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Ptochoprodromika: Edition, Translation, Commentary, with Introduction

Margaret B. Alexiou, Harvard University, Summer Fellow 2010/11

This project was to bring as close to publication as possible the text, translation and commentary of the Ptochoprodromika of Theodore Prodromos which was begun in collaboration with Michael Hendy, who died in 2008. A working text has been established for Poem I (MS G)(274 lines), Poem II (MS G) (117 lines)+ (MS H) (150 lines), the so-called "Maiuri Poem" (65 lines), Poem III (MS H) (c.550 lines) + MSS CSA and g (c.200), Poem IV (MS G) (167 lines), its Proem (MSS CSA) (56 lines), and the ending (MS g) (150 lines). Facing translation is now complete for all passages to be presented in the main section.

Since this will not be a full critical edition, no critical apparatus will appear beneath the Text and Translation. However, other MSS readings, which are of potential significance for literary, linguistic or historical reasons, will be presented, with translation as appropriate, and linguistic commentary will appear in this section, rather than below. For the commentary proper, sufficient material has now been collected on all aspects relevant to the interpretation of the poems, including: weights and coins; household economy; family life and law; court ceremonial; diets and dishes, foodstuffs and provenance; dress; monastic life, education and learning; City street life—and many more. This will be the first work to deal systematically and substantially—if not exhaustively—with the twelfth-century realia in the text, and the commentary will deal with items of historical, cultural, and literary interest.

Hesseling and Pernot provide a 172-page word list (with each form of all words cited), but meanings are only rarely hazarded. Eideneier has a partial glossary but some meanings given are inadequate or demonstrably wrong, especially where matters of ceremonial dress are concerned. E. Kriaras' Dictionary of Medieval Greek (MMG) remains the most reliable source, but it has only reached "pnevmonas". The number of rare words, compound coinages, and hapax legomena, both within these Poems and found in Theodore Prodromos' other works, is highly significant, especially when shared with medical texts or with ancient authors in specific contexts. I have made a list of such words, and carried out a thorough dictionary search. My TLG search is not yet complete, but where undertaken, the results look very promising, for alongside the realia, lexical links can be used to help solve questions of date and authorship.

Work on the Introduction included establishing why the poems are important, and their date and authorship (1140s for Poems I and II, 1150s or after for Poems II and IV, 1170s for Proem IV [CSA]). The twelfth-century context has required consideration of when "modern Greek" began, and the kinds of texts and genres its forms comprise. Literary qualities include consideration of imperial court theatron, street scenes, uses of dialogue and register variation, Byzantine forms of humor (verbal punning, invective, rude, slapstick), and scenes from everyday life covering all stages of human life—and death—for classes ranging from the emperor downwards to the basest. The poems demonstrate Byzantine aesthetics as viewed from the bottom up, not the top down, and substantial progress has been made towards publication, including the draft of a proposal to the press.

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