A short appreciation by Professor Judith Herrin
Anthony Bryer OBE, the wonderful, inspiring teacher and promoter of Byzantine, Greek and Turkish culture, died at his home in Birmingham on 22 October, 2016. He established the field of Byzantine Studies in the UK and embodied its international significance through his work on the region of Trebizond/Trabzon in eastern Turkey.
After writing his doctorate on the Empire of Trebizond from 1200 to modern times at Balliol College, Oxford, he moved to the University of Birmingham in the 1960s. There he created a Centre devoted to Byzantine Studies, aided by local Hellenists such as George Thomson. His project was also helped nationally by David Talbot Rice, by Philip Whitting, who donated his collection of coins and seals, and by Sir Steven Runciman who with Averil Cameron set up the Committee for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies under the British Academy. Bryer instigated the UK’s annual Byzantine Spring Symposium in 1971, and established Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, now a leading journal in the field.
The Centre immediately attracted students and became an international beacon for all aspects of Byzantine culture. I was one of the first to join it and wrote my doctorate there, as did John Haldon, Margaret Mullett and many others. Bryer’s energetic enthusiasm and formidable organisation inspired a global devotion, especially in Turkey, Georgia and Russia. Accompanied by generations of students he led archaeological expeditions exploring the monasteries and transhumant culture of the Trapezuntine region, whose results he published with David Winfield. His linguistic studies, along with Peter Mackridge, helped identify the significance of the Pontic dialect of modern Greek.
I last saw Bryer – he was always known by his surname – in the summer when he was suffering from his last illness. I hope longer obituaries and appreciations of a teacher whose work continues to inspire will be appearing over the next few weeks.