Online Encyclopedia

PHOTIUS (c. 82o-891)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 484 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
PHOTIUS (c. 82o-891), patriarch of Constantinople (858–867 and 878-886). From his early years he displayed an extra-ordinary talent and appetite for knowledge, and as soon as he had completed his own education he began to teach with distinguished success grammar, rhetoric, divinity and philosophy. The way to public life was probably opened for him by the marriage of his brother Sergius to the princess Irene, sister of Theodora, who, upon the death of her husband Theophilus in 842, had assumed the regency of the empire. Photius became captain of the guard and subsequently first imperial secretary. The dissensions between the patriarch Ignatius and Bardas, the uncle of the youthful Emperor Michael III., brought promotion to Photius. Ignatius was arrested and imprisoned (Nev. 858), and upon refusing to resign his office was illegally deposed, while Photius, although a layman, received all the necessary sacerdotal orders within six days, and was installed as patriarch in his place. Ignatius, continuing to refuse the abdication which could alone have given Photius's elevation a semblance of legality, was treated with extreme severity. His cause was subsequently espoused by Pope Nicholas in a manner highly offensive to the891. For long after Photius's death his memory was held in no special honour by his countrymen. But when, in the crusading age, the Greek Church and state were alike in danger from Latin encroachments, Photius became a national hero, and is at present regarded as little short of a saint. To this character he has not the least pretension. Few men, it is probable, have been more atrociously calumniated; but, when every specific statement to his prejudice has been rejected, he still appears on a general review of his actions worldly, crafty and unscrupulous. Yet he shows to no little advantage as an ecclesiastical statesman. His firmness was heroic: his sagacity profound and far-seeing; he supported. good and evil fortune with equal dignity; and his fall was on both occasions due to revolutions beyond his control. In erudition, literary power, and force and versatility of intellect he far surpassed every contemporary. The most important of the works of Photius is his renowned Bibliotheca or Myriobiblon (ed. I. Bekker, 1824–1825), a collection of extracts from and abridgments of 28o volumes of classical authors (usually cited as Codices), the originals of which are now to a great extent lost. The work is specially rich in extracts from historical writers. To Photius we are indebted for almost all we possess of Ctesias, Memnon, Conon, the lost books of Diodorus Siculus, and the lost writings of Arrian. Theology and ecclesiastical history are also very fully represented, but poetry and ancient philosophy are almost entirely ignored. It seems that he did not think it necessary to deal with those authors with whom every well-educated man would naturally be familiar. The literary criticisms, generally distinguished by keen and independent judgment, and the excerpts, vary considerably in length. The numerous biographical notices are probably taken from the work of Hesychius of Miletus. The+ Lexicon (A&femv Euvaymyit), published later than the Bibliotheca, was probably in the main the work of some of his pupils. It was intended as a book of reference to facilitate the reading of old classical and sacred authors, whose language and vocabulary were out of date, The only MS. of the Lexicon is the Codex Galeanus, formerly in the possession of Thomas Gale (q.v.), and now in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge (ed. S. A. Naber, 1864, with introduction on the authorities, critical commentary, and valuable indexes). His most important theological work is the Amphilochia, a collection of some 300 questions and answers on difficult points in Scripture, addressed to Amphilochius, archbishop of Cyzicus (ed. Sophocles Oeconomus, Athens, 1858). Other similar works are his treatise in four books against the Manichaeans and Paulicians, and his controversy with the Latins on the Procession of the Holy Spirit. His Epistles, political and private, addressed to high church and state dignitaries, are valuable for the light they throw upon the character and versatility of the writer (ed. J. Valettas, London, 1864). A large number of his speeches and homilies have been edited by S. Aristarches (1900). The only complete edition is Bishop Malou's in Migne's Patrologia graeca, ci.–cv. R. Reifzenstein (Der Anfang des Lexikons des Photius, 1907) has published a hitherto unedited MS. containing numerous fragments from various verse and prose authors. After the allusions in his own writings the chief contemporary authority for the life of Photius is his bitter enemy, Nicetas the Paphlagonian, the biographer of his rival Ignatius. The standard modern work is that of Cardinal Hergenrother, Photius, Patriarch von Constantinopel (1867–1869). As a dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Hergenrother is inevitably biased against Photius as an ecclesiastic, but his natural candour and sympathy with intellectual eminence have made him just to the man. See also article by F. Kattenbusch in Herzog-Hauck's Realencyklop6.die fur protestantische Theologie (1904), containing full bibliographical details; J. A. Fabricius, Bibliotheca graeca, x. 67o-776, xi. 1–37 ; C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur, pp. 73-79, 515–524 (2nd ed., 1897) ; J. E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (2nd ed., 1906).
End of Article: PHOTIUS (c. 82o-891)
[back]
PHOTIUS
[next]
PHOTOCHEMISTRY (Gr. 4&n, light, and " chemistry ")

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.