The Bibliotheca of Photius (Master thesis)

Τσεκούρα, Αικατερίνη Ν.

The famous patriarch Photius became one of the most prominent figures in the 9th century. Besides being a politician and diplomat, he excelled as ecclesiastical leader, outstanding writer and a theologian. His name has been associated with the conversion of the Slavs and Bulgars into Christianity, as well as his controversial relationship with Pope Nicholas I and the western church. His multi-level activities became the focus point in contemporary research. It is worth noting that his far-sightedness together with his substantial education is evident in his contacts with noblemen within and outside the empire. Characteristic of this trend is the relationship he developed with the leader of the Bulgars Boris – Michael. His friendly contacts to foreign rulers reveal his great missionary work. His contemporaries however, did not perceive his great intelligence and only devoted marginal comments to his talented nature. Thus, the few references to him show anti-Photian tendencies. The personality of Photius encompasses the Byzantine renaissance of the 9th century. His impressive knowledge, also recognized by his enemies (Nicetas David, pseudo-Symeon), inaugurates a new period in Byzantine classicism. Photius’s literary capability finds its expression in several major works, such as his Lexicon, and his Bibliotheca which point to the implementation of classical models in the literary activity of his time. Even though we have minimal knowledge of his education, we can be sure that it was extensive. With his Bibliotheca, Photius introduces a new attitude of the Orthodox church towards the classical Greek world. It is his activity which contributes towards the assimilation of the ancient literary tradition into the spiritual life of contemporary Byzantines. The Bibliotheca is a unique text, because Photius incorporated his personal commentary for each work separately with a visible lack of fanaticism, since he even rebukes ecclesiastical authors for dogmatic digression. The Bibliotheca forms the apex of this legacy which laid the foundation for the increase in production of secular works. Without the contribution of Photius who undertook to register the works of ancient and Byzantine authors, even the name of some of them would remain unattested. At the same time, his contribution for Christian literature remains substantial, since more than one hundred sacred works become known only through his Bibliotheca. But even for surviving texts, Photius offers his literary and general evaluation to modern researchers. With regard to the Bibliotheca, one of the first observations of the modern reader is the emphasis that Photius stresses on historiography, especially secular. As it has been pointed out in our study, there are 27 secular historians, as compared to 15 ecclesiastical. This literary figure showed interest for secular historiography, which had been neglected as a literary genre in his time. He primarily demonstrated interest for historians between the 4th and 7th centuries. In addition, the Bibliotheca also includes genres which were not cultivated in 76 the age of Photius, such as the literary romance which flourished during the Hellenistic period. His goal is apparent: To preserve the content of such works that were in danger to be lost forever. His preoccupation with authors of the Graeco-Roman times also demonstrates the juxtaposition of the terms Greek and barbarian. Photius is also interested in the alteration of the empires in the east, the Achaemenid, the Macedonian as well as New Rome, while from the literary study of history he absorbs not only knowledge, but pleasure too. Of course, this is not the end in the Bibliotheca’s literary value. Despite the negative judgment of Photius for some works such as that of Nichomachus of Gerasa, the treatise receives extensive covering. At the same time, some of the texts do not preserve only political or war narratives, but include much geographical information a fact which reflects Photius’s interest for exotic places. The narratives of Ctesias and Nonnosus form characteristic examples. More specifically, we believe that the history of Nonnosus which describes the diplomatic mission to the Ethiopians appears to have formed a model of emulation for his own mission to the Arabs. Photius was similarly attracted to the biographies of philosophers (Pythagoras, Apollonius of Tyana, and Isidore) and the literary treatises of Proclus, Helladius and Pamphila. Free will is also revealed as a subject of interest within the Bibliotheca. For this reason he comments on the works «Περὶ Προνοίας» and «Εἰμαρμένης» of Hierocles, «κατὰ Εἰμαρμένης» by Diodorus of Tarsus, the work of Methodius of Olympus and the extensive commentary for the now lost text by Theodorus of Mopsuestia which abrogated the views of Origen and lays significance on the idea of the incarnation of speech as well as that of the resurrection and baptism. It is noteworthy that ancient Greek poets are absent from Photius’s work, since they formed part of the educational curriculum. Nonetheless, theological works could not be absent from the Bibliotheca, since Photius as a Christian, had to read such works for his spiritual profit! Based on these results, the conclusion is reached that Photius’s personality initiated the beginning in the rise of literary activity following the end of iconoclasm, and became the forerunner of the so-called first Byzantine humanism. The founder of the Macedonian dynasty, Basil I, was mindful of this when he selected Photius as tutor to his heirs. It was due to his teaching efforts that emperors Leo VI and his son Constantine VII Porphyrogenetus demonstrated outstanding interest for higher education and proficient literary activity. However, whereas Photius chose to present and evaluate classical and Christian works by themselves, the aforementioned emperors decided to encourage the formation of large collections of extracts to be employed for practical use.
Alternative title / Subtitle: τα απολεσθέντα έργα
the lost projects
Institution and School/Department of submitter: Πανεπιστήμιο Ιωαννίνων. Φιλοσοφική Σχολή. Τμήμα Ιστορίας και Αρχαιολογίας
Subject classification: Φώτιος Α' Άγιος Πατριάρχης Κωνσταντινούπολης, π. 820-π. 891
Keywords: Φώτιος Α' Άγιος Πατριάρχης Κωνσταντινούπολης
Appears in Collections:Διατριβές Μεταπτυχιακής Έρευνας (Masters)

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