The American School of Classical Studies at Athens

Videocast: Glenn A. Peers “Forging Byzantine Animals: Manuel Philes in Renaissance France.”


From 1530, with the creation of the Collège de France and of Readers in the three great languages of Christianity (namely, Hebrew, Greek and Latin), Paris became a vibrant center for Hellenic studies. One figure attracted to this center was the Cretan scribe Angelos Vergikios, whose hand became the basis for the famous Grecs du Roi and a major means by which classical and medieval Greek came to be disseminated in France. Active from the 1530s until his death in 1569, Vergikios made a number of copies of a rather obscure Byzantine poem on natural history by Manuel Philes (ca. 1275-ca. 1345), and he produced such handsome versions of the work that French elites commissioned manuscripts for collections and gifts. Vergikios himself was a good editor and a great copyist, and he also tried his luck at ‘forgery’. His manuscripts of the Philes poem have some 300 lines not present in the medieval manuscripts, and this lecture examines those lines, their content, and their place in the development of modern science and of the value of performance and originality in this period of emerging modernism.

The School would like to thank the Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Foundation for their generous support, and also Barry J. Jacobson for support of the Director’s series.