Wit, irony, drama, lament, devotion, and hope are all to be found in this sleek and elegant volume with poetry from a Byzantium ready for one more social and cultural change. In the decades to follow the composition of the texts translated in this book, appreciation for rhetoric—and especially poetry—became an essential characteristic of a close-knit group, manning church and state administration. The playful rhythm of poetry carried truth and criticism, but also Christian piety and personal emotions. John Mauropous and Christopher Mitylenaios were among the first to represent that trend, which became most relevant from the twelfth century on.
Floris Bernard and Christopher Livanos are right in choosing to discuss their works in parallel, for these verses are sole surviving examples of similar intellectual choices, presumably widespread at their time. Such a wealth of primary sources has been made available to a wide audience thanks to this publication of their first complete English translation and commentary. The expert will benefit from the translators’ textual emendations and suggestions that improve on current editions. The translation of the heavily damaged poems by Mitylenaios, which are admittedly hardly comprehensible, particularly deserves praise.