Sei sulla pagina 1di 7

Medioevo greco

Rivista di storia e filologia bizantina

International Advisory Board

Panagiotis A. Agapitos, Christian Hannick, Wolfram Hörandner, Elizabeth

M. Jeffreys, John Monfasani, Inmaculada Pérez Martín, Diether R. Reinsch, Jan
O. Rosenqvist, Jacques Schamp, Roger D. Scott, Peter Van Deun, Mary Whitby

Medioevo greco. Rivista di storia e filologia bizantina

Direzione: Enrico V. Maltese, Luigi Silvano, Anna Maria Taragna, Paolo Varalda

Redazione: G. Agosti, R. Angiolillo, T. Braccini, G. Cattaneo, R. Ciocca, G. Cortassa,

E. Elia, E. V. Maltese, E. Nuti, R. M. Piccione, T. Prudente, E. Roselli, L. Silvano,
A. M. Taragna, P. Varalda

Università degli studi di Torino di Studi Umanistici
via s. Ottavio, 20 – I-10124 Torino
tel. +39 011 6703615 fax +39 011 6703631

Registrato presso il Tribunale di Alessandria al nr. 644 (27 luglio 2010)

Direttore responsabile: Lorenzo Massobrio
Medioevo greco

Rivista di storia e filologia bizantina

18 (2018)

Edizioni dell’Orso
Volume edito a cura di E. V. Maltese, A. M. Taragna, P. Varalda

© 2018
Copyright by Edizioni dell’Orso s.r.l.
via Rattazzi 47 – I-15121 Alessandria
tel. +39 0131 252349 fax +39 0131 257567
http: //

È vietata la riproduzione, anche parziale, non autorizzata, con qualsiasi mezzo effettuata, compresa la
fotocopia, anche a uso interno e didattico. L’illecito sarà penalmente perseguibile a norma dell’art. 171
della Legge n. 633 del 22.04.1941

ISSN 1593-456X
ISBN 978-88-6274-881-0

Realizzazione editoriale e informatica: Arun Maltese (

Grafica della copertina a cura di Paolo Ferrero (

In copertina: amanti in un giardino (Digenis Akritas e l’amazzone Maximò?). Piatto di ceramica,

XII-XIII secolo. Corinto, Museo Archeologico.
Nicholas Kallikles’ epitaph for the sebastos Roger: the success
of a Norman chief at the court of Alexios I Komnenos

At the beginning of the twelfth century, probably after 1108, Nicholas Kallikles
composed an epitaph in dodecasyllables for an individual named Roger. The po-
em’s title reports that the deceased had held the high dignity of sebastos, and the
text mentions that he had been a successful military officer in the service of Em-
peror Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118).
This text, preserved in a single manuscript dated to the fourteenth century
(Marc. Gr. Z 498 [= 432]), is interesting in many respects. Firstly, as a source for
Byzantine prosopography, since it provides substantial information about an indi-
vidual who is otherwise known only through scanty references in historiography.
The fact that, as we shall see, Roger was a Latin is also significant from a perspec-
tive of social and cultural history: Kallikles’ verses mirror ongoing changes in the
composition of Byzantine court aristocracy under the first Komnenoi and it show-
cases the pathway of integration of foreign elites into this social group. We shall al-
so consider the meaning and function of this text in relation with its possible per-
formative context and its intended audience. Finally, the epitaph for the sebastos
Roger needs to be interpreted as a literary product, and to be read against the
background of the Byzantine poetic tradition.

Text and translation1

tou' aujtou' eij" to;n tavfon ÔRogerivou tou' sebastou'
Ni'kai, mavcai kai; kovmpo" ejx iJppasmavtwn,
kravdansi" e[gcou" kai; kivnhsi" ajspivdo"
tovlmh fronou'sa, lh'ma dusmenoktovnon,
meth'lqen w|de pavnta pro;" lepth;n kovnin:

This article draws upon the research undertaken during my postdoctoral fellowship at Prince-
ton University: I gratefully acknowledge the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies for the generous
support provided. My gratitude goes also to Prof. Sophie Métivier, who invited me to present a
draft of this paper at her research seminar (Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne), and to the
many colleagues in Paris who, with their remarks and advice, contributed improving my re-
Editions: L. Sternbach (ed.), Nicolai Calliclis Carmina, Cracoviae 1903, nr. 32, pp. 40-42; R.
Romano (ed.), Nicola Callicle, Carmi, Napoli 1980, nr. 19, pp. 93-95 (reference edition, hence-
forth: Kallikles, Poems). Translations (both in Italian): R. Cantarella, Poeti bizantini, Milano
1948: I, pp. 175-177; II, pp. 206-207; Kallikles, Poems, pp. 141-142.
«MEG» 18, 2018, pp. 1-17
2 Luisa Andriollo

to;n ga;r tropaioucou'nta provsqen iJppovthn 5

oJ zwgravfo" skiavn me kai; tuvpon gravfei.
Plh;n sth'qi, plh;n a[koue sumpaqw'", xevne,
skia'" laliavn, ajlla; kai; tuvpou lovgon:
gevnou" leovntwn skuvmnon ejkqrwvskontav me
gh' Fraggikh; katei'den: h\n brevfo" levwn: 10
mhvthr dΔ uJpostrwvsasa th'/ gh'/ ta; xivfh
xifw'n a[nw me qh'ke to;n tecqevntav me,
deiknu'sa toi'" oJrw'si wJ" ejn sumbovloi"
spavrgana kaina; kai; brevfo" xifhfovron:
masto;n mavch" katevscon, ejrrovfoun gavla. 15
Ou{tw" eij" a[ndra" h\lqon, e[nqa kai; fqavsa"
h\n Skhpivwn h] Skau'ro" h] Kavtlo" nevo",
ejpurpovloun, e[tupton, ajllΔ o{la" povlei"
fraktou;" machta;" ajqrohvtou" ejqrovoun
kai; taxiavrca" kai; favlagga" ejklovnoun: 20
to; dΔ ejk kamavtwn divyo" oujk e[trucev me:
tou;" ejk mavch" ga;r ei\con iJdrw'ta" drovson.
Swrento;" oi\de tau'ta su;n Neapovlei,
ΔItaliva te; kai; ta; th'" ÔRwvmh" pevla":
wJ" dΔ oujk ejcwvrei ta;" ejma;" strathgiva" 25
suvn Brentesivw/ Bavri" h] Kalabriva,
perw'men hJmei'" eujklew'" to;n ΔAdrivan,
ΔIllurioi'" dovxante" ejx e[rgwn tovte
h] pamfavgon pu'r h] kerauvnioi flovge".
ΔAllΔ oJ krataiov", eujsebh;" stefhfovro", 30
Komnhno;" ΔAlevxio", Aujsovnwn a[nax,
h[noixe moi ta; splavgcna: kai; tiv to; plevon…
cru'son pevlago" eu|ron, h\lqon eij" klevo",
tw'/ tw'n sebastw'n a[xoni prosegravfhn
kai; kh'do" e[scon ejk metarsivou gevnou" 35
kai; tevkna crusa', gluku;n ajmpevlou bovtrun:
kai; ta;" ejma;" ejnteu'qen ajndragaqiva"
Keltoi; bow'sin kai; parivstroi Skuvqai
kai; tevkna Persw'n, a[ntikru" fovnou tevkna,
kai; pa'n memhno;" e[qno" eij" gh'n Aujsovnwn. 40
ΔAllΔ oJ kratuvnwn ejn mavcai" me Despovth",
oJ dusmenw'n moi fu'la pro;" fugh;n trevpwn,
kai; daimovnwn ta; fu'la pro;" fugh;n trevpoi"
kai; tou' kalou' numfw'no" e[ndon eijsavgoi"
kai; th;n ΔEde;m scoivnisma kai; klh'ron nevmoi". 45

[Poem] of the same [author] on the tomb of the sebastos Roger

Victories, battles and the din of galloping horses, the shuddering of the spear and
the shaking of the shield, wise bravery, courage in slaying the enemies – thus all
turned to fine dust: indeed, the painter depicts me, the horseman who once gained
trophies, as a shade and an image. But stay, and listen sympathetically, O stranger,
to the talk of a shade, and to the speech of an image.
The Frankish land beheld me, a whelp born from a race of lions; I was [myself] a li-
Nicholas Kallikles’ epitaph for the sebastos Roger 3

on cub; and [my] mother, having strewn the ground with swords, laid me, a new-
born baby, down on the swords, showing to those who saw [me], as through sym-
bols, strange swaddling clothes and a sword-bearing baby; I held a breast of battle, I
sipped a milk [of battle].
Thus I reached manhood, and then I was already a Scipio, a Scaurus or a new Catu-
lus, I devastated with fire, I smote entire cities, I terrified fearless armoured war-
riors, I routed taxiarchs and falanges; and the thirst from toils did not consume me:
the sweats of the battle were like dew to me. Sorrento saw all these things, along
with Naples, Italy [saw it], and the surroundings of Rome; and since Bari with Brin-
disi and Calabria were not enough for my campaigns, we bravely crossed the Adriat-
ic, appearing then to the Illyrians as all-devouring fire or burning thunderbolt, be-
cause of our deeds.
But the mighty, pious bearer of the [imperial] crown, Alexios Komnenos, the lord of
the Ausones, opened his heart to me: and what more [could I ask]? I found a sea of
gold, I reached glory, I was ranked among the sebastoi, I married into an exalted
household, [I had] golden children, a sweet bunch of grapes; and henceforth the
Celts shout my prowesses, and the Scythians by the Danube, and the sons of the
Persians, the true sons of death, and every people that rages against the land of the
But, O Lord, you who gave me strength in the battles, and put the hostile nations to
flight before me, may you also put the crowds of demons to flight, and may you lead
me into the beautiful bridechamber and allot me Eden as my share and my inheri-

The author
Nicholas Kallikles lived and wrote under the reign of Alexios I and John II Kom-
nenos.2 Best known as a highly esteemed court physician, he served as the personal
doctor of Alexios I.3 His closeness to the emperor seems to have granted him influ-
ence at court, as can be inferred by two letters of Theophylact of Ochrid, who so-
licited his intercession to obtain protection against alleged fiscal abuses.4
Kallikles’ poetic production provides further evidence of his active participation
in the social and cultural life of the Komnenian court. Thirty-two poems in dode-

His dates of birth and death are not known; the death of Gregory Kamateros – before 1133: P.
Gautier (ed.), Théophylacte d’Achride, Lettres, Thessalonique 1968, pp. 73-74 –, for whom
Kallikles composed an epitaph (Kallikles, Poems, nr. 21, pp. 96-97), provides a terminus post
quem for the end of Kallikles’ life. On Kallikles’ biography, see the introduction by Romano:
Kallikles, Poems, pp. 13-26, 55-69.
D. Reinsch, A. Kambylis (eds.), Annae Comnenae Alexias, Berlin-New York 2001: XV 11, pp.
494, 498-499 (henceforth: Anna Komnene, Alexiad). Nicholas Kallikles and Michael Lizix are
also mentioned as excellent doctors by Theodore Prodromos (G. Podestà, Le satire lucianesche
di Teodoro Prodromo, «Aevum» 21/1, 1947, p. 21). On Kallikles see also B. Skoulatos, Les per-
sonnages byzantins de l’Alexiade. Analyse prosopographique et synthèse, Louvain 1980, pp. 251-
252, and A. Kazhdan, The Image of the Medical Doctor in Byzantine Literature of the Tenth to
Twelfth Centuries, «Dumbarton Oaks Papers» 38, 1984, pp. 44, 50.
Nrr. 93 and 111, pp. 476-477 and 534-535 Gautier.