Learning Greek in Byzantium: Poetry in the Classroom of the Grammarian
Throughout the Byzantine period, thorough knowledge of ancient literature and an excellent command of Atticized Greek were pertinent for everyone aspiring a position in the patriarchal or imperial administration. This all started in the classroom of the grammarian. While grammar education can be said to lay the foundations for literacy, learningand, eventually, literature in Byzantium, few studies deal with grammar and grammar education in detail. In this lecture, I will explore various aspects of grammar education in the Byzantine eleventh and twelfth centuries by focusing on the role of poetry in the classroom of the grammarian: how do influential teachers and scholars such as Eustathios of Thessalonike and John Tzetzes use the poetry of Homer to teach grammar? What does grammar education involve? And what is the role of didactic poetry, an understudied though voluminous genre in Byzantine literature?
Baukje van den Berg is a post-doctoral researcher in Byzantine Studies at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Her project in Vienna focuses on grammar education and the role of ancient poetry in didactic works by John Tzetzes, a twelfth-century grammarian. She received her PhD from the University of Amsterdam (2016) and is currently revising her dissertation entitled Homer and Rhetoric in Byzantium: Eustathios of Thessalonike on the Composition of the Iliad for publication. Her main research interests are Byzantine classical scholarship, Byzantine education, and the role of ancient literature in Byzantine culture.