This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine sources produced and mounted with historical introduction and commentary by Paul Stephenson.


Constantine the Rhodian

Constantine the Rhodian was active from the reign of Leo VI to the restoration of Constantine VII in 945. He is attributed with a number of epigrams preserved in the Greek Anthology, but his only surviving longer work is an extended verse narrative in iambic trimeters, which is dedicated to Constantine VII. It is an ekphrasis concerning the Church of the Holy Apostles, preceded by lengthy descriptions of and comments on the seven wonders of Constantinople: (1) the Column of Constantine I (ll. 32-89); (2) the Senate House and its furnishings, including a bronze door and a bronze statue of Athena (ll. 92-162, translated here); (3) Cross on a Column attributed to Constantine I (ll. 163-77); (4) Anemodoulion, a tetrapylon with a weather vane (ll. 178-201); (5) Column of Theodosios (ll. 202-40); (6) Column of Arkadios (ll. 241-54); (7) Column of Justinian (ll. 36-51 and 364-72).

The author is identified in an acrostic at the start of the piece: the first eighteen lines begin with letters that spell Konstantinou Rodiou. It has been argued that the Rhodian wrote the work between 931 and 944, that is between the death of Christopher Lekapenos (son of Romanos I) and the ouster in 944 of Romanos by his remaining two sons. This suggestion is based on an allusion in this poem (at ll. 22-6) to the reign of four emperors, the four beacons illuminating the city, Constantinople.

The poem survives in only one late (fifteenth-century) manuscript preserved at the Great Lavra on Athos. A fuller version of the poem has been posited, and its use by Kedrenos demonstrated. The edition by E. Legrand, used for this translation, was produced from photographs obtained in 1894, with the patronage of G. Schlumberger. A new edition of the poem by I. Vassis is promised, with full English translation and commentary by V. Dimitropoulou, E. James and R. Jordan. Short translated excerpts from the section on the Church of the Holy Apostles are included in C. Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 312-1453 (Englewood Cliffs, 1972; Toronto, 1988), 199-201.

Translated excerpt: The Senate House and its Furnishings.


Basic Bibliography

A. Kazhdan, "At the court of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos", in his History of Byzantine Literature, II: 850-1000, ed. C. Angelidi (Athens, 2006), 113-83, at 158-62.

G. Downey, "Constantine the Rhodian: His Life and Writings," in Late Classical and Mediaeval Studies in Honor of A. M. Friend, Jr. (Princeton, 1955), 212-21.

O. Wulff, 'Die sieben Wunder von Byzanz und die Apostelkirche nach Konstantinos Rhodios', BZ 7 (1898), 317-331.

Commentary by T. Reinach in E. Legrand, ed., Description des oeuvres d'art et de l'Église des Saints Apôtres de Constantinople (Paris, 1896), 35-74 (in French).


Paul Stephenson, July 2010; January 2012