Although perceived since the sixteenth century as the most impressive literary achievement of Byzantine culture, historical writing nevertheless remains little studied as literature. Historical texts are still read first and foremost for nuggets of information, as main sources for the reconstruction of the events of Byzantine history. Whatever can be called literary in these works has been considered as external and detachable from the facts. The 'classical tradition' inherited by Byzantine writers, the features that Byzantine authors imitated and absorbed, are regarded as standing in the way of understanding the true meaning of the text and, furthermore, of contaminating the reliability of the history. Chronicles, whose language and style are anything but classicizing, have been held in low esteem, for they are seen as providing a mere chronological exposition of events. This book presents a set of articles by an international cast of contributors, deriving from papers delivered at the 40th annual Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies. They are concerned with historical and visual narratives that date from the sixth to the fourteenth century, and aim to show that literary analyses and the study of pictorial devices, far from being tangential to the study of historical texts, are preliminary to their further study, exposing the deeper structures and purposes of these texts.
Table of Contents
Contents: Foreword; Editor's preface; Section I Aesthetics: The aesthetics of history from Theophanes to Eustathios, Stratis Papaioannou. Section II Audience: Uncovering Byzantium's historiographical audience, Brian Croke; Anna Komnene and Niketas Choniates 'translated': the 14th-century Byzantine metaphrases, John Davis. Section III Narrator: Psellos and 'his emperors': fact, fiction and genre, Michael Jeffreys; 'Listen, all of you, both Franks and Romans'; the narrator in the Chronicle of Morea, Teresa Shawcross. Section IV Story-Telling: From propaganda to history to literature: the Byzantine stories of Theodosius' apple and Marcian's eagles, Roger Scott; Dream narratives in historical writing: making sense of history in Theophanes' Chronographia, George T. Calofonos; The Venice Alexander Romance: pictorial narrative and the art of telling stories, Nicolette S. Trahoulia. Section V The Classical Tradition Reinterpreted: A historian and his tragic hero; a literary reading of Theophylact Simokatta's Ecumenical History, Stephanos Efthymiadis; Envy and nemesis in the Vita Basilii and Leo the Deacon: literary mimesis or something more?, Martin Hinterberger. Section VI Sources Reconfigured: The story of the patriarch Constantine II of Constantinople in Theophanes and George the Monk: transformations of a narrative, Dmitry Afinogenov; Engaging the Byzantine past: strategies of visualizing history in Sicily and Bulgaria, Elena N. Boeck; The Synopsis Chronike and hagiography: the presentation of Constantine the Great, Konstantinos Zafeiris. Section VII Structure and Themes: Procopius' Persian War: a thematic and literary analysis, Anthony Kaldellis; La chronique de Malalas entre littérature et philosophie, Paolo Odorico; Rhetoric and history: the case of Niketas Choniates, Athanasios Angelou; Indexes.
'The collection succeeds in showcasing the variety of approaches now common in the study of Byzantine historiography and presenting the subject as a rich and rewarding field of research.' Speculum 'There is, then, a great deal to feast on in this volume at the levels of the composition and reception of Byzantine history writing; as such, it is a collection which should attract the attention not only of Byzantinists but also those with historiographical interests in other contexts, including western medievalists and Islamic specialists.' Medieval Review