The greatest achievement of Aelius Herodianus (2nd cent. A.D.), one of the most influential linguists of antiquity, was “De prosodia catholica”, a systematic exposition of the rules for Greek prosody which he dedicated to Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161–180). The work was frequently used by late antique and Byzantine scholars, however, it survived only in later epitomes and quotations by other authors. The discovery of ten palimpsest folios from a tenth-century manuscript of Herodian’s Prosody by Herbert Hunger in a Greek palimpsest of the Austrian National Library sixty years ago caused great excitement worldwide. The fragments survived underneath a late-twelfth/early-thirteenth-century copy of the Life of John Chrysostom by Symeon Metaphrastes. The deciphering is extremely difficult, since the text of Herodian has been quite thoroughly erased and the later scribe wrote the new text over it, covering the original lines to a great extent. With the technical means available in the 1960s, Herbert Hunger succeeded in deciphering several portions of the text (JÖBG 1967). There was an astonishing richness of quotations from classical literature cited by Herodian to illustrate single rules. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the research on the Vienna Herodian palimpsest has been renewed and further carried out under several projects conducted at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and led by Otto Kresten (ÖAW, Byzanzforschung). An international team of scholars has been assembled to further decipher and examine the Vienna fragments of Herodian: Klaus Alpers (Hamburg), Jana Grusková (Vienna/Bratislava), Oliver Primavesi (Munich), Nigel Wilson (Oxford).
The new project seeks to reveal the important palimpsest of Herodian as completely as possible. The output will be a critical edition of the Vienna fragments including a full commentary. Particular emphasis will be put on the reconstruction and interpretation of the new fragments of ancient literature. Special images resulting from state-of-the-art non-invasive digital recovery will enable the scholars to further read the text.