Between Athos and Antioch: Urban and Monastic Translator Teams & Shared Translation Practices in the Eastern Mediterranean (10th-11th centuries)

International workshop.

Medieval literary translations happened at many places and in many contexts, with large urban centres building up strong competences which often depended on the extraordinary linguistic capabilities of individual translators (both lay and ecclesiastic). Attracting people of various backgrounds, monasteries also became centres of translation, not least because they housed speakers (and readers) of several different languages. Two important such centres from the mid-tenth to the late eleventh century were Mt Athos and Antioch with its environs. This was the period in which Athos was established as a monastic area, with Greek but also Georgian presence from the beginning, and soon attracting also users of Latin and Slavonic. After the Byzantines reconquered Antioch from the Hamdanids in 969, Greek language and literature rose again to prominence on a local level, but also encountered other rich literary traditions, such as Arabic, Armenian, Syriac and Georgian. Both on Mt Athos and on the Black Mountain, these monastic communities engaged in large-scale translation projects of the entire Biblical and Patristic heritage (including hagiography, ascetic literature, homilies, commentaries, etc.). At the same time, the city of Antioch itself fostered a new intellectual environment in which Graeco-Syro-Arabic translations could take place.

Although some of the translators’ names are known, scholars have only recently begun to study these translation activities and projects in more detail. Focusing on the cases of Antioch (incl. the surrounding monastic landscape) and Mt Athos (incl. its interactions with Thessaloniki and Constantinople), this workshop will address the following questions: Who are the main individuals, groups and institutions involved in these translations? What kind of evidence about these translations is still available today (narrative sources, manuscripts, etc.) and how can it be analyzed? Can the work of translator teams be detected in the extant sources and how can we study their translation techniques and methods? What is the relationship between the monastic and the urban translation centres? Are there any translation practices shared between Athos and Antioch that could indicate mutual influence and exchanges?

In addition, the workshop will explore other cases of monastic translations in the Eastern Mediterranean, such as the reception of the corpus of Antiochene translations during the Copto-Arabic Renaissance, or the later Graeco-Slavonic translations on Mt Athos.