Edited and translated by Anthony KaldellisWith contributions by David Jenkins and Stratis Papaioannou
Mothers and Sons, Fathers and Daughters makes available for the first time extensive English translations from the works of Michael Psellos (1018-1081?), a key philosopher of the Byzantine Empire. Psellos was not simply a philosopher, he was also a courtier, historian, and monk, and his works betray a dazzling engagement with philosophy, theology, history, and science. These interests were expressed in some eleven hundred works, including formal rhetorical texts, history writing, letters, poetry, and texts written for his students.
This book contains the works that Psellos wrote about his family, including a long funeral oration for his mother that features unique recollections from a childhood spent in Constantinople; a funeral oration for his young daughter Styliane, which includes a detailed description of her physical appearance and a moving account of her illness and death; a legal work pertaining to the engagement of his second, adopted, daughter; and various letters and other works that relate to the private life of this Byzantine family.
These works offer us a rare and comprehensive picture of the family life of a medieval Byzantine courtier and philosopher. Much of the material follows the rules of rhetoric inherited from classical and Christian antiquity, but Psellos was always recasting the conventions of those genre to express his own revolutionary views regarding the relation of body and soul. Some of these works also have an apologetic or legal purpose, as Psellos sometimes used them to get himself out of some trouble. Mothers and Sons, Fathers and Daughters will appeal to all who study medieval women, childhood, and the family, especially as it provides a Byzantine perspective that has been absent from most modern discussions of those topics.
“Anthony Kaldellis is a skilled and gifted translator, one of the best I have ever encountered. I am very excited that we will have access to Psellos’ two important encomia of his mother and daughter in an accurate and readable translation, so that more scholars and students will be able to read these works which offer such fascinating insights into family life in eleventh-century Byzantium. This book will be an excellent lead-off volume in the Psellos series, and make scholars anxious for the subsequent volumes to appear.” —Alice-Mary Talbot, Director, Byzantine Studies, Dumbarton Oaks
“Anthony Kaldellis is an excellent translator, as he skillfully introduces texts written almost 1,000 years ago by a self-centered Byzantine philosopher in a way that is scholarly and highly readable. The picture of the Byzantine family in the eleventh century that emerges from these texts is fascinating, but equally fascinating and intriguing is Psellos the man, his passions, his moral comportment, and his personality.” — Comitatus
“In sum, the discussion in Mothers and Sons, Fathers and Daughters is deft and crisp. The arguments are built up confidently and convincingly. Wearing his scholarship lightly, Kaldellis marshals Psellos on family to excellent effect, and offers clear and perceptive ideas.” — Journal of Hellenic Studies
“Teachers of survey courses in Byzantine society, as well as scholars within the wider orbit of Byzantine studies, will find these translations useful and revealing of a leading author’s intellectual sensibility.” — Speculum