This article sheds light on a hitherto unexplored phenomenon that alters our picture of Byzantine monasticism: the monastic culture of the Black Mountain outside Antioch. From 969-1084, the Black Mountain thrived as a destination for a variety of Chalcedonian monks: Greek-speaking Romans, Arabic-speaking Melkites, Georgians, and Armenians. I illustrate the prosperity of monastic life on the Black Mountain, the scholarly activity flourishing in and between languages, and the networks connecting the mountain to monasteries inside and outside of Byzantium.
In this paper, I examine three bodies of source material: manuscripts produced at the Black Mountain, texts produced by its scholars, and the letters of Nikon of the Black Mountain. Colophons in Greek, Arabic, Syriac, and Georgian manuscripts display the active scribal culture of these monasteries. Scholars centered at St. Symeon produced scores of translations from Greek into Arabic and Georgian that illustrate the lasting impact of this multilingual intellectual atmosphere. Nikon’s letters provide the basis for a cultural history of Antiochene monasticism. From these and other sources, I show that the Black Mountain was a major hub in middle Byzantine monastic networks. At the same time when Athos was assuming a primary role in the western Orthodox monastic world, the Black Mountain was performing a similar function in the east.