Mrs Annika Asp-Talwar

Mrs Annika Asp-Talwar

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Title of thesis:  Trebizond and Constantinople, 1261-1461
Supervisor: Dr Ruth Macrides
Funding: AHRC


  • MSt in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, University of Oxford (2011)
  • BA in History and South Asian Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (2010)


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


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-thirteenth century until the end of both empires. My aim is to define the processes and degrees of interdependence and its underlying reasons during the period in question.

My research is based on 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

Academic societies:

  • Member, Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies, UK
  • Member, Suomen Bysantin Tutkimuksen Seura (the Finnish Society for Byzantine Studies)
  • Founder and President 2012-13, 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 and the website. 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:

  • 'Constantine Loukites, the Emperors' right-hand man in Trebizond', at the Colloquium of the Finnish Society for Byzantine Studies, 14 March 2014.
  • 'Tourism in religious scenery – Andrew Libadenos' journey to Egypt and the Holy Land', at 'Trade, Travel and Transmission in the Medieval Mediterranean', University of Cambridge, 9 July 2013.
  • 'Religion and Biography in the Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos' at 'Tradition and Transformation: Dissent and Consent in the Mediterranean', Central European University, 31 May 2013.
  • 'A personal journey – the Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos as a Byzantine autobiography' at 'The Individual and The Society', University of Birmingham, 25 May 2013.
  • 'A Byzantine man in Trebizond – The Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos' at the IAA Colloquium, University of Birmingham,  24 April 2013.
  • 'Who was Anna Anachoutlou?' at 'Byzantine Greece: Microcosm of Empire?', University of Birmingham, 25 March 2013.
  • 'Landscapes and power in the Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos' at 'Landscapes of Power', University of Oxford, 22 February 2013.
  • 'Travellers' tales' – Presentation given at the departmental seminar of the CBOMGS, University of Birmingham, 11 October 2012.
  • '"Megalomania" in Trebizond? The usage of the term "Grand Komnenoi"' at 'Middle Earth', University of Birmingham, 26 May 2012.
  • 'Despoina Hatun, Palaiologina et aliae – Women in the Chronicle of Michael Panaretos' at 'Reality and Illusion: Seeing through the 'Byzantine Mirage', University of Oxford, 18 February 2012.
  • 'Trebizondin keisarikunnan (1204-1461) tähänastinen tutkimus ja tulevaisuudennäkymiä' at the Annual colloquium of the Finnish Society for Byzantine Studies, University of Helsinki, 6 October 2011.
  • 'Apocalypse Now. The significance of prophecies, signs and omens in accounts on the Fall of Constantinople' at the XXI International Byzantine Congress, University of Sofia, 26 August 2011.
  • '"For all the Christians you were the joy, Stamboul". The Byzantine connection of two Armenian laments on the Fall of Constantinople in 1453' at 'Eastern Christianity in Context', University of Leiden, 21 May 2011.
  • 'The End is Near – Signs and Omens of the Fall of Constantinople' at 'Between Constantines: Representations and Manifestations of Empire', University of Oxford, 5 March 2011.

Awards and achievements:

  • Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection Junior Fellowship (offered, declined on personal grounds) 2014 – 2015 
  • University of Birmingham AHRC funding for doctoral studies 2011 – 2014
  • Conference grant for 'Trade, Travel and Transmission' at the University of Cambridge, 8-10 July 2013. Awarded by the Postgraduate Research Support fund, University of Birmingham.
  • Conference grant for the Third International Sevgi Gönül Byzantine Studies Symposium, 24-27 June 2013. Awarded by the Postgraduate Research Support fund, University of Birmingham.
  • College of Arts and Law Development fund awarded for the foundation of a new postgraduate society at the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham. 
  • Conference grant for the XXII Internal Congress of Byzantine Studies at the University of Sofia, 22-27 August. Awarded by the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies.
  • Undergraduate School Prize for the best result in History and Undergraduate School Prize for the best result in South Asian Studies, 2008 – 2009, School of Oriental and African Studies.
  • Vernon Parry award for the best undergraduate result of the year 2007 – 2008, School of Oriental and African Studies. url:


  • 'The Chronicle of Michael Panaretos'. In Byzantium's Other Empire: Trebizond, edited by Antony Eastmond, 173–212. Istanbul: Koç Üniversitesi Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, 2016.
  • 'Constantine Loukites, the Emperors' Right-Hand Man in Fourteenth Century Trebizond'. Acta Byzantina Fennica 4 (2015): 39–62.
  • 'Bad Luck and Divine Protection – Religion and Biography in the Periegesis by Andrew Libadenos', Proceedings of the Third Biennial CEMS Graduate Conference. Solivagus, (forthcoming).
  • 'Great men and women – the usage of the term megas in the chronicle by Michael Panaretos', Proceedings of the 13th Annual Postgraduate Colloquium, Cambridge Scholars Publishing (forthcoming).
  • 'Tervehdys Birminghamista!', Skholion, 2015 (1).
  • 'Konstantinos Lukites, Trebizondin "viisas pää ja suloinen ääni," Skholion 2014 (2), Helsinki.
  • 'Vallankaappaaja, äiti, "toinen nainen" ja despoina hatun – Trebizondin naisia Mikael Panaretoksen kronikassa', Skholion 2012 (1), Helsinki.
  • 'It was predicted – Prophecies on the Fall of Constantinople', The Byzantinist, 2011 (1), Oxford.