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The Byzantine Aftermath of Aphthonius’s Progymnasmata

Manfred Kraus, University of Tübingen, Fellow 2010–2011, Fall

My research on the role of Aphthonius’s Progymnasmata in Byzantine education and literary culture progressed and expanded during my semester at Dumbarton Oaks. I was able to survey, map, and structure material from the fourth to the fifteenth century and to catch rare glimpses into Byzantine classrooms. Various new ideas and new questions emerged, including 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 is generally assumed. Besides work on my core project (a comprehensive repertory of surviving Byzantine model examples), I completed two articles, revised (and sent to press) three articles, delivered two conference papers, and started work on a third conference paper on rhetoric and law studies in early Byzantium.

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