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Extra info for Byzantine Poetry from Pisides to Geometres: Texts and contexts; Epigrams in ...

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600 and 1000) write their poems when they were off duty, or did they write their poems during working hours? There is not much solid evidence to prove or to refute either option, but a few texts clearly indicate that some form of official patronage did exist even before the year 1000. Whether this patronage accounts for the high social position of some of the poets, is a quandary difficult to solve as there is so little material to work with. Did poets write poems in order to obtain a lucrative post, or did people at the top of the Byzantine bureaucracy feel obliged to flatter their employers?

The epigram was woven into a richly embroidered textile, an altar cloth depicting the scene of the Birth of Christ, which had been donated to the chapel of the Holy Virgin in the Stoudios monastery. Theodore of Stoudios invites the viewer to look at the depiction and to marvel at the awesome sight of God’s incarnation. In the next two verses he explains God’s motives for donning the garment of mortal flesh: “(… in order that He, by putting Death on trial and suffering Himself, will save created man through His divine authority”.

What went on between poet and patron before the epigram was inscribed on the object for which it was intended? What did the patron tell the poet when he asked him to write a nice epigram? What were the crucial details that the poet should absolutely not forget to mention? Well, above all, the name and the social status of his patron. See, for instance, the eunuch’s epigrams in Laura Z 126: the silver bowl was “made” by Constantine, who was a Dalassenos and who was the governor of Antioch. The poet also has to specify the type of object his epigram is inscribed on.

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