In general the iconographic details recorded in the hagiographic literature are pretty meagre. Authors focus on the miraculous properties of icons. The Coptic lives of the saints may be selected as representative for the Early Christian and Byzantine hagiography. The Martyrdom and Miracles of Saint Mercurius the General and other lives contain stories about the Saint’s icons. We have some information about church decoration in the East, but, it does not look as impressive as John of Gaza’s extensive ecphraseis of St. Sergius’ and St. Stephen’s complex decorative programmes. However, we actually find a number of interesting minor descriptions in the church histories, in the theological polemic on icons, and in the hagiographies. A Syriac manuscript from the British Museum preserves a chronicle of the monastery of Qartamin, Mor Gabriel. I focus on a chapter which describes the church’s construction and its interior decoration. The essential part of the art terminology, which we know from the Coptic texts, consists of the Greek borrowings. The Syriac texts show an entirely different pattern. The Syriac description compiled by an anonymous monk from Qartamin resembles the hymn on the Edessa Cathedral. The Syriac art description in general evolved along entirely different lines from the Greek ecphrasis. Greek borrowings in the discussed Syriac texts are rare, and if they do appear, they are limited to only certain words.
I am going to collect dispersed items of information which clearly refer or seem to be suggestive of the Aeolic, Pergamene or Attalid school of art historians which developed in the first half of the 2nd century BC and discuss their idiosyncratic methods and original contribution to the Greek intellectual life of the Hellenistic period. Even the fragmentary history of the Attalid art collections which can be reconstructed from the archaeological data and the scarce information in the literary sources shows that the collections grew as a result of various factors: 1. wartime robbery. 2. purchases of artworks. 3. a well‑thought out programme of reproducing original Greek artworks. The Attalids must have had professional art historians at their side as consultants. We can identify two of them by name: Antigonus of Karystos and Polemon of Ilion. A number of passages testify to a lively academic debate between them. In the course of their professional polemics they discussed the problems of authorship and authenticity of artworks, they adduced biographical details in their efforts to establish the personal identities of the artists and paid tribute to their heroes with colourful anecdotes. They attributed artworks to alternative authors. They also constructed complicated genealogical trees of schools of painting and sculpture, along the principle of master/pupil relations. Their epigraphic studies must have been inspired and influenced by the editors of the Aeolic Archaic poets.