The written or spoken word can contribute to the appreciation of a work of art in three distinct, though by no means mutually exclusive, ways. First, it can comment directly on the artefact. Second, it can fulfil a parallel function, by conveying a similar message or using broadly comparable techniques. Third, words can physically accompany the artist’s work, either in the form of an inscription, or in the form of a recitation. We are so used to taking, and dealing with, the first of these approaches, that of commentary, that we have been slow to develop proper criteria for evaluating the other two. This has led, in the past, to some imaginative theorising about Byzantine aesthetics and, in reaction, some deflationary statements about the quality of Byzantine aesthetic criticism. There is now, however, a growing, if still implicit, recognition that the relationship of the verbal and the visual in Byzantine, society was not primarily one of commentary, but one of parallel function and physical accompaniment. Byzantine literary responses to art pointed in the same direction as art; they did not confront it, or cut into it in order to lay bare its anatomy.