My project as a BRIHC Research Fellow explores the reception of Flavius Josephus, the reputed historian of the 1st century AD, by Medieval Greek and Latin historians from the 5th century onwards.
Among the subjects I examine is, for instance, the profound impact of the renowned Christian scholar Eusebius of Caesarea (c. AD 260-340) on the transmission and reception of Josephus, arguing that key aspects of the reputation of Josephus in the medieval period originate from Eusebian discourse. I also explore the critical contribution of Josephus to the development of distinctively Christian genres of medieval historiography, such as universal chronicles starting from the Creation and compendia of biblical history. My research also focuses on the broad-ranging impact of Josephus as an esteemed literary and stylistic model, explaining how certain thematic motifs were tailored in similar ways to the political and ideological background of specific authors.
My key aims are: (a) to show that the strikingly parallel use of Josephus in Medieval Greek and Latin histories was a result of similar religious, ideological and historical pressures noted in East and West; (b) to demonstrate the crucial ways in which Josephan works informed much of the writing of history in the Middle Ages in terms of form, content and style. My project contends that Medieval Greek and Latin historiographies, both appropriating the same ancient literary models in similar historical circumstances, reflect a more unified intellectual culture around the Mediterranean than traditional narratives suggest.
I developed a keen interest in Josephus in the course of my doctoral research. My thesis was dedicated to the twelfth-century chronicle of John Zonaras, a Medieval Greek text with enormous popularity, which combines an incredible variety of sources related to Jewish, Roman and Byzantine history. Among the topics investigated in my thesis was Zonaras’ creative treatment of his sources, particularly Josephus and Plutarch. My doctoral research challenged the view that medieval authors like Zonaras, who draw extensively on earlier texts, are mere ‘compilers’. Exploring Zonaras’ method of work, I demonstrated that he subjected his material to a thoughtful process of selection and adaptation. The principles that governed this process reflected his cultural, ideological and indeed political orientation. I argued that modern criticism of medieval historical writings as ‘repetitive’ and ‘unoriginal’ narratives is misplaced and suggested a renewed approach to medieval historiography: to assess a text’s individual, rather than original, features that reform the specific literary tradition in which a historian is writing. My thesis has been accepted for publication as part of the series Oxford Studies in Byzantium (Oxford University Press).