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Studying Classics in Byzantium

Wednesday, November 27, 2019, 5:30 am – 7:00 am

The Byzantine twelfth century is characterized by an innovative literary climate and an intensified interest in ancient literature. Classical scholarship flourished and Byzantine intellectuals produced many texts to elucidate the ancient authors and make their works relevant for a Byzantine audience. Such texts have often been caught between the disciplines of Classics and Byzantine Studies: while classicists have often simply mined the works of Byzantine scholars for new fragments of ancient authors without studying their interpretations as expressions of medieval thought, Byzantinists have only recently started to appreciate these texts as part of Byzantine literary culture. This lecture explores how Byzantine classical scholarship is closely connected to contemporary literary production, how it reflects Byzantine ideas about literature and learning, and how Byzantine literati perceived their relationship to the authors of the past. It addresses the role of the classics in Byzantine culture by focusing not on the afterlife of the ancient texts but on the new scholarly and literary products as part of a medieval literary system.

Baukje van den Berg (PhD 2016, University of Amsterdam) is Assistant Professor of Byzantine Studies at CEU's Department of Medieval Studies. Her main research interests are Byzantine scholarship, Byzantine education, and the reception of ancient literature in Byzantium. She has published various articles on Eustathios of Thessalonike as scholar and teacher and is preparing a monograph on Eustathios’ Commentary on the Iliad (OUP). Further ongoing projects focus on the scholarly-didactic works of John Tzetzes, another intellectual active in twelfth-century Constantinople.