Guest seminar by Nunzio Bianchi on ‘From Babylon to Byzantium: Iamblichus’ novel and its reception’

The final lecture in our online seminar series will be given by Dr Nunzio Bianchi (Università degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro) on ‘From Babylon to Byzantium: Iamblichus’ novel and its reception’.


Iamblichos’ novel (generally dated to the second half of the second century AD), the Babylonian Tales (Βαβυλωνιακά, Babyloniaka), unfortunately has been lost and is known only through scattered fragments of various extent: an excerpt within the historical anthologies compiled for/by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (905-959, emperor since 913), the so-called Excerpta Constantiniana; a some one hundred short quotations included in the massive tenth-century dictionary-encyclopaedia known as the Suda. And the earlier and the most important evidence: the epitome by Photios (9th century), patriarch of Constantinople, in chapter 94 of his Library (Bibliotheca), which informs us about the extraordinary and complex plot of this novel and its author.

I would like to provide an overview of the these testimonies with particular regard to Photios in an attempt to understand if it is possible to recognize in his summary specific words and expressions as actually belonging to Iamblichos’ novel. Unlike Photios, a somewhat different approach to the texts manifests in the anthologies of Constantine VII, which aimed to provide the reader not with brief summaries, but literal and more extended extracts. The latest evidence for Iamblichos’ novel comes from the Suda: it was compiled at roughly the same time, most likely in the same imperial and cultural milieu of the Excerpta Constantiniana, and probably made with the same textual materials, but with different purposes.

This overview on survival and loss of the Babylonian Tales in the Byzantine period starts with the oldest and problematic reference to Iamblichos: the mention of his name –which is literally possible, but not textually certain– in the late fourth-century medical treatise by Theodorus Priscianus.


Please contact Evelien Bracke for the link.