Dioscorus of Aphrodito : his work and his world /
Leslie S.B. MacCoull.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1988.
xvii, 174 p., [9] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm.
0520062264 (alk. paper)
More Details
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1988.
0520062264 (alk. paper)
general note
Includes indexes.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. [163]-167.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1989-10:
Based on his Greek and Coptic archives, the lawyer and poet Dioscorus (c. 520-580CE) of the modest Middle Egyptian village Aphrodito emerges from this book as a polished mandarin of the world of late antiquity. MacCoull devotes most of the book to Dioscorus's Greek poems and, while the poems are often obscure, the translations and commentary are well done. Furthermore, the social historian of late antiquity is well rewarded for his efforts. Dioscorus, a Christian and kinsman of the great Coptic abbot Shenoute, composed for festive occasions verses whose literary conventions and infusion of Classical rhetoric and Scripture mirror the rich melding of pagan, Christian, Hellenic, and Coptic elements in Egyptian society on the eve of the Arabic conquest. In his public life, Dioscorus spoke, wrote, and moved within a bilingual world, dividing his time between his native town and the imperial capital Constantinople. His petition to secure from Justinian his town's independence in collecting taxes is a fine example of the complicated web of patronage and obligation in the late Roman world. MacCoull reminds readers that Christian Egypt shared in a wider Mediterranean cultural kione, a fact too often lost in accounts that deal with imperial events and theological controversies. Fine bibliography and index. Highly recommended for advanced readers. -K. W. Harl, Tulane University
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 1989
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Long Description
From the hand of Dioscorus of Aphrodito, sixth-century Coptic lawyer and poet, we have the only autograph poems to come down to us on papyrus from the late ancient world. Both the poetry he wrote for special occasions and the documents he produced in his legal career, in Greek and Coptic, reflect the major preoccupations of Dioscorus' society and his age: the nature of Byzantine imperial government, the patronage of the powerful elite, and the spirituality of the Egyptian Christian church. Thanks to residence in Egypt and many years of work with the original papyri, Leslie S. B. MacCoull is able to present a comprehensive picture of Dioscorus and his times. Through detailed analyses of the documents and poems, some previously unknown, she leads us to a fresh perception of the Coptic culture of Byzantine Egypt. She reveals the man and his world as inheritors of and contributors to the Egyptian-Classical-Christian fusion of society and intellectual life that gave birth to Gnosticism and the Desert Fathers. Dioscorus of Aphrodito epitomizes the little-known cultural flowering of late antique Egypt, which is now seen not as a place of sterility and decadence, but as the home of a strikingly original and creative culture whose subsequent eclipse still remains unexplained.

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