Michael Psellos. On Symeon the Metaphrast and On the Miracle at Blachernae: Annotated Translations with Introductions



To Denis/MP sine quo non


Translator’s note

Because Psellos valued good literary style and cultivated his own very carefully, I have tried to translate his prose into graceful English that exploits the rich resource of English vocabulary just as he exploited the vast lexicon available to him in Greek. Psellos never hesitates to use the technical terminology proper to whatever subject he is discussing—he writes to satisfy specialists in law, astronomy, rhetoric, and philosophy with equal confidence and aplomb. Out of respect for this feature of Psellos’ literary persona, I have attempted to maintain it in English, translating legal terms consistently with vocabulary that may not be familiar to all readers and using technical terms particular to astronomy and philosophy as well. Numerous footnotes accompany the translation because Psellos expected an audience ready to appreciate his frequent allusions, perhaps baffling to some modern readers unless footnotes supply them with the cultural vocabulary of a medieval polymath like Psellos himself.

Psellos can be cryptic as a result of his compressed syntax; in order to render a readable English version of his elegant Greek, I have supplied words and phrases that are implied rather than stated in the Greek text. Such expansions are enclosed in pointed brackets.

Parenthetical numbers in the translations refer to page numbers in my edition of the Greek text; similarly, line numbers supplied with chapter references to this electronic publication refer to lines in the Greek text (e.g. 5.4:138).


I am grateful to George Washington University and to the Byzantine Studies Program at Dumbarton Oaks for the opportunity to complete this study while holding a Dumbarton Oaks fellowship during a sabbatical year; special thanks are due to the Director of Studies, Alice-Mary Talbot, to the Library staff at Dumbarton Oaks, and to the GW Interlibrary Loan office. This electronic publication could not have happened without the enthusiastic and visionary encouragement of Greg Nagy and Lenny Mullner of the Center for Hellenic Studies. My thanks go to them, to the anonymous referee who provided a number of valuable suggestions, and to the happy memory of a consummate scholar and gentleman, Leendert G. Westerink, who first encouraged me to undertake studies in Psellos.