The Seven Sages of Rome as a Global Narrative Tradition

Oxford-Berlin Workshop 11-12 November 2022, organised by Ida Toth (Oxford) and Jutta Eming (Berlin)

The Seven Sages of Rome (SSR) is a title commonly used for one of the most widely distributed pre-modern collections of stories, which – remarkably – also happens to be barely known today, even among medievalists and early modernists. Several early versions of the SSR exist in Greek (Syntipas), Arabic (Seven Viziers), Hebrew (Mishle Sendebar), Latin (Dolopathos, Historia septem sapientum), Persian (Sindbād-nameh) and Syriac (Sindbād) as well as in the later translations into Armenian, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, German, English, French, Hungarian, Icelandic, Polish, Russian, Scottish, Serbian, Swedish, Spanish, Romanian, Turkish and Yiddish. The multilingual traditions of the SSR, with their many intercultural links, cannot be adequately understood within the current division of research disciplines into distinct medieval and modern linguistic areas. To mend this deficiency, the workshop has invited specialists in affiliated fields to address the problems of surveying the long history of creative adaptations associated with the SSR. The participants will consider the complexities of the philological, literary, and historical analysis of the SSR in many of its attested versions across the pre-modern and early modern periods. The workshop is envisaged as a forum for a robust discussion on possible ways of advancing the current scholarship of the SSR, and as an opportunity to strengthen the inter-institutional collaboration involving specialists based at the universities in Oxford and Berlin, and more broadly.

The workshop will start with a session in the Weston Library on Friday morning where the group will meet other Oxford medievalists at the Coffee Morning, followed by a view of special collections in the library. While this is for speakers only, their is limited capacity to attend the following talks at the Ioannou Centre. If interested, please contact the workshop co-ordinator Josh Hitt.


  • 2 pm – 3 pm: Beatrice Gründler, Kalīla and Dimna – AnonymClassic: Methodology and Practical Implementations (via Zoom, 1st-fl Seminar Room)
  • 4 pm – 5 pm: Daniel Sawyer, Forgotten books: The application of Unseen Species Models to the Survival of Culture (In person, Outreach Room)


10 am – 11.30 am

  • Jutta Eming, The Seven Sages of Rome in Literary History and Genre Theory
  • David Taylor, Re-examining the Evidence of the Syriac Book of Sindbād
  • Ida Toth, The Byzantine Book of Syntipas: Approaches and Directions
  • Emilie van Opstall, The Representation of Women in Byzantine Syntipas and Latin Dolopathos

12 pm – 1.30 pm

  • Bettina Bildhauer, Consent in the German Version of the Seven Sages of Rome
  • Rita Schlusemann, Genre, Dissemination and Multimodality of the Septem sapientum Romae, especially in Dutch and German
  • Niko Kunkel, Statistics and Interpretation: Annotating the German Sieben Weise Meister
  • Ruth von Bernuth, Yiddish Seven Masters

4.30 pm: Tea and a guided tour of St Edmund Hall with Henrike Lähnemann

5.45 pm: Evensong at New College

Appendix: List of manuscripts and early printed books in the Bodleian Library:

  • Arabic: Pococke 400
  • Greek: Barocc. 131 and Laud. 8
  • Armenian: MS. Arm. e. 33 and MS. Canonici Or. 131
  • Hebrew (Mishle Sendebar/Fables of Sendebar): MS. Heb. d. 11 (ff. 289-294) and MS. Bodl. Or. 135 (ff. 292-300r)
  • Yiddish: Opp. 8. 1115 Mayse fun Ludvig un Aleksander and Opp. 8. 1070 Zibn vayzn mansters fun Rom
  • Welsh Jesus College MS 111
  • Middle English: B. Balliol College MS. 354
  • English, early printed book: The History of the Seven Wise Masters of Rome. Now newly Corrected better Explained in many places and enlarged with many pretty Pictures etc. London, Printed for John Wright, next to the Globe in Little-Brittain, 1671

Image: British Library, Add. MS. 15685, f. 83r (XIV century, Venice)

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