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Michael Psellos: the Encomium of His Mother, translation with introduction and notes by Jeffrey Walker, University of Texas (This is an online version of the translation published in Advances in the History of Rhetoric vol.

Clarke papers, Archives of American Art, Roll 597, fr. Note: reviewer called the painting "a little bouquet of prettiness."] Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by H. The chief reason is that almost none of his many surviving works have been translated into English (or any other modern language).The only important work by Psellos available in English is the Chronographia — an acknowledged masterpiece of Byzantine historiography, and in itself a rhetorical and literary masterpiece as well — in which he portrays fourteen Byzantine emperors from Basil II to Michael VII Doukas (976-1078), a series of (after Basil) mostly inept fools who brought the empire to disaster, and most of whom he had personally known or served. This speech is also important — in the second place — because in it Psellos makes a case for his own life and career as a “Byzantine sophist.” I have argued this point at length elsewhere,[6] and will not belabor it here, except to note that a key to understanding this speech is the concept of the “figured problem,” as discussed in “Hermogenes” On Invention (4.13), a text with which any well-educated Byzantine would have been familiar, and which Psellos himself summarized in a verse synopsis for the young Michael Doukas.As a defense of his life and career, Psellos’ Encomium of His Mother can be placed in a series of such defenses — or defenses of rhetoric — beginning at least with Isocrates’ Antidosis and continuing through such late-antique discourses as Aelius Aristides’ Defense of Rhetoric against Plato. It provides some glimpses into what the experience of the late-classical paideia was like, at least for a precocious Byzantine schoolboy like the young Michael Psellos.It also provides some glimpses into Byzantine family life, and, perhaps most importantly, it gives us a rare portrait of the life of a highly intelligent, intellectually ambitious Byzantine woman from outside the imperial family, or for that matter below the upper ranks of the Constantinopolitan aristocracy.

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