BMCR 2010.06.07

Realia Byzantina. Byzantinisches Archiv Bd. 22

, , Realia Byzantina. Byzantinisches Archiv Bd. 22. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009. xiv, 326. ISBN 9783110222302 $181.00.


(Two of the contributors, Alexander Alexakis and Giannis Mavromatis, are the reviewer’s colleagues at the Philology Department of the University of Ioannina, while Sofia Kotzabassi was her supervisor at the University of Thessaloniki.)

The book under review is a Festschrift in honour of Apostolos Karpozilos, Professor Emeritus of Byzantine Literature at the University of Ioannina, on the occasion of his retirement in September 2009. The volume consists of 26 contributions, written in English, German, and Greek, which deal with various issues of Byzantine literature, history, and prosopography, and reflect to a certain extent the scientific interests of the honorand. Its title felicitously refers to Karpozilos’ “predilection” for Byzantine rea-lia, a “predilection” well documented in his own works.1

The first contribution,2 by Theodora Antonopoulou, deals with two hitherto unedited metrical Passions of the Saints Theodoros Stratelates and Theodoros Tiron preserved in the codex Athous Laura λ 170; the two texts must have been written, according to Antonopoulou, between the 11th and 15th centuries and are, in all probability, works of a certain, otherwise unknown Merkourios grammatikos. In both cases we have to do with metaphraseis, i.e. literary reworkings, of the respective standard texts by Symeon Metaphrastes.

Maria Avgerinou-Tzioga examines in her article the discrepancies between Georgios Akropolites and Georgios Pachymeres in their accounts on the death of the Mouzalon brothers, high officials under Theodoros II Lascaris that were murdered nine days after the emperor’s death in August 1258. The detailed analysis of the narrative technique of both authors makes clear their different views of the event.

The subject of Albrecht Berger’s contribution is the “epic Passion” ( BHG nr. 776) of the Saints Iason and Sosipatros, the legendary missionaries of Corfu. Berger suggests that the text was created in order to confer higher dignity to the Church of Corfu, most probably during a dispute on rank with the Church of Leukas.

Demetrios Constantelos addresses in his article the problem of the relationship between Christian faith and the classical tradition in Byzantium, tracing the elements of sacred and profane knowledge in the rhetorical and epistolary works of Michael Choniates.

Two dog scenes in Byzantine literature, the one contained in the chronicle of Ioannes Malalas (XVIII.51) and the other in a poem preserved under the name of Michael Psellos (nr. 53 in Westerink’s edition3), are the subject of the fifth contribution of the volume, written by John Duffy. Duffy comments on various aspects of the scenes, with special emphasis on the professional status of the men accompanying the performing dogs in both cases.

Michael Grünbart deals in his short article with the epistle nr. 6 of the so-called Anonymus Marcianus : he offers a new critical edition of the text, using the additional testimony of the codex Iberon 76, and also presents a later adaptation of it that is extant in the codex Bodl. Misc. 242.

With the contribution of Georgios Kechagioglou we move to the Modern Greek Era and the times of the Enlightenment, when the prolific Kaisarios Dapontes composed among other works his voluminous βίβλος βασιλειῶν, a history in verses of the emperors of Byzantium. Kechagioglou announces the editio princeps of the text and makes some preliminary remarks on its narrative structure, focusing mainly on its frequent digressions and the author’s self-referential comments.

History writing is also the subject of the next contribution, written by Eirini-Sofia Kiapidou. The author wishes to shed some light on the sources of the world chronicle of Konstantinos Manasses (12th c.) for the early Byzantine period and underlines the affinities between Manasses’ text and the thirteenth-century chronicle of Theodoros Skoutariotes, which should probably be attributed to a common, now lost source, the so-called Synopsisquelle.4

The ninth contribution, by Foteini Kolovou, is concerned with the reception of Platonic philosophy by Michael Psellos. Kolovou concentrates on a special aspect of the subject that has not been addressed by research so far, namely the Platonic conception of music and the way this notion permeates Psellos’ various writings.

Sofia Kotzabassi is the author of the tenth contribution of the volume, which focuses on the epistolary corpus of the thirteenth-century learned patriarch Gregorios Kyprios. The article deals with Gregorios’ reception of his contemporary literature — literary letters form also part of it5 — as this is reflected in his correspondence with other learned people of his time.

Ralph-Johannes Lilie poses in his article once again the question about the relationship between the historical works of Ioannes Kinammos and Niketas Choniates. Lilie argues that Choniates did not know and, accordingly, did not use Kinammos’ text in his account on the reign of Ioannes II Komnenos; both authors depend on a common source, which was probably an official court chronicle, composed soon after the emperor’s death on initiative of his successor Manuel I.

The martyrion of Saint Panteleemon BHG nr. 1418c is the subject of Georgios Makris’ contribution. Apart from offering the editio princeps of this text that is extant in three manuscripts (two of them date to the second half of the eleventh century), Makris also seeks to identify Michael Psellos as its author, a suggestion that is very challenging indeed, but needs to be corroborated by further evidence, although Makris’ arguments are quite convincing.

With the article of Athanasios Markopoulos we move once again to the field of Byzantine historiography, the field to which the honorand dedicated the most significant part of his scholarly work.6 Markopoulos touches on various issues concerning the tenth-century historian Ioseph Genesios and his Basileiai and discusses briefly the problem of Genesios’ alleged common source with the other major work of Macedonian historiography, the so-called Theophanes Continuatus. The author formulates the hypothesis that Konstantinos Porphyrogennitos just put at Genesios’ disposal the material for the composition of his history, but probably did not give him any other guidelines beyond the biographical structure and the requirement to praise Basil I, the founder of the Macedonian dynasty; this hypothesis could explain, in Markopoulos’ view, the shortcomings of Genesios’ narrative compared to the one of Theophanes Continuatus.

Giannis Mavromatis and Alexandros Alexakis announce in their contribution the new critical edition of the Acta of the Bazelon monastery. The edition will draw on the remnants of the late Nikolaos Panagiotakis, who had long been working on the publication of these documents that are important sources for the history of the Pontic area from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century.

Aimilios Mavroudis’ article is concerned with the person of Saint Nephon II, patriarch of Constantinople (1486-1488, 1497-1498 and 1502 [?]). Based on his two Modern Greek Vitae7 and a Romanian translation, based probably on the original Greek βίος of the Saint, Mavroudis tries to reconstruct Nephon’s biography from his birth ca. 1408 to his arrival in Ochrid ca. 1466.

Having as a starting point a poem of Konstantinos Stilbes, which speaks about the death of Stilbes’ former student Stephen in a philanthropic institution in Patras, Timothy Miller discusses in his article the difference between a xenon and a gerokomeion in Byzantium; the named Stephen must have died, according to Miller, in a gerokomeion, where patients suffering from long-term or terminal illnesses were treated, rather than in a xenon, which usually focused on curing patients with treatable diseases.

A paradox in the Nomocanon of Manuel Malaxos (16th c.), namely the information that the patriarch Photios was later renamed Tarasios, is the subject of Konstantinos Pitsakis’ contribution. The author proposes some possible reasons for such a misunderstanding and points out that the same misunderstanding could also be detected in the iambic verses included in the service in honour of the patriarch, to be found in the Synaxaristes of Nikodemos Hagioreites.

Ioannis Polemis comments in his article on two texts concerning the Palamite controversy: in the first part of the article he identifies Gregorios Akindynos as the addressee of a short treatise of Matthaios Blastares dealing with some arguments of the opponents of Palamas, while in the second part he discusses the views of Kallistos Angelikoudes on the Hesychastic teachings that prove him to be a reluctant follower of Gregorios Palamas.

The contribution of Konstantinos Poulis, the nineteenth one of the volume, is of rather legal interest and focuses on some vacua in the treatment of suicide and euthanasia by Greek ecclesiastical law.

The next article, by Günter Prinzing, offers an analysis of the system of addresses in the letters and other writings of the Ochridian Archbishop Demetrios Chomatenos that were addressed to certain persons. The analysis is based on the method established by Michael Grünbart in his relevant study;8 prosopographical problems are also sometimes discussed in this context.

Diether Reinsch’s contribution is concerned with a misunderstood passage in the chronicle of Ioannes Malalas (XIII.19) that has further led to a false interpretation of emperor Julian’s Misopogon; according to Reinsch, the Logos which Julian hung on the Elephant-Gate in Antiocheia, as Malalas informs us, cannot be identified with the Misopogon, but was in all probability a now lost document that represented the official reaction of the emperor to the hostility shown to him by the inhabitants of the city.

Peter Schreiner’s article is of both historical and literary interest. The author brings to light a fragment of a chronicle preserved on f. 236v of the codex Vatic. Palat. gr. 124, which deals with facts concerning the Despotate of Epirus, and more specifically with the murder of the Despot Thomas Angelos in 1318.9 Quite intriguing is Schreiner’s suggestion that we have to do with an unknown work of Konstantinos Hermoniakos, who must have also been the copyist of the relevant part of the manuscript; the comparison in the chronicle of the Despot’s mother with Hecuba points in this direction.

The next article is a posthumous contribution by D. Z. Sophianos (d. 2008) and is concerned with a donation document of the year 1386 addressed by Maria Angelina Doukaina Palaiologina, the “queen” of Ioannina, to her brother Ioannes Ouresis Palaiologos,10 who had become a monk in Meteora under the name Ioasaph; Sophianos offers an extended historical commentary and a new diplomatic edition of the text.

Theodoros Skoutariotes’ account on the reign of Justinian I is the subject of Raimondo Tocci’s contribution. Through an analysis of the author’s narrative technique and his use of the sources (Procopius and Theophanes in the present case), Tocci brings to light Skoutariotes’ latent critique of the emperor.

Ioannis Vassis surveys in his article the vocabulary used in middle Byzantine poetry to celebrate the emperor’s triumph or for other festive events at the court; the survey is based on the works of two twelfth-century poets, Theodoros Prodromos and the so-called Manganeios Prodromos.

Finally, the last contribution, by Alexandra-Kyriaki Wassiliou, is of prosopographical interest and offers — drawing mainly on lead seal evidence — a systematic presentation of all known Byzantines bearing the family name “Pegonites” between the eleventh and early thirteenth centuries.

It is difficult to make a general assessment of the book as a whole, since we have to do with a collective work with no main subject. However, its 26 articles presented above, written by established scholars of the Byzantine period, form in their majority valuable contributions to the respective fields of scientific research (especially Epistolography, Hagiography, Historiography, and Prosopography), bringing us a few steps further towards a better understanding of several aspects of Byzantine “realities” — is it not this what realia are expected to offer us in the first place?


1. Cf., e.g., his essays “Realia in Byzantine Epistolography X-XIIc.”, in: BZ 77 (1984) 20-37 and “Realia in Byzantine Epistolography XIII-XVc.”, in: BZ 88 (1995) 68-84.

2. The contributions are placed in alphabetical order, according to the author’s surname. Discussing each article, I shall mention the name of its author and only occasionally refer to its place in the volume.

3. See L. G. Westerink, Michaelis Pselli Poemata. Stuttgart/Leipzig: Teubner 1992.

4. On this see E. Patzig, Über einige Quellen des Zonaras, in: BZ 5 (1896) 24-53. Kiapidou notes on p. 64 n. 37 that Raimondo Tocci is preparing a critical edition of Theodoros Skoutariotes’ Synopsis Chronike; however, the text edited by Tocci is not the Synopsis Chronike itself, but an older work of Skoutariotes, which served him as a basis for the composition of the Synopsis.

5. On the literary character of Byzantine epistolography cf. H. Hunger, Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner. München 1978, I, 208-213.

6. Cf. the three volumes of his βυζαντινοὶ Ἱστορικοὶ καὶ ξηρονογράφοι. Athens 1997, 2002, 2009.

7. The original Greek Vita, written by Nephon’s pupil Gabriel, has not been preserved.

8. See M. Grünbart, Formen der Anrede im byzantinischen Brief vom 6. bis zum 12. Jahrhundert. Wiener Byzantinistische Studien, 25. Wien 2005.

9. On Thomas Angelos see E. Trapp a.o. (edd.), Prosopographisches Lexikon der Palaiologenzeit (= PLP), 1-12. Wien 1976-1996, nr. 197.

10. On Maria Angelina and Ioannes Ouresis see PLP nrr. 21393 and 21179 respectively.