editing skills in a losing battle with Ashgate’s new automated indexing technology. This was for History as Literature, the volume of papers she edited for the 40th Spring Symposium in 2007; this was the first volume in the Symposium series for which I was responsible as general editor, so I was learning from the best. And how much we were all looking forward to watching her grace the 53rd Symposium next year - the last laugh I enjoyed with her was, tongue in cheek, what a chore it would be to tear herself away from Princeton. It’s bitter-sweet to think that we have lost her while she was so much in demand.
Chair, SPBS Publications, 2008-2018
I first met Ruth when she taught me in an undergraduate seminar in my first year, and was in awe of the kindness and dedication she showed us all, as well as pushing us hard to achieve our best. She continued to be my dissertation supervisor, and continued with her relentless support and encouragement in advising me on to postgraduate study. Ruth helped fund her students in learning languages, she wrote me countless references (including when I sent her the forms far too late) and would reply to any emailed query within minutes.
When a mistake was made in marking our essays during out masters, Ruth had it sorted within hours. Ruth pushed her students hard, but was always there when you needed her. It doesn’t seem possible to imagine Birmingham without Ruth there.
Rachael Helen Banes
Doctoral Student, University of Birmingham
Ruth came to take part in a seminar at Edinburgh University in the 1980's when I was still in post and it was a joy to meet such a scholar. I still read with pleasure the collection of her papers Kinship & Justice in Byzantium and more recently her contribution "Substitute parents and their children in Byzantium" in Adoption et Fosterage in the collection de l'archéologie à l'histoire, which Mireille Corbier edited in 1999.
I do not know any of her family, but want to send my sense of shared grief to you and all who knew and worked with this remarkable scholar and human being. As her fellow Othodox Christian, I wish her eternal rest - we might all wish to die at Easter, as she did.
She was an incredibly special person, with such a unique and invigorating charisma that I have yet to see again. A sense of humour that was effortless and yet always consistently funny and such a brilliant mind that was always so passionate and wise. She has gone from us far too soon but for all those that were impacted by her presence in our lives, no matter how brief, the she will now live on in our collective memory. I pray that she is now at rest and that those close to her are finding solace in this time of mourning.
BA Ancient History student
Ruth was warm, kind-hearted and had a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour, with which she made everyone feel at ease. She made sure I felt at home from the moment I arrived in Birmingham as her PhD student. She quickly became a friend and I feel blessed to have enjoyed her company so often, at university and at her home (I happened to live opposite). Her brilliant scholarship inspired me academically, and in her house I admired her elegant furnishing and sense of style (how did she find a blue carpet exactly matching that kilim?) and way of hosting guests. While I helped her a bit with the garden, we talked about research, personal matters and exchanged recipes – she taught me some wonderful dishes, which I still make.
I was lucky to have found a supervisor who was incredibly meticulous (which I was not) and a very good editor, who corrected my English, Greek text and translation as well as the interpunction and every other little detail, including in all the footnotes. With each corrected chapter, she returned a postcard with supportive remarks or jokes (“how the experience might feel at this point” on a card of Edvard Munch’s The Scream). An after I had left Birmingham, Ruth made sure I was up-to-date with what was happening at CBOMGS and always loved to hear my and other students’ news. She was very attentive to her students and proud of all their achievements. I feel very sad that the article which Hasan Çolak and I wrote together appeared a few days after her passing. She would have loved it very much.
During the last ten years I often joined Ruth on summer schools, conferences or talks abroad. What a good time we had! I remember eating salmon together in sunny Uppsala after giving a paper, popping a mini-bottle of champagne next to the remains of Blachernai to celebrate my graduation, discussing Byzantine palaces while sipping tea next to Hagia Sophia, drinking cocktails in Pera Palace hotel, and (less than a year ago) a delicious lunch after walking to La Zisa in Palermo – Ruth on impossibly high heels of course (and joking about it). That is how I mainly remember her; very elegant and just so much fun to be around. I miss her dearly and will cherish these memories forever.
PhD student at CBOMGS, 2008-2013
Dear, dear Ruth...we have been next-door neighbours on the fourth floor for many years. In your office I always found fresh flowers and immaculately kept desk and shelves. How did you manage? We chatted, we laughed, we dined together (not often enough...), we shared a vision of academia and a love for the Mediterranean. Often in the office till late evening, we knew we were both there, you with your door ajar, I buried behind piles of untidy papers. You had that nice way of touching your hair and smiling while talking, which I found always relaxing. We often talked about kids, and being academic mothers, travel and food. I shall treasure the lovely little turquoise vase you gave me at my house-warming aperitivo. I am so saddened by your death. I keep the memories coming, and they are lovely.
Thinking of your Anna and family,
I came to Birmingham in 1996 for my MA and just over a year later I joined CBOMGS for my PhD. I feel blessed for spending those 5 years -give or take- at the Center, meeting scholars the likes of Bryer, Tziovas, Murphy, Goldstein, Morewood and everyone else in the CBOMGS team. But Ruth was the one that stood out with that warm smile and her kind words, with her gentle, almost motherly way to all students. She had a way to cheer someone troubled by work related or personal stuff when bumping into each other in the hallways of CBOMGS, with a simple salute, a "Τι κάνεις;"and her trademark smile. That is the way I want to remember her. She will be deeply missed as a scholar and as a person.
Dr Anthony Derisiotis
Lecturer, Dep. of Turkish and Modern Asian studies
University of Athens
Although it was as a scholar that Ruth became famous world-wide, and I had the privilege to collaborate with her in that area, it is as a personal friend that I remember her most dearly; she showed me extraordinary kindness. Even when I retired from research, she continued to keep in touch and would arrange to see me. Such friends are rare, and the memory they leave lives on. May she rest in peace!
I first met Ruth as a junior fellow at Dumbarton Oaks in the autumn of 1974 and we remained very close friends from that time on. There is so much I could say about her warmth, humour, helpfulness, liveliness and wide-ranging scholarship. But I shall confine myself to two aspects of her life. In August 2016 I had the honour of being a witness when she became a naturalised British citizen at the magnificent Town House in Kirkcaldy. It occurred to me then how well she combined typically American energy and openness with qualities we like to think of as British, such as devotion to her students and friends and a wonderfully ironic, even sceptical, sense of humour. Secondly, while being truly international in her scholarship and social connections, she had a deep attachment to Scotland, especially her beloved St Andrews, and this can be seen in the excellent lectures and papers she produced on the Scottish contribution to Byzantine studies. I had arranged to meet her for a coffee in Edinburgh when she was en route to Birmingham on 28th April, but she died the day before - a devastating loss to her many friends, colleagues and students.
Honorary Fellow in Medieval History, University of Edinburgh
I first met Ruth on a dark late Autumn afternoon in Birmingham, in the entrance to the old Arts building, where she was waiting to engage visitors who might come along wishing to know more about postgraduate courses in Byzantine Studies. When I later joined her MA course, I found Ruth to be a wonderful teacher, ardent, lucid, engaging, and so utterly enjoyable to be with. I shall miss her very much, as a friend and teacher whom it was a privilege and pleasure to have known.
It must be forty years since I first met Ruth when she and Paul arrived at St Andrews and we have been friends ever since. I had little new to add to the tributes already posted, which sum up so many of her wonderful talents. Even as a non-Byzantinist, I could see tat her scholarship was hugely impressive, not showy but meticulous, and full of brilliant insights. She prepared her conference papers with infinite care (often only finishing the night giving them!) and the effort really showed when she spoke, poised and elegant, not a word out of place. But she was much more than a brilliant scholar. She was a wonderful, generous friend, full of laughter and lively humour even when she was complaining about the follies of the academic world. She contributed hugely to the gaiety of life and I shall miss her terribly.
Professor of Arabic, SOAS University of London
To say I was intimidated by Dr Macrides when we first met is putting it simply. I had long been an admirer of her research, and was star struck and nervous when she first answered my emails so many years ago. It did not take long, however, to realize that modesty was a quality she had in abundance. She never touted her own achievements, even though she certainly had a right to do just that. She remained honest and accessible, and utterly human. I'm sure I speak for all of her students when I saw that she made us feel that we could accomplish great things. Her only boasting came when she spoke of her past pupils and their achievements.
So many of my memories of Dr Macrides are marked by her laughter. Her smile and good humour could disarm any audience. She knew I was a big baseball fan, and shared with me that her father used to tell friends upon parting "good luck to you and to the Red Sox." We started to say that to each other now and then, when going off to do research or give a paper. It became one of the many ways that she would encourage me with a little brevity, making it clear that she was always in my corner. She never complained no matter how many times I asked her for a letter of recommendation, or gave her too little notice to write it.
I'm ashamed that I had not told her often enough how much she had influenced me, encouraged me, and served as a role model both as an historian and as a friend. She will always be my teacher.
University of Birmingham, PhD 2016
I will remember you always when we talk about our study life at post graduate school. You were strict to evaluate my essay on Byzantine history but so kind and generous to me who is an alien to the world. I was so pleased when you invited me a dinner at your home with colleagues.
Your students will miss you. R.I.P.
Tomomi Koyama 小山 智美
Pfizer Senior Associate, Global Workplace Solutions, Japan
I first met Ruth more than forty years ago, when my friend and fellow graduate student Paul Magdalino introduced me to her over a cup of tea in Brown's café in Oxford Market. I was quite dumbstruck; it seemed to me that one of the Fayyum portraits had suddenly come to life. Everyone will remember Ruth's beauty, elegance, wit and - above all - kindness. Everyone should remember - and will - that she was a world-class scholar, with an extraordinary range of interests and expertise. She was meticulous, perceptive and imaginative. I picked her brains mercilessly for years; she never failed either to come up with an answer to a problem or a suggestion for where to look for one. Her contribution to fortunes of Byzantine Studies in the UK was immeasurable; hours of hard slog in organising seminars and symposia, editing periodicals and books and sitting on committees in addition to her own research and teaching and the responsibilities of looking after a family. She was a faithful and constant support and friend and I shall miss her deeply.
Chair of SPBS (2009-13)
It is difficult to imagine CBOMGS without Ruth. For me, she embodied what is best about Byzantine Studies at Birmingham in its hospitality, its energy and, above all, its commitment to academic excellence. In any conversation about Ruth’s work, you could not fail to notice how much she was loved, respected and valued by her colleagues and students alike. Above all, it is Ruth’s sense of community and her passion for the legacy of the Centre that has made a lasting impression on me. I am grateful for the privilege of having known and worked with her.
Dr Daniel Reynolds
Lecturer in Byzantine History, CBOMGS, University of Birmingham
I’m deeply shocked to learn of Ruth’s sudden death. We knew each other from St Andrews. Her vitality seemed inextinguishable.
Julia Bray, AS AlBabtain-Laudian Professor of Arabic
St John's College, Oxford
Ruth was a dear friend and an admired and trusted colleague for many years, a delight to work with and a wonderful teacher and scholar. I am, just as my former colleagues at Birmingham, both shocked and deeply saddened by her sudden death. She will be very sorely missed, indeed I find it hard to find the words to express my sorrow adequately. But I hope her family will know how much she was admired and loved by all who worked with her and who knew her.
John Haldon, Former Director of the CBOMGS
Professor (emeritus), Princeton University
I first came to Birmingham as an MRes student because of Ruth. It was my first time living abroad, and I was quite anxious about it. When we first met, she exclaimed “nobody has sent me so many emails before meeting in person!” That happened in September 2014, and it was the first one of a long list of memorable sentences and anecdotes that coloured my life in Birmingham. Ruth first puzzled me: she was another enigma from a seemingly alien academic world. I did not know what to do or what to say in her presence. Later on, her support and advice, and above all her energy and dedication, gradually helped me to situate myself as a wannabe Byzantinist and as an international student.
I was not the only one to feel that way: as Professor Tziovas said above, Ruth has been a pillar in the daily life of so many students in our department. Her patience with my barely legible drafts and last-minute funding applications is beyond words. I was ‘one of her most rebellious students’, and yet, she kept calm and helped me though the last five years.
Ruth became a key part of my daily life and a source of inspiration as we shared messages and meetings, celebrations and anxieties. Our last thread of emails began with her complaint: ‘Tut, tut, you have not yet completed the form. What is the world coming to???’ To that I replied ‘Pity and damnation upon me, for I have forsaken my most fearsome oaths to fulfil the GRS2 form! I will do it today then.’ Not only did Ruth supervise my work: she taught me to enjoy researching in academia.
Francisco Lopez-Santos Kornberger
Doctoral student, University of Birmingham
I cannot honestly remember when I met Ruth. She was so central to Byzantine studies in the UK that she was just always there. I certainly read some of her articles as an MA student: ‘The new Constantine and the new Constantinople – 1261’ was the first, I think, and I called up her PhD thesis on George Akropolites in London’s Senate House Library. Thankfully, it is now published and I have my own well-thumbed copy. Later I encountered her at the Spring Symposia and we both applied for the same job at St Andrews, which neither of us got. Over the years I came to know her work better. I reviewed her Variorum edition, Kinship and Justice in Byzantium, 11th-15th Centuries, for Anglo-Hellenic Review which gave me the opportunity to appreciate her incisive approach to Byzantine sources. I helped to edit her contribution to the Festschrift for Julian Chrysostomides: 'The Thirteenth Century in Byzantine Historiography' which was full of unexpected insights. Ruth combined this rigorous scholarship with warm humanity and a sparkling sense of humour. Like so many other Byzantinists, I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies seminar in Birmingham. Ruth as organiser turned these sessions into memorable occasions where one received both sharp and helpful feedback on the paper and generous hospitality. Byzantinists have lost not only a scholar of the first rank but also a colleague who worked hard to bind us together as a community.
Royal Holloway, University of London
It does not seem like seven years since I first met Ruth; I was among those lucky undergraduates to have her as a personal tutor. She had a way of bringing out the best in students; always candid, even when it wasn’t to her advantage. ‘I never know when to keep my mouth shut,’ she would laugh to me. It is hard to envision my time at Birmingham without that reassuring sense of honesty now. Ruth always told me what I needed to hear, and not once did I doubt the compassion of her intent. It always came with her characteristic smile and warmth. She got me through a lot and her patience never failed.
A few months ago we went for dinner, gossiping about everything from my recent dates, to her run-in with a masseuse who had told her she needed to relax more (something she always struggled with), to Byzantium, to Istanbul, to the waiter who would not stop asking us if we were enjoying the food. He was lucky we didn’t cover him in curry. There was such raucous laughter that night – a good thing then that the restaurant was empty… I still remember taking her out to dinner with our project group in first year; she had just published her latest book and we insisted on cocktails to celebrate. The photos from that night tell only part of the story. I think we all knew that evening that Ruth had become more to us than a tutor. She was a friend, a confidant, a mentor, and an example which each of us looked up to. I cannot begin to express the incompleteness that now sits in my heart.
For those who knew you, Ruth, you will never be forgotten and will be forever missed. For those who have read your work, your legacy will live on. For all of us, your example will continue to remind us to be our truest selves.
With love, as ever,
Doctoral Researcher, University of Birmingham
The severe shock felt at the news of Ruth’s death has not lessened for me. It has, however, reinforced a great sense of gratitude that I have been immensely privileged to have been one of Ruth’s postgraduates. During the MA course Ruth’s commitment, kindness, and intellectual skills were immediately apparent. Her Greek translation classes were a joy, particularly for the opportunity to listen to her beautiful reading voice. Later, during my PhD, I came to appreciate also her great skills in advising on and emphasising the organisation of content and logical presentation. Such skills were invaluable to me, enabling me to develop a more critical and productive ability. But above all my abiding memory of Ruth is of her kindness and her desire to help, despite all the constant demands of her frenetic schedule.
Mike Saxby, PhD 2018
When as a graduate student I first met Ruth in January 1996 during an inspiring discussion led by her on the Alexiad, I could hardly imagine that our paths would become closely intertwined in so many and in so productive ways. In this respect, I have been truly fortunate. Ruth was my colleague and a kindred spirit at Birmingham for over a decade. We collaborated on book projects, launched and attended conferences together, and served on innumerous committees. She was a rigorous and versatile scholar with a unique perspective on the history and literary culture of the last centuries of Byzantium. She was a caring and highly demanding teacher. Endowed with indefatigable energy, she was a tireless organizer of seminars, conferences, and reading groups. Her penetrating mind and her generous spirit have left their mark on the academic community in Birmingham and beyond. My great admiration for Ruth Macrides is now mixed with grief and sadness for the untimely loss.
Professor of Byzantine History, Harvard University
I first met Ruth and Paul in the office of their supervisor, Donald Nicol, while I was a lecturer at King’s College, London in the 1970s. I was immediately struck by her beauty, charm and vivacity. For many years we weren’t in frequent contact: I was engaged in Modern Greek at Oxford while she was sailing to Byzantium by way of St Andrews and Birmingham. For some years I served as John Haldon’s associate editor on Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies. Then in 2005, as he was about to leave Birmingham for Princeton, John handed the editorship over to Ruth and me jointly. From that point on we were constantly in contact by email – though not as frequently face-to-face as I would have liked. She and I enjoyed a perfect co-editorial relationship, she dealing with the Byzantine material and I with the modern, and we always saw eye-to-eye. I admired her perpetual diligence and her rigorous precision, as well as her sense of fun, which was sometimes punctuated by a lack of confidence in her ability to cope with her many challenging commitments. She was one of those Byzantinists who are steeped in the joys of modern Greek culture, and she was often keen to recommend the latest Greek novel she’d enjoyed during a recent Greek island holiday. I realize now how much I’d come to rely on her wit and wisdom. I miss her terribly.
University of Oxford
I first met Ruth in Autumn 2012 when she became my undergraduate personal tutor at the University of Birmingham. It is hard to think of Ruth without thinking of my entire personal tutor group; as from our very first module together, Constantinople, we had a bond like no other. We were honoured to be acknowledged in her book, Pseudo-Kodinos and the Constantinopolitan Court: Offices and Ceremonies, published in 2013. This May we were due our annual meet up in Birmingham to discuss our recent achievements and celebrate Ruth’s invitation to the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton next year. When news of Ruth’s death reached us last Sunday, we all rushed to meet in our favourite bar, The Junction, to celebrate Ruth’s life, and vowed to go to Constantinople/Istanbul together soon as we once promised Ruth we would.
Ruth was a fundamental part of my own academic life and future career, ever advising me from her wealth of knowledge. She approached my ideas with such kindness and support but was never afraid be candid; the traits of a true mentor and friend. For three years she encouraged me to choose Byzantium and Emperors over Rome and Popes, funding me for the CBOMGS Summer School in Byzantine Greek and inviting me to post-graduate symposiums. Even when I still chose Popes, it was Ruth who guided me to the best possible dissertation supervisor and supported my MA application. I cannot imagine anyone with more passion for their subject, which was the reason I continued to take so many of her classes despite my interests.
Ruth had a fabulous and eventful life and wasn’t afraid to share it. One of my fondest memories was visiting Ruth in St Andrews, and whilst having lunch with Ruth and Anna, no other than Robert Bartlett came to change a lightbulb. Another, though not so fond, was nearly choking on her homemade vasilopita in our first meeting after the Christmas holidays!
I will miss Ruth, her wonderful voice, her honesty, her compassion, and her incredible intellect so much. She has and will continue to be a true mentor to me.
My condolences go out to Anna, and the rest of Ruth’s family, at this difficult time. She will truly be missed.
Ancient and Medieval History 2012-2015
As a new-ish, mature MA student (Classics & Ancient History), I was very grateful to Ruth for her friendly and helpful advice both before applying for the course and since arriving on campus. She made a special effort to talk to me on a very busy occasion and I will always remember that. I did not know her as well as I would have liked but her passing came as a great shock to me and I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to her family and to all of her friends and colleagues.
I first met Ruth on a bus in Oxford forty-five years ago. I last saw her at dinner in Washington a fortnight before she died. All through these years she was the most constant of friends, in good times and especially bad, emailing back immediately, reading work honestly and enthusiastically, allowing me to realize more and more what a remarkable person she was. She taught in Belfast, bringing news and surprises and offprints and recipes and delight every time she arrived; we were pregnant at the same time and laughed so much; with Leslie she built remarkable things in Birmingham when the Bryer era ended; we regrouped in Dumbarton Oaks when she was a Fellow (waltzing with Paolo Odorico in the refectory) and later Senior Fellow (ever judicious and sympathetic). She was a spectacular yet unflashy scholar, asking new questions, setting records straight, rehabilitating neglected texts, delivering minute-perfect papers written at the last minute by hand. She was an excellent journal editor, with Peter Mackridge bringing new standards of accuracy and excellence to BMGS, and a deadly acquiring editor (so often on the international circuit the editor of DOP asked the brilliant young person whether that paper was promised and was told yes, to BMGS). She was devoted to her students and wrote the very best, the shortest, the most to-the-point recommendations for them; no wonder they recommended her for the postgraduate teaching award she won. She cared passionately about her institutions (Birmingham, DO, I’d bet St Andrews) and her mentors (Nicol, Oikonomides, Bryer). I shall remember her, in her stunning white wool dress under the wisterias, worrying about her students and the Centre and the journal but looking forward so much to Chios and Princeton, lovely, fragile, tough, stylish, brilliant, funny Ruth.
Medieval History and Medieval Latin 1967-70; Byzantine Studies 1971-81, emerita of Queen’s University Belfast and Dumbarton Oaks
I have known Ruth since she was a PhD student of Donald Nicol at King’s College London in the 1970s when I was working on early Byzantine authors and on the Parastaseis in the Classics department. Nicol steered her in the direction of Akropolites, who later became the subject of one of her books, but she was interested in the earlier period and she and Paul later published an important paper on Paul the Silentiary. We met regularly over the years at Byzantine symposia, at Dumbarton Oaks and in other places, and I well remember staying with Ruth and Paul when I went to lecture in a very cold and foggy St Andrews one February years ago. I have been so glad to see the stream of important publications from her in recent years, including her SPBS volume on History as Literature in Byzantium and ground-breaking book on Ps. Kodinos. Byzantinists in the UK have been a coherent group for decades, and Ruth was a star among us. I wish she and I had been in the same place more often, but it was lovely to see her this year at the Cambridge symposium looking as elegant as ever and full of enthusiasm for next year’s symposium in Birmingham. She looks even more beautiful in the group photo from the Dumbarton Oaks symposium that followed immediately afterwards. I was as shocked and upset as anyone at the awful news, and can’t imagine the Byzantine community without her.
Ruth was my friend on the fourth floor of the Arts building. We first met something like eight years ago when we were both in charge of postgraduate studies for our respective Schools. In one meeting, some matter of bureaucratic convolution was being discussed and, while others were attempting passive non-engagement with the nonsense of it all, this woman across from me was rolling her eyes, letting out regular puffs of exasperation and gesticulating in barely-concealed frustration. I knew we’d get on.
As the years passed, and after we’d each drifted away from our postgraduate roles and into others, we’d bump into each other on the fourth floor, our offices on different sides of the stairwell. An opening ‘how are things?’ would develop into long conversations about our respective lives as academics – the pressures we both felt, the small successes we’d had and, of course, our shared feelings about the direction higher education was heading in. In the middle of the day, these chats would be punctuated by Ruth saying a friendly hello to almost everyone that passed us (or so it seemed to me). If it was later in the day, we might be alone on the corridor – often the last two making use of the photocopier when everyone else had gone home. She worked hard and was so obviously dedicated to her students. She cared.
It’s a bit of cliché to say that someone had incredible passion and energy, but Ruth really did. She was funny, stylish, kind. It’s inconceivable to me that all of this could be gone and I truly cherish our chance meetings.
Department of Film and Television Studies
It is with great sadness that I learn of Ruth's passing. She was my M.Litt. in Mediaeval History supervisor at St Andrews in 1994-95. I was next able to see her again in 2015 when she visited the Dominican House of Studies around the time of her Senior Fellow meetings at Dumbarton Oaks. Ever the encouraging teacher, she asked me during that visit about a paper I had written at St Andrews. I said that I didn't have a copy of it (and I couldn't remember much about it). After she returned to Great Britain, she scanned the paper she had saved for two decades and emailed it to me so that I could continue work on that topic. Unfailingly gracious, always supportive, extraordinarily gifted, mercifully corrective, and endearingly poignant in her observations, she showed me what a good teacher should be like. May the risen Lord, the Good Teacher, welcome Ruth into his kingdom of everlasting light, happiness, and peace.
O.P.Dominican House of Studies, Washington, DC
The first time I wrote to Ruth Macrides, back in 2008, I was 15 years old. I had just finished high school and started classes at the University. By then, I was deeply fascinated with Byzantine history, especially the reign of the Komnenoi dynasty. Prof. Macrides answered my first letter with utmost kindness, sending me her edition of four novels issued by Emperor Manuel I (1143-1180), published in Fontes Minores VI(1984), which I treasure the most. Since then, we developed a long correspondence throughout the years, about Byzantium, academic projects and even life itself.
As time passed, I finished my studies at the Law Faculty of the University of Lima and joined the Peruvian Foreign Service. However, my interest in Byzantium and the origins of its diplomacy remained, as well as my long lasting friendship with Prof. Macrides. The last time we wrote each other was in October, 2018. She was very excited working on Mesarites' descriptions, which we both found fascinating. I was eager to meet her in person in August 2019, at The Hague. Her demise is a terrible blow for Modern Byzantine Studies. I felt the loss of a mentor, as well a most dear friend.
My condolences go out to her daughter Anna, of whom she was most proud, and the rest of her family at this difficult time. She will be really missed. Ruth Macrides' legacy, both as an scholar and a lovely human being, will always remain in the hearts and souls of all the ones with whom she shared her time and wisdom, even on the other side of the Atlantic.
Galo Garcés Avalos
Third Secretary, Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
It fills me with sadness to know that Ruth is in the world no more. I will always remember her amazing smile, energy, and boundless generosity. Rest in Peace beautiful soul.
Somewhere in every really effective academic department or centre, there is a Ruth. Someone who combines rigorous academic excellence with empathy, openness and the gift of friendship. Ruth had these qualities in bucket loads, she was everybody's critical friend. Academic communities are by their very nature human and transient, Ruth provided a binding force the loss of which leaves not just Birmingham, but the Byzantinist world at large depleted. The heartfelt and affectionate tributes to her make painful reading, to which I add both mine, which are much more recent and those of my son Joel, who graduated from the Centre in 2002 before going on to Cambridge. We have been reminded that her passing occurred on Μεγάλο Σάββατο at the end of the biggest week in the Orthodox calendar. Rest in peace Ruth.
Hon Research Associate, CBOMGS
I first met Ruth as a fellow graduate student at Kingʼs College London in the1970s and we have been friends ever since. She was a caring and high demanding teacher, a skilful tutor and a tireless organizer of Seminars and Conferences. Admired by colleagues for her scholarship and loved by all who worked with her. In our recent exchange of Easter wishes she was excited for her Fellowship at Princeton and waiting for her holidays at Chios. She will be deeply missed. My condolences go to her beloved daughter Anna and the rest of her family at this difficult moment.
Costas N. Constantinides
Professor Emeritus of Byzantine History, University of Ioannina
So sad to know that our lovely Ruth is no longer with us. I shall always be grateful to her for the friendship she showed Bryer in his last years when visiting could be difficult. She never failed to come whenever she was in Birmingham and he always appreciated a breath of Pontic air. Since his death she continued to show the same friendship to me. I shall miss her and remember her always.
Michael and I first encountered Ruth in the early 1970s at Donald Nicol’s Byzantine seminar in London. Then over the years as we navigated the globe she became a steady if intermittent presence in our lives as we met at congresses, symposia and conferences. We appreciated her stream of authoritative publications on an admirably wide range of topics – Hagia Sophia, Palaeologan Constantinople, spiritual kinship, legal handbooks. But it was only when on relocating to the UK in the late 1990s that we fully realized what a key person she was in Byzantine studies not just in Birmingham but in the country as a whole. In her the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies had, as well as one its intellectual stars, one of its most consistently supportive members as she quietly got on with necessary but humdrum tasks. We join in the chorus of those who will miss her keenly.
Elizabeth and Michael Jeffreys
I first encountered Ruth when she welcomed me to Dumbarton Oaks in 1976. As for most, the friendship was instant and sustained by her genuineness, her hospitality and her unforgettable laugh. She never minded telling stories against herself, like the Edinburgh passport official who once complimented her on her distinctly Scottish name –‘Mac-Rides’. She could encourage and fearlessly cajole even the most senior and seasoned scholars in her own enticing way, and was always a picture of class and style. While, after two years together in Washington, our professional lives took different directions at opposite ends of the earth, she was good at keeping in touch. Only once did Hilary and I have the chance to reciprocate for Ruth (and Paul) in Sydney. However, Ruth was always trying to get me to participate in one of the many conferences she organised until I finally agreed in 2007. When we parted after a rushed drink in a London pub a couple of years ago, I never contemplated not seeing her again. I can only imagine the grief of those who knew her best and worked with her longest as scholar, teacher and friend, both at St Andrews and Birmingham.
Ruth was a very supportive, generous, and kind person to anyone who had the chance to meet her. Although I was not her student, at least not in any formal way, she was there for a lot of firsts in my academic life, always with a smile and a nice word: she chaired my first ever paper; published my first article; conducted my viva; and opened her office and house to me during my first proper job in Bham. I could never be grateful enough for all her help and encouragement. She was a model for the woman and scholar I wish one day to become. I am grateful for the time we spent together the last time I saw her at the Cambridge Spring Symposium. At our breakfast meetings, with Anne and Stavroula, she looked happy and radiant in her beautiful spotted skirt.
Πολυαγαπημένη μας Ρουθ,
Θα ζεις πάντα στις καρδιές μας και θα τις ζεσταίνεις με το γλυκό χαμόγελό σου.
Αιωνία σου η μνήμη!
Royal Holloway, University of London
I saw Ruth last just over a week before the unfathomable happened. We had dinner up Wisconsin Avenue the Sunday after the DO Symposium. As always, Ruth was brimming with life, joy, ideas, and plans. She was so much looking forward to her year at the IAS and the time to pursue her next book project, on sharing the throne in late Byzantium (of which she gave a preview at the 51st Spring Symposium) – and, possibly, to retirement afterwards. Selfishly, we at Edinburgh were looking forward to her retirement, too, and almost certainly more than she did, as this would have meant to have her closer to us, and that we would hopefully see more of her. One couldn’t really imagine what that would be like, of course, Ruth in retirement, as she had always taught and supervised so many students and given so very much of herself, but I hoped she would allow herself to enjoy her beautiful house, that she loved, and magnificent garden in St Andrews more often.
UK Byzantine Studies have lost so much with Ruth: she was the most senior colleague teaching full-time now and a constant source of advice; her example inspired us all to do better. A few years ago I met an applicant for our Master’s programme in my office, who was in need of advice, and offered general comments on the application. The next thing I learnt was that Ruth had invited the same student to lunch at St Andrews and gone over their proposal with them, sentence by sentence: they duly received a full scholarship at Birmingham. This, I think, is a typical anecdote of who Ruth was and how much she cared, and the reason why she meant so much to so many Byzantinists far beyond the British Isles; above all to those starting their careers.
Ever since the devastating news arrived I’ve desperately been trying to remember when and how I got to know Ruth beyond seeing her perform ‘on stage’ (I think it must have been over dinner at a conference in Oxford in the early 2000s, but can’t be sure) – but as Jonathan Harris says, it seems that she was just always there. And she always will be, in the enargeia of our memories with and of her, and our continuation of her love for and work on Komnenian and Palaiologan Byzantium.
A. G. Leventis Professor of Byzantine Studies and Director of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, The University of Edinburgh
The first time I talked to Ruth Macrides was when I wanted to apply to Birmingham and she helped me with my application. When I got accepted she helped me to choose my modules and also to understand how things work here since she knew I was coming from another academic environment. In our first dialogue I apologised for my terrible English accent and she laughed. Almost every morning of the last two years she greeted me with a smiley Καλημέρα.
She tried to push me to improve my English and my writing skills and she was always there for me to give me advice. She was there for me whenever I needed someone to show me the right path. Thus, I always considered her as someone I could rely on.
It is very tragic that the very same day I was planning to send her wishes for the Orthodox Easter, I received the sad news about her sudden loss.
I knew her for only two years but I feel she managed to give me enough advice for the future. She was a great person who became a true inspiration for us with her kindness, honesty and her unique ability to make people feel comfortable and familiar with her. She loved her job and her students and I had the great honour to be one of them.
She taught us to work with responsibility, love for Byzantine Studies and respect to the academic ethos... She was an incredible woman and a true mentor who always pushed us to achieve...
I am deeply sorry for her loss...
Rest in peace Ruth, thank you for everything. I will always remember you not only as a teacher and a great scholar but also as a good and kind person who tried to make always the right thing.
Καλό σου ταξίδι Ρουθ ... θα μας λείψεις.
Gavriil Ioannis Boutziopoulos
MA Student in Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham.
Thank you for your unerring kindness and support during the short time I was given to work with you. Your greetings in hallways and seminar rooms made the world of difference to me, during my time at Birmingham University, especially on darker days.
I am in awe of your achievements and how well loved you are. You used your academic prowess and compassion to progress and influence not only individuals but notable programmes and schools inside and out of your chosen field. I can only hope to lead by your example.
The department will be an emptier place without your presence. I wish I had looked up once more from my notes the last time that I saw you, you seemed to want to say something, but I just missed out, unknowingly, on our last greeting.
Thank you and Goodbye for now,
MA Student in Classics and Ancient History, University of Birmingham
Ruth’s kindness and positivity were a great help to me when, as a young first-time lecturer St Andrews in the 1980s. She was a positive force for good and will be sorely missed.
Dr M.A. Michael
Research Fellow, University of Glasgow
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