In the preface to his collection of poems, the eleventh-century Byzantine intellectual John Mauropous (ca. 1000-after 1075) writes that he has selected the poems in question as a sample from his oeuvre at large and “offer[s] just these gifts to friends of words as a small taste of an array of wines.” In this excellent volume published in the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series, Floris Bernard and Christopher Livanos have now made widely accessible Mauropous’ gifts to modern “friends of words,” along with the collection of poems by another eleventh-century Byzantine author, Christopher of Mytilene (also born ca. 1000).
To bring these two collections together into one volume is a suitable choice. Both poets enjoyed successful careers during the reign of emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (1042-1055), and, even though they never explicitly refer to one another, their poetry is the product of the same historical context and intellectual world. [The volume] complements the study of the literary production of other periods, not least the Byzantine twelfth century, which produced a remarkable amount of writings in verse, often in the same poetic forms and with the same functions as eleventh-century poetry. Recurrent themes in Christopher’s and Mauropous’ collections of poems are the importance of education and the pleasure of literature—this skillful volume allows a wide audience of students and scholars to share in this literary pleasure.
Baukje van den Berg
Bryn Mawr Classical Review