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Thursday, January 29, 2015
More Byzantine sources in Theophanes?
I'm going back over the primary sources for Byzantine history. I didn't ever get to read Dmitri Afinogenov, “Conflated Accounts in Theophanes’ Exposition of the History of Byzantium in the Seventh Century”, ed. Denis Searby, Ewa Balicka Witakiwska, and Johan Heldt, Δῶρον ῥοδοποίκιλον (Uppsala University, 2012), 31-40. I wish I had, because it is of interest to what I've been doing (2012-5) for that Amorium anecdote. So I shall approach this essay here obliquely.
The first "review" (we'll get to why the quotes) I found was an excerpt from Florin Leonte's coverage of Δῶρον overall, writing from Central European University, Budapest at the Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.05.49:
D. Afinogenov discusses the sources of two passages in Theophanes' History: the naval battle of Phoenix (655) and the beginning of the Arab conquest of Syria and Palestine (approximately 675). Afinogenov makes a comparison with George the Monk to solve some of the riddles posed by Theophanes' compilation techniques. The author concludes that the sections of Theophanes' history dedicated to the Arab conquest and the reign of Constans used four major sources: a pamphlet, oriental chronicles, a homily by Anastasios of Sinai, and a treatise on the origins of Islam.
Leonte has delivered here an abstract; a book-report, at least pertinent to this essay. Leonte was called here to the BMCR to deliver a critique. It is not the job of a reviewer to give yet another abstract of the subject's work. Personally I blame Bryn Mawr's editors for not calling Leonte on this laziness. But since I couldn't find the author's or editor's real abstract, I cannot complain all THAT much.
Fortunately I have additionally found such a critique, of at least its take on the Phoenix anecdote. Its author is... you guessed it... Maria Conterno, from La “descrizione dei tempi” all’alba dell’espansione islamica (2014), 51 n. 31. I have taken the liberty of Google-translating this footnote from the Italian. I have also broken it out into paragraphs and simplified some of its clauses. For the base account in Theophanes, the Turtledove translation has it at page 45. I'll be going back over my translation as time allows.
Translating stuff from various languages I don't speak, or need to speak, into English isn't my day-job. In what you've read above, I have done as much as I figured I needed to do to get the sense of things. Based on what little I've understood of this, I'll take for granted Conterno's corrective against Afinogenov's logic. And because I haven't understood much of this book natively, I've read little of it; and I have read a good deal less of Afinogenov's article - which is to say, nothing first-hand. All that said... I believe I can still offer a critique, of the pericope I have at hand - of Conterno's footnote.
Dr. Afinogenov has been trying to get scholars to re-examine the text(s) of George the Monk for over a decade now. This, precisely because George might have some altra fonte (or fonti) not, perhaps, wholly transmitted to us in Theophanes and in the Syrian chronicles (and we'll throw in Nikephoros). I cannot see where Dr. Conterno has delivered a debunking of George here.
And circling back to Teofane: if George had his extra sources (Trajan?) then so, much more, must Theophanes have had his own sources, before George (Trajan?). If Afinogenov takes away anything from this footnote of this book, it's not "don't bother"; it's "hone your argument".
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