Material Text Cultures

Lettered and Inscribed. Inscriptions in Urban Space in the Greco-Roman Period and Middle Ages


Epigrams in and on the Byzantine Buildings of Constantinople: Caption and Materiality (4th – 14th Centuries)


current staff members

Teilprojektleiter Prof. Dr. Stephan Westphalen
akademische Mitarbeiterin Solvejg Langer




The UP4 deals with the epigrams in and on the Byzantine buildings and artworks of Constantinople from the 4th to the 14th century. In order to investigate this topic, the focus lies on the collection of Christian epigrams from the Palatine Anthology (AP). These inscriptions were incorporated into the well-known manuscript in the 10th century. The original manuscript (Cod. Pal. Graec. 23) is kept today in the library of the University of Heidelberg.

Fragment of a niche with a peacock-calotte, vine branches and a revolving inscription with the donor´s epigram. Found in: Church of St. Polyeuktos in Constantinople (AD 524-527). Exhibited in: Archaeological Museum, Istanbul. Photo: Prof. Dr. Stephan WestphalenFor some of these epigrams, e.g. the first eighteen of Book I, their original context and setting in Constantinople is attested through the marginalia of the scribe and references in the texts. They are all transcriptions from epigrams dating from the 4th to 10th century, upon which those of the 5th to 6th century predominate.

The Palatine Anthology is one of the most important sources for the identification and reconstruction of partially or totally lost inscribed epigrams. One of the most spectacular examples is the donor inscription from the Church of St. Polyeuktos in Constantinople. The epigram consists of 76 hexameter verses, which were partly found on the numerous fragments of the building´s carved decoration. Because of its incorporation in the Palatine Anthology (AP I. 10) it is possible to reconstruct the full inscription. Considering the archaeological remains in combination with the manuscript, the complex could be identified as the church of the martyr Poyleuktos, which was dedicated by Anicia Juliana.

The section in the Palatine Anthology (book I. 10, f. 51) which corresponds to the fragment shown above. On the left side: the lines that are preserved on the fragment of the niche (…οὐδ᾽ αὐτὴ δεδάηκας· ἀμετρήτους γάρ, ὀΐω,…). On the ride side: the note of the scribe, which shows us the location of the epigram in the church of St. Polyeuktos (ταῦτα μὲν ἐν τῷ ναῷ ἔνδοθεν κύκλῳ περιγράφονται).

The dissertation project is concerned with the archaeological documentation and editing of the Christian epigrams in the Palatine Anthology and their embedding in the broad spectrum of the preserved inscriptions in Constantinople, which did not find their way into the AP. These other inscriptions play a very important role for the discussion about the localization of the epigrams of the AP, whose locations were not specified, in the (city-)space, the question about their materiality, context and praxeology. Moreover, they could provide us background information about the reasons and the systematic process behind the selection of the inscriptions for the manuscript.

Connection to the program of SFB 933

  • In cooperation with the library of the University of Heidelberg we are creating an archaeological and art historical digital edition of the manuscript.
  • A close connection exists to the TP A09, in the course of which the workshop “From Inscribing to Collecting: Object Biographies of Epigrams in the Anthologia Palatina” will take place.
  • In cooperation with TP A01 UP 3 the conference “Mosaizierte Schriften im Sanktuarium von Spätantike bis ins hohe Mittelalter. Der lateinische Westen und der griechische Osten im Vergleich” will be held.
  • Furthermore, the AP as an intentional applied repository of artefacts is very important for the overarching Thematic Field 6, which brings together several projects dealing with the topic “Gedächtnis, Archiv und Speicher” (Memory, Archive and Storage).


Subprojects of the 3rd Funding Period

A01 A02 A03 A05 A06 A08 A09 A10 A11 A12 B01 B04 B09 B10 B13 B14 B15 C05 C07 C08 C09 C10 INF Ö2 Z



Completed Subprojects

A01 A03 A04 B02 B03 B06 B07 B11 B12 C01 C02 C03 C04 C06 IGK Ö1



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