The Greek World

The spread of Greek language and culture extended far beyond the borders of Greece and the Byzantine Empire. Many manuscripts at the British Library contain evidence of the importance of Greek for Western Europe and the Middle East.

A detail of a diagram from a 16th-century collection of treatises, written in Ancient Greek.

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 the Harley Trilingual Psalter, featuring the text of the Psalms in Greek and Latin.

Multilingualism in Greek manuscripts

Article by:
Peter Toth

Byzantium’s interactions with other cultures – both East and West – is made clear from the multilingual nature of many Greek manuscripts. Peter Toth explores this aspect of Byzantine book culture.

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A fragmentary 2nd-century papyrus, preserving sections of Sophocles’ Ichneutae.

Authors of Classical Greece

Article by:
Mark Joyal

Our knowledge of the great works of ancient Greek literature derive from two main sources: manuscripts from Byzantium, and papyri discovered in Egypt since the late 19th century. Here, Mark Joyal surveys the process by which these works were transmitted through the centuries.

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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 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 marginal illustration of three flies from a 16th-century manuscript of Manuel Philes' De animalium proprietate.

Writing Greek in the age of print

Article by:
Cillian O’Hogan

Greek manuscripts continued to be produced in substantial quantities long after the introduction of print. Here, Cillian O’Hogan surveys some of the features of Greek manuscripts from the 16th century.

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A detail from the Florentine Homer, featuring a white vine initial 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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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?