Julian Chrysostomides was a scholar who chose exile from her native Constantinople and won the admiration of her tutor, Iris Murdoch
Αναδημοσίευση από την Daily Telegraph του Λονδίνου, 26 Νοεμβρίου 2008:
Φόρος τιμής στην Ιουλιανή Χρυσοστομίδου, μια λαμπρή προσωπικότητα των γραμμάτων και του Ελληνισμού. Είχα την τιμή να τη γνωρίσω στα φοιτητικά μου χρόνια στο Royal Holloway (η Ιουλιανή ήταν η μέντορας του αγαπημένου φίλου και βυζαντινολόγου Χαράλαμπου Δενδρινού) και να ζήσω από κοντά κάποιες στιγμές από το μεγαλείο και τη γλυκύτητα της ψυχής της. Η Ιουλιανή ενσάρκωνε το πάθος για τα γράμματα ενός λογίου, το θάρρος και το σθένος ενός επαναστάτη, τη λεπτότητα μιας αριστοκράτισας, και τη δροσιά ενός απλού κοριτσιού. Όσοι τη ζήσαμε, την αγαπήσαμε. Μαθήτευσα κι εγώ μαζί της, κι ας μην μου’ καμε ποτέ μάθημα.
Julian Chrysostomides , who has died aged 81, was an outstanding scholar and teacher of Byzantine history.
For nearly 30 years, as a lecturer at Royal Holloway College in the University of London, she was instrumental in establishing it as a centre of Byzantine studies. Her self-adopted mission was to salvage and resurrect lost records of the East Roman Empire, a task she pursued with singular tenacity.
Herself an authentic “Byzantine”, Julian (or Iouliane) Chrysostomides was to a large extent driven by her own troubled past as a member of Constantinople’s persecuted Greek minority, which had survived there since the fall of the city to the Turks in 1453. At the time of her birth, on April 21 1928, there were some 150,000 Greeks living in the city, which had remained the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Harassed by the police as a schoolgirl for speaking Greek, Julian had learned to avoid them. Equally fluent in French and Turkish, she proceeded from the Zappeion, the Greek Lyceum for Girls, to the Sorbonne, but found it uncongenial.
With the encouragement of her father, a Cappadocian businessman who believed that Oxford was the proper place to study Classical Greek, she applied in person for a place at St Hugh’s College, and was mortified to be turned down on the ground of her poor English. She had better luck at St Anne’s, where she was accepted to read Greats in 1951, despite her ignorance of Latin.
Julian’s tutor was Iris Murdoch, who took her under her wing. Murdoch described Julian as “a magical girl” and referred to her “detached integrity and pride…she is warmth, simplicity, & a kind of small fierce strength like a beast”.
The intrepid Julian, who had braved the isolation of being in a foreign land, was the model for Rain Carter in Iris Murdoch’s novel The Sandcastle (1957), who is a shy, diminutive girl who “spoke with pedantic solemnity” and had a “sense of vocation like a steam hammer”. By describing the frustrations of building sandcastles on Mediterranean beaches, Julian had, moreover, supplied Murdoch with the central motif of the novel.
The September Riots in Constantinople, soon after her graduation in 1955, helped to decide Julian Chrysostomides’ future. Factory workers shipped in from Asia Minor had rampaged through her native quarter, the Pera, beating, raping and – in a few cases – killing Greeks, smashing their property and shouting “Death to the Giaours [infidels]!”
Julian Chrysostomides was appalled by their senseless vandalism, and particularly by an incident of which she heard with horror, when rioters dragged a grand piano to the upper floor of her old school and threw it into the street below. Her family remained in the city while their fellow Greeks deserted it in droves, but it was years before she returned, so fearful was she of being detained in Turkey.
In her early years in England she had instinctively kept away from policemen, even crossing the road to avoid them. One day she stopped to help a woman who had fallen off her bicycle. As Julian Chrysostomides gathered up the spilled contents of the woman’s basket, she was asked what country she came from. Unwilling to own up to Turkey, she declared herself to be Greek. “How lovely to be Greek!” said the woman. It was a seminal moment for Julian Chrysostomides. She realised that in England she would be free to take full pride in her heritage.
She threw herself into research for a BLitt, supervised by the formidable Professor Joan Hussey of Royal Holloway College. Armed with dazzling references from Iris Murdoch, she took work as a librarian, latterly at the Society of Antiquaries, until the award of an international fellowship enabled her to live in Venice for a year. The Venetian State Archives were trawled for new sources on the late-Byzantine Aegean world, and the results published.
By then a naturalised British subject, Julian Chrysostomides was appointed in 1965 to a lectureship in History at Royal Holloway. She became senior lecturer in 1983, reader in 1992 and emeritus reader on her retirement in 1993, by which time she had established her department as a centre for Byzantine scholarship to rival King’s College.
In collaboration with Professor DM Nicol of King’s, she had taught a testing and prestigious special paper for undergraduates entitled “Byzantium, Italy and the First Crusade”. Her students were expected to master the original sources in both Latin and Greek. With quiet authority and the perspective of a true Byzantine, Julian Chrysostomides brought the urbane, cynical memoirist Michael Psellos, the wily Patriarch Keroularios, and the erudite, “purple-born” Anna Komnene vividly to life before her students, who almost felt that she had known these people personally.
Her best-known work was an edition, published in Greece, of the oration given by the Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos at the funeral of his brother Theodore, the Despot of Mistra. Julian Chrysostomides felt particular sympathy for Manuel, whose comments about militant Islam were quoted, controversially, by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006. Soldier, scholar and theologian, Manuel was the only Byzantine emperor to have visited England (in 1400-01) and had also for a period been a hostage of the Ottoman Sultan, Bayezid I, at Bursa.
With characteristic single-mindedness, Julian Chrysostomides overcame the reluctance of conventional publishers to produce specialist scholarly editions, in 1987 founding her own publishing house, Porphyrogenitus (the surname traditionally given to the offspring of reigning emperors, meaning “born in the purple”). Its list has included her own collaboration, The Letter of the Three Patriarchs to Emperor Theophilos, her invaluable Monumenta Peloponnesiaca and a festschrift in honour of Joan Hussey.
As someone whose favourite novel was Middlemarch, she had latterly undertaken an essential but unglamorous task worthy of Casaubon, editing, with Charalambos Dendrinos, the monumental Lexicon of Abbreviations and Ligatures in Greek Minuscule Hands (c8th century to c1600). It was a project that, happily, she saw through almost to the end.
In 1998 she was appointed Director of the Hellenic Institute at Royal Holloway College, a research centre into all things Greek. Her tireless work on behalf of the institute (for which she received no remuneration) and her major contribution to Byzantine scholarship were recognised by the Greek government in 1999 when it conferred on her the title of Ambassador for Hellenism.
Julian Chrysostomides was a gentle and reserved person of great courage and unassailable integrity, whose “proud humility” was tempered by a sharp sense of humour. She was a doughty champion of her students, who adored her in return and invariably became friends for life. She had been set a fine example by her own tutors, and was one of a number of close friends who rallied to Iris Murdoch in her distressed old age.
She felt very keenly the need to preserve and defend civilised values, whether Byzantine or British, and deplored the sale by Royal Holloway College, in the mid-1990s, of a Gainsborough, a Turner and a Constable, part of the founder’s original endowment. The sale raised £21 million for the redevelopment of the college; but she felt that “we have taught the young the wrong lesson. That it is all right for an affluent society to run through the alleys of the world with a begging bowl. This is not the vision of England I grew up with – that Byronic vision – and which I found when I first came to this country.” Whilst judging herself to have been “passable” as a teacher, she claimed therefore to have failed as an educator: “For I cannot say ‘I was not here.’ ”
Julian Chrysostomides, who died on October 18, never married; but in 1979 she adopted the orphaned son of her adored twin brother Nikos, and he survives her. She shared a large house at Camberley, Surrey, with her life-long friend Joan Richmond, and the devoted students who visited her there – together with what she called “the brotherhood of scholars” – constituted her wider family.