Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Theodora F. Antonopoulou, Sofia Kotzabassi, Marina Loukaki (ed.), Myriobiblos: Essays on Byzantine Literature and Culture. Byzantinisches Archiv, Bd 29. Boston; Berlin; Munich: De Gruyter, 2015. Pp. xvi, 365. ISBN 9781501510519. €129.95.

Reviewed by Barbara Crostini, Uppsala University; Stockhoms Universitet (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The richness of this volume, co-edited by three distinguished Greek women scholars, well suits its title as a Myriobiblos. It offers a new Photian library, dedicated not to that patriarch, but to a senior colleague of theirs, Professor Athanasios Markopoulos. This collection of essays provides a snapshot of the range of interests within contemporary Byzantinism through a network of friends and colleagues centred in, but not limited to, Greece. As such, it presents new research from many leading scholars in the field, with a prevalence of textual and manuscript studies along with some historical and archaeological contributions. The range of the volume is a challenge for the reader, but there is beyond doubt something for everyone in it.

Of the twenty-three essays, I will highlight only a few by connecting them thematically. I hope thus to provide some points of entry for the reader in a way that the alphabetical sequence of papers adopted by the editors does not. One prominent theme is that of education in Byzantium, a topic that Professor Markopoulos developed throughout his work, to which many contributors refer. Marina Loukaki (pp. 217-44) provides a useful contribution to our knowledge of different types of teachers, with a catalogue of their names and whereabouts. In her survey of the understudied period from the end of the sixth to the end of the seventh century, Loukaki includes personalities such as Theodore and Hadrian of Canterbury, teachers of Greek letters in the West, illustrating the continuity of classical paideia. The didactic use of spiritual treatises is effectively highlighted in the paper by Antonio Rigo (pp. 295-316). Complex texts were pulled apart and thoroughly re-written with a didactic aim, including explanatory diagrams, as in the example of this eleventh-century text on the vices of the soul, prepared for the emperor by his spiritual advisor, Cosmas. While acknowledging the diminished level of spirituality in the piece, Rigo values it as a window into the strategy for the religious education of the laity in Byzantium. In a similar vein, Stratis Papaioannou struggles with the unusually high linguistic register of an idiosyncratic hagiography, the Life of Nikephoros, Bishop of Miletus (Bibliotheca hagiographica graeca 1338), leading him to identify its author as the sophisticated rhetor of the early eleventh century, John Sikeliotes, also known as the "philosopher" for his commentary on Hermogenes. Papaioannou remarks that the style of script in manuscripts produced at Nikephoros's monastery near Miletus resembles that of the manuscript of the lectures of the Anonymous Professor (now British Library Add MS 36749) first published by Markopoulos, linking both styles to a tradition of learned minuscule writing going back to Arethas and to the study of classics in Byzantium. Framing these contributions with an overarching presentation of the topic of learning in Byzantium is the elegant essay by Evangelos Chrysos, Περὶ Παιδείας Λόγος (pp. 85-97), which presents an historiographical reflection on the topic of paideia through an analysis of ancient speeches composed on this topic.

A second group of essays edits new texts, providing useful raw materials for further study. Theodora Antonopoulou (pp. 39-45) studies a twelfth-century treatise on the Holy Spirit, pseudonymously attributed to Emperor Leo VI, which will certainly repay closer scrutiny by experts in the theological controversies of that time. A number of liturgical hymns certainly by Leo VI are edited by Theocharis Detorakis (pp. 131-41). Paul Magdalino (pp. 245-252) edits and discusses a peculiar recipe for obtaining miraculous cures with "moumie", a substance that was gathered and presented as a gift from the Fatimid prince to the Byzantine sovereign's son, and calls for further work in this direction. Finally, there is the new edition by Johannis Vassis of a substantial corpus of 39 epigrams from MS BAV, Pal. gr. 367 (pp. 329-56), which he helpfully presents along with a detailed metrical analysis.

Another thematic strand of this book is that articulated in the conclusion to Polemis's article, namely the debate about the progressive "novelization of the other genres" (p. 291). Polemis's own contribution presents Psellos's Chronographia as dependent on the ancient novel for the description and balancing of amatorial intrigues. This literary debt, however, "fails to transform his Chronographiainto a vivid depiction of his contemporary life" (p. 293). The presence of narrative in historiographical writing is pursued also in an informative article on the Chronicle of George the Monk by Marina Detoraki, who inventories every passage where narratives "useful to the soul" are inserted into the historical account. Her careful list depicts a cultural panorama where each episode must have had further resonance, and certainly invites further work. Genre is also lurking below the surface of the hagiographical excursus by Michel Kaplan, who gathers evidence of the relationship between an hagiographer and his subject. Here, too, questions are raised by the tension between historical narrative, the paradigms used to shape it, and the author's personal interpretation. Touching on a specific hagiography, the well-studied Life of Andrew the Fool, Christine Angelidi is also concerned to demonstrate the convergence of various narrative techniques in the specific episode of a woman's erotic dreaming, though she is very cautious when pointing (quite plausibly) to literary cross-references from Classical comedy (p. 31).

Finally, a simple chronological arrangement of the papers might have highlighted a cluster of contributions regarding on one hand the early Christian (Papagianni, Troianos, Loukaki, Chrysos) and on the other the later Byzantine (Berger, Dimitrakopoulos, Karpozilos, Koder, Kotzabassi) periods.

Taken together, the essays in Myriobiblos present contemporary Byzantine scholarship as a varied and exciting field of research, providing intellectually rewarding reading with high quality contributions.1

Table of Contents

Tabula Gratulatoria ..... V
Preface ..... XI
Table of Contents ..... XIII
Abbreviations ..... XV
Alexander Alexakis / Giannis Mavromatis, Eleven Documents from the Acta of the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner of Vazelon in Trebizond .... 1
Christine Angelidi, The Dreams of a Woman: Αn Episode from the Life of Andrew the Fool ..... 25
Theodora Antonopoulou, A Theological Opusculum allegedly by Emperor Leo VI the Wise ..... 39
Albrecht Berger, Apokryphen zum Neuen Testament bei Nikephoros Kallistou Xanthopoulos ..... 55
Jean-Claude Cheynet, Les Génésioi ..... 71
Evangelos Chrysos, Περί Παιδείας Λόγος ..... 85
Vicent Déroche, Pas la planche: un fondement patristique inattendu de la polémique iconodoule sur les images chez Sévérien de Gabala ..... 99
Marina Detoraki, Chronicon animae utile. La Chronique de Georges le Moine et les récits édifiants ..... 103
Theocharis Detorakis, Ἄγνωστοι Ὕμνοι Λέοντος Ϛ ́ τοῦ Σοφοῦ ..... 131
Fotios Dimitrakopoulos, Conversions spatiales à Larissa et Trikala (xive-xvie siècles) ..... 143
Bernard Flusin, Les réceptions de l ̓empereur par les dèmes au retour des églises stationnales dans le De cerimoniis ..... 149
Michel Kaplan, Le saint byzantin et son hagiographe, ve-xiie siècle. Esquisse ..... 169
Apostolos Karpozilos, The Authorial Statements in the Ecclesiastical History of Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos ..... 187
Johannes Koder, Die Hellenis als Mitte der Ökumene: Theodoros Laskaris über den Ursprung von Philosophie, Weisheit und Wissenschaft ..... 195
Sofia Kotzabassi, Reconsidering the Letters of Constantine Akropolites .. 211
Marina Loukaki, Le profil des enseignants dans l'Empire Byzantin à la fin de l'Antiquité tardive et au début du Moyen Âge (fin du vie–fin du viie siècle) ..... 217
Paul Magdalino, Pharmaceutical Diplomacy: A New Document on Fatimid–Byzantine Gift Exchange ..... 245
Eleftheria Papagianni, Πατριαρχικὸ καὶ αὐτοκρατορικὸ δικαστήριο ἐπὶ Ματθαίου Α ́: Μιὰ σχέση ἀνταγωνισμοῦ ..... 253
Stratis Papaioannou, Sicily, Constantinople, Miletos: The Life of a Eunuch and the History of Byzantine Humanism ..... 261
Ioannis Polemis, Michael Psellos the Novelist: Some Notes on the Story of the Empress Zoe ..... 285
Antonio Rigo, Le père spirituel de l'empereur Cosmas Tzintziloukès et son opuscule sur les parties de l'âme, les passions et les pensées (xie siècle) ..... 295
Spyros Troianos, Oι «Κωδικοποιητικές» Νεαρές του Ιουστινιανού. Η περί-πτωση της Νεαράς 123 ..... 317
Ιoannis Vassis, Die Epigramme des sogenannten Anonymus Patrikios im cod. Vat. Pal. gr. 367 ..... 329
Athanasios Markopoulos, Bibliography (1966-2014) ..... 357 


1.   One might observe that, although the editorial work is generally good, there is a major typographical problem in Kaplan's footnote numbering which starts from no. 1 both at pp. 169 and 171. Also, it would have been helpful to have included a few more plates of the manuscripts mentioned, although many are becoming available on the web. Rigo is the only contribution with plates, besides some pictures of Cheynet's Genesioi seals. Also missing is an index of mss cited.

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