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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Iconoclastic epoch (717-867)

Literature, learning, and art 


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader
Page 3

With the exception of one anonymous writer on Emperor Leo V the Armenian, Hamartolus is the only contemporary chronicler of the period from 813 to 842. He dealt with this period from a narrow monastic point of view, using mostly oral accounts of contemporaries and personal observations. The manuscript tradition of Hamartolus' work, which was changed and enlarged many times in later centuries, has survived in such a complicated and entangled form that the question of his authentic original text forms one of the most difficult problems of Byzantine philology. It was only in the early part of the twentieth century that a critical edition of the Greek text of Hamartolus was published. Recently there appeared a critical edition of the old Slavo-Russian translation of the chronicle of Hamartolus, supplemented by the Greek text of the continuation of this chronicle which formed the basis of the Slavonic translation. Iconoclastic literature was almost completely destroyed by the triumphant image-worshipers; yet part of the detailed acts of the iconoclastic council of the year 754 have survived in the acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Fragments of an extensive work against icon worship written by Constantine V Copronymus have been preserved in the three Refutations of Patriarch Nicephorus. This emperor was also the author of some other literary works. Leo V ordered the compilation of a general work favorable to iconoclasm and based on the Bible and the church fathers, and a similar project was proposed at the iconoclastic council of the year 754; neither of these works has survived. A number of iconoclastic poems have been preserved in the works of Theodore of Studion. The Seventh Ecumenical Council decreed that all iconoclastic literature should be destroyed, and its ninth canon reads as follows: All the childish plays, the raging mockeries and false writings directed against the honored icons must be presented to the episcopate of Constantinople and there added to all other books of heretics. Anyone found guilty of hiding these works if bishop, or presbyter, or deacon, will be deposed; if monk or layman, will be excommunicated.

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