WAHLGREN S. Middle Byzantine Historiography: Tradition, Innovation, and Reception

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15688/jvolsu4.2015.3.3

Staffan Wahlgren

PhD, Professor of Classical Philology, Institute of Historical Studies,

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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Edvard Bulls veg, 1, 7491 Trondheim, Norway


Abstract. This paper provides an overview of Greek historical writing of the Middle Byzantine period (approx. 800 until 1000 A.D., with a particular focus on the major chronicles, such as Theophanesthe Confessor (early 9th c.), George the Monk (probably late 9th c.), and Symeon the Logothete (second half of the 10th c.). On the one hand, it is discussed how the chroniclers engage with tradition and either accept it or reject it. Acceptance of tradition is illustrated by many cases where chroniclers keep very close to the narrative modes of their predecessors and in particular where they copy them extensively. Rejection of, or at least deviation from tradition is illustrated by many cases where new narrative techniques and modes of expression are apparent. Particular attention is paid to some aspects of narrative technique which seem to be innovative. In short, there seems to be an increased tendency towards greater logical (and hence, narrative) coherence in the chronicles and an increased tendency towards concentration on a small number of settings, issues and persons (in particular, there is an increased concentration on the Capital of Constantinople and the Emperor’s person). Further, reception is discussed, and especially how Middle Byzantine historical texts were read and used in later writings, including the Slavic literatures. The need for further research in order to understand the transmission processes, especially in the form of the philological study of manuscripts, is stressed.

Key words: Middle Byzantine Chronicles, George the Monk, Symeon the Logothete, tradition, innovation, reception, Slavic translations.

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Middle Byzantine Historiography: Tradition, Innovation, and Reception by WAHLGREN S. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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