News items and events



May 26

PhD defense: Julián Bértola, Using Poetry to Read the Past: Unedited Byzantine Verse Scholia on Historians in the Margins of Medieval Manuscripts

Apr 23

Epigrams in the picture: World Book Day

Today we celebrate World Book Day! 📚 It is no coincidence that UNESCO chose this day, as it is the day important authors like Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died. Ever since 1995 World Book Day has been annually organised on the 23rd of April in more than a hundred countries to promote the enjoyment of books and reading. With schools around the world still partially or fully closed, it is important, now more than ever, to use the power of books not only to educate but also to escape our reality for a while. So, try to take some time off today to grab a book and enjoy all the beauties written within. But be careful and take care of your books or this epigram’s poet might come and haunt you … 👻

✒️ Μὴ τεμνέτω τις τὰ φύλλα τῶν βιβλίων,
γράμμασιν αἰτῶ, κἂν σιγᾷ μου τὸ στόμα.
τί; σοὶ δοκοῦσιν εὐτελῆ τὰ χαρτία;
ἀλλὰ τὸ κρίμα τοῦ τέμνειν ἐστὶ μέγα.

📖 "You! Do not dare to cut pages out of books.
I am warning you. With letters, as my mouth keeps silent.
Why? They seem unimportant to you, these sheets?
Make no mistake. Cutting them out is a serious, serious crime."


This poem has been fully preserved in at least one manuscript: Mone Megistes Lauras Δ 70 dating from the 10th century. It was added by a later hand, not once but twice at the beginning of this theological manuscript (on f. 7r and 8r). In addition, the first verse also occurs on its own in at least two other manuscripts, both from the 10th century: Vaticanus gr. 539 and Coislinianus 242 (see picture). Curses or warnings like these were commonly used in Greek, Latin and many other traditions to ward off theft or damage of the book and show us how valuable books were back then and still are today.

This epigram is also featured in a blogpost written by DBBE intern Noor Vanhoe on the occasion of World Book Day in collaboration with the Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies. Go check it out at!

Mar 08

Epigrams in the picture: International Women's Day

Happy International Women’s Day to all the incredible women out there! 🦸‍♀️ And a special tribute to the amazing ladies working at DBBE and to the many women our database features as poets, scribes, patrons and subjects of various epigrams. 👏
The Alexandrian canon of nine lyric poets includes only one woman, the famous Sappho. In the Roman period, however, Antipater of Thessalonica wrote an epigram in honour of nine outstanding Greek female poets (Anthologia Palatina IX.26). Of some of these we have a considerable literary corpus extant, others remain more mysterious. They lived in different periods, came from different places and wrote different literary genres, but they were all considered to be one of the nine best female poets, the mortal pendants of the celestial Muses.

✒️ Τάσδε θεογλώσσους Ἑλικὼν ἔθρεψε γυναῖκας
ὕμνοις καὶ Μακεδὼν Πιερίας σκόπελος,
Πρήξιλλαν, Μοιρώ, Ἀνύτης στόμα, θῆλυν Ὅμηρον,
Λεσβιάδων Σαπφὼ κόσμον ἐυπλοκάμων,
Ἤρινναν, Τελέσιλλαν ἀγακλέα καὶ σέ, Κόριννα,
θοῦριν Ἀθηναίης ἀσπίδα μελψαμέναν,
Νοσσίδα θηλύγλωσσον ἰδὲ γλυκυαχέα Μύρτιν,
πάσας ἀενάων ἐργάτιδας σελίδων.
Ἐννέα μὲν Μούσας μέγας Οὐρανός, ἐννέα δ’ αὐτὰς
Γαῖα τέκεν θνατοῖς ἄφθιτον εὐφροσύναν.

📖 “These are the divine-voiced women that Helicon fed with song, Helicon and Macedonian Pieria’s rock: Praxilla; Moero; Anyte, the female Homer; Sappho, glory of the Lesbian women with lovely tresses; Erinna; renowned Telesilla; and thou, Corinna, who didst sing the martial shield of Athena; Nossis, the tender-voiced, and dulcet-toned Myrtis—all crafts women of eternal pages. Great Heaven gave birth to nine Muses, and Earth to these nine, the deathless delight of mortals.”


The epigram is transmitted as a book epigram in the Vatican manuscript Pal. gr. 215 (15th c.). On ff. 1v-2r, Ioannes Symeonakes wrote down these verses together with two epigrams on the Muses as an introduction to Herodotus’ Histories.


Dec 25

Epigrams in the picture: Merry Christmas!

It’s that time of the year again! 🎄⛄️ We at DBBE would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas with – what did you expect 😉 – a fitting book epigram.

✒️ Νῦν, οὐρανέ, σκίρτησον, εὐφράνθητί μοι,
ἡ γῆ δὲ πᾶσα σὺν βροτοῖς χόρευέ μοι·
θεὸς γὰρ ἐξέλαμψεν ἐκ τῆς παρθένου,
ὁ μητρὸς ἐκτὸς καὶ πατρὸς φανεὶς δίχα,
ὁ πᾶσιν ἀπρόσιτος ἁπτὸς ἀρτίως.
Ὦ θαῦμα καινόν· πῶς θεὸς μικρὸν βρέφος;
Μάγοι τὰ δῶρα προσφέρουσι τῷ βρέφει,
νόες τὸν ὕμνον καὶ τὸ θαῦμα ποιμένες,
σπήλαιον ἡ γῆ καὶ φάτνην ἐρημία,
ἄχραντον ἡμεῖς παρθένον καὶ μητέρα.

📖 Jetzt, Himmel, tanze, freue dich mit mir!
Du ganze Erde, juble mit den Menschen!
Denn Gott erstrahlte aus der Jungfrau Schoß,
der ohne Mutter, ohne Vater ward,
der Unnahbare - allen greifbar nun!
O neues Wunder! Gott -ein kleines Kind!
Geschenke bringen ihm die Magier,
die Engel preisen ihn, die Hirten staunen,
-die Höhle beut die Erd', Wüste die Krippe-
und wir die unbefleckte Jungfrau-Mutter.


This poem was written in the 11th century by Gregory of Pardos, archbischop of Corinth. He wrote not only several grammatical and rhetorical works, but also a commentary on the Canons of Kosmas of Jerusalem and John of Damascus on the Feasts of the Lord and the Theotokos. In Vind. theol. gr. 128, a manuscript from the 13th century, the epigram above is written at the beginning of his commentary on the Canon on Christmas. Within the same manuscript, eleven other feasts are also accompanied by a poem of Gregory's hand.

📸 Miniature of the Nativity of Christ from the Menologion of Basil II, Vat. gr. 1613 (c. 1000 AD) (

Dec 15

Epigrams in the picture: Mount Etna

Over the past days and nights, Mount Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano, has put on a spectacular show, spewing glowing lava fountains and ashes into the sky. 🌋 Etna’s eruptions fascinated many ancient writers, such as Pindar, Thucydides and Strabo, who described the powerful explosions that have lighted up Sicilian nights for thousands of years. Byzantine authors were no exception. More than eight centuries ago, John Tzetzes dedicated the following, very imaginative epigram to the famous volcano.

✒️ Αἴτνη τίς ἐστιν Ἰταλῶν ὄρος μέγα,
ἐξ ἧς καταρρεῖ παμφάγου πυρὸς νᾶμα
μέχρι πολίχνης Κατάνης λεγομένης·
ῥοιβδεῖ δὲ δεινῶς ὡς ποταμὸς ἐκρέον·
πνεῦμα γὰρ ἐν γῆς ἐμπεσὸν ταῖς κοιλάσι
κισσήρεως νάφθης τε πεπληρωμένης,
χωροῦν σοβαρῶς ἐκπυροῦται τῇ βίᾳ·
εὑρὸν δὲ ταῖς σήραγξιν ὕδωρ ἐκρέον
τὸ πνεῦμα παντάπασιν ἠραιωμένον
ἀναφλογωθὲν ἐξανάπτει πῦρ ῥέον.

📖 "The Etna is a big mountain of Italy, from which a stream of all-devouring fire flows down to the city called Catania, and it moves with a terrible whistle, as a river that flows forth. For when a puff of air has fallen into the valleys of the earth, which has been filled with stones and inflammable liquid, it violently goes forward and is burnt up with strength. But if it encounters water flowing from caves, the puff, completely rarefied, kindles the inflamed flowing fire."


The poem is preserved in three manuscripts as a book epigram, following Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound: Florence, Laur. Plut. 28,25 (last quarter of the 13th. c.), Milan, Ambr. N 175 sup. (15th c.) and Vat. gr. 58 (15th c.). The Greek tragedy refers to the eruption of the volcano around 479 BC and provides a mythological explanation for the volcanic activity of the Etna with the story of the monstruous giant Typhon, who was imprisoned underneath the mountain by Zeus and breathes forth rivers of fire in his boiling rage. 🔥

Nov 02

Epigrams in the picture: All Souls' Day

All Souls’ Day, a day of remembrance of our deceased loved ones, is celebrated in various ways around the world. 🕯️💕 Thinking about the beloved family and friends we miss, sometimes - and even more in these COVID-19 times - reminds us of the shortness and transience of life, an idea also expressed in the following epigram:

✒️ Εἰπὲ ποῦ ἡ χθὲς ἔβη, ἡ δ’ αὔριον εἰπὲ ποῦ ἐστιν;
εἰπὲ δ’ ὅθεν προέβης καὶ ποῦ ὁδοιπορέεις;
καὶ τί μέγα ζώειν σε τὸν αὐτίκα νεκρὸν ἐόντα;
ὁ χρόνος ἀστατέει, φύλλῳ ἔοικε φύσις·
γαῖα, βροτὸς καὶ ὕδωρ, τὰ ἀπ’ αὐτόφιν εἰς τάδε δύνει,
ὥστε μάτην ὁ βίος καὶ ὅσα τις πονέει.

📖 Tell me, where did yesterday go and where is tomorrow?
Tell me, where do you come from and where are you travelling to?
And why live a great life if all at once you are dead?
Time is fickle, nature is like a leaf;
earth, mankind and water, these come from that
spot and there they sink, so life is vain and all that one toils for.

📸 Vatican City, Palat. gr. 139 (f. 158r)

The poem, written in elegiacs, has been transmitted in many Byzantine manuscripts alongside the tragedies of Sophocles, mostly at the beginning of ‘Electra’. These verses resonate the reaction of the chorus to Electra’s lament for Orestes: πᾶσι θνατοῖς ἔφυ μόρος, “nature ordains death as the destiny of all mortals” (El. 860). Even though they can be read as a Byzantine response to Electra’s feelings of grief and despair, the epigram speaks to all of us as it reflects a more universal idea.

Oct 07

DBBE keeps on (g)rowing: new research project approved

DBBE keeps on (g)rowing! 🚣‍♂️

After a decade, our second funding project at DBBE is coming to a close… 😢 But a few days ago, after months of suspense, we received wonderful news: the proposal for a new research project that will ensure the continuation of DBBE survived the final selection round and was approved by the Special Research Fund (BOF) at Universiteit Gent! 🤩🥳

We are thrilled and grateful that we’ve been granted the opportunity to take DBBE to the next level during another five exciting years, with the interdisciplinary project “Interconnected Texts. A graph-based computational approach to metrical paratexts in Greek manuscripts as nodes between materiality and textuality.”

And when we say ‘interdisciplinary’, we mean it! 💪 Our new project involves the collaboration between two Faculties (Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte UGent 🤜🤛 Faculteit Ingenieurswetenschappen en Architectuur - UGent) and five Departments (Literary Studies, Linguistics, History, Telecommunication and Information Processing and Translation, Interpreting and Communication).

As the Byzantine scribes knew all too well,
Ὥσπερ ξένοι χαίρουσιν ἰδεῖν πατρίδα,
οὕτως καὶ οἱ γράφοντες βιβλίου τέλος.

“As strangers rejoice to see their fatherland,
so do scribes (rejoice to see) the end of the book.”


But we are overjoyed that we haven’t reached the “DBβιβλίου τέλος” yet! 💙

Oct 04

Epigrams in the picture: World Animal Day

Today is World Animal Day, an international day of action for animal rights and welfare, which aims to mobilize us to make the world a better place for all animals. 🌍🐯
The animal world has always sparked admiration and interest among us humans and many zoological works have seen the light. One of the most important works in this field from the Byzantine period is a zoological handbook compiled around the year 950, attributed to emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos. It includes excerpts from, among others, Aristotle, Timotheus of Gaza and Aelian, following the structure of Aristophanes of Byzantium’s Epitome. Only two of the four books have been preserved, the first of which can be found in the 14th century manuscript Par. suppl. gr. 495, preceded by the following epigram:

✒️ Ζῴων ἔθη νομάς τε καὶ φύσεις ἅμα
τῶν γηγενῶν πτηνῶν τε καὶ θαλαττίων
ἄναξ ὁ πιστὸς καὶ σοφὸς Κωνσταντῖνος
συνῆξε λεπταῖς ὧδε τοῦ νοῦ φροντίσιν.

📖 I costumi, le specie e le nature
degli animali di terra, di cielo e di mare,
il pio e saggio principe Costantino
raccolse qui con fine discernimento.


DBBE also features many manuscripts with depictions of all sorts of animals (e.g. birds 🐦, fishes 🐠, lions 🦁, horses 🐎, wolves 🐺 and roe deers 🦌), some of which adorn a book epigram or are accompanied by one. Browse the photo collection below, marvel at the manifold animal illuminations and discover the book epigrams they contain (through the link behind each picture). 🔍

Sep 01

Epigrams in the picture: back to school

The first of September means the first day of school in Belgium! 🎓🏫 We wish all parents and children a great start of the new school year, and want to take this opportunity to put an epigram in the spotlight that all (ex-)students can relate to.

✒️ Ἄρξου χείρ μου ἀγαθή,
γράφε γράμματα καλά,
μὴ δαρθῇς καὶ λυπηθῇς
καὶ ὕστερον μετανοήσῃς.

📖 “Begin, good hand of mine,
write beautiful letters,
so you are not beaten and hurt,
and later feel regret.”


The poem has thirty occurrences in our database. Many of them offer variations on the text of our type and all of them have a rich individual history that’s yours to discover. 🔎 From Mount Athos to Moscow, from a 10th century manuscript till a 17th century marginal comment; dive into the colourful history of writing neatly! 🖋 In one manuscript, we find for example three times the same poem written by different monks (👉 Funny detail: it’s not because the subject of the epigram is calligraphy that the text is always written impeccably (👉!

The image was taken from a 12th century manuscript featuring the ‘Synopsis historiarum’, John Skylitzes' famous history of the Byzantine empire. This particular folium contains a beautiful miniature depicting two teachers (οἱ φιλόσοφοι) and their pupils (οἱ μαθηταί).

Aug 05

Epigrams in the picture: World Breastfeeding Week

Every year, the week between 1 and 7 August is celebrated as World Breastfeeding Week, an initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO). Did you know DBBE features two epigrams referring to breastfeeding? 🤱 (and who knows, we might encounter more in the future!)
One of them is this variation on the famous and widespread “ὥσπερ ξένοι” colophon:

✒️ Ὡς ἡδὺ νηπίοισι μητρώας πέλει
θηλῆς γαλακτόβλυστον ἔλκειν εὖ ῥύσιν,
ξένοις βλέπειν τὲ ξὺν γονεῦσι πατρίδα,
οὕτω γε τοῖς γράφουσι ὕστατος στίχος.

📖 “Comme il est doux pour les nourrissons de téter
au sein maternel duquel le lait coule bien,
et pour les étrangers de voir leur patrie et leurs parents,
ainsi la dernière ligne est douce pour les scripteurs.”


It is preserved in at least three manuscripts: Vat. Barb. gr. 166 (15th c.; see picture), Vat. Reg. gr. 99 (15th c.) and Escor. Σ.II.6 (16th c.). The poem in the picture was copied by Georgios Hermonymos in 1476 at the end of Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica and is followed by two more epigrams. The more popular and conventional theme of strangers returning home is here combined with the unique and endearing image of an infant nursed by its mother; both are metaphors for the scribe reaching the end of his labours.

Jul 17

Epigrams in the picture: summer break

Team DBBE is taking a short, well-deserved summer break! We wish you all a wonderful and relaxing vacation! ☀️🍹
And what is more relaxing than lying back to enjoy a good book? 📚 Wherever you are, books can take you anywhere. Even the Byzantines already knew that reading not only enriches the mind, but also salves the soul.

✒️ Ἰδὼν τὸ κάλλος ὧδε τῶν γεγραμμένων
ὡραῖον, ὡς θαυμαστόν, ὡς γνῶσιν γέμον,
ἀνεμποδίστως προσλαβὼν χρῶ προφρόνως·
νοῦν γὰρ πιαίνει εἰς καλῶν ὁδηγίαν.
Νόμος διδάσκει καὶ πρὸ τοῦ νόμου φύσις·
τούτων τὸ τέλος τῆς χάριτος τὸ φάος.
Ὅθεν προσῆκε, ὡς μέλι, γλυκασμάτων
ὑπερφυῶς τῶν τῇδε λαμβάνειν μέγα.

📖 “See the beauty of these writings
– how lovely and wonderful, how full of knowledge it is –
and take it unhindered, use it readily,
for it enriches the mind on the way to virtue.
The law gives instructions and so does nature before the law;
of these the light of grace is the completion.
So it befits to take abundantly, as from honey,
from the sweetness contained here.”


So how about reading some good old Byzantine book epigrams this summer? 😉 Dive into our literary garden, indulge in the fruits of our labour and let yourself be amazed!

Jun 29

Epigrams in the picture: Saints Peter and Paul

What a moving scene: Saints Peter and Paul, celebrated together on this day, in embrace.

This intimate moment between the two apostles is immortalized in the 13th-century manuscript Moscow, GIM Mus. Sobr. 3648, which contains the Acts of the Apostles. Inserted on f. 255v, the miniature faces the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews. In the 15th century, Gregorios, a monk from the Megistes Lauras monastery in Athos, added these verses in the upper margin:
✒️ Ἰδὼν ὁ Παῦλος ὅνπερ ἐπόθει λίαν
χεῖρας ἐκτείνας δεξιοῦται τὸν φίλον·
ἰδὼν δὲ Πέτρος τὴν θερμὴν εὐσπλαγχνίαν
ἀγκάλας ἀνοίγων ἀσπάζεται τὸν Παῦλον.
Ὦ ζεῦγος ἁγιόλεκτον, τοῦ κόσμου οἱ προστάται
πρεσβεύσατε ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ τοῦ ταπεινοῦ σας δούλου·
Γρηγόριος ἁμαρτωλὸς τάχα καὶ Λαυριώτης.
📖 Als Paulus (ihn) sieht, den er sehr ersehnte,
streckt er die Hände aus und begrüßt den Freund.
Als aber Petrus die Warmherzigkeit sieht,
öffnet er die Arme und umarmt Paulus.
O in Heiligkeit erwähltes Paar, ihr Vorsteher der Welt,
tretet für mich, euren demütigen Diener, ein!
Gregorios ein Sünder, zugleich auch Mönch der Laura.
In the first four verses, written in dodecasyllables, Gregorios describes the depicted moment. The last three verses, in decapentasyllables, are a prayer from the monk to both saints. The poem is followed by the prosaic, scribal words 'τὸ μὲν σχῆμα μοναχός, τὰ δὲ ἔργα ἀσθενεῖ καὶ σαθρά'.
📸 A. Rhoby, 2018, Ausgewählte Byzantinische Epigramme in Illuminierten Handschriften. Wien: 701

Jun 25

Epigrams in the picture: Growing Corpora poster

This stunning miniature would have adorned the poster of our Growing Corpora conference, which, in better times, would have come to an end today, after three undoubtedly beautiful and fascinating days. 💔

The lovely full-page illumination opens Genoa, Biblioteca Franzoniana Urbani 17, a manuscript written in the middle of the tenth century that contains works by Basil of Caesarea and Gregorius of Nyssa. Above the double circle, decorated with loops in beautiful blue, green and pink tints, a pair of birds is drinking from a water vessel 🐦and if you take a closer look, you can even spot another animal! 🕵️‍♂️ In the central space, an epigram is inserted in red ink, addressing and praising Basil the Great. At the end of the poem, we meet Ioseph, probably the sponsor of the manuscript, who begs the famous saint for protection.
✒️ Σαφῶς τὸ κάλλος τῆς γραφῆς ἐγγυμνάσας
τὴν τῶν ἀδήλων γνῶσιν ἐξεῦρες, πάτερ·
Μωσῆς γὰρ ἄλλος εἰκότως δεδειγμένος
γνόφῳ τε εἰσδὺς πανσόφων νοημάτων
τὴν πᾶσαν ἄρδην τῶν ὁρωμένων φύσιν
ἐξετράνωσας φαντικῶς τοῖς σοῖς λόγοις
ταύτην ἀμυδρῶς ἱστορηθεῖσαν πάλαι.
Ἀλλ᾽ ὦ λατρείας μυσταγωγὲ τῆς ἄνω,
Βασίλειε τρίσμακαρ, εὐσεβῶν κλέος,
Ἰωσὴφ τὸν σὸν οἰκέτην σκέπε
τεύξαντα ταύτην τὴν βίβλον θερμῷ πόθῳ,
ἐξ ἧς κομίζοι ψυχικὴν σωτηρίαν.
📖 Deutlich die Schönheit des Schreibens übend
fandest du das Wissen um die verborgenen Dinge, Vater.
Denn mit gutem Grunde dich als zweiter Moses erweisend
drangst du ins Dunkel der überaus weisen Gedanken ein
und verkündetest von Grund auf deutlich die ganze Natur der sichtbaren Dinge
durch deine Worte,
sie, die zuvor undeutlich erklärt worden war.
Doch beschütze, du Wegweiser des höheren Gottesdienstes,
dreimal seliger Basileios, Ruhm der Frommen,
deinen Diener Ioseph,
der dieses Buch in glühender sehnsüchtiger Liebe anfertigen ließ,
auf dass er aus diesem das Seelenheil beziehe.
📸 A. Rhoby, 2018, Ausgewählte Byzantinische Epigramme in Illuminierten Handschriften. Wien: 677

Jun 11

Epigrams in the picture: Alexander the Great

On this day in 323 BCE, Alexander the Great died. The Alexander Romance, a fictional account of Alexander’s life fashioned around a historical core, was very popular during the medieval period, as attested by the many versions in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, English, French, German and so on. In its Greek version, the tale has been preserved in eighteen manuscripts. One of them is manuscript Venice, Istituto Ellenico di Studi Bizantini e Postbizantini cod. 5 (14th c.), a luxury edition of the text, adorned with more than 200 richly executed illustrations.
The book opens with this portrait of the emperor for whom the manuscript was made, i.e. one of the emperors of the Trebizond as the title above the picture indicates, and most likely Alexios III. In the epigram written in red ink to the right of the miniature, the emperor addresses Alexander the Great:

✒️ Ἐγώ, βασιλεῦ Ἀλέξανδρε γενν[αῖε]
στεφηφόρων ἄριστ[ε] καὶ κοσμοκρά[τορ],
τοὺς σοὺς κατιδ[ὼν] καμάτους καὶ τὰς [πράξεις]
ὑπερνικώσ[ας] τῶν ὅλων βασιλε[ίαν],
ἔσχον πόθον (…)

📖 “I, O brave emperor Alexander, most excellent of all crowned men and ruler of all the world, having contemplated your great labors and [deeds], and your all-triumphant kingship, I had the desire ...”


Unfortunately, only part of the poem has been preserved. Also note the Turkish caption on the left, which was added by a later owner of the manuscript. This miniature possibly faced a now missing portrait of Alexander the Great on the opposite folio, which may have been accompanied by an inscription in which he replies to the emperor.

May 12

Epigrams in the picture: a Byzantine applause for all healthcare heroes!

Today, on International Nurses Day, we wanted to give an extra, virtual applause for all healthcare heroes around the globe – Byzantine style! 👏

This beautiful portrait of Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine’, can be found in the medical manuscript Par. gr. 2144 (14th c.), surrounded by a poem fifty (!) verses long. The reader is addressed by the ancient physician himself, who recounts how medicine has stolen his heart in these first five verses.

✒️ Ἰατρικῆς μὲν τῆς κρατίστης ἐν τέχναις
δεινός τις εἷλε τὴν ἐμὴν ψυχὴν ἔρως
ἐκ παιδὸς εὐθὺς ἐντακεὶς εὐμηχάνως
καὶ προςπαθῶς ἔχουσαν ἕλκων τὴν φύσιν
πρὸς συμπαθῆ παίδευσιν ὁλκαῖς ἐμφύτοις.

📖 “Zur Heilkunst als der besten unter den Künsten
erfasste eine gewaltige Liebe meine Seele,
die gleich von Kindheit an passend in mir eingeschmolzen war,
und zog meine leidenschaftliche Natur
zu einer Bildung, die den angeborenen Neigungen angemessen war.”

Healing was a calling for Hippocrates, just as it is for modern-day doctors, nurses and other health workers, whose everyday commitment is invaluable during this corona pandemic. You are doing an incredible job, thank you all! ❤️

Interested in reading the whole poem or other medicine-related epigrams? Check out DBBE!

📸 A. Bianchini, 1992, Byzance: l'art byzantin dans les collections publiques françaises. Paris: 457

Feb 14

Epigrams in the picture: Valentine's Day


As DBBE is an ever-growing corpus of fascinating and diverse Byzantine book epigrams, we would like to put some of these hidden gems in the spotlight in the series #epigramsinthepicture !

This Valentine's Day, DBBE sends you lots of love with a fitting book epigram! ❤️💘

✒️ Φιλῶ σε, κόρη, τῆς σωφροσύνης χάριν,
φιλῶ σε, κόρη, τῆς φιλανδρίας χάριν,
φιλῶ σε, κόρη, τῆς εὐβουλίας χάριν,
φιλῶ σε, κόρη, τῆς καρτερίας χάριν,
φιλῶ σε, κόρη, τῆς συνέσεως χάριν,
τοῦ γνησίου ἔρωτος πρὸς σὸν νυμφίον.

📖 "Mi sei cara, fanciulla, per la tua castità,
mi sei cara, fanciulla, per la tua magnanimità,
mi sei cara, fanciulla, per la tua prudenza,
mi sei cara, fanciulla, per la tua saggezza,
mi sei cara, fanciulla, per la tua assennatezza,
per l’amore legittimo verso il tuo sposo."


In at least one manuscript (Munich gr. 157, first half 15th c.), the epigram can be found at the end of Heliodorus' novel Aethiopica in a colophon dedicated to the female protagonist, Chariclea. The epigram in the picture was written in ms. Laur. Plut. 59.46, copied in 1489 by Ioannes Rhosos. Here, the poem functions in a completely different context, as it was added after the scribe's subscription following Demosthenes' De falsa legatione.


Dec 06

Epigrams in the picture: Saint Nicholas

As DBBE is an ever-growing corpus of fascinating and diverse Byzantine book epigrams, we would like to put some of these hidden gems in the spotlight in the series #epigramsinthepicture !

This morning, children in Belgium found treats and presents in the shoes they put in front of the fireplace last night. 🍭🎁 It’s Sinterklaas who paid them a visit! He is a legendary figure in the Low Countries based on Saint Nicholas of Myra, whose name day we celebrate today. Such a famous saint is hardly an unexpected subject of Byzantine book epigrams.

One of these poems accompanies this beautiful illumination in Vat. Reg. gr. 1 (10th c., f. 3r), the so-called ‘Bible of Leo’, ordered by Leon Sakellarios, who donated it to a monastery of Saint Nicholas, founded by his own brother Konstantinos. ⛪️ The miniature depicts Saint Nicholas blessing two men in proskynesis at his feet: Makar, the abbot of the monastery, on the left and Konstantinos on the right.
The epigram, written around the miniature, is a prayer from Leon to Saint Nicholas on behalf of both supplicants. Note the pun on the saint’s name in the first two words!

✒️ Νῖκος λαοῦ μοχθηρᾶς τῆς κακουργίας
καὶ τῶν πονηρῶν πνευμάτων δίδου, μάκαρ,
τῷ τὴν μονήν σοι πρὸς μονὰς ζωῆς θέειν
ξενοτρόπως, αὖθις τε τῷ δειμαμένῳ
νέμων κατ᾽ ἄμφω τὴν χάριν - τῷ μὲν κράτος,
ἱλασμὸν ἔνθε τῷ δὲ τῶν ὀφλημάτων.

📖 "[You who are] the victory of the people over wretched wrong-doing and evil spirits, grant O blessed one, to the [superior?] of your monastery to speed in wondrous fashion to the abodes of life, and likewise to its founder, as you dispense your grace to both – strength to the one, and to the other remission of his debts over here."


Go to our manuscript record ( and check out the other amazing epigrams and miniatures in this famous codex! Or read some other epigrams related to Saint Nicholas:


Dec 04

Seminar: Andreas Rhoby, An Introduction to Byzantine Inscriptions and Epigrams.

Jun 11

Lecture: Sofia Belioti, The etymological wordplay in the epigrams of Gregory of Nazianzus.

May 14

Lecture: Georgi Parpulov, Byzantine Scribes and their Paratexts​.

The study of paratexts (additions) in medieval Greek manuscripts has made great advances over the past decade. My paper will discuss some of the ways in which such paratexts were selected and transmitted from one manuscript to another.

About the speaker:
Georgi Parpulov studied history at the University of Sofia and art history at the University of Chicago. He subsequently did curatorial work at the Walters Art Museum, the J Paul Getty Museum and the British Museum, and taught at the University of Oxford.​


Aug 16

Lecture: Anna Gialdini, Negotiating "Greekness" in Early Modern Italian Book Production.

In the mid-fifteenth century, as Italian book collectors began being exposed to Byzantine codices, the bindings of the latter started being imitated in Florence and Venice. The resulting bindings were often hybrid, since they mixed Western and Byzantine techniques, but also distinctly and deliberately "Greek-looking"; they were called "alla greca" and were sought-after for the messages they conveyed: an association with Greek culture; a refined taste for beautifully-bound books; and the appropriation of the Byzantine legacy.

My paper today looks at some aspects of the production and consumption of "alla greca" bookbindings in early modern Italy, and namely the ethnicity of bookbinders and patrons, bookmaking techniques, and collecting practices, and what they tell us about the intellectual milieux in which the books themselves circulated.​

About the speaker:​
Anna Gialdini has a BA and MA in Classics from the University of Milan and a Diploma in Archival Studies from the State Archive of Milan. She has recently submitted her PhD thesis on Greek-style Bookbindings in Renaissance Venice, which constitutes an analysis of these objects from a structural and cultural perspective. Her research, which has been supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Fondazione Fedrigoni – Istocarta, and the Bibliographical Society of America, also deals with archival bindings, the social history of bookbinders, cross-cultural contact in the early modern Mediterranean, and the materiality of the book in professional contexts. After a short-term fellowship at the Huntington Library, she is now collaborating with the Public Library and Groeningemuseum in Bruges for an exhibition on Colard Mansion and the printing of incunables in the city.


Dec 05

Lecture: Krystina Kubina, The many ways of reading poetry in late Byzantium: Manuel Philes' laudatory poems.

In recent years, scholarship has turned its attention to the historical setting, the Sitz im Leben, of Byzantine poetry. In this context, the most prolific poet of the early 14th century, Manuel Philes, was taken into account. However, due to the vast number of texts transmitted under his name (more than 30,000 verses in more than 150 manuscripts!) no attempt has been made to look at the full picture of how his poetry was read. Without aiming at a complete evaluation, I shall offer an overview of the ways of reception. Philes’ poems were read in a variety of different contexts: from private readings of verse letters over performed enkomia to epigrams inscribed on public buildings. The form of reception also altered the way of how Philes was perceived as an author: from self-conscious reflections of an authorial ‘I’ in letters to the total absence of the author in inscriptions. The example of Manuel Philes shows the wide presence of poetry (and literature in general) in Late Byzantine society.

About the speaker:
Krystina Kubina is a doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna working on encomiastic poetry of the early Palaiologan period and visiting scholar at the Ghent Database of Byzantine Book Epigrams project.

Oct 28

Lecture: Andreas Rhoby, The Vienna Inscriptional Epigrams Project.

Andreas Rhoby stelt het vierde volume van zijn reeks 'Byzantinische Epigramme' voor, dat binnenkort verschijnt bij de Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Het volume is gewijd aan epigrammen bij miniaturen, en dus nauw verwant aan het Gentse DBBE project, bij wie dr Rhoby te gast is.