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related that in his youth he met a Jew who said, “What will` you give me, young man, if I make you excel all men in Grecian learning?" "My father," said Photius," will gladly give you half his estate." "I need not money," was the tempter's reply, "and your father must hear nought of this. Come hither with me and deny the sign of the cross on which we nailed Jesus; and I will give you a strange charm, and all your life will be lived in wealth and wisdom and joy." Photius gladly consented, and from that time forth he devoted himself assiduously to the study of forbidden things, astrology and divination. Here the Patriarch appears as one of the forerunners of Faustus, and we may confidently set down the invention of a compact with the Evil One to the superstition and malignancy of a monk. For in another story the monastic origin is unconcealed. John the Solitary, who had been conversing with two friends touching the iniquities of the Patriarch, dreamed a dream. A hideous negro appeared to him and gripped his throat. The monk made the sign of the cross and cried, "Who are you? who sent you?" The apparition replied, "My name is Lebuphas; I am the master of Beliar and the familiar of Photius; I am the helper of sorcerers, the guide of robbers and adulterers, the friend of pagans and of my secret servant Photius. He sent me to punish you for what was said against him yesterday, but you have defeated me by the weapon of the cross." Thus the learning of Photius was honoured by popular fancy like the science of Gerbert; 2 legend represented them both as sorcerers and friends of the devil.
The encyclopaedic learning of Photius, his indefatigable interest in philosophy and theology, history and grammar, are shown by his writings and the contents of his library. He collected ancient and modern books on every subject, including many works which must have been rarities in his own time and have since entirely disappeared. We know some of his possessions through his Bibliotheca, and the circumstances which suggested the composition of this work
1 These stories about Photius are told only by Pseudo-Simeon, 670 sqq. He mentions (673) that Photius preached a sermon to show that earthquakes are not a consequence of our sins but due to natural causes. This
was probably à propos of the earthquake of A.D. 862, see above p. 198, n. 4.
2 See Olleris, Vie de Gerbert, 321 sqq. (1867).
throw light on a side of Byzantine life of which we are seldom permitted to gain a glimpse. A select circle of friends seems to have been in the habit of assembling at the house of Photius for the purpose of reading aloud literature of all kinds, secular and religious, pagan and Christian. His library was thus at the service of friends who were qualified to appreciate it. His brother Tarasius was a member of this reading-club, and when Photius was sent on a mission to the East, Tarasius, who had been unable to attend a number of the gatherings, asked him to write synopses of those books which had been read in his absence. Photius complied with this request, and probably began the task, though he cannot have completed it, before his return to Constantinople.1
He enumerates more than 270 volumes, and describes their contents sometimes very briefly, sometimes at considerable length. As some of these works are long, and as many other books must have been read when Tarasius was present, the reading séances must have continued for several years. The range of reading was wide. History was represented by authors from the earliest to the latest period; for instance, Herodotus, Ktesias, Theopompus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Appian, Josephus, Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus, Dion Cassius, Herodian,
1 See his Prefatory dedication to Tarasius, which shows that he began the work when he was abroad. He had some difficulty in finding a secretary, and he implies that he wrote from memory. The articles vary greatly in length: the first 60 occupy less than 19 pages out of 544 in Bekker's edition; the last 60 extend to 368 pages. There are many of the long analyses which we cannot suppose Photius to have written without the books before him; and we may conclude that he drew up the whole list and wrote the short articles at the beginning from memory, and continued the work on a larger scale when he returned. In determining the length of his articles he was indeed guided by another principle, which he notes in his Preface. He intended to treat more briefly those books which he might assume his brother would have read himself (karà σeavтóv). Krumbacher has suggested that the Preface may be entirely a literary fiction, but it seems quite explicable without that
assumption. A critical edition of the work is much wanted, and the ground is being prepared by E. Martini, who in his Textgeschichte der Bibliotheke des Patr. Photios von Kpel., I. Teil (Abhandlungen der phil.-hist. Kl. der k. sächs. Ges. der Wiss. xxviii. No. 6, 1911), studies the MSS., and concludes that the textual tradition depends mainly on the Codd. Marciani 450 and 451.
2 279 according to his Preface. There are actually 280 articles, but there is no inconsistency, as vol. 268 (p. 496), the Orations of Lycurgus, was not read. But there are a number of doublets: several works are enumerated twice though differently described (Philostratus, Vita Apollonii; Josephus, Archaeologia; Isocrates; Hierocles, Tepi povolas; Dionysius of Aegae; Diodorus; Himerius). Evidently in the drafting of the list, some repetitions crept in; and, as the work was probably composed at intervals, Phot. could easily have forgotten one notice when he came to write the second.
Procopius, to name some of the most familiar names.
graphers, physiologists, writers on medicine and agriculture, grammarians, as well as orators and rhetoricians, furnished entertainment to this omnivorous society. All or almost all the works of the ten Attic orators were recited, with the exception of Lycurgus, whose speeches, we are expressly told, there was no time to read. We may note also Lucian, the life of Apollonius the Wonderworker by Philostratus, the lives of Pythagoras and Isidore, and a work on Persian magic.2 Fiction was not disdained. The romances of Iamblichus, Achilles Tatius, and Antonius Diogenes were read, as well as the Aethiopica of Heliodorus, which Photius highly appreciated. The theological and ecclesiastical items in the list largely preponderate; but it may gratify us to note that their proportion to the number of pagan and secular works is not more than double; and we may even suspect that if we could estimate not by the tale of volumes but by the number of words or pages, we should find that the hours devoted to Hellenic literature and learning were not vastly fewer than those which were occupied with the edifying works of the Fathers and controversial theologians. We are ourselves under
a considerable debt to Photius for his notices of books which are no longer in existence. His long analysis of the histories of Ktesias, his full descriptions of the novel of Iamblichus and the romance of Thule by Antonius Diogenes, his ample summary of part of the treatise of Agatharchides on the Red Sea, may specially be mentioned. But it is a matter for our regret, and perhaps for wonder, that he seems to have taken no interest in the Greek poets. The Bibliotheca is occupied exclusively with writers of prose.
Photius gave an impulse to classical learning, which ensured its cultivation among the Greeks till the fall of Constantinople. His influence is undoubtedly responsible for the literary studies of Arethas, who was born at Patrae towards the close of our period, and became, early in the tenth century, archbishop of Caesarea. Arethas collected books.
1 Several lexicons and glossaries were read to the patient audience (articles 145 sqq.).
2 By the heretic Theodore of Mopsuestia.
3 On Arethas see Harnack, Die Überlieferung der gr. Apologeten des 2sten Jahrh., in Texte u. Untersuchungen, i. pp. 36-46, 1883. Cp. also Krumbacher, G.B. L. 524.
In A.D. 888 we find him purchasing a copy of Euclid;1 and seven years later the famous manuscript of Plato, formerly at Patmos, and now one of the treasures of the Bodleian Library, was written expressly for him.2 Students of early Christianity owe him a particular debt for preserving apologetic writings which would otherwise have been lost.3
It is notorious that the Byzantine world, which produced many men of wide and varied learning, or of subtle intellect, such as Photius, Psellos, and Eustathios-to name three of the best-known names,- -never gave birth to an original and creative genius. genius. Its science can boast of no new discovery, its philosophy of no novel system or explanation of the universe. Age after age, innumerable pens moved, lakes of ink were exhausted, but no literary work remains which can claim a place among the memorable books of the world. To the mass of mankind Byzantine literature is a dead thing; it has not left a single immortal book to instruct and delight posterity.
While the unquestioned authority of religious dogma, and the tyranny of orthodoxy, confined the mind by invisible fetters which repressed the instinct of speculation and intellectual adventure, there was another authority no less fatal to that freedom which is an indispensable condition of literary excellence as of scientific progress, the authority of the ancients. We have seen the superiority of the Eastern Empire to the contemporary European states in the higher education which it provided. In this educational system, which enabled and encouraged studious youths to become acquainted with the great pagan writers of Greece, we might have looked to find an outlet of escape from the theories of the universe and the views of life dogmatically imposed by religion, or at least a stimulus to seek in the broad field of human nature material for literary art. But the influence of the great Greek thinkers proved powerless to unchain willing
1 Subscription in the MS. in the Bodleian (D'Orville, xi. inf. 2, 30), where the price he paid is stated, 4 nomismata = £2: 8s. (equivalent in value to about £12).
2 Clarkianus, 39. Arethas paid the scribe Stephen 13 nom. or £7:16s., a sum equal in purchasing value to not
much less than £40.
3 Harnack, ib. 46.
Cp. Gibbon vi. 108, "The minds of the Greeks were bound in the fetters of a base and imperious superstition, which extends her dominion round the circle of profane science."
slaves, who studied the letter and did not understand the meaning. And so the effect of this education was to submit the mind to another yoke, the literary authority of the ancients. Classical tradition was an incubus rather than a stimulant; classical literature was an idol, not an inspiration. The higher education was civilizing, but not quickening; it was liberal, but it did not liberate.
The later Greeks wrote in a style and manner which appealed to the highly educated among their own contemporaries, and the taste of such readers appreciated and demanded an artificial and laboured style, indirect, periphrastic, and often allusive, which to us is excessively tedious and frigid. The vocabulary and grammar of this literature were different from the vocabulary and grammar of everyday life, and had painfully to be acquired at school. Written thus in a language which was purely conventional, and preserving the tradition of rhetoric which had descended from the Hellenistic age, the literature of Byzantium was tied hand and foot by unnatural restraints. It was much as if the Italians had always used Latin as their literary medium, and were unable to emancipate themselves from the control of Cicero, Livy, and Seneca. The power of this stylistic tradition is one of the traits of the conservative spirit of Byzantine society.
These facts bear upon the failure of Byzantine men of letters to produce anything that makes an universal appeal. Yet if the literature of the world is not indebted to the Byzantines for contributions of enduring value, we Owe to them and to their tenacity of educational traditions an inestimable debt for preserving the monuments of Greek literature which we possess to-day. We take our inheritance for granted, and seldom stop to remember that the manuscripts of the great poets and prose-writers of ancient Greece were not written for the sake of a remote and unknown posterity, but to supply the demand of contemporary readers.