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Barlaam and Josaphat

in Arabic Literature and Culture

The project aims to document and study the history of the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat in premodern Arabic literature and culture.

Barlaam and Josaphat is an outstanding work of world literature. It was translated into many languages between the sixth and seventeenth centuries and circulated widely in various cultural and religious milieus across Eurasia. The legend was extraordinary popular in the Arab world. The rich history of its transmission in Arabic sources represents an important chapter in the premodern literary history of the Arab world and reflects its dynamic connections to other cultures. The project aims to edit and study several Arabic manuscripts of the legend.


The manuscripts will be published online in an open-access research platform using ediarum, an online tool for editing manuscripts developed at the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Berlin, Germany). Along with the photocopies of the manuscripts, the platform will feature full transcriptions of the Arabic texts, an English translation of selected manuscripts as well as analytical metadata and bibliography. This will result in the creation of a comprehensive research tool on the history of Barlaam and Josaphat in Arabic literature.

The project will facilitate a detailed analysis of different Arabic versions and their relation to one another and will allow for a comprehensive cultural contextualization of their history. Moreover, it will open up the Arabic tradition of the text’s transmission to wider research in the context of world literature.


Manuscripts will be published in an open-access research platform


Kirill Dmitriev

[email protected] 

Bilal Orfali


Dr Kirill Dmitriev receives Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award

May 2020

Dr Kirill Dmitriev (School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews, UK) has been elected the recipient of a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation after having been nominated for this award by Professor Verena Klemm (Orientalisches Institut, Universität Leipzig, Germany). The award has been granted in recognition of the award winner’s accomplishments in research and teaching.In addition, award winners are invited to carry out research projects of their own choice in collaboration with colleagues in Germany. Kirill will conduct collaborative research with Professor Verena Klemm and other colleagues in the Faculty of Arts, History and Oriental Studies of Leipzig University and in the research project Bibliotheca Arabica – Towards a New History of Arabic Literature based at the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig, Germany. In particular, he will focus on innovative aspects in literary and cultural studies in the field of Arabic philology as well as Digital Humanities in the context of his research on the Legend of Barlaam and Josaphat, an outstanding work of world literature with an extraordinary history of transcultural dissemination.

For more information on the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and its programmes for researchers, please refer to:



Bilal Orfali and Kirill Dmitriev

Bilal Orfali and Kirill Dmitriev

بوذا… حكاية قدّيسٍ مسيحيٍّ مسلمٍ

in Raseef 22 (2020).



The project has been supported by research grants provided by The Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities (AGYA) and Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, Germany).

Additional support for the project has been granted through the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award to Dr Kirill Dmitriev by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.