Unimpressed by Hagia Sophia

Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad:

“The people who go into ecstasies over St. Sophia must surely get them out of the guide-book (where every church is spoken of as being ‘considered by good judges to be the most marvelous structure, in many respects, that the world has ever seen.’) Or else they are those old connoisseurs from the wilds of New Jersey who laboriously learn the difference between a fresco and a fire-plug and from that day forward feel privileged to void their critical bathos on painting, sculpture and architecture forever more.”

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The Curriculum Vitae of Telephos of Pergamon

Suda, s.v. Τήλεφος

Telephos the Pergamêne, a scholar. He also wrote […] in which he specifies all the things a scholar needs to know. In addition: On Homeric Figures of Speech (two books); On Attic Syntax (five books); On Rhetoric in Homer; On Agreement of Homer and Plato; On A Varied Love of Knowledge; The Lives of Tragic and Comic Poets; On Expert Knowledge of Books, three books in which he lists the books which are worth having. Only Homer of the Ancient Poets Speaks Greek, A Description of Pergamon; On the Sebasteion in Pergamon (two books); On the Courts of Athens; On Athenian Laws and Customs; On the Kings of Pergamon (five books); Concerning the Names or Use of Clothing and Other Items which We Use (an alphabetical catalogue); On the Wandering of Odysseus; Swift-Born (a collection of epithets prepared for use in the same situation as a treasure-trove for description), ten books.”

Περγαμηνός, γραμματικός. ἔγραψε καὶ αὐτὸς ** ἐν οἷς παρατίθεται πόσα χρὴ εἰδέναι τὸν γραμματικόν· Περὶ τῶν παρ᾽ ῾Ομήρωι σχημάτων ῥητορικῶν βιβλία β̄· Περὶ συντάξεως λόγου᾽Αττικοῦ βιβλία ε̄· Περὶ τῆς καθ᾽ ῞Ομηρον ῥητορικῆς· Περὶ τῆς ῾Ομήρου καὶ Πλάτωνος συμφωνίας· Ποικίλης φιλομαθείας βιβλία β̄· βίους τραγικῶν καὶ κωμικῶν· βιβλιακῆς ἐμπειρίας βιβλία γ̄, ἐν οἷς διδάσκει τὰ κτήσεως ἄξια βιβλία· ῞Οτι μόνος ῞Ομηρος τῶν ἀρχαίων ἑλληνίζει· Περιήγησιν Περγάμου· Περὶ τοῦ ἐν Περγάμωι Σεβαστίου βιβλία β̄· Περὶ τῶν᾽Αθήνησι δικαστηρίων· Περὶ τῶν᾽Αθήνησι νόμων καὶ ἐθῶν· Περὶ τῶν Περγάμου Βασιλέων βιβλία ε̄· Περὶ χρήσεως ἤτοι ὀνομάτων ἐσθῆτος καὶ τῶν ἄλλων οἷς χρώμεθα (ἔστι δὲ κατὰ στοιχεῖον)· Περὶ τῆς᾽Οδυσσέως πλάνης· ᾽Ωκυτόκιον (ἔστι δὲ συναγωγὴ ἐπιθέτων εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ πρᾶγμα ἁρμοζόντων πρὸς ἕτοιμον εὐπορίαν φράσεως) βιβλία ῑ.

byzantium libraries
From Medievalists.net

Western Crusaders: Bold but Dumb

Nicetas Choniates, The Capture of Constantinople:

“Baldwin, then, having become king, left for the western lands, not with the intention of subduing them (for he considered everything easy to conquer ‘wherever I step, I will shake the earth with my spear,’ as he put it, boasting in his regal way that it was of no great difficulty), but so that he could go through friendly lands, saluted before all as the King of the Romans, for the sake of which he did not deem some of the people in the Roman army and political system worth his attention, so he sent them all away at once. This seemed like the right treatment for the other leaders and marshals of the Romans. For they separated manliness from the other kindred virtues and claimed it as their own as though it were innate and habitual to them, and they allowed none of the other races to be compared to them in the works of war. But none of the Graces or the Muses was ever given hospitable treatment by these barbarians. Beyond that, I think that they were by nature savage and possessed of an anger which far outran their faculty of reason.”

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Βασιλεύσας τοίνυν ὁ Βαλδουῖνος ἐς μέρη ἔξεισι τὰ ἑσπέρια, οὐχ ὡς αὐτὰ χειρωσόμενος (πάντα γάρ οἱ ἁλώσιμα ᾤετο, „πᾷ βῶ καὶ κινήσω τὰν γᾶν τῷ δόρατι” μικροῦ κομπάζων καὶ λίαν ἀγερώχως φθεγγόμενος), ἀλλ’ ὡς διὰ φιλίων χώρων παρελευσόμενος καὶ βασιλεὺς ῾Ρωμαίων ἀναγορευθησόμενος πρὸς παντός, οὗ χάριν οὐδὲ κομιδῆς οἱασοῦν κατηξιώκει τινὰς τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων ἐκ τοῦ στρατιωτικοῦ τε καὶ πολιτικοῦ συντάγματος, ἀλλ’ ἁπαξάπαντας ἀπεπέμψατο. τοῦτο δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις τοῦ στρατοῦ ἡγεμόσι καὶ κόμησι δέδοκτο· τὴν γὰρ ἀνδρείαν τῶν συννόμων ἀρετῶν ἀφορίζοντες καὶ ταύτην ἑαυτοῖς οἰκειοῦντες ὡς συγγενὲς καὶ σύντροφον ἐπιτήδευμα οὐδὲν τῶν ἄλλων ἐθνῶν εἰς ῎Αρεος ἔργα παρασυμβεβλῆσθαι σφίσιν ἠνείχοντο. ἀλλ’ οὐδέ τις τῶν Χαρίτων ἢ τῶν Μουσῶν παρὰ τοῖς βαρβάροις τούτοις ἐπεξενίζετο· καὶ παρὰ τοῦτο οἶμαι καὶ τὴν φύσιν ἦσαν ἀνήμεροι καὶ τὸν χόλον εἶχον τοῦ λόγου προτρέχοντα.

Kings Can’t Be Philosophers

Agathias, Histories 2.4:

“Not only the Persians, but even some of the Romans sing his praises and value him beyond his merit because he was a lover of words and went to the summit of philosophy as it exists among us, the Greek writings having been translated into the Persian language for his benefit. They say that he drank in Aristotle more than the Paianian orator [Demosthenes] absorbed the works of the son of Oluros [Thucydides], that he was filled up with the beliefs of Plato and that even the Timaeus would not escape him, even though it was painted over with geometrical speculation and traces back the beginnings of nature, nor would the Phaedo or Gorgias elude him, nor any other of those subtle and intricate dialogues such as – so I think – the Parmenides.

Yet I cannot believe that he had such excellent education, achieving the pinnacles of learning. For, how could the purity of those ancient terms, and the freedom, and the utter suitability of the speech to the works of nature be preserved in a barbaric tongue utterly foreign to the Muses? How could someone enchanted by regal incense and flattery from childhood, receiving a mode of life entirely barbaric and looking always toward war and its preparation – how, I ask, could someone who has lived thus enjoy and get hold of something great and worthy of notice in these studies?”


ὑμνοῦσι γὰρ αὐτὸν καὶ ἄγανται πέρα τῆς ἀξίας, μὴ ὅτι οἱ Πέρσαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἔνιοι τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων, ὡς λόγων ἐραστὴν καὶ φιλοσοφίας τῆς παρ’ ἡμῖν ἐς ἄκρον ἐλθόντα, μεταβεβλημένων αὐτῷ ὑπό του ἐς τὴν Περσίδα φωνὴν τῶν ῾Ελληνικῶν ξυγγραμμάτων.  καὶ τοίνυν φασίν, ὅτι δὴ ὅλον τὸν Σταγειρίτην αταπιὼν εἴη μᾶλλον ἢ ὁ ῥήτωρ ὁ Παιανιεὺς τὸν ᾿Ολόρου τῶν τε Πλάτωνος τοῦ ᾿Αρίστωνος ἀναπέπλησται δογμάτων καὶ οὔτε ὁ Τίμαιος αὐτὸν ἀποδράσειεν ἄν, εἰ

καὶ σφόδρα γραμμικῇ θεωρίᾳ πεποίκιλται καὶ τὰς τῆς φύσεως ἀνιχνεύει κινήσεις, οὔτε ὁ Φαίδων οὔτε ὁ Γοργίας, οὐ μὲν οὖν οὐδὲ ἄλλος τις τῶν γλαφυρῶν τε καὶ ἀγκυλωτέρων διαλόγων, ὁποῖος, οἶμαι, ὁ Παρμενίδης.  ἐγὼ δὲ οὕτως αὐτὸν ἄριστα ἔχειν παιδείας, καὶ ταῦτα τῆς ἀκροτάτης, οὐκ ἄν ποτε οἰηθείην. πῶς μὲν γὰρ οἷόν τε ἦν τὸ ἀκραιφνὲς ἐκεῖνο τῶν παλαιῶν ὀνομάτων καὶ ἐλευθέριον καὶ πρός γε τῇ τῶν πραγμάτων φύσει πρόσφορόν τε καὶ ἐπικαιρότατον ἀγρίᾳ τινὶ γλώττῃ καὶ ἀμουσοτάτῃ ἀποσωθῆναι; πῶς δὲ ἂν ἀνὴρ βασιλείῳ τύφῳ ἐκ παίδων καὶ κολακείᾳ πολλῇ γεγανωμένος δίαιτάν τε λαχὼν ἐς ὅ τι βαρβαρικωτάτην καὶ πρὸς πολέμους ἀεὶ καὶ παρατάξεις ὁρῶσαν, πῶς δὴ οὖν ὧδε βιοὺς ἤμελλε μέγα τι καὶ λόγου ἄξιον ἐν τοῖσδε ἀπόνασθαι τοῖς διδάγμασι καὶ ἐνασκηθῆναι;