Thursday, October 19, 2017


Ilias Taxidis, Les Épigrammes de Maxime Planude. Introduction, édition critique, traduction française et annotation. Byzantinisches Archiv, 32. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2017. Pp. xvi, 192. ISBN 9783110526257. $114.99.

Reviewed by Foteini Spingou, Oxford University (

Version at BMCR home site


Manuel/Maximos Planoudes (ca. 1255–ca. 1305) is most famous for his collection of ca. 3,400 epigrams, however his poetic oeuvre has rarely been in the scholarly spotlight. Ilias Taxidis makes available the thirty-six epigrams penned by Planoudes within a period of about twenty years for the first time in a single corpus. This is the only modern edition of any of the epigrams that takes into consideration all the manuscripts. Moreover, the book makes accessible this little- researched material to a wider audience thanks to the French translation that accompanies the Greek text. The commentary further reveals the deep familiarity of the author with Planoudes' language and life and explicates obscure passages.1

In the first part of the book, Taxidis places the epigrams in their general context, considers their general features, and presents the manuscripts used for the edition. The Introduction places Planoudes' epigrams in the general discourse of this literary form. Taxidis notes that Planoudes' epigrams are well influenced by the tradition of the genre that they represent and he explores the projected selves of Planoudes in his epigrams (pp. 3–6). Previous editions are presented (pp. 6–7), and a table with the number of verses for each poem and their possible date of composition (if datable) is offered. Before discussing the thirty-three manuscripts with Planoudes' epigrams and the relationship among manuscripts transmitting the same poems (pp. 36–63), Taxidis analyses the language, the style, and the metrics of the texts (pp. 11– 35). At pp. 25–29, he finds the source of Planoudes' inspiration in Homer and Nonnus of Panopolis, and highlights borrowings from Manuel Philes and the Planoudian Anthology. At the end of the first part of the book, the reader finds a list with the editorial principles followed by Taxidis (pp. 64–66).

In the second part, Taxidis divides his corpus into "profane epigrams" (book and tomb epigrams, nos. 1–12), and "religious epigrams" (epigrams on works of art and short prayers, nos. 13–36).2 Each epigram is accompanied by a French translation and detailed commentary that considers literary and historical aspects of the poems.

Finally, the most useful and detailed indices help the reader to navigate through the book (pp. 173–92).

Taxidis' arrangement of the poems allows the reader to discover Planoudes as an epigrammatist and delve into this aspect of the great Byzantine scholar's work. However, the reader should be warned that this arrangement is somehow arbitrary and it is not representative of the original context of transmission. None of the surviving manuscripts groups together all the epigrams published in this book. Manuscript Vatican City, Palatinus Graecus 141 (a manuscript with mainly Planudes' works, copied ca. fifteen years after his death) includes twenty-two epigrams arranged in five different clusters. Five more epigrams are to be found in the same manuscript but as part of letters and not as self-standing texts (nos. 2, 31, and 36). Aspects of the original context and the transmission history for some of the poems can be partly recovered by reading carefully the commentary supplemented in the book.

Furthermore, the reader who wishes to explore Planoudes' poetic oeuvre in detail may look also at his little-known liturgical poetry. His (admittedly limited) hymnographical work remains unpublished and authors of modern handbooks confine their interest to this aspect of Planoudes work into a single sentence.3 That liturgical texts can be found in the same manuscript containing Planudes' epigrams (Pal. Gr. 141) and since hymns follow immediately after epigrams the distinction between the two kinds of poetry was not water-tight. Also, hymns and epigrams are dedicated to the same saint. This is the case of the epigram on an icon of St Diomedes (no. 28) that can be found in f. 136 of Pal. Gr. 141, while stichera and a liturgical canon dedicated to same saint by the same author are copied at the beginning of that very manuscript.4 At least one of Planoudes' liturgical canons has a metrical acrostic.5

The nearly simultaneous appearance of this first critical edition of Planoudes' epigrams by Taxidis and Ivan Drpić's book Epigram, Art, and Devotion in Later Byzantium (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016) did not allow Taxidis to include Drpić's useful remarks in his commentary or Drpić to use Taxidis' book for his analysis. The reader may wish to supplement Taxidis' commentary on epigrams no. 31 with Drpić's discussion on pp. 18–25 and 66 (with English translation of the poems), and Taxidis' remarks on epigram no. 16 with Drpić's arguments on pp. 100–102 (again with English translation).

All in all, Taxidis' book is a precious contribution to the booming field of Byzantine poetry and highlights a little-known source for the cultural history of later Byzantium.


1.   The first book of the author was an important contribution to Planoudes' corpus of letters. See I. Taxidis, Μάξιμος Πλανούδης. Συμβολή στη μελέτη του corpus των επιστολών του, Βυζαντινά Κείμενα και Μελέτες, 58. Θεσσαλονίκη: Κέντρο Βυζαντινών Μελετών 2012.
2.   This category corresponds to ἱερόν ἐπίγραμμα, see N. B. Tomadakis, Ἡ βυζαντινὴ ὑμνογραφία καὶ ποίησις ἤτοι εἰσαγωγὴ εἰς τὴν βυζαντινὴν φιλολογίαν, τόμος δεύτερος (Athens: Adelfoi Myrtidi, 1965), p. 30; and A. D. Kominis, Τὸ βυζαντινὸν ἱερὸν ἐπίγραμμα καὶ οἱ ἐπιγραμματοποιοί, (Athens: Typografeion Adelfon Myrtidi, 1966).
3.   Hans-Georg Beck, in Kirche und theologische Literatur im Byzantinischen Reich, Byzantinisches Handbuch zweiter Teil (Munich: C. H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1959), p. 687, dedicates a single sentence to Planoudes' liturgical canons. For references to Planoudes canons see J. Szöverffy, A Guide to Byzantine Hymnography, vol. 2 (Brookline, Mass. : Classical Folia Editions 1977), p. 70.
4.   Palat. Gr. 141, ff. 2v–4.
5.   Ἀθλοφόρον Δημήτριον ᾄσμασι Μάξιμος ὐμνῶ, reported in S. Eustratiades, "Ἁγιολογικά: Ὁ ἅγιος Δημήτριος ἐν τῇ ὑμνογραφίᾳ," Ἐπετηρὶς ἑταιρείας βυζαντινῶν σπουδῶν 11 (1935), p. 132, from also Palat. Gr. 141, f. 136v. Cf. E. Papailiopoulou-Fotopoulou, Ταμεῖον ἀνεκδότων βυζαντινῶν ᾀσματικῶν κανόνων (Αthens: Syllogos pros diadosin ofelimon vivlion, 1996), no. 148, inc. Ἀγαθῶν τῇ πηγῇ / παρεστηκὼς καὶ χάριν. See also, idiomela for St. Mocius, acr. Μαξίμου, inc. Mώκιος ὁ μάρτυς / εἰς μέσον καταστὰς, Pal. Gr. 141, f. 137v, reported in S. Eustratiades, "Tαμεῖον ἐκκλησιαστικῆς ποιήσεως," Ekklesiastikos Faros, 49.3 (1950) 211. Also Stichera Staurotheotokia, in f. 140v, acr. Μαξίμου μοναχοῦ τοῦ Πλανούδου, reported in E. Stevenson, Codices manuscripti Palatini Graeci Bibliothecae Vaticanae (Rome, 1885), p. 72. Regrettably, the reproduction of the manuscript in disposal was in poor condition and thus I am unable to provide further information.

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