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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Justinian the Great and his successors (518-610)

Literature, learning, and art 


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Reflecting Justinians multifarious activities, which amazed even his contemporaries, the epoch between 518 and 610 resulted in an abundant heritage in various branches of learning and literature. The Emperor himself attempted literary creation in the fields of dogmatics and hymnology. Maurice also displayed a taste for letters; he not only patronized but also stimulated literature, and often spent a great part of the night discussing or meditating on questions of poetry or history. This period produced several historians, whom Justinian's enterprises provided with a wealth of material.

The special historian of Justinian's period was Procopius of Caesarea, who has given a complete and well-rounded picture of the reign. Educated for the law, Procopius was appointed adviser and secretary to the famous general Belisarius, with whom he shared the campaigns against the Vandals, the Goths, and the Persians. He stands out both as historian and as writer. As a historian he was in a most advantageous position with regard to sources and firsthand information. His closeness to Belisarius gave him access to all official documents kept in the offices and archives, while his active participation in the campaigns and his excellent knowledge of the country gave him highly valuable living material based on personal observation and on information obtained from contemporaries.

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