This volume presents the first edition of the Letters of Iakovos
Monachos addressed to the sevastokratorissa Eirene,
sister-in-law of the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180). Writing
in the late 1140s, Iakovos offers spiritual advice to Eirene, and
affirms his support for her in times of trouble. This is a rare
example of the correspondence of a Byzantine spiritual father and
provides tantalizing glimpses into Eirene’s difficult life.
Both are significant figures in Byzantine cultural history, Iakovos
as the author of the renowned Kokkinobaphos Homilies on the
Theotokos and Eirene as a noted literary patroness.
The Letters’ style is striking. They are constructed
almost entirely from a mosaic of quotations from the Cappadocian
Fathers and other patristic authors, the most recent being Niketas
of Herakleia. Very little can be attributed to the pen of Iakovos
himself, leaving questions about his motivation but also incidental
insights into the holdings of a monastic library. The Letters are
preserved in a handsome contemporary manuscript, very probably a
presentation copy made for Eirene or her heirs, and two fragmentary
late sixteenth-century copies.
The edition is accompanied by the usual apparatuses and indices,
and a full introduction discussing the transmission of the text and
setting out the context for Eirene’s life and the
The book will be of interest to specialists in Byzantine
spirituality, Byzantine epistolography, the history of the twelfth
century, women’s history, and Byzantine literacy.
Elizabeth M. Jeffreys is Emeritus Bywater and Sotheby
Michael Jeffreys is Emeritus Professor of Modern Greek,
University of Sydney