Monday, September 15, 2014

Byzantine Constantinople in Medieval Greek Texts

Descriptions of monuments of Byzantine Constantinople appeared in several sources dating from the late antique and Byzantine period. The collection of the so-called Patria has been published in the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series (Albrecht Berger, Accounts of Medieval Constantinople: The Patria. Dumbarton Oaks medieval library, 24.   Cambridge, MA; London:  Harvard University Press, 2013.  Pp. xxi, 357 ). Here is a review of this exciting and helpful volume: 
Accounts of Medieval Constantinople is a facing-page translation into English by Albrecht Berger of four texts from a group of five accounts of the medieval city known collectively as the Patria of Constantinople. The five texts, which were originally brought together as a compilation in the late tenth century, were first edited and published as a group by Theodore Preger as Scriptores originum Constantinopolitanarum (Leipzig 1902). They include in the following order a report on the early origins of Constantinople based on and attributed to the sixth- century author Hesychios of Miletos that was added to in the tenth century; an anonymously-authored eighth-century work known as the Parastaseis syntomoi chronikai (Brief historical notes) which records a series of observations and anecdotes about the city’s architectural and sculptured patrimony; a second anonymously-authored text of the ninth century about statues that not only relies heavily on the text of the Parastaseis for its materials but also shares its anecdotal format; a ninth- or tenth-century text about the city’s building in the same style; and, finally, a narrative account of the building of Hagia Sophia from the ninth century. The current volume, which uses Preger’s edition of the text with only the most minor and sensible of emendations, includes an annotated translation of Hesychios together with the ninth- and tenth-century accounts of sculpture and architecture, the narration on Hagia Sophia included. There being no need to reinvent the wheel, it excludes the Parastaseis, which was translated and published independently in a 1984 edition by Averil Cameron and Judith Herrin.1 A brief introduction by Berger accompanies the translation, elucidating the literary genre of patria and the particular nature of the Constantinopolitan texts before concluding with some observations on their usefulness as historical documents. A discussion of the Patria’s manuscript tradition together with a glossary of terms, a bibliography, and an index completes the volume.
Click here for the rest of the review 

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