This year's Conference is dedicated to the remarkable Manuel Vryennios-
Mathematician, Astronomer, Musician, Poet, and Diplomat

(adapted from Dimitri E. Conomos in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium,
electronic ISBN 9780195187922, 2012):

Vryennios was unquestionably one of Byzantium's most versatile scholars and he was also possibly a music theorist; fl. Constantinople ca.1300.

He instructed the statesman
Theodore Metochites in mathematics, astronomy, and probably music (a didactic poem by Theodore reflects Vryennios's teaching). His doctrines on mathematics and astronomy are to be found in a letter to Maximos Planoudes and in scholia to MSS of Ptolemy's Almagest.

The only surviving work attributed to Vryennios is the three-volume "Harmonika", based on ancient Greek tradition. The author treats his material more independently and carries his conclusions further than his sources, however. The neo-Pythagorean numerological theory of music is Vryennios's most important source (more for facts than for metaphysical speculation). Other sources are Nicomachus of Gerasa, Aristides Quintilianus, Theon of Smyrna, and, above all, Claudius Ptolemy for his theory of the eight tonoi, the “shadings” of the tetrachords, and the monochord and its division.

Vryennios also drew extensively on the empiricist school of Aristoxenos (4th C. b.c.). The first section of the treatise is based largely on this school; the second, however, is founded on neo-Pythagorean tradition and concludes with a comparison of the divisions of the tetrachords. The third section unites the Pythagorean and Aristoxenian traditions and culminates in a theory for constructing melodies. One section deals with the Byzantine ecclesiastical
modes and associates them with the ancient systems of transposition (tonoi, tropoi); this section is illustrated by the musical practice of Vryennios's own time.

Vryennios's treatise is the most comprehensive surviving codification of Byzantine musical scholarship. Associated with the growing interest in mathematics in the early Palaiologan period, it contributed to the rediscovery of ancient music theory. The late Byzantine Empire and the Italian Renaissance valued it highly: 46 MSS from before 1600 and two early Latin translations (1497 and 1555) survive.


ed. Opera mathematica, ed. J. Wallis, vol. 3 (Oxford 1699) 357–508.

H. Reimann, Zur Geschichte und Theorie der byzantinischen Musik, 4: Die Theorie des Manuel Bryennios, Vierteljahrsschrift für Musikwissenschaft 5 (1889) 335–44, 373–95.

G.H. Jonker, The Harmonies of Manuel Bryennios (Groningen 1970). PLP, no.3260.