Elizabeth A. Fisher (eaf@gwu.edu) Professor of Classics

George Washington University               

Selected publications


Arabs, Latins and Persians Bearing Gifts: Greek Translations of Astrolabe Treatises ca. 1300


Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 36 (2012) 161-77.


Although translation of foreign literature was rare in Byzantium, ca. 1300 three Greek translations of treatises on using the astrolabe appeared, two from Latin and one from Persian or Arabic.  All three are assessed in terms of Greek style and significance for Byzantine culture; the Islamic treatise translated by Shams al-Din al-Bukhari includes a translatorŐs preface, edited in full and translated into English here for the first time. In the preface, Shams describes a deluxe astrolabe sent to Andronikos II with the treatise in hopes, it is argued, of some personal benefit in return.



Manuel Holobolos and the Role of Bilinguals in Relations Between the West and Byzantium

Knotenpunkt Byzanz. Miscellanea Mediaevalia, ed. Andreas Speer, Miscellanea Mediaevalia 36 (New York and Berlin: de Gruyter 2012) 210-22

A member of the Latin translation section of the Byzantine imperial chancery under Michael VIII Palaiologos (1259-82), Manuel Holobolos translated from Latin into Greek two rhetorical works of Boethius and the ps.-Aristotelian text De plantis.  It is argued here that in his translatorŐs preface to De plantis Holobolos contrasts literal vs. free translation strategies in terms resembling the famous remarks of Boethius in the Second Preface to his commentary on the Isagoge of Porphyry (Greek and Latin texts and translations provided here).  When Holobolos translated into Greek BoethiusŐ De topicis differentiis and De hypotheticis syllogismis, he put into practice the fully annotated literal translation style recommended by Boethius.



OvidŐs Metempsychosis: The Greek East

Ovid in the Middle Ages, ed. Frank Coulson, James Clark and Kathryn McKinley (New York:  Cambridge University Press 2011) 26-47

Ovidian influence on Greek poetry in late antiquity is a hotly contested subject. In the early Byzantine period however John the Lydian (C6) and the chronicler John of Antioch (early C7) clearly knew OvidŐs Fasti and Metamorphoses.  The Metamorphoses, Heroides, and amatory poems became a part of Greek literature in the 13th century through the elegant prose translations of the scholarly monk Maximos Planoudes.


Alexios of Byzantium and the Apocalypse of Daniel: A Tale of Kings, Wars and Translators

Bizans ve ‚evre KŸltŸrler / Byzantium and the Surrounding Cultures (Festschrift in honor of S.Yildiz …tŸken) ed. Sema Doğan and Mine Kadiroğlu (Istanbul 2010) 177-85

Alexios of Byzantium returned from Arab captivity in the mid-13th century with a text purporting to forecast politically significant events from natural phenomena; Alexios translated this text from Arabic into Greek and provided a translatorŐs preface (Greek text and translation provided here) discussing the complex history of the text as evidence of its importance for Byzantine military success and explaining that ŇMoabiasÓ (MuŐawiya, Muawiyah) obtained it in 7th-century raids near Constantinople and had it translated into Arabic.

Preprint version (please cite from the published version): Alexios.pdf


Monks, Monasteries and the Latin Language in Constantinople


Change in the Byzantine World in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, edd. Ayla …dekan, Engin AkyŸrek, and Nevra Necipoğlu (Vehbi Ko Foundation 2010), 390-95


The presence of western traders in Constantinople from the 10th century required Latin churches in the city and attracted monastic houses; during the Latin occupation these western institutions proliferated.  Franciscan and Dominican houses and their libraries remained under Palaiologan rule, attracting Greeks who learned Latin:  the Franciscan John Parastron, the Dominican Simon of Constantinople, and the Greek monks Sophonias, Manuel Holobolos, and Maximos Planoudes.



PlanoudesŐ De trinitate, the Art of Translation, and the BeholderŐs Share


Orthodox Readings of Augustine, edd. George Demacopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou (Crestwood NY: St.VladimirŐs Press 2008) 41-61.


Maximos PlanoudesŐ translation of AugustineŐs De trinitate served the Unionist agenda of Michael VIII Palaiologos and probably dates from ca. 1280.  Although the imperial ambassador John Parastron, the Dominican Simon of Constantinople, the court rhetor Manuel Holobolos, and Ogerius Boccanera, Protonotarius of the imperial chancery, were all qualified for the task of translating De trinitate into Greek, the young chancery scholar Manuel Planoudes received the delicate assignment and implemented contemporary chancery practices in his translation, eventually coming to regret his involvement in theological controversy.  His Greek De trinitate was influential in 14th - and 15th-century Byzantium, however.  Gregory Palamas, John Cantacuzene, and Prochoros Kydones used it, and Demetrios Kydones, Cardinal Bessarion, Gennadios II Scholarios, and an anonymous 14th-century Dominican of Pera critically evaluated the translation and Planoudes as a translator (Greek and Latin texts and translations provided here).



Manuel Holobolos, Alfred of Sareshal, and the ÔAnonymousŐ Greek Translator of ps.- AristotleŐs De Plantis

Classica et Mediaevalia 57 (2006) 189-211.

This paper supports the suggestion that Manuel Holobolos is the anonymous scholar who retro-translated into Greek the Latin text of ps.-AristotleŐs De plantis, a work lost in Greek during antiquity.  HolobolosŐ scholarly career, his stated practices as a translator from Latin to Greek, his associations with western scholars in 13th-century Constantinople, and his unabashed chauvinism towards western culture correspond to the translatorŐs profile that emerges from the preface to the Greek De plantis.  The preface is analyzed here (both English translation and Greek text provided), including a vivid sketch of an unexpected encounter between Greek translator and the anonymous western benefactor who gave him the Latin text of De plantis.  The translator had exceptional information about the transmission of AristotleŐs original text from Greek into Arabic and about the career of its Latin translator Alfred of Sareshal.  


PlanoudesŐ Technique and Competence as a Translator of OvidŐs Metamorphoses

Byzantinoslavica 62 (2004) 143-160.

Vat. Regin. Gr. 132 is the master copy of the Greek translation of OvidŐs Metamorphoses by Maximos Planoudes, who not only supervised the compilation of the manuscript but also corrected it throughout and copied nearly 100 folia himself.  This autograph portion of the text includes a passage (Met. I. 700-713) that defeated the translatorŐs initial efforts despite his attempts to correct his mistakes.  Planoudes later returned to this problematic section and inserted a new, corrected version in the lower margin of the folium.  Analysis of a similar and successful portion of the translation (Met. I. 543-57) establishes the characteristics of PlanoudesŐ translation style; evaluation of his errors in translating Met. I. 700-713 reveals the aspects of Latin grammar and syntax that initially defeated him and illustrates the strategy that he devised to correct his own errors.


Planoudes, Holobolos, and the Motivation for Translation


Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 43 (2002/3) 77–104

Manuel HolobolosŐ preface to his translation of BoethiusŐ short rhetorical treatises De topicis differentiis and De hypotheticis syllogismis (here translated into English) illuminates the differing efforts of Holobolos and Maximos Planoudes in translating Latin literary materials into Greek and reveals the wider cultural agenda of Planoudes, HolobolosŐ junior colleague in the early Palaeologan chancery at Constantinople.  Planoudes left no prefaces to his translations but selected literary works appealing to his rhetorically sophisticated contemporaries.  Holobolos in contrast provided translations of practical rhetorical works in a spirit of cultural chauvinism.

PDF here: