Mothers and Sons, Fathers and Daughters

  • The Byzantine Family of Michael Psellos

  • by Michael Psellos

  • 224 pages,

  • Paperback | 9780268033156 | November 2006

  • Hardcover | 9780268024154 | March 2017

  • eBook (PDF) | 9780268024178 | November 2006

  • Michael Psellos in Translation


Mothers and Sons, Fathers and Daughters makes available for the first time complete English translations from the works of Michael Psellos (1018–1076?), 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.