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Collection Manuscripts in St. Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai

Glossary of Genres

The definitions given here are intended to give novices a quick idea of the works in question, not to be the final reference source on the topic. As such, they are of course very brief and oversimplified. Scholars are encouraged to peruse the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium for more fleshed-out explanations. Most of the definitions listed here are adapted from the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (ODB), and the Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (BDEC). 1

Term Definition
Akolouthia A liturgical rite, or the list of the parts of the daily office, or a musical anthology (ODB, 1695)
Anastasimatarion Book of troparions for Sunday services, particularly about the Resurrection (ODB, 2124; BDEC, 28)
Anoixantarion Psalm verses sung at Byzantine vespers services (BDEC, 33)
Anthologion Typically collections of secular verse, particularly of epigrams (ODB, 110)
Antiphon A psalm or sections of psalms for singing, followed by a doxology (ODB, 120).
Apologia a text of self-defense, often a defense or explanation of the Christian faith (ODB, 138-39)
Apophthegmata A genre of sayings, aphorisms, and guidance
Apostolos a lectionary containing only the texts read during the service (ODB, 1712)
Ascetica Ascetical works
Chronikon “various types of historiography” (ODB, 443)
Euchologion Prayer book for all Byzantine rite services, used by bishops, priests, and deacons (ODB, 738)
Evangelion Gospel lectionary, only including texts that are read (ODB, 761).
Firman2 An official Muslim decree, law, or letter approved by a Sultan
Gerontikon “Parts of the office traditionally read by the Superior, or Elder…” (BDEC, 218)
Hagiographica Lives of saints
Heirmologion “liturgical book containing the text and…the melodies of the heirmoi which provide the musical and metrical models” for the verses of hymns (BDEC, 228)
Heothina Gospels of the Resurrection read at Sunday services, or the idiomela sung on Sundays (BDEC, 229)
Historica Historical works
Horologion Book of hymns
Kanonarion Book of kanons, particular kinds of hymn stanzas (ODB, 2124)
Kanonika [Canons] Church laws, or canons
Kontakion / Kondakarion / Kontakarion A kind of hymn stanza (ODB, 2124)
Lectionary list of biblical texts to be read on particular Sundays throughout the year
Lexicon dictionary
Menaion “liturgical poems and prayers for the saint’s annual celebration” (ODB, 1341)
Menologion Collection of saints’ Lives ordered chronologically, sometimes with accompanying homilies (ODB, 1341)
Mimar3 Coptic word for “manuscripts”
Nomokanon “compilations of secular laws (nomoi) and ecclesiastical regulations (kanones…), the two most important components of canon law” (ODB, 1490).
Oktoechos Book of hymns for daily Orthodox services, except for the seasons of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost; sometimes only includes hymns for Sundays (ODB, 1520)
Papadike “anthology of musical settings…for hymns, psalms, and other chants used in the liturgy…” (ODB, 1578)
Parakletike A kind of octoechos, including hymns for every day (ODB, 1520)
Paterikon “collections of sayings and deeds of ascetic holy men” (HDOC, 257)4
Patristica Works of the Church fathers
Pentekostarion Book of hymns for the season of Pentecost (ODB, 1627)
Philokalia Came to mean an anthology in general, and sometimes a particular collection of ascetic works (ODB, 1656)
Polyeleos A chant of verses from Psalms 134 and 135 (ODB, 1695)
Praxapostolos a collection/manuscript containing all the texts from the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of the New Testament
Prophetologion OT lectionary readings
Psalter “Liturgical book containing the 150 psalms” (ODB, 1752)
Psaltike A book on the art of singing
Psalmodia “the use of the 150 Psalms…in worship” (ODB, 1752)
Sticherarion “a liturgical MS with musical notation, containing the stichera for Orthros and Vespers services throughout the year” (ODB)
Synaxarion Technically, lists of scripture readings for each day beginning with September 1st (ODB, 761); sometimes refers to short biographies of saints (ODB, 1341)
Tetraevangelion Full text of the four Gospels in NT order, with passages numbered in the margins (ODB, 761)
Theologia Theology
Theotokarion A collection of theotokia, or hymns “addressing and invoking the Theotokos,” i.e., the Virgin Mary, as the “God-bearer” (ODB, 2070)
Triodion A liturgical book, primarily of hymns
Troparion Earliest kind of Byzantine hymn, possibly odes or homiletic poems as well. Includes a refrain. (ODB, 120) Tropologion Hymnody (CE, 811)5
Typikon May refer to a liturgical document that determines which hymns to sing each day, or may refer to rules for monastic communities (ODB, 2131-32)


  1. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, eds. Alexander P. Kazhdan, Alice-Mary Talbot, Anthony Cutler, Timothy E. Gregory, and Nancy P. Ševčenko, vols. 1-3 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); and The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, eds. Ken Parry, David J. Melling, Dimitri Brady, Sidney H. Griffith, and John F. Healey (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999). [Return to text]
  2. Not a Greek term [Return to text]
  3. Not a Greek term. [Return to text]
  4. Michael Prokurat, Alexander Golitzin, and Michael D. Peterson, Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church, Religions, Philosophies, and Movements 9 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996), 257. [Return to text]
  5. The Catholic Encyclopedia: An International Work of Reference on the Constitution, Doctrine, Discipline, and the History of the Catholic Church, eds. Charles Herbermann, Edward A. Pace, Conde B. Pallen, Thomas J. Shahan, John J. Wynne, vol. 16 (New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1914), 811. [Return to text]