Michael Prokurat, Alexander Golitzin, Michael D. Peterson
The A to Z of the Orthodox Church



ROMANOS THE MELODIST, poet, composer, St. (?–555). Architect of Byzantine, and hence Orthodox, liturgical poetry (q.v.), Romanos was of Syrian origin, born in Emesa, and flourished in the Constantinople of the Emperor Justinian (qq.v.). His hymns betray the influence of Syriac (q.v.) models. Their dependence upon syllabic stress rather than the value of vowel sounds, characteristic of ancient Greek poetry, is Semitic in origin and was also determinative for the subsequent production of Byzantine hymnody. The themes of his hymns and their handling of imagery recall the poetry of Ephrem the Syrian (q.v.), as well as others in the Syriac tradition. Romanos is most famous for his kontakia, about eighty of which circulate under his name. Long poems in several strophes composed in honor of the great feasts of the Church, they are considered great literary achievements. While never sung today in their entirety, the leading strophes, the kontakia, preserve something of Romanos’s poetry and music in modern liturgical books (qq.v.).

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