Online lecture: Sien De Groot, Reading and Writing the Areopagite. Book Epigrams as Witnesses to the Transmission of the Corpus Dionysiacum (2021-05-25)

The fifth lecture in the online lecture series Speaking From the Margins. DBBE Online Lectures, Spring 2021 Series will be given by Sien De Groot (Ghent University).

After finishing her master’s degree in Classical Philology (Ghent University), Sien De Groot obtained a PhD position with the Database of Byzantine Book Epigrams. She is currently finishing a doctoral thesis on book epigrams in the Byzantine manuscripts of Ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite.



When we want to understand how readers in the past approached texts, our source material is limited. We cannot simply ask ancient or medieval readers about their experience. Instead, we have to rely on what they have written about the texts they read, and on traces left in their books. Book epigrams are unique sources in this respect. As poems written to accompany certain main texts, they express the poet’s reaction to these texts. On the other hand, their presence in the manuscripts of the main texts creates a close connection between text and reception, and guides later readers through the book.

In this presentation, I will focus on book epigrams in the Greek manuscripts of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. As we will see, book epigrams preserved in these manuscripts are usually quite short. They convey the main focus of the texts and confirm the author’s pseudonym, but they do not engage thoroughly with the theological framework expressed in the corpus. On the other hand, the book epigrams were important in structuring the manuscripts, and have, most probably, acquired this function at an early stage in the history of the texts. In order to understand how these epigrams functioned within each manuscript and within the manuscript tradition as a whole, we will take into account non-textual evidence, such as the position of epigrams in the manuscripts, the visual presentation, and the moment at which the epigrams were added to the book. With this overview, I hope to shed light on the manifold interactions between readers, texts and books that occurred around the works of Pseudo-Dionysius.

Practical information

Date & time: Tuesday 25 May 2021, 4:00pm (UTC+2, CET)

No registration required. The lecture is freely accessible via Zoom:

  • Meeting ID: 934 4886 2359
  • Passcode: JmVbX7wz