Obituary: Ross Iain Thomas

Colleagues will be saddened to learn that Ross Iain Thomas passed away unexpectedly on 14 November 2022 following surgery.

Ross was a stalwart archaeologist specialising in ancient maritime networks and technologies, with a BA from Durham University and a PhD from the University of Southampton. A leading specialist in Roman Eastern Mediterranean and Red Sea port communities, he also published widely on the Hellenistic and Nubian worlds, having undertaken fieldwork on land in the UK, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and the UAE, and under water in Israel and Egypt. He led fieldwork at several sites, including as Co-Director of the Red Sea Wrecks Survey (2010-2011) and Director of the British Museum Naukratis Fieldwork Project (2012-present).

Ross joined the Museum in 2011 as a Project Curator on the Naukratis Project, before becoming a Curator of Roman Collections in 2016. He was committed to public and professional service. Ross was a keen supporter of students, especially those from less privileged backgrounds, organising annual Museum placements. He also served on the boards of several grant-giving bodies and as a trustee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, the Roman Society and, most recently, the Brading Roman Villa, on the Isle of Wight, a site perched above the family home where he grew up, and which was an inspiration for his future career. He was hugely talented and widely respected.

He was just 44 years old and is survived by his two children, 7 and 4, his wife, parents and brother. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues.

Further information on memorial arrangements and the family’s wishes concerning contact will be made available when possible.

A Just Giving page has been set up to support the family:

Professor Melek Delilbasi (1947-2022)

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing away of our  distinguished colleague Professor Melek Delilbaşı, president of the Turkish National Committee, on 26 September 2022. Her untimely death is a great loss for Turkish and international Byzantine studies.

Nevra Necipoglu
Secretary General, Turkish National Committee for Byzantine Studies

Athanasios Papageorgiou

It is with great sadness that the Byzantinist Society of Cyprus is announcing the death of Dr. Athanasios Papageorgiou, Director Emeritus of the Department of Antiquities and honorary member of our Society. Dr Papageorgiou was the Honorary President of the First Annual Conference on Byzantine and Medieval Studies (13-15 January 2017).

Athanasios Papageorgiou served his beloved homeland of Cyprus with virtue and passion. He was appointed Ephor of Ancient Monuments in 1962 at the Department of Antiquities of the newly established Republic of Cyprus. His previous Theological studies in Athens and graduate work in Paris, next to André Grabar και Paul Lemerle, equipped him with the scholarly breadth and skills in the study of Byzantine History and Art.

He worked with dedication and persistence to conserve and promote the monuments of Cyprus, while he focused with great care on the study of the Byzantine Heritage of the island. His contribution is vast and diverse; it cannot be assessed in one announcement. Indicatively, we mention the excavation of the basilicas at Agia Triada at Yialousa, Limeniotissa and Chrysopolitissa in Paphos, the basilica at the foothills of the Amathus acropolis. He also excavated the earlier phases of churches like Agios Spyridon in Tremethousha, Agios Heraklidios in Politiko, Agios Kyprianos in Menoiko and restored collapsed parts of buildings like the Virgin Apsinthiotissa on the Pentadaktylos. He led the conservation of Byzantine churches like the katholikon of the monastery of the Apostle Barnabas near Famagusta and the church of Agia Athanasia in Rizokarpaso and restored and uncovered the wall paintings in numerous other sites like at Agia Solomoni at Koma tou Yialou, Agios Antonios at Kelia and at Agia Paraskevi in Yeroskepou.

He played a chief role in the establishment of the Byzantine Museum of the Archbishop Makarios III Cultural Foundation in Nicosia and the Byzantine Museum of Paphos. After 1974, he made major contributions towards informing the international scientific and academic community about the destruction and looting of Cypriot Cultural Heritage, being the result of the Turkish invasion. He participated as an expert in numerous legal battles aiming at the return of stolen cultural treasures to Cyprus.

Athanasios Papageorgiou published over one hundred articles and studies on the history, the archaeology and the art of Cyprus. Among them, are his important monographs on the ICONS OF CYPRUS, the volume HOLY METROPOLIS OF PAPHOS, HISTORY AND ART, and his momentous work CHRISTIAN ART IN THE TURKISH-OCCUPIED PART OF CYPRUS. (

Without any doubt, his scientific and scholarly work can only be described as immense and irreplaceable. He stood out for his humility, his direct and uncompromising character and importantly his strict adherence to principles and ethical values which guided him throughout his life. Moreover, he was generous and always available to help his younger peers and students with prudent advice and the depth of his knowledge. Athanasios Papageorgiou will remain ever present through his work, his publications and more importantly through his deep love and sincere concern for his cherished Cyprus.

The Byzantinist Society of Cyprus expresses its sincere and deep condolences to his children, grandchildren, and all other members of Dr. Papageorgiou’s family.

Ilene Forsyth (1928–2022)

BSANA mourns the death of Ilene Forsyth, Professor Emerita in the Department of History of Art at the University of Michigan. A scholar of medieval art, Ilene trained a generation of Byzantinists, and helped organize the fourth Byzantine Studies Conference at the University of Michigan in 1978 by serving on the Program and Local Arrangements Committees. She also served on the BSC’s Committee on Dumbarton Oaks (1980–81).

The following announcement was posted by the International Center of Medieval Art last month:
It is with great sadness that the International Center of Medieval Art announces the death of Ilene Forsyth, a long-time member and supporter of the ICMA. Ilene endowed the ICMA’s Forsyth Lecture in memory of her husband, George H. Forsyth, Jr., and his cousin William H. Forsyth. She was a member of the ICMA from its foundation and served on the Board of Directors at various points, most recently from 2005 to 2008. A preeminent scholar of twelfth-century European sculpture and author of the landmark book The Throne of Wisdom: Wood Sculptures of the Madonna in Romanesque France (Princeton UP, 1972), Ilene was an inspiration and mentor for generations of medieval art historians. She was a member of the art history faculty at University of Michigan for thirty-five years (1962-97), where she generously endowed a professorship in western medieval art, graduate student fellowships, and other programs aimed at ensuring the future of the field.

Susan A. Boyd (1938-2022)

Via the Director’s Office, Dumbarton Oaks We write with great sadness to inform you that Susan A. Boyd, Curator emerita of the Byzantine collection at Dumbarton Oaks, passed away on May 5. A native of Washington, DC., Sue Boyd (as she was known to her colleagues) had a long and distinguished career at Dumbarton Oaks from 1963 to 2004. She started as Assistant for the Collection and was named Curator in 1979. Boyd curated or co-curated several exhibitions, including on “Gifts from the Byzantine Court,” on icons, and ivories. She was editor of the Byzantine collection publications and published widely on Byzantine art, especially early Christian liturgical silver plate, early Christian mural decoration of churches, and 12th-13th century Byzantine wall paintings. She was elected twice to the Governing Board of the Byzantine Studies Conference and was elected to the U.S. National Committee for Byzantine Studies in 1982.

At the beginning of her extraordinary tenure, Boyd met founder Mildred Bliss, and over four decades at Dumbarton Oaks she witnessed and contributed to developments such as the growth of public exhibitions, scholarly programs, and publications. Her unique perspective on the history of Dumbarton Oaks and the Byzantine collection is recorded in an oral history with former Museum Director Gudrun Bühl that can be found here ( Her involvement with the important Dumbarton Oaks-funded excavation and restoration projects in Istanbul and Cyprus is recorded in another oral history with the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives here (

Diana Gilliland Wright (1943–2022)

The following obituary was written by Dr. Wright’s daughter, Kathleen Connelly
Diana Gilliland Wright April 19, 1943 – April 1, 2022 Diana Gilliland Wright died on April 1, 2022, at her home in Washington, DC, surrounded by her daughters and her books. Passionate, brilliant, and reliably infuriating to those around her, she lived with a spirit of exploration and great curiosity.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama to the Reverend William McKinley Gilliland, a pastor, and Dr. Martha Jordan Gilliland, a surgeon, Diana spent most of her childhood in Ogbomosho, Nigeria, where her parents served as missionaries.

Diana attended Wake Forest in Winston-Salem and was a member of Wake Forest’s 1963 College Bowl team. She also became involved in the civil rights movement, her first experience of activism and protest. During the North Carolina years she met William Connelly, a journalist; they were married in 1963 and divorced in 1975. Together, they had three daughters, Irene, Kathleen, and Rosalind, whom they raised in Washington, DC in a house filled with books, music, and a rotating cast of pets. She was a committed and gregarious antiwar activist during this time, and involved in the Democratic Party, always learning from her beloved friends Liz Abernethy and Julia Clones.

In 1977, Diana followed her heart and impulses to Greece, taking her daughters to live in the town of Nafplion, in the Peloponnese, for two-plus complicated, exciting years. She went for the classics and the ocean; she discovered the Venetians and the Byzantines, and she was home.

She returned to school in her fifties, earning a PhD in medieval Greek studies from the Catholic University of America. A Byzantinist, she also taught courses in Greek mythology (and one dedicated entirely to The Odyssey) at the New School for Social Research and the University of Washington. With John R. Melville-Jones, Diana translated and edited The Greek Correspondence of Bartolomeo Minio (two volumes, published in 2008 and 2015) as part of the Archivio del Litorale Adriatico. Harvard’s Center for Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, was among the great loves of her life.

Diana’s second marriage, to Eric Hanson, ended in divorce. In 1987 she met Christopher Wright, and they married the following year, loving and caring for each other until his death in 1989. Following her years in graduate school and adventures in adjuncting in New York, Diana moved to Seattle in 2003 to spend twelve very happy years with Pierre MacKay who, with his late wife Theo, had been a family friend since a chance meeting in Nafplion in the 1970s. Pierre and Diana shared innumerable interests, and collaborated on projects ranging from a garden and beehive in Seattle to studies of Venetian Greece. Pierre died in 2015.

As she struggled with depression, loss, and years of chronic, debilitating pain, Diana often quoted T. H. White’s Merlin: “The best thing for being sad . . . is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails.” Also, she believed it was critically important to “keep your knives sharp.” Not metaphor—she meant actual knives. She herself preferred a nice whetstone. But this is a wonderful expression of the spirit she embodied. Pay attention, value the discomfort of growth, and keep learning things. Speak up where you witness injustice.

She is survived by her daughters, Irene Connelly; Kathleen Connelly (Sean Tubridy); and Rosalind Lee (Michael); her grandchildren Alice Tubridy, Senan Tubridy, and Ryan Lee; and brother, Reverend Peter Gilliland (Patsy); and by an extended family that includes her stepchildren Ann Hanson, Malcolm Wright, Diana S. Wright, Camilla MacKay, Alexandra MacKay, and their families; William and Nancy Connelly; and Khawar Rizvi.

Memorial contributions may be made to or House of Ruth (

The following remembrance was written by Mark L. Lawall of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens
Date: Wed, Apr 20, 2022 at 11:46 AM
Subject: [ascsa_alumni] Diana Gilliland Wright
Dear Colleagues,
I learned today the sad news that Diana Gilliland Wright died on April 1, 2022. An historian of 15th century Greece, Diana held an NEH fellowship at the School in 2008-9 and was a dear friend to many in our community.

Diana spent much of her childhood in Ogbomosho, Nigeria where her mother was a surgeon and her father was a Southern Baptist missionary. She earned her BA at Wake Forest in 1963, and in the late 1970s moved to Nauplion, attracted in part by an interest in the Classical world (her mother had taught her Latin). While there, however, Diana became interested in Nauplion after antiquity; and later at Dumbarton Oaks, she learned of Bartolomeo Minio, a 15th-century Venetian administrator, whose life she would come to know in greatest depth. She completed her PhD thesis at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. on Minio’s dispatches, in 1999.

After completing her dissertation, she embarked on a path of prolific, detailed, and uniquely personal scholarship. Her own life, with so many moves and long periods living in foreign – yet much beloved – lands, gave her a particular empathy for Minio. On the event of the publication of The Greek Correspondence of Bartolomeo Minio. Vol. 2: Dispacci from Candia 1500-1502, she wrote of the letters:

They were intensely familiar, of course because of Nauplion, where my house had been attached to the wall he had built, but also because I had grown up in a colonial environment. Minio’s constant fatigue and frustration at lack of adequate equipment and money, his isolation, his increasing identification with the local population, all reflected what I had absorbed in my younger years from the adults around me. I found something else, too: the sense of a desperately lonely child…  (

Diana’s blog,, is full of poetically narrated vignettes of the 15th century, of Nauplion in the late 1970s, and of her own life. From 2003 to 2015, Diana lived in Seattle with an equally sensitive historian of Greece and friend to many at the American School, Pierre MacKay. She loved the garden, the birds it attracted – especially the crows. Her last blog entries, written from Washington D.C., describe a fascinating connection between living in the Washington area in the early 1970s, in a house marked as friendly to hobos, back to her grandparents in Alabama during the Depression, and back further still to her great-great-grandfather’s slaves. Diana was deeply attuned to her place in the flow of history.

I offer deepest condolences to Diana’s daughters Irene, Kathleen and Rosalind, who grew up in their mother’s adventures, and to all of Diana’s family, friends and colleagues.

Most sincerely,

Walter Emil Kaegi Jr. (1937–2022)

BSANA mourns the death of one of its founding members, Walter Kaegi ( The following obituary, submitted by Todd Hickey of the University of California, Berkeley, will appear in the Chicago Tribune.
Walter Emil Kaegi Jr., a pathbreaking historian at the University of Chicago and Oriental Institute noted for his scholarship on the Byzantine and Roman Empires, as well as early Islam, has died.

Kaegi joined the University’s history faculty in 1965 after receiving his BA from Haverford College and PhD from Harvard University. He taught at Chicago for 52 years, retiring in 2017. His work was known for integrating a wide range of sources, and for crossing cultural and scholarly specializations. He gathered insights from military, religious, visual arts, numismatic, and other cultural perspectives. He drew from sources in many languages, as he spoke Arabic, Armenian, French, German, Greek, and Latin, and had reading knowledge of several Slavic languages.

His books included Byzantium and the Decline of Rome (1968); Byzantine Military Unrest (1981); Army, Society, and Religion in Byzantium (1982); Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests (1992); Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium (2003); and Muslim Expansion and Byzantine Collapse in North Africa (2010). He was co-author or editor of 22 other books, and wrote over 100 articles spanning a wide range of topics. He co-founded the Byzantine Studies Conference, edited the journal Byzantinische Forschungen, was president of the US National Committee for Byzantine Studies, and was a voting member of the Oriental Institute. He taught and mentored three generations of historians.

In 2017 his students and fellow scholars collaborated on a book celebrating Kaegi’s work, entitled Radical Traditionalism: The Influence of Walter Kaegi in Late Antique, Byzantine, and Medieval Studies.

Kaegi’s early career focused on the Byzantine and Roman Empires, and how they coped with the challenges of decline. After learning Arabic in his early 40s, Kaegi gained new insights from Arabic language sources. This led him in a new scholarly direction, as he focused the latter part of his career on the expansion of early Islam, especially into North Africa at the expense of the Byzantine Empire.

Kaegi traveled widely. He was proud of having visited all of the Roman Empire’s more than 100 provinces, checking off the final destination—Benghazi province in Libya—during a very brief interval of peace in 2013. He lived for extended periods in every Middle Eastern country west of the Persian Gulf states, with lengthy scholarly stays in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. He and his family lived in Paris, France, in 1978–79. Late in his career he developed an interest in China, living for a period in Taiwan, teaching at the Fu Jen Catholic University about the decline of empires.

He was born in New Albany, Indiana, spending most of his childhood in Louisville, Kentucky. He was drawn to history at an early age, inventing historical games with his grade school friend Hunter S. Thompson, who later became a noted journalist. The two worked as boys on their self-published newspaper, The Southern Star, and shared a lively correspondence about military history into adulthood. By elementary school, Kaegi knew that he wanted to be a historian; by the end of high school he had decided he wanted to focus on the Byzantine Empire. He was proud to be commissioned a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Andy Beshear in 2021.

At home, Kaegi was a lifelong collector of coins, stamps, and books. He was an avid gardener, frequently seen tending his front yard by passers-by on Greenwood Avenue in Hyde Park. Generations of pets were particularly drawn to him, usually while he consumed a heavy diet of newspapers and TV news shows. He and his wife Louise both loved American folk music, and he enjoyed attending performances by Louise’s band (The Windy City Jammers). He was the Kaegi family’s genealogist and archivist, sustaining connections with relatives in his family’s home countries of Switzerland and Germany. Raised a Presbyterian, he converted to the Catholic Church later in life, in 2004.

Kaegi’s wife, Louise, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia and they met through their shared interest in the Middle East. They lived for two years during sabbaticals in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Louise passed away in 2018.

Kaegi is predeceased by his brothers Richard and George, and survived by his sons, Fritz (Rebecca) and Chris; his three grandchildren; and his sister Karen Kaegi Dean (Tom), of Indianapolis.

A memorial will be held on March 26 at 10am at St Thomas the Apostle Church, 5472 South Kimbark, in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Questions and arrangements can be made through Cage Memorial in South Shore. He will be laid to rest in a private ceremony at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

Peter Grossmann, 1933–2021

We mourn the passing of Peter Grossmann, who left an indelible mark on the field of Christian archaeology and architecture, especially as a result of a lifetime devoted to Egypt. His fieldwork activity and his publications inspired—and will continue to inspire—countless scholars and students. His numerous and wide-ranging publications, from his entries in The Coptic Encyclopedia (1991) and articles in scholarly journals (prominent among them his beloved Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte) to his seminal Christliche Architektur in Ägypten (2002), attest to a life spent in a quest for knowledge about the earliest and most important developments in Christian architecture in Egypt and their relationship to developments in the rest of the late antique Mediterranean world. His monumental and decades-long work at the vast pilgrimage center of St. Menas to the west of Alexandria, in its time one of the most popular anywhere, is especially noteworthy, but his work encompassed the entire country from the remote Kharga Oasis to the Sinai peninsula. It is thanks to his ground-breaking efforts that Egypt is now known as a region gifted with an exceptionally large and rich body of archaeological evidence on early Christianity.
Born in Potsdam, near Berlin, in 1933, Dr. Grossmann studied architecture and the history of architecture in Karlsruhe. He began his career working for the German Institute of Archaeology in 1962, first in Rome and Athens, then in Cairo (1965–1998). Even after his retirement, he remained active in fieldwork in Egypt, where he worked tirelessly to document endangered and in many cases now vanished architecture. Without his passion and stamina, our knowledge of this great heritage would be sadly impoverished. Undoubtedly, he was a remarkably prolific scholar of vast erudition; however, and just as exceptional to those of us who had the privilege of knowing and working with him, he was a man gifted with extraordinary sensitivity, kindness, and generosity, as well as with infectious good humour. Whether one was an untried doctoral student, a senior scholar, a Coptic monk, or an antiquities official, he offered to share information and documentation, facilitated access to the great library at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Kairo, and collaborated with unbounded enthusiasm.
Peter participated in the “First International Congress of Coptology,” which was held in Cairo in 1976, and in 1977 he became a founding member of the International Association for Coptic Studies (IACS). He was elected to the IACS Board as a Member at Large in 1980 and served in that capacity for four years. In 1984 the IACS established its “Cairo Center” in cooperation with the Société d’archéologie copte / Society for Coptic Archaeology and its then president, Mirrit Boutros Ghali, based in the grounds of the Boutrossiya adjacent to the Coptic Patriarchate in Abbassiya, Cairo. Peter Grossmann became the first (and only) Director of the IACS’s Cairo Center, holding that post for 37 years. His services to the IACS were immense, and he will be missed.
Elizabeth Bolman, Nicola Aravecchia, and Stephen Emmel

George P. Majeska (1936–2021)

George P. Majeska
April 28, 1936 – October 29, 2021
BSANA mourns the death of George Majeska, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Maryland. He was an active member of our organization, having served on Program Committees (1976, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1997), Dumbarton Oaks Liaison Committees (1998-99, 2004), and two terms on the Governing Board (1976-1980, 1986-1990).
The following obituary, published by Dignity Memorial, may be found at this link:
George Patrick Majeska, beloved father and grandfather, died at age 85 of complications from vocal cord cancer in Pompano Beach, Florida on Friday, October 29th, 2021. His quick wit, warm heart and intellectual curiosity will be missed tremendously.
George was born in Brooklyn, NY, on April 28th, 1936, to John “Jack” Majeska and Marguerite Fagan Majeska, a first generation American from Lithuania and fourth generation Brooklynite. He grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood but was selected to attend Regis High School in Manhattan, where he studied Latin, Greek and French, developing an early respect for the classics. George then studied Russian Orthodox Theology at St. Tikhon’s and at St. Sergius in Paris before returning to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Russian literature from Brooklyn College.
Having earned Woodrow Wilson and Ford Foundation fellowships, George received his PhD in History from Indiana University. While in Bloomington, George met and married the love of his life, fellow graduate student Marilyn Lundell Majeska, with whom he celebrated 53 happy years of marriage. After an academic year in Leningrad, George enjoyed his first of several fellowships at the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Research Center in Washington, where he developed lifelong friendships, colleagues and research interests. George then took his first teaching job at the State University of New York, Buffalo. In 1972, George and Marilyn moved to University Park, Maryland and George joined the University of Maryland – College Park faculty, where he was a professor of Russian and Byzantine History for 28 years, mentored many undergraduate and graduate students and published a highly acclaimed book and many articles in his field. He was president of the US National Committee for Byzantine Studies and an officer of the Early Slavic Studies Association. George also became a Fulbright Scholar and was delighted to take his young family to Munich, Germany for a year to live and explore Europe.
Throughout his entire life, George was curious and eager for knowledge, loved to travel and could be counted on to know a little something about almost any topic, particularly in the humanities or world history. He was passionate about classical music, closely followed national politics and loved hiking. George spoke fluent French and Russian, some German, Greek and Italian, and was teaching himself Spanish until just a few weeks before his death.
George was extremely proud of his two children and four grandchildren. He is survived by his daughters, Tanya Springer of Pompano Beach and Kristin Majeska of Portland, Maine, by his grandchildren, Alex Millones, Thomas Springer, Nicolas Millones and Amanda Springer and by his son-in-law, Luis Millones. He is predeceased by his wife Marilyn, his brother, Bruce Majeska, and his son-in-law, John Springer.
A Celebration of Life at Sea Watch on Ocean, 6002 N Ocean Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL, on Sunday, Nov 14, 2021 at 11:30 am.
Alice-Mary Talbot has written the following note regarding his contributions as a Byzantinist.
George was a junior fellow at Dumbarton Oaks from 1965-67, working on his dissertation on Russian pilgrims to Constantinople. He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University, under the mentorship of George Soulis. During his long tenure at the University of Maryland, where he taught Byzantine and Russian history,  he was a regular user of the Dumbarton Oaks library. His dissertation was published by Dumbarton Oaks in 1984 as a book entitled Russian Travelers to Constantinople in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. It includes five accounts of visits by Russian pilgrims to Constantinople with Old Russian texts, English translation and extensive commentary. The book remains to this day one of the most important studies on the principal churches and pilgrimage shrines in medieval Constantinople, an invaluable resource for those interested in the spiritual life and topography of the Byzantine capital city.
George was also a Visiting Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks in 1976-77 and a Fellow in 1988-89, and participated in several symposia, serving as co-symposiarch  (with Sharon Gerstel) for the 2003 symposium on The Sacred Screen: Origins, Development and Diffusion. In 1999 he was local arrangements co-chair for the Byzantine Studies Conference held at the University of Maryland in College Park.
BSANA members may also be interested in revisiting the Oral History Interview with George Majeska, undertaken by Anna Bonnell-Freidin and Clem Wood in the Dumbarton Oaks Guest House (Fellows Building) on August 18, 2008.

IN MEMORIAM: Boris L’vovich Fonkich (1938–2021)

Boris L’vovich Fonkich was born February 25, 1938 in Cheliabinsk and died September 2, 2021 in Moscow. He was one of the world’s leading experts in Greek paleography and codicology and dedicated his life to the study of Greek manuscripts. He was a Senior Researcher of the Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the founder and professor of the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Philology at the Moscow State University, a member of the Academy of Athens, and a member of the International Committee of Greek Paleography. Recently he was awarded an Order of Phoenix by the Greek government.

Fonkich published several books and more than three hundred articles in many languages. Fonkich’s unique talent of identification of handwritings of Byzantine and post-Byzantine scribes enabled him to re-date many manuscripts and illuminate activities of many Byzantine centers of book production. Fonkich had a wide range of interests, and the manuscripts he studied span from the eighth to the nineteenth centuries. He was particularly interested in several subjects:

  • Early Studite minuscule manuscripts, which he discovered in Russian and French libraries and introduced the new method of dating these manuscripts by the usage of diacritics.
  • The collection and preservation of early ninth- and tenth-century manuscripts with classical texts during the Palaiologan Renaissance, especially the activities of Theodoros Metochites and Nikephoros Gregoras.
  • Research and publication of post-Byzantine manuscripts and documents illuminating the ties between Greece and Russia.

Fonkich’s obituary will be incomplete without mentioning his intellectual integrity during the Soviet period. Fonkich was non-conformist, and he could not be corrupted or coopted by the sycophants who dominated the Byzantine studies in Soviet Union. Because of this, Fonkich was not allowed to defend his second PhD and was not allowed to travel abroad for research and conferences.

When Fonkich talked about manuscripts his passion and enthusiasm were contagious. He was very generous with his time and expertise and was always happy to answer questions from his colleagues and students. I, for one, will be always grateful for the spark that lit my own interest in Greek manuscripts.

Nadezhda Kavrus-Hoffmann

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