Lucas McMahon

Postdoctoral Researcher, Princeton University

I am a historian of the late Roman and Byzantine Near East, with interests in the state, logistics, and medieval Greek history writing. My doctoral dissertation, “Information Transmission and the Byzantine State: Geography, Logistics, and Geopolitics, 600-1200,” examines how the medieval Roman Empire conducted its foreign policy across long distances by looking the movement of news. Located at a crossroads in western Eurasia, Byzantium’s networks and influence extended from the British Isles to central Asia and from northern Russia to the Red Sea. In diplomacy, commerce, and conflict, accurate information is key to gaining advantage, and a range of written and archaeological materials attest to the efforts made by the Byzantine state to know what was going on in the world around it. My work traces out the channels of communication and looks at the specific activities that the state performed to gather, process, and use information in foreign affairs. While I use a wide range of written and material evidence, my work builds heavily upon the geographies of communication which I examine through the use of GIS analysis.

My work has been supported by the Stanley J. Seeger Graduate Fellowship from Hellenic Studies. From 2018-2020 I co-organized the Committee for Late Antiquity’s Book Club. In 2020 I received a grant from the Center for Digital Humanities for a project in which I am PI, Mapping Medieval Metadata. This project seeks to collect and organize, in a digital format, all Byzantine lead seals which have a find location. Lead seals were used to close documents and correspondence, and mapping where they were found is of great importance for examining networks of communication. The project aims to present the data in an open and reproducible format so that it will be of the greatest possible utility for scholars and educators.

Prior to coming to Princeton, I obtained a BA in ancient and medieval history from the University of Calgary, an MA in classics from the University of Ottawa, and an MA in medieval studies from Central European University (Budapest). At Princeton, I took my general exams in Byzantine History, 600-1453 with John Haldon, Europe in the High Middle Ages with William Chester Jordan, and the Later Roman Empire and its Frontiers with Brent Shaw.

List of Publications

“Digital Perspectives on overland travel and communications in the Exarchate of Ravenna (sixth through eighth centuries),” Studies in Late Antiquity 6, no. 2 (2022), 284–334.

“Logistical modelling of a sea-borne expedition in the Mediterranean: the case of the Byzantine invasion of Crete in A.D. 960,” Mediterranean Historical Review 36, no. 1 (2021), 63–94.

(with Abigail Sargent) “Environmental History of the Late Antique Mediterranean: a Bibliographic Essay,” Late Antique Archaeology 11 (2018), 17–30.

“Examining the historical claims of De Velitatione: guerrilla warfare in eighth-century Byzantium,” Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU 22 (2016): 1–12.

(with Geoffrey Greatrex and Hugh Elton) Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015).

Dissertation Title:

"Information Transmission and the Byzantine State: Geography, Logistics, and Geopolitics, 600-1200"

Degree Year
Year of Study
Area of Interest
Foreign Relations
Military History
Political History
War & Society
Home Department & Other Affiliations
Late Antiquity
6th through 14th Centuries