« PrethodnaNastavi »
which Simeon used. My own studies have led me to the conclusion that his narrative of those reigns is chiefly based on a lost chronicle which was written before the end of the century and was not unfavourable to the Amorian dynasty.
Much, too, has been done to elucidate perplexing historical questions by the researches of A. A. Vasil’ev (to whose book on the Saracen wars of the Amorians I am greatly indebted), E. W. Brooks, the late J. Pargoire, C. de Boor, and many others. The example of a period not specially favoured may serve to illustrate the general progress of Byzantine studies during the last generation.
When he has submitted his material to the requisite critical analysis, and reconstructed a narrative accordingly, the historian has done all that he can, and his responsibility ends. When he has had before him a number of independent reports of the same events, he may hope to have elicited an approximation to the truth by a process of comparison. But how when he has only one ? There are several narratives in this volume which are mainly derived from a single independent
The usual practice in such cases is, having eliminated any errors and inconsistencies that we may have means of detecting, and having made allowances for bias, to accept the story as substantially true and accurate. The single account is assumed to be veracious when there is no counter-evidence. But is this assumption valid ? Take the account of the murder of Michael III. which has come down to us. If each of the several persons who were in various ways concerned in that transaction had written down soon or even immediately afterwards a detailed report of what happened, each
I regret that the paper of Mr. Brooks on the Age of Basil I. (in Byzantinische Zeitschrift, xx.) was not published till this volume was corrected for press. His arguments for postponing the date of Basil's birth till the reign of Theophilus have much weight. But, if we accept them, I think that the tradition retains such value as it possessed for dating the return of the Greek captives from Bulgaria (cp. below, p. 371).
endeavouring honestly to describe the events accurately, it is virtually certain that there would have been endless divergencies and contradictions between these reports. Is there, then, a serious probability that the one account which happens to have been handed down, whether written by the pen or derived from the lips of a narrator of whose mentality we have no knowledge,—is there a serious probability that this story presents to our minds images at all resembling those which would appear to us if the scenes had been preserved by a cinematographic process ? I have followed the usual practice—it is difficult to do otherwise ; but I do not pretend to justify it. There are many portions of medieval and of ancient “recorded” history which will always remain more or less fables convenues, or for the accuracy of which, at least, no discreet person will be prepared to stand security even when scientific method has done for them all it can do.
It would not be just to the leading men who guided public affairs during this period, such as Theophilus and Bardas, to attempt to draw their portraits. The data are entirely insufficient. Even in the case of Photius, who has left a considerable literary legacy, while we can appreciate, perhaps duly, his historical significance, his personality is only half revealed; his character may be variously conceived; and the only safe course is to record his acts without presuming to know how far they were determined by personal motives.
J. B. BURY.
ROME, January 1912.