The Patria is a fascinating four-book collection of short historical notes, stories, and legends about the buildings and monuments of Constantinople, compiled in the late tenth century by an anonymous author who made ample use of older sources. It also describes the foundation and early (pre-Byzantine) history of the city, and includes the Narrative on the Construction of Hagia Sophia, a semi-legendary account of Emperor Justinian I's patronage of this extraordinary church (built between 532 and 537). The Patria constitutes a unique record of popular traditions about the city, especially its pagan statues, held by its medieval inhabitants. At the same time it is the only Medieval Greek text to present a panorama of the city as it existed in the middle Byzantine period. Despite its problems of historical reliability, the Patria is still one of our main guides for the urban history of medieval Constantinople. This translation makes the entire text of the Patria accessible in English for the first time.
Albrecht Berger is Professor of Byzantine Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.