Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts : Excerpta de legationibus

Polybius, George the Monk (Georgios Monachos), Malchus of Philadelphia, Priscus, Menander Protector

Medieval and Early Modern Greek Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, copied in Spain in about 1575, contains the <i>Excerpta de legationibus Romanorum ad Gentes</i>, a collection of extracts from ancient and medieval historians regarding embassies sent by the Romans to other peoples. The compilation originated as part of a programme undertaken at the order of the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (905-959). This sought to remedy neglect of the study of these historical texts by compiling material from them into a set of collections, each covering one of fifty-three different topics, in order to make what was considered their most valuable content more accessible. The enterprise formed part of a wider trend of encyclopaedism in 10th-century Byzantium, and at Constantine's court in particular.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Two of the six surviving collections assembled by this programme concern embassies: one, those sent by other peoples to the Romans; and the other, the Roman embassies detailed here. These are sometimes considered as a single two-part work. While organised separately, they were found together in the sole Byzantine manuscript that preserved them, El-Escorial, Real Bibloteca, MS I Θ 4, until they attracted fresh attention in the 16th century. However, there is reason to suppose that they had originally been produced as separate volumes and bound together at a later date. This cannot be verified since this manuscript was destroyed in a fire in 1671.</p>The <i>Excerpta de legationibus Romanorum ad Gentes</i> contains extracts from fifteen authors, who range in time from Polybius in the 2nd century BCE to George the Monk (Georgios Monachos) in the 9th century CE.<p style='text-align: justify;'>Constantine's historical collections apparently did not prove appealing to posterity. All but six have been lost entirely, while three of the survivors are preserved only in a single Byzantine manuscript and one in two such copies, along with the single manuscript that formerly preserved the collections on embassies. All of these six manuscripts dated from the 10th or 11th century, implying that the compilations did not continue to be copied for very long after their creation. The survivors may even include copies produced at the imperial court at the time of compilation. However, they are of considerable importance in that a number of the works excerpted, or major portions of them, have since been lost, and these extracts constitute a large proportion of what survives of them. Authors found in this collection who survive largely through this and other 10th-century compilations include the Late Antique historians Malchus of Philadelphia, Priscus and Menander Protector.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In the 16th century the manuscript containing the two collections on embassies entered the royal library at the Escorial. In 1574, a copy in two volumes was made for Antonio Augustín, Archbishop of Tarragona (1517-1586), by the prolific Greek scribe Andreas Darmarios, who besides his own copying work ran a workshop of other scribes. In the following months several additional copies were made by Darmarios and his colleagues, evidently including this one. Formerly attributed to Antonios Kalosynos (RGK I, 25; III, 39), it has now been identified as the work of Sophianos Melissenos, another member of Darmarios's scriptorium. While it is not dated, the shifting codicological practices and use of materials by this workshop have been studied in detail, and indications from this work suggest that the manuscript was copied in 1575. Other copies produced at this time can mostly be shown to have included both collections, typically in two volumes, and it may well be that this manuscript was originally accompanied by a companion volume containing the <i>Excerpta de legationibus Gentium ad Romanos</i>, but if so this appears to have been lost.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>On <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(5);return false;'>f. 1r</a> the manuscript carries a peculiar note in Greek referring to one Theodosios the Little as its compiler ("ἐρανίσας"), a note also found in another copy of the text by the same hand (Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale Albert Ier, MS 11301-16, f. 2r). This individual has in the past been identified as the scribe (e.g. Moore, "The Manuscript Tradition of Polybius", p. 152), but in the light of the identification of Melissenos as the copyist responsible, more recent research suggests it may be an erroneous attribution of the original compilation of the collection.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>While the original patron for whom the manuscript was produced is unknown, from 1609 onwards its ownership can be traced in full. It was consulted at that time by the scholar Isaac Casaubon for his edition of the history of Polybius. Casaubon had apparently borrowed it from its then owner, Jacques-Auguste de Thou, and died with it still in his possession, leading to its being sold along with other parts of his collection. While Casaubon had recorded his use of de Thou's manuscript, it was subsequently believed lost, and therefore omitted from most of the editions of the collection or its component texts produced since. This is notable since its textual variations have been shown to form an independent strand within the chronologically compressed manuscript tradition formed by the copies of this compilation produced by the Darmarios workshop.</p>Dr Christopher Wright


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