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The Byzantine Aftermath of Aphthonius's Progymnasmata

Manfred Kraus, University of Tübingen, Fellow 2010/11

My research project on the role of Aphthonius's Progymnasmata in Byzantine education and literary culture progressed during my semester at Dumbarton Oaks, yet it also expanded considerably. With the aid of the excellent library, the range of texts which could be incorporated and of the literature included was greatly enlarged. Although the material is vast, I was able to survey, map, and structure material from the long period from the fourth to the fifteenth century and to catch rare glimpses into Byzantine classrooms. Various new ideas and new questions emerged. Special topics I have looked at include the influence of iconoclasm on ekphrasis, the role of the Constantinopolitan patriarchate in promoting progymnasmatic exercises, the function of Nicaea as preserver of the tradition between 1204 and 1261, and the incorporation and ideological functionalization of Christian topics, Byzantine history and contemporaneous politics in model examples, particularly in ethopoeia, encomium and ekphrasis. In some thirteenth-century treatises, besides the dominant Aphthonian tradition, traces of non-Aphthonian strands (Theon, Minucianus?) emerged. The transfer of progymnasmata to the West in the Renaissance also turned out to be a more multifaceted process than generally assumed. The projected comprehensive repertory of surviving Byzantine model examples was still unfinished by the end of term. Besides work on my core project, I completed two articles, and had three more revised and sent off to press. I wrote and delivered two conference papers, and started work on a third one on rhetoric and law studies in early Byzantium. In all these endeavors, intensive communication with other fellows and staff helped immensely.

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