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Chapter 3 - Past and Future in the Iohannis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 October 2023

Andy Merrills
Affiliation:
University of Leicester
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Summary

Chapter 3 considers the underlying narrative structures of Corippus’ epic and how the poet positions the campaigns of John Troglita in their wider context. The Iohannis surveys the events of circa 530–46 in a series of analeptic ‘flashbacks’. As a succinct verse history of North Africa between the late 520s and 546, these surveys differ wildly from contemporary imperial propaganda. This chapter argues that these accounts must be considered as meaningful responses to the recent past within Byzantine Africa and as functional parts of the Iohannis. It is argued that Corippus’ presentation of these counter-narratives created a space for the interrogation of a complex past which would otherwise have been unavailable to him.

The second part of the chapter looks at the prolepses in the Iohannis, where Corippus’ narrative moves from the narrated time of John’s campaigns to their anticipated resolution and the composition of the epic itself. This teleology is not only explored through many direct references to the coming Roman triumph, but also to the counterfactual ‘futures’ anticipated by the Moors. Corippus’ resolution of these accounts through authorial interjections help to underscore the inevitability of imperial victory while emphasizing the sense of crisis within the historical narrative.

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War, Rebellion and Epic in Byzantine North Africa
A Historical Study of Corippus' <i>Iohannis</i>
, pp. 86 - 127
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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