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John Geometres: An Edition, Translation, and Commentary of his Poems in Hexameter and Elegiac

Emilie van Opstall, University of Amsterdam, Summer Fellow 2004

Soldier and poet in the second half of tenth-century Constantinople, John Geometres writes in the tradition of the Macedonian Renaissance, which found its inspiration in Antiquity, but also shows signs of a new era in which Hellenistic form and Christian ideas merge. In 1841, J. A. Cramer published Geometres’ poems for the first time.J. A. Cramer, Appendix ad excerpta poetica: codex 352 suppl., Anecdota Graeca e Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecae regiae Parisiensis, vol. 4 (Oxford, 1841, repr. Hildesheim, 1967), 265–352. His edition is based on a single manuscript (the thirteenth-century Paris. suppl. gr. 352) and contains an amazing number of inaccuracies. Nonetheless, subsequent editors of Geometres’ poems have used this edition without consulting the manuscripts themselves. The poems certainly deserve a better fate, for Geometres is a key figure in the history of Byzantine poetry, as has been observed time and again. I am preparing a new edition of his poems composed in hexameter and elegiacs with a French translation and commentary. This will enable not only scholars of Byzantine literature, but of Byzantine history and art as well, to arrive at a better formed judgement of Geometres and the cultural history of his time.

The summer at Dumbarton Oaks provided a unique opportunity to write the commentary on a series of poems in relation to their (art) historical context. Not only the extremely rich library, which provides easy access to art historical studies (sometimes not found elsewhere), but also the advice of the scholars present was very helpful, especially in the field of iconography.

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