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A Commentary and Translation of the Three Byzantine Dramatia: Katomyomachia, Dramation, and Bion Prasis

Przemysław Marciniak, University of Silesia, Poland, Summer Fellow 2010/11

Originally during my stay in Dumbarton Oaks I intended to work on the translation of and commentary on three Byzantine dramatia: Katomyomachia and Bion prasis by Theodore Prodromos and Dramation by Michael Haplucheir. The vast library of Dumbarton Oaks changed somewhat my initial plan.

I have focused mainly on the translation and commentary of the Bion prasis (The Auction of Celebrities) which is one of the most neglected texts written by Prodromos. There exists only one edition of the work from the beginning of the nineteenth century. Scholarly literature dealing with this piece is also very paltry.

The Bion prasis is usually dismissed as the imitation of the work of Lucian with the similar title. This is, however, a simplification and misunderstanding. To use the modern term, Bion prasis was designed rather as a sequel to Lucian's work (this is clearly stated at the very beginning of the text) than in imitation of it. Whereas the Syrian author auctioned only philosophers, Prodromos included in his text the most important authors of Antiquity, e.g. Homer, Euripides, Aristophanes, Demosthenes, Pomponius.

Having analyzed this work, I should like to propose the theory that the Bion prasis is a text designed for school purposes. In fact, the ancient authors who are sold at the auction form the core of the Byzantine curriculum studiorum (one might say ἐγκύκλιος παιδεία—a very loosely used term and difficult to define precisely). The utterances of the characters are built mostly from either their own texts or the works ascribed to them by both ancient and Byzantine tradition.

Since the text in question was so little studied the most of the work done was very positivistic in character. I have prepared the working Polish and English translation (with facing Greek original, to make it more widely available), I have determined the sources used in the text and studied language (Prodromos changes the language of a given character in accordance to his place of origin and dialect used in his works).

The library of Dumbarton Oaks gave me an opportunity to study the issues that the analysis of the text raises: children's education in Byzantium, the place of Homer in Byzantine curriculum, knowledge of Hippocrates's and Demosthenes's bioi and writings in Byzantium as well as Pomponius's legal writings.

Bion prasis will undoubtedly contribute to our knowledge of the use of ancient writers (including the single Roman example—Pomponius as regarded as legal authority) in Byzantine education.

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