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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Macedonian epoch (867-1081)

Education, learning, literature, and art 


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From the circle of literary and scholarly men gathered about Constantine came the historian Joseph Genesius, the author of a history from the time of Leo V to that of Leo VI (813-86), and Theodore Daphnopates, who wrote a historical work which has not survived, some diplomatic letters, several sermons for Christian holidays, and a, number of biographies. At the instance of the Emperor, Constantine the Rhodian wrote a poetic description of the Church of the Apostles, which is especially valuable because it gives us a picture of this famous church which was later destroyed by the Turks.

Among the encyclopedias which appeared under Constantine was the famous collection of Lives of Saints, compiled by Simeon Metaphrastes. To the early tenth century belongs also the Anthologia Palatina, compiled by Constantine Kephalas. It derives its name from the only manuscript, the Codex Palatinus, which is now at Heidelberg, Germany. The claim of some scholars that Constantine Kephalas was no other than Constantine the Rhodian should be considered improbable. The Anthologia Palatina is a large collection of short poems of both Christian and pagan times, and stands out as an example of the fine literary taste of the tenth century.

The time of Constantine Porphyrogenitus witnessed also the compilation of the famous Lexicon of Suidas. There is no information whatever on the life and personality of the author of this lexicon, which is the richest source for the explanation of words, proper names, and articles of general use. The literary and historical articles concerning works which have not come down to the present are of especially great value.

In spite of many shortcomings, the Lexicon of Suidas is a lofty monument of the compilatory diligence of Byzantine scholars at the time when the learned activity of the rest of Europe had completely declined. This was a new evidence of the wide extent to which the Byzantine Empire, in spite of all the internal and external upheavals, preserved and developed the remnants of ancient culture.

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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