Final Public Oral Exam: Joseph Glynias

Final Public Oral Examination
Event date: 
July 15, 2022 - 10:00am
Seminar Series: 
Final Public Oral Exam

Baghdad on the Orontes: Between Greek and Arabic Intellectual Worlds in Eleventh-Century Antioch


Jack Tannous, adviser
John Haldon
Eve Krakowski
Alexander Treiger, Dalhousie University




Baghdad on the Orontes investigates the multilingual scholarship of 11th-century Antioch. I highlight the role played by Eastern Christians in this moment of cultural flourishing, as Antioch became Byzantium’s eastern capital, from which the empire exerted power over the Middle East. This dissertation makes two major interventions that I hope will affect scholarship on Middle Eastern history, medieval intellectual history, Eastern Christian Studies, and Byzantine History, among other fields.

In my first intervention, I historicize the translation from Greek to Arabic of hundreds of Christian works brought to Antioch by Greek-speakers from Constantinople. By translating these works, Antiochene Arabic-speaking Christians expressed Byzantine cultural norms in Arabic and established an Arabic Christian canon that followed Byzantine models, while borrowing philosophical ideas and vocabulary from Arabic scholarship in Baghdad that had emerged from translations of Greek texts. I argue that Antioch’s little-studied translation movement had profound effects on the Greek and Arabic intellectual traditions that came after. The spread of these translations to Arabic-speaking Christians of other confessions would shape liturgy, theology, and canon law across the Middle East. I contend that scholars must study Byzantine Greco-Arabica in concert with the better-known Greco-Arabic translation movement of ʿAbbāsid Baghdad.

My second major intervention considers how Antiochenes marketed their knowledge of Arabic science and philosophy to Byzantine audiences. The Greek writings of Antiochene scholars, both Arabic texts translated into Greek and Greek texts that used Arabic sources, led to the integration of Islamic scholarship into Byzantine discourse. Thus, Arabic writings based on Baghdad’s Greco-Arabic translation movement were integrated into the Greek tradition whence it came, with resounding effects on Byzantine scholarship and on the Western reception of the Greek philosophical and scientific traditions. Through this part of my dissertation, I hope to begin to narrativize the transmission of Arabic science and philosophy into Greek and its impact on the study of these disciplines in Byzantium and Renaissance Italy. In so doing, I aim to contribute toward the establishment of Arabo-Greek Studies as a new scholarly field, in which, as in the case of Greco-Arabic, the study of Eastern Christians should stand at the center.

A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Contact Lee Horinko for a copy of the dissertation and the Zoom meeting link and password.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.