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The Excerpta Constantiniana and the Byzantine Appropriation of the Past


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  • Date Published: October 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108423632

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About the Authors
  • The Excerpta project instigated by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII turned the enormously rich experience offered by Greek historiography into a body of excerpts distributed across fifty-three distinct thematic collections. In this, the first sustained analysis, András Németh moves from viewing the Excerpta only as a collection of textual fragments to focusing on its dependence from and impact on the surrounding Byzantine culture in the tenth century. He introduces the concept of appropriation and also uses it to study some other key texts created under the Excerpta's influence (De thematibus, De administrando imperio and De ceremoniis). Unlike world chronicles, the Excerpta ignored the chronological dimension of history and fostered the biographical turn in Byzantine historiography. By exploring theoretical questions such as classification and retrieval of historical information and the relationship between knowledge and political power, this book provides powerful new ways for exploring the Excerpta in Byzantine studies and beyond.

    • The first in-depth analysis of the historical excerpts, including many key historians from classical and late antiquity, in the context of their production in Byzantium
    • Proposes a new and coherent interpretative framework of several key works produced at Byzantine Court in the tenth century
    • Tackles theoretical problems beyond Byzantium, such as the understanding of time, history, textual coherence, the practical reading of history and managing information overload
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    • Short-listed, 2019 Runciman Award, The Anglo-Hellenic League

    Reviews & endorsements

    'During a period of external threats and internal disunity, Constantine VII (913–59), the dilettante emperor of the Byzantine empire, supervised the compilation of the multivolume Excerpta. The volumes were chiefly unaltered texts from pre-Christian era authors. The emperor and his staff organized the material in a set of 53 topics. … Németh argues that instructive examples, many of which were biographical, were aimed at stimulating creative and critical thinking, improving the morality of Constantine's circle, and providing pragmatic answers to contemporary problems. But there is no concrete proof that the Excerpta produced any military successes or enlightened legislation, or led to fruitful diplomatic maneuverings. The Excerpta may have had more aesthetic than practical value. This immense work of scholarship is strictly for the pinpoint specialist. Recommended.' A. J. Papalas, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108423632
    • length: 352 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 144 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.63kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus. 3 maps 4 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Imperial court and knowledge production
    2. Appropriation of the past: theory and practice of excerpting historiography
    3. Constructing a research engine of the past
    4. Information management in Constantine VII's treatises
    5. Renewal of historiography under Constantine VII
    6. Distorsion and expansion of the past in the Excerpta
    7. Classification of the past in the Excerpta
    8. The reading of the Excerpta
    9. The Suda: the lexicographer and the excerptor
    Appendices A. Edition of the proem and the poem
    B. The imperial manuscripts of the Excerpta.

  • Author

    András Németh, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
    András Németh is one of the two curators of Greek manuscripts at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. Previously, he was a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and a research librarian at the National Széchényi Library, Budapest. He coordinates various activities concerning palimpsests at the Vatican Library and is preparing the catalogue of a select group of Greek manuscripts of this library. He studies the cultural history of the Middle Byzantine period and the reception of Greek manuscripts in Renaissance libraries in Europe and is preparing a monograph on the Greek manuscripts of the Bibliotheca Corviniana.


    • Short-listed, 2019 Runciman Award, The Anglo-Hellenic League

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