Most galactic nuclei harbor a massive black hole (MBH), whose birth and evolution are closely linked to those of its host galaxy. The unique conditions near the MBH—high velocity and density in the steep potential of a massive singular relativistic object—lead to unusual modes of stellar birth, evolution, dynamics, and death. A complex network of dynamical mechanisms, operating on multiple timescales, deflects stars to orbits that intercept the MBH. Such close encounters lead to energetic interactions with observable signatures and consequences for the evolution of the MBH and its stellar environment. Galactic nuclei are astrophysical laboratories that test and challenge our understanding of MBH formation, strong gravity, stellar dynamics, and stellar physics. I review from a theoretical perspective the wide range of stellar phenomena that occur near MBHs, focusing on the role of stellar dynamics near an isolated MBH in a relaxed stellar cusp.


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