Center for Studies on Literature and the Reception of Byzantium

Baukje van den Berg, PhD

My main research interests are Byzantine (classical) scholarship and the reception of ancient literature in twelfth-century Byzantium. My doctoral thesis Homer and Rhetoric in Byzantium: Eustathios of Thessalonike on the Composition of the Iliad (2016) combined these two interests. It focuses on the rhetorical analysis of the Iliad by Eustathios of Thessalonike, a widely celebrated intellectual, teacher, and orator in twelfth-century Byzantium. More specifically, it explores Eustathios’ analysis of the composition of the Iliad, i.e. the way in which Homer has selected, arranged, and presented his subject matter. It aims to shed light on the rhetorical programme that Eustathios reads into the Iliad and to identify the rhetorical lessons that he wishes to teach the readers of his Parekbolai on the Iliad. What, in Eustathios’ view, defines a skilful composition such as the one constructed by Homer, the summus orator? My thesis also examines Eustathios’ discussion of the Homeric gods as devices used by the poet to compose his poem as he wishes. The results of the analysis can deepen our understanding of the principles underlying the many rhetorical discourses that survive from the Komnenian period.

My research project at the University of Silesia is concerned with the reception of ancient literature in twelfth-century Byzantium. I will revise my thesis for publication and, in addition, I will study (and translate) Tzetzes’ treatises and commentaries on ancient drama in order to explore twelfth-century ‘poetics of appropriation’, i.e. the way ancient texts were appropriated and used in twelfth-century Byzantine literature.