Julián Bértola, Book Epigrams, Verse Scholia and Some Limit Cases: Versified Paratexts on Historiography and Their Interplay

The last lecture in the online lecture series Speaking From the Margins. DBBE Online Lectures, Fall 2021 Series will be given by Julián Bértola (Ghent University).

Julián Bértola studied classical literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In 2016, he followed the Byzantine Greek Summer School at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection and in 2017 he moved to Belgium to do a PhD at Ghent University as part of the Database of Byzantine Book Epigrams (www.dbbe.ugent.be). In 2021, he completed his doctoral dissertation “Using Poetry to Read the Past: Unedited Byzantine Verse Scholia on Historians in the Margins of Medieval Manuscripts”. He is now a Postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) at Ghent University with the project “Byzantine scholia on historians and the literature of marginalia: reading and writing practices in the margins of medieval Greek manuscripts”.


In this presentation I will investigate how other book epigrams can contribute to the study of verse scholia, my main research interest. Verse scholia constitute a special type of book epigrams since they comment on particular passages of the main text next to which they are copied. During my work with unedited cycles of verse scholia on historians, the co-occurrence in the manuscripts of a more common type of book epigrams, namely colophons, has proven to be of great help to better understand the context in which the verse scholia were produced.

My first case study is a long poem in hexameters (https://www.dbbe.ugent.be/types/6177), a scribal epigram that dedicates the volume to a patron of high social rank. I will introduce the verse scholia that occur together with this book epigram in two manuscripts of Herodotus from the 15th century. The court circulation of the exemplar from which our manuscripts derive could account for a certain didactic and gnomic tone of the verse scholia. The second case study is a shorter dodecasyllabic epigram at the end of the Vindobonensis Hist. gr. 53, a famous manuscript of Niketas Choniates (https://www.dbbe.ugent.be/types/33795). The colophon attests to the restoration of the manuscript on behalf of the bishop of Ainos. This information supports the evidence from the verse scholia copied in this manuscript that largely reproduce the wording of the chronicle in verse by Ephraim of Ainos. The manuscript and possibly its model may have been in Ainos where Ephraim composed the verse scholia. To conclude, I will present some limit cases: a poem in f. 168v of Vat. gr. 163 (Niketas Choniates) and https://www.dbbe.ugent.be/occurrences/17771 (John Zonaras). These are book epigrams that refer to specific passages, but do not correspond in full to the typology of verse scholia because of their position in the manuscript, their layout and their content.

Practical information

Date & time: Tuesday 14 December 2021, 4:00pm (CET)

No registration required. The lecture is freely accessible via Zoom: https://ugent-be.zoom.us/j/94353659714?pwd=MUthYXBoZmVEa0hIRFUxbEw1SW9LUT09.

  • Meeting ID: 943 5365 9714
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