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On the Date of John of Gaza

  • Alan Cameron (a1)

According to a marginal lemma in the only manuscript that carries the poem (Palat. gr. 23+ Paris, gr. suppl. 384), the painting of the world described in a well-known ecphrasis by John of Gaza was situated in the winter baths of Gaza. According to the standard edition of John's poem by P. Friedlaender, these are the baths Choricius of Gaza refers to as in course of construction at Gaza in A.D. 535 or 536. If so, then both the painting and John's poem would have to be later than this. And since the poem does not claim to have been written for the dedication of the baths, it might be considerably later. G. Krahmer even dated it to the seventh century, on the grounds that John misunderstood some details of the picture he was describing.

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1 Friedlaender, P., Johannes von Gaza und Paulus Silentiarius: Kunstbeschreibungen Justinianischer Zeit (Leipzig and Berlin, 1912), p. 111; Choricius, , Or. iii. 55, p. 63. 14Foerster-Richsteig, . So too Ludwich, A., Rhein. Mus. 44 (1889), 197, ‘offenbar in Gaza’.

2 De tabula mundi ab Joanne Gazaeo descripta (Diss., Halle, 1920), p. 64.

3 John of Gaza and the Mosaic of Ge and Karpoi’, Antioch-on-the-Orontes II: The Excavations 1933–1936 (Princeton, 1938), pp. 205–12.

4 e.g. Hunger, H., Die Hochsprachliche Profane Literatur der Byzantiner, ii (Munich, 1978), p. 110; Trypanis, C. A., Greek Poetry from Homer to Seferis (Chicago, 1981), p. 402.

5 Chauvot, A., Procope de Gaza, Priscien de Césarée, pané;gyriques de Vempereur Anastase ler (Bonn, 1986), pp. 8791.

6 Friedlaender (1912), p. 111 n. 2.

7 Friedlaender (1912), pp. 111–12; cf. Ludwich (1889), 200.

8 Preisendanz, C., Anthologia Palatina: codex Palatinus et codex Parisinus phototypice editi, i (Leiden, 1911), cols, lxxv–cx.

9 The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes (Oxford, 1993), pp. 298328.

10 Bodenheimer, F. S. and Rabinowitz, A., Timotheus of Gaza on Animals: Fragments of a Byzantine Paraphrase of an Animal-Book of the Fifth Century A.d. (Paris and Leiden, 1949).

11 Against Preisendanz's assumption that all the substantial scholia in the margins of AP were copied from its exemplar, see my Greek Anthology, chs V and VI passim; even if there was an earlier scholion, that still leaves the question of its source.

12 Seitz, K., Die Schule von Gaza (Diss., Heidelberg, 1892), pp. 10, 20: Bekker, , Anecd. Gr. i. 125.6; 153.21, 24. On the quake, Downey, G., A History of Antioch in Syria (Princeton, 1961), pp. 521–5; there was another, hardly less destructive, two years later (Downey, pp. 528–9). Friedlaender, (Spätantiker Gemäldezyklus in Gaza (Vatican, 1939), p. 95) argued that quakes in 494, 500 and 525 are also possibilities, but no quakes in those years are documented at Antioch, and the one in 526 was officially declared the worst since 458 (Downey, p. 522).

13 Or. 11.220: τ⋯ μ⋯ν γ⋯ρ ⋯ρμ⋯δια χειμ⋯νι, τ⋯ δ⋯ συμβα⋯νοτα θ⋯ρει, τ⋯ ἔξω πνευμ⋯των σφοδρ⋯ν, τ⋯ δ' ὥσπερ μετ⋯ωρα κα⋯ οὐ κοινωνο⋯ντα τ⋯ς γ⋯ς. That is to say, the winter baths have protection against bad weather.

14 Hist. Eccl. vi.8; cf. Downey, , History of Antioch, p. 568.

15 Cited in n. 3 above; for a recent description and plates, Campbell, Sheila, The Mosaics of Antioch (Toronto, 1988), pp. 78 with pis. 9–11.1 quote only Downey's conclusion: ‘the scenes in the mosaic coincide exactly with scenes which, according to probable interpretations of the ekphrasis were present in the painting, and…John's apparent failure to understand the scenes in the painting could be ascribed to the presence, in the painting, of figures such as appear in the mosaic’ See too Friedlaender, , Spätantiker Gemäldezyklus in Gaza (Vatican, 1939), pp. vi–vii; Keydell, R., Bursians Jahresbericht 272 (1941), 47–8; and, for further parallels with late antique mosaics of the region, Hanfmann, G. M. A., ‘The Seasons in John of Gaza's Tabula Mundi’, Latomus 3 (1939), 111–18.

16 Downey (1938), p. 205 n. 2; Keydell, R., Bursians Jahresbericht 230 (1931), 137.

17 Malalas, pp. 419–29 Bonn; Downey (1961), pp. 522–3.

18 Cameron, , Yale Classical Studies 27 (1982), 235–9; Livrea, E., Prometheus 13 (1987), 97123 (rather fancifully identifying the poet with Nonnus, bishop of Edessa 449–71).

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