Scythica Vindobonensia

♦  ♦  ♦  Scholarship  ♦  ♦  ♦

♦ The Scythica Vindobonensia alias Dexippus Vindobonensis were discovered during a research project of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Byzanzforschung), which focused on Greek palimpsests of the Austrian National Library (ANL) in Vienna and was led by Otto Kresten. In 2008/2009 (after a series of systematic examinations, which started 2007), Jana Grusková identified the scriptura inferior of the palimpsest leaves 192r–195v of the Codex Vindobonensis historicus gr. 73 as remains of an ancient text, probably coming from Dexippus’ Scythica. In her book on Greek palimpsests of the ANL, Grusková published a work-in-progress transcription of one page (fol. 195r) and announced the intention to further examine the text (see Untersuchungen, 2010, 51–53).

♦ In 2012, the FWF project "Important textual witnesses in Vienna Greek palimpsests" started, which was hosted by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Byzanzforschung), with Otto Kresten as project leader. Its objective was to examine – among other valuable palimpsests of the ANL – the Scythica Vindobonensia (see GLO 2012, 75-77). Jana Grusková together with Gunther Martin, a specialist on Dexippus (see Dexipp von Athen, 2006), deciphered 60% of the palimpsest and examined the new text. Cutting-edge methods of digital recovery of erased writings were applied to make the original manuscript visible. The decipherment of the faint surviving traces of the erased text, which is concealed by another script (a so-called palimpsest), proved to be very difficult. Considering the importance of the new evidence on the one hand, and the long-lasting process of recovering the text on the other, Martin and Grusková decided to make their results available at a preliminary stage. In the spring of 2014, they published a preliminary transcription of four pages.

♦ In 2013, Laura Mecella included the text of fol. 195r published by Jana Grusková to her new edition of Dexippus (see Dexippo di Atene, 2013).

♦ The text on fols. 192v, 193r, 194v, and 195r was the object of an international workshop organized in Vienna on 20–22 June 2014 by Fritz Mitthof (Dep. of Ancient History) and Herbert Bannert (Dep. of Classical Philology) of the University of Vienna and Jana Grusková and Gunther Martin on behalf of the above-mentioned project of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The new evidence was discussed by experts on ancient and Gothic history and classical philology. The Scythica Vindobonensia were declared to be of great importance for our understanding of the history of the 3rd century AD, and for many other aspects of Greek, Roman, Gothic/Early German and Byzantine history. Their contribution to the classical literature was emphasized. Grusková and Martin continued to work on the deciphering of the Vienna fragments. In due course, they published a preliminary transcription of two other (only partly legible) pages, fols. 194r and 195v. 

Some additional observations concerning the decipherment and reconstruction of the Scythica Vindobonensia, including important corrigenda, were published by the two editors in the proceedings of the Mommsen-Tagung 2014 (see J. Grusková – G. Martin, Rückkehr zu den Thermopylen, Mommsen-Tagung in Wuppertal 2014, Stuttgart 2017, 267–281).

♦ Based on the preliminary transcription of the six above-mentioned pages published by Martin and Grusková in 2014 and 2015, other scholars provided important contributions focusing on various aspects of the new evidence: Herwig Wolfram, David Potter, Olivier Gengler, Bruno Bleckmann, Ioan Piso, Christopher Jones, Christopher Mallan, Caillan Davenport, Laura Mecella, Carlo Lucarini, Giuseppe Zecchini, Fritz Mitthof, Dilyana Boteva, Amphilochios Papathomas, Herbert Bannert, Peter Schreiner, Roland Steinacher, Kai Brodersen, and many others (see the bibliography below).

♦ Martin and Grusková continued deciphering and examining the text and working towards the ultimate goal of preparing a critical edition (editio princeps) of the Vienna fragments with a philological and historical commentary (see below).

♦ In order to reveal the remaining (still illegible) 40% of the erased writing and prepare a critical and commented edition as well as to further explore the Vienna fragments in their contexts, Kresten, Grusková and Martin together Fritz Mitthof, a specialist in Ancient history, applied to the FWF for new funding at the end of 2014. The project "Scythica Vindobonensia" started in 2015. It was led by Fritz Mitthof and Otto Kresten and conducted at both the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Additional state-of-the-art methods, also including XRF element mapping, were applied to make the previously illegible parts of the palimpsest legible. The first results were published in 2017.

♦ The project "Scythica Vindobonensia" also dealt with exploring the Vienna fragments in their historical and historiographical contexts. Extended studies on selected historical, prosopographical, epigraphical and geographical aspects were published by Fritz Mitthof and Olivier Gengler. An international conference "Empire in crisis: Gothic invasions and Roman historiography" was organized on 3 to 6 May 2017 in Vienna, which led to the publication of a volume of its proceedings (Wien 2020, TYCHE Supplementband 12, Holzhausen Verlag). The volume unites a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary contributions on invasions of Goths and other Germanic tribes into the Roman Empire, focusing primarily on the 3rd century AD. The contributions explore the Scythica Vindobonensia in their contexts, from the Roman to the Byzantine Era, and the history of the invasions themselves.

♦ Another goal of the project has been to study in detail various aspects of palaeography, codicology and book history of the palimpsest in the Codex Vind. hist. gr. 73. Leading specialists in Greek palaeography – Giuseppe De Gregorio, Ernst Gamillscheg, Otto Kresten, Brigitte Mondrain and Nigel Wilson (listed in alphabetical order) – were brought in to discuss and settle the problematic issues. A Colloquium of these experts and the two editors, Jana Grusková and Gunther Martin, took place on 7–8 May 2017 at the Austrian National Library and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Division of Byzantine Research) in Vienna.

♦ At the end of 2017, fast scanning XRF element mapping was performed on the Vienna palimpsest of the Scythica Vindobonensia at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg with Leif Glaser as the principal investigator (Project I-20170505 EC, project leader: Jana Grusková). The costs of the trip of the valuable manuscript from Vienna to DESY in Hamburg were covered from the Holzhausen-Legat of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (project leader: Fritz Mitthof).

In the past years, Grusková and Martin, the two editors of the Scythica Vindobonensia, and the image scientists assembled by EMEL Roger L. Easton, Jr., and Keith T. Knox have been intensively working on the image data, trying to "excavate" characters illegible so far. Based on the images which resulted from these efforts, Grusková and Martin have been able to decipher and examine several new lines. The two editors will publish a paper on the new passage in due course:

♦ From the very beginning, Gunther Martin and Jana Gruskováhave been working towards the ultimate goal of preparing a critical edition (editio princeps) of the Scythica Vindobonensia alias Dexippus Vindobonensis, including a comprehensive commentary on the text and extended studies on the authorship, the language and style etc. This edition will be published as soon as the complex process of digital recovery and the decipherment of the Vienna fragments have been completed and the new-revealed passages have been examined.


Publications on the Scythica Vindobonensia alias Dexippus Vindobonensis  (in chronological order)

See also the list of publications in the volume "Empire in Crisis", 2020, pp. 565–570.