Byzantine Text Reading Seminar

Course Status: 
CEU credits: 
ECTS credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
13 Jan 2014 - 4 Apr 2014
Co-hosting Unit(s) [if applicable]: 
Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies (CEMS)
Stream/Track/Specialization/Core Area: 
II—The Eastern Mediterranean from Constantine the Great to Süleyman the Magnificent
Non-degree Specialization: 
EMS—Advanced Certificate in Eastern Mediterranean Studies
István Perczel
Learning Outcomes: 
Hopefully, by the completion of this course, participants will feel fairly safe in reading Byzantine sources. Their linguistic skills would be enhanced and they would get an insight into the complicated texture of sixth-century Byzantine historical sources.
Assessment : 
Regular attendance (at least ten sessions out of twelve) is mandatory. So is also the work at home on the prescribed readings. No test will be written, the only criterion for the assessment is oral performance at the translation seminars. Preliminary knowledge of the Greek language is not a criterion of assessment but only preparation and effort. Students will be assessed according to the progress made by them during the term.

About the course

This course has been conceived as a complement to the class on Byzantine and Eastern Christian Narrative Sources. As such, at the seminars we will read an array of sources from the sixth century, from and about the times of emperor Justinian (527-565). Among the texts read there will be high-style historiography (Procopius), chronicle (John Malalas), Church history (Evagrius Scholasticus) and hagiography (Cyril of Scythopolis). This would provide a deepening of the perspective raised at the Byzantine and Eastern Christian Narrative Sources class, showing the different genres, linguistic layers and information that the historian finds when dealing with an array of narrative sources. However, participation in the Narrative Sources class is not a condition for participating in this text reading seminar. All those who are interested in reading sixth-century Byzantine texts and have, or would like to, acquire the skills for that, are warmly welcome. The format of the course is that of translation seminars. Every participant is expected to read the prescribed readings at home and translate part of it during the joint reading of the text at the seminar.

Level and requirements

The seminar is open to both Ph.D. and MA students.

Reading knowledge of Classical Greek is required. 

Course outline

As it is impossible to predict the pace of reading, which depends on the level and interest of the participants and the development of the class discussions, the outline given here-below is tentative.

1-3. week: First text, Procopius, The Secret History, chapter 27 from: G. Wirth (post J. Haury), Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia, vol. 3. Leipzig: Teubner, 1963.

4-6. week: Second and third text, Codex Iustinianus, I. 5. 17 from: P. Krueger, Corpus iuris civilis, vol. 2. Berlin: Weidmann, 1877, p. 56, John Malalas, Chronographia, 18, 35: I. Thurn, Ioannis Malalae Chronographia (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae. Series Berolinensis 35). Berlin - New York: De Gruyter, 2000.

7-10. week: Fourth text, Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of Saint Sabas, ch. 70-72 from:  E. Schwartz, Kyrillos von Skythopolis (Texte und Untersuchungen 49, 2). Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1939.

If there is still time for that :

11-12. week : Fifth text, Evagrius Scholasticus, Church History, 4.34 from : J. Bidez, L. Parmentier :  Evagrius Scholasticus, The Ecclesiastic History with the Scholia. New York : AMS Press, 1979.

Course goals

The course intends to deepen the linguistic and historical knowledge of its participants. It presents an array of different linguistic layers from the same period (the 6th century AD) and shows how different authors have treated the same events. The course also provides some glances into source criticism.