Epigrams in the picture: Nativity of Mary

Posted on 08/09/2021

📅 Today, the eighth of September, is the Christian feast day on which the birth of the Holy Virgin Mary is celebrated. In the canonical biblical books no mention is made of Mary’s family background, but the apocryphal Gospel of James (5:2) states that she was the child of Anne and Joachim.

👤 Theodore Prodromos, a twelfth-century Byzantine poet, wrote a series of poems about important biblical events. One of these poems is dedicated to Mary’s birth. Mary’s mother Anne is in a peculiar position, Prodromos says: she is famous because of her child, and not the other way around.


🖋️ Ἐκ πατέρων παίδεσσι προήλυθεν εὐγενὲς εὖχος,
ἠυτ’ ἀπὸ κρήνης κάλλος ποταμοῦ προχοῇσιν·
Ἄννα δὲ τἀνάπαλιν κούρης ἀπὸ παιδὸς ἀγᾶται,
ἣ Θεὸν ὑψιθόωκον ἑαῖς ἐνὶ δέκτο λαγόσσιν.


📖 Children derive their noble glory from their parents,
just like the beauty of a river flows forth from its source.
Anne, conversely, is admired because of her daughter,
who received God, seated on His high throne, in her womb.

🌐 https://www.dbbe.ugent.be/types/6858


The poem occurs once as a book epigram, in the manuscript British Library Add. 5117, f. 10v. This gospel book has been digitized by The British Library and can be found on their website: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=add_ms_5117_f010v

💡 The Paratexts of the Bible project offers an extensive overview of the content of this manuscript: https://www.manuscripta-biblica.org/manuscript/…. On folio 10v you can find our poem.

📷 The image shows our poem as it is found in the London manuscript. Above it you can see a beautiful miniature depicting the birth of Mary from another manuscript, the 10th c. Vat. gr. 1613, p. 22: https://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.gr.1613/.