Scholarship

The intellectual traditions of Graeco-Roman antiquity continued throughout the Byzantine era and into the Early Modern world. Many examples of science, philosophy, historiography and literary scholarship are on display in the Greek manuscripts held at the British Library.

A detail from a 10th-century manuscript of the Dialogues of Lucian of Samosata, featuring a marginal annotation.

Scribes and scholars in Byzantium

Article by:
Georgi Parpulov

Byzantine manuscripts were created by and for educated men both in Constantinople and further afield. Georgi Parpulov explores the lives and works of some of these figures.

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A detail from a 2nd-century papyrus, featuring a parchment label (sillybos) bearing the title of the original scroll (Bacchylides's Dithyrambs).

Ancient libraries

Article by:
Matthew Nicholls

How were books stored and accessed in the ancient world? Matthew Nicholls explores what the surviving evidence of ancient books can tell us about libraries in antiquity.

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A detail from a collection of complimentary verses in Latin and Ancient Greek, written for Elizabeth I by the High Master and boys of St Paul’s School.

Greek in Elizabethan England

Article by:
Matthew Adams

The teaching of Greek in English schools developed slowly and not without setbacks. Matthew Adams tells the story of how Greek spread in 16th-century England.

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A detail from a 15th-century Gospel Lectionary, featuring a list of 28 books belonging to the church of St. Marina at Berat.

Byzantine libraries

Article by:
Georgi Parpulov

Byzantine scribes and authors refer repeatedly to book collections and libraries. Georgi Parpulov outlines what private, monastic and imperial libraries were like in medieval Byzantium.

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A detail of a diagram with an accompanying explanation, from a 16th-century collection of Greek scientific treatises.

Greek philosophy and medicine

Article by:
Aileen Das

Ancient Greek philosophy and medical writing were extremely influential on later thought, both in the West and in the East. Aileen Das traces some of the strands of this remarkable journey, from Greek to Syriac, Arabic, and Latin.

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A detail from an 8th-century glossary, featuring a list of Greek words and their Latin equivalents.

The Greek language in the Latin West

Article by:
Cillian O’Hogan

After late antiquity, knowledge of Greek declined in Latin-speaking Western Europe. Although Greek would not be taught widely in the West again until the Renaissance, a number of manuscripts indicate that there was interest in learning about Greek letters during the Middle Ages, as Cillian O’Hogan explains.

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A detail from the Florentine Homer, featuring a white vine initial M at the opening of the Iliad.

Printing Greek in the 15th century

Article by:
Eugenia Russell

The development of printing in the 15th century signalled huge changes for the spread of Greek knowledge in Western Europe. Here, Eugenia Russell describes the key events in the early years of Greek printed books.

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A fragment from the Codex Purpureus Petropolitanus, featuring the text of the Greek Gospels on purple parchment.

British collectors of Greek manuscripts

Article by:
Cillian O’Hogan

Cillian O’Hogan surveys how a number of manuscripts came to be in the British Library through the actions of successive British collectors over the centuries.

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A detail from a 13th-century manuscript of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, featuring a decorative panel and an epigram written in gold ink.

Byzantine book epigrams

Article by:
Julie Boeten, Sien De Groot

Byzantines were famous for inscribing verses in and on important objects including books. In this article, Julie Boeten and Sien de Groot explore the content, function and value of these so-called book epigrams.

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Further themes

Art

Learn more about Byzantine art from the illuminations and decorations found on Greek manuscripts.

Papyri

Explore what Greek papyri reveal about the lives, troubles, and joys of people who lived over a thousand years ago.

Religion

Discover more about what our rich collection of surviving religious manuscripts tells us about Byzantine life.

Scholarship

Explore the intellectual traditions of the Graeco-Roman world that continued throughout the Byzantine era and into the Early Modern world.

The Greek World

Explore the influence of the Greek world on Western Europe and the Middle East.

The makers of Greek manuscripts

Learn more about book production in antiquity. What was more popular: parchment or paper?