The Pseudo-Clementine Homilies: a philosophical and rhetorical novel from Late Antiquity (International conference)

The Pseudo-Clementine Homilies: a philosophical and rhetorical novel from Late Antiquity

Keynote speakers:

Dominique Côté (University of Ottawa/Université d’Ottawa)

Meinolf Vielberg  (Universität Jena)


Other confirmed speakers

William Adler (North Carolina University)

Patricia Duncan (Texas Catholic University)

George Gereby (Central European University)

Tobias Nicklas (Universität Regensburg)


Conference Aims

This conference wants to bring together four fields of study: the ancient novel, ancient philosophy, ancient rhetoric, and Jewish-Christian narrative. We aim to study one Greek novel from different perspectives: the so-called Pseudo-Clementine Homilies.

The conference sets out to explore the intellectual context of this novel and the ways in which the Homilies had an impact on readers in Late Antiquity. By approaching the Homilies as a philosophical and rhetorical work in its own right, the conference seeks not only to improve our understanding of the Homilies as a late ancient novel, but also the role of philosophy and rhetoric in the religious narratives of Late Antiquity. We welcome studies on

1. the role of philosophy in the Homilies: e.g. the presentation of Christianity as the true philosophy, the influence of Plato, the Sophists, and other philosophical traditions in the Homilies.

2. rhetorical techniques used in the numerous disputations within the novel and in the characterisation of the main protagonists, and

3. novelistic topoi as structural elements: the function of novelistic motives in the Homilies



You can find the full programme here.

To register, please email Benjamin De Vos at



Benjamin De Vos, Danny Praet and Koen De Temmerman

Guest seminar by Silvia Montiglio on ‘The popularity of Heliodorus among Byzantine critics and readers’

The second seminar in our series is by Silvia Montiglio (Johns Hopkins): ‘The popularity of Heliodorus among Byzantine critics and readers’.

Abstract: This talk focuses on the reception of Heliodorus by Byzantine scholars and readers. I emphasize (1) that every witness, regardless of provenance and level of sophistication, suggests that the Aethiopica was not only the most beloved novel in the period but was known far beyond scholarly circles; (2) that many aspects of the Byzantine exegesis of the novel are legitimately and deeply grounded in the text itself.

Please email for the zoom link.

Guest seminar by Ellen Söderblom Saarela on ‘She must write her self, she did write her self: Hysmine’s voice from within the wrong’

The third seminar in our online series is by Dr Ellen Söderblom Saarela (UGent) on ‘She must write her self, she did   write her self: Hysmine’s voice from within the wrong’.


We are at threshold towards the safe, happy, familiar ending of the tale. The lovers have been out on their adventures, fought against their obstacles, and here they are: safe and sound back home, to everyone’s delight. Hysminias, the narrator of Eumathios Makrembolites’ twelfth-century Byzantine novel, has recounted the events of his and his beloved Hysmine’s journeys towards their festive reunion. And now they want to hear Hysmine talk about her experiences of it, but she rejects their request. Why doesn’t Hysmine want to speak, why doesn’t she want to tell the others’ her story?

My talk circles around novel and romance heroines’ relation to storytelling, or the literary tradition. Other than Hysmine and Hysminias, mentioned above, I will discuss Chrétien de Troyes’ Old French romance Cligès, along with other relevant (clear or potential) intertextual works. The aim of my talk is to discern the presence of a perspective of a female reader of the literary tradition in the narratives. By discussing potential parallels between Old French and Byzantine literature, I aim to demonstrate the possibility to interpret articulations of female voices, or representations of female experiences, as forming part of the romance and novel genre that is under development during the twelfth century.

Hysmine then gives in, and tells the others of her past experiences. In my talk I will present an interpretation of her voice, as well as others, and its place in a world where “modesty inhibits a maidenly tongue”, to use her own words.

Please email for the zoom link.

Guest seminar by Paolo Brusa on ‘From wandering to destitution: a shift in Heliodoran peregrinatio in 17th-century Spain’

The fourth lecture in our online seminar series will be given by Paolo Brusa (Freie Universität Berlin) on ‘From wandering to destitution: a shift in Heliodoran peregrinatio in 17th-century Spain’


“Then nobody shall hold my peregrino for a product of fancy… because a stranger’s vicissitudes are not only verisimilar, but also forcibly true”.

My talk explores how Lope de Vega’s El peregrino en su patria (1604), from which the above quote stems, initiates and condenses a peculiar phenomenon in the Spanish early modern appropriations of the Hellenistic novel: the association of the protagonists’ peregrinations with a sense of precariousness and loss. As it began circulating in the world of printed vernacular literature in 1547, the Aethiopica must appear to its early modern Western readers as a foreign tale, both in a temporal and in a spatial sense: an ancient text whose story takes place in a geographically exotic landscape. Spanish translations duly bridged that gap in familiarity with footnotes and indices, which also highlighted the value of the reading as a source of (sometimes curious) knowledge. In the first Spanish novel based on Heliodorus, however, Lope de Vega takes a different route: contravening the recommendation of Neo-Aristotelian poetics, he sets the narration on the contemporary Iberian Peninsula. He thus stages a “stranger in his own homeland”, shifting the peregrination from the physical wandering on foreign soil to a more radical destitution. In my talk, I will analyse Lope’s defiant gesture and its connections to contemporary literary theory as well as novel writing and editing practices.


Please email for the link.

Guest seminar by Benedek Kruchio on ‘Heliodorus’s Aethiopica and early Christian hermeneutics: a “historically informed” approach’

The first lecture in our online seminar series will be given by Dr Benedek Kruchio (Universität Regensburg) on ‘Heliodorus’s Aethiopica and early Christian hermeneutics: a “historically informed” approach’.



The intellectual landscape of late antiquity was characterised by overlapping yet competing reading communities – philosophers, pepaideumenoi, and Christians – all of whom laid claim to the classical literary heritage in order to substantiate their own teachings. Focusing on Heliodorus’s Aethiopica (approx. 4th cent. C.E.), this paper asks the neglected question of how this ‘predatory’ environment informs our understanding of the contemporary literary production and its early reception. Is antiquity’s most virtuosic novel a ‘pagan’ or Christian work? Is it best understood as contributing to the same religious project as, for example, apocryphal acts and saints’ lives – or does Heliodorus fashion his novel in opposition to Christian narrative? I argue that such questions are based on an overly static understanding of texts, audiences, and their relationship: we need new, dynamic concepts to grasp the cultural framework and ideological force of late antique literature.


Please email for the link.

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.

Talk for the Department of Literature: Claire Jackson en Koen De Temmerman: “Novel Echoes: Receptions of the Ancient Novel in Postclassical Traditions”

The Literature Department invites you to the following lecture on Thursday 17th December at 12 noon. Claire Jackson and Koen De Temmerman will introduce the Novel Echoes project: “Novel Echoes: Receptions of the Ancient Novel in Postclassical Traditions”.

More information and the zoom link on the website of the Literature Department:

Organizer: LSW

Conference: Enchanted reception: Religion and the supernatural in medieval Troy narratives 

Enchanted reception: Religion and the supernatural in medieval Troy narratives  


Date: Thursday-Friday, 3-4 June 2021

Organizer:  Novel Echoes: Tine Scheijnen and Ellen Söderblom Saarela

Registrations have now closed.

Participants can join via this page:

Enchanted Reception is a two-day workshop with the aim of exploring the place of enchantment, myth, and religion in both Eastern and Western medieval narratives about Troy, or narratives that are influenced by motifs related or parallel to the narrative of the Trojan war. Together with scholars specialising in the different language traditions of medieval literature, we aim to explore the following questions from a transnational approach:

•    How did contemporary (e.g. literary and socio-cultural) developments influence medieval adaptations of the supernatural and pagan religion in medieval Troy narratives?
•    What role does the Troy motif play in other literary works?
•    How are rationalization and “Christianization” used to deal with the medieval unease evoked by certain aspects of ancient mythology?
•    From a comparative perspective, how can we map such processes transnationally, e.g. in the different language and literature traditions of the medieval world?
•    How do these questions engage with themes such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity and cross-cultural connections?

Day 1

13.30    13.45    Welcome (Koen De Temmerman)


Session 1          Enchanting Amazons

Chair: Adam Goldwyn

13.45     14.15     Ellen Söderblom Saarela (Ghent University)

Amazoneises, puceles corteises”: Interpreting the Amazon’s Place in Courtly Romance

14.15     14.45     Hilke Hoogenboom (Leiden University)

Femme Fatale: Penthesilea and the Last Stand of Chivalry in Guido delle Colonne’s Historia Destructionis Troiae

14.45     15.15     Allison Treese (University of Leicester)

O flower of chivalry”: Christine de Pizan and the Christianization of Amazons

15.15     15.45     Discussion


15.45    16.00    Break


Session 2          Troy in the New World

Chair: Nicola McDonald

16.00     16.30     Megan Moore (University of Missouri)

The Mediterranean & the Translation of Emotional Communities: Troy & Legacies of Heroism

16.30    17.00    Susannah Wright (Harvard University)

Troy Translated, Troy Transformed: Case Studies in Medieval Celtic Literature

17.00    17.30    Tine Scheijnen (Ghent University)

Facing the Other: Medieval Reconceptions of Trojan Identity

17.30    18.00    Discussion


18.00    19.00    Breakout reception (using the platform “Wonder”)


Day 2

Session 3          Reshapings of Troy

Chair: Evelien Bracke

13.30    14.00    José Miguel de Toro (Catholic University of Concepción)

The War of Troy in Encyclopedic Literature: the Case of Lambert’s Liber floridus

14.00    14.30    Marco Brunetti (Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Insititut-für-Kunstgeschichte)

Figural and Literary Functional Recoveries of the Trojan Myths from Late Antiquity to Renaissance Age

14.30    15.00    Sophie Schoess (University of St Andrews)

Objects of Worship: The Place of Idols in Mediaeval Troy Narratives

15.00    15.30    Discussion


15.30    15.45    Break


Session 4          Byzantine Enchantments

Chair: Megan Moore

15.45    16.15    Adam Goldwyn (North Dakota State University)

The Sexual Politics of Myth: Rewriting and Unwriting Women in Byzantine Accounts of the Trojan War

16.15    16.45    Baukje van den Berg (Central European University)

Supernatural Rhetoric and Gendered Eloquence: Eustathios and Tzetzes on Hermes, Athena, and the Muses

16.45    17.15    Agnese Fontana (University of Genoa)

What If King David Had Fought at Troy? The Trojan Narrative in Byzantine World Chronicles (VI-XII Century): Religious, Historical and Political Issues

17.15    17.45    Discussion


17.45 – 18.00     End discussion

Chair: Ellen and Tine

For more information, please email Dr Tine Scheijnen ( or Dr Ellen Söderblom Saarela (

This workshop is organized as part of and supported by the ERC project Novel Echoes and the FWO project The romance between Greece and the west (see



Olivier Demerre speaks at RICAN conference

9th Rethymnon International Conference on the Ancient Novel: Body and Text in the Ancient Novel
9-11 OCTOBER 2019, XENIA

17:30: Olivier Demerre on “Catching bodies, catching texts: Longus and Ovid on hunting”