EVA DE RIDDER – Capita literature in Byzantium

Capita literature in Byzantium: The Capita Alia by Elias Ekdikos.
Eva De Ridder, Université de Louvain

In research on Byzantine literature, the genre of theological capita has not received the attention it deserves, as is shown by the few articles on this subject that have appeared hitherto. Capita or κεφάλαια form a collection of mystical sayings, each of which can separately act as a starting point for monks to meditate upon. The chapters treat different kinds of spiritual ideas and appear to be put together in random order. Although there are indications that, at least for some capita collections, a well-considered structure is indeed present, the key to unravel this structure has not yet been found.

The Capita alia, also called Anthologium gnomicum and allegedly written by Maximus the Confessor, is a representative of this genre. A critical edition of this work is yet to be made and is as such the aim of my PhD project. As far as we know, manuscript tradition handed down 82 copies, none of which date earlier than the 12th Century.

In my lecture I would like to discuss the different uncertainties that still exist about the Capita alia, starting off with a brief discussion about its unknown authorship. As stated above, in the MSS the Capita alia are often attributed to Maximus the Confessor and infrequently to other well-known authors. However, the greater part of the MSS points out Elias Ecdicus as the author, an ecclesiastic judge presumably from the 11th-12th Century. Apart from the authorship, there is also great variation to be found in the MSS as far as title, structure, and even the number of chapters are concerned.

Furthermore, I will address some of the aforementioned general features of the genre of chapters, as well as focus on more specific characteristics of the Capita alia in particular. At the end, special attention will be paid to the principles of structuralization and to the importance of identifying the most original sequence and structure of the chapters, in order to appreciate this compilation in a more precise way.