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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The fall of Byzantium

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The epoch of the Palaeologi produced a group of important and gifted historians who endeavored to describe and to explain the tragic events of the time. The historian Pachymeres (1242-1310), who, after the expulsion of the Latins, had come from Nicaea to Constantinople, was a very well-educated man. Owing to his high official position, Pachymeres could supplement his own observation by reliable official documents. He was an earnest spokesman for national Greek spirit and therefore opposed to the idea of union. Besides some rhetorical and philosophical essays, his autobiography written in hexameter, and some letters, he was the author of a very important, historical work which embraces the period from 1261 to the beginning of the fourteenth century (1307-1308). This is the chief source for the reign of Michael VIII and for a part of the rule of Andronicus the Elder. Pachymeres was the first Byzantine historian whose main interest lay in the subtle and complicated dogmatic disputes of the time. It seems, Krumbacher wrote, as if those men, turning with horror from the distressing events of the political life of the Empire, sought for consolation and relief in abstract investigation of the religious dogmatic problems which were then agitating all minds. One of the most interesting portions of Pachymeres history is his narration of Roger de Flor's Catalan expedition, which is important in comparison with the account of the Catalan chronicler Muntaner. Pachymeres' writing, where Homeric phrases are intermingled with theological declamation and foreign and popular expressions, is permeated with pedantic imitation of antique style; with an evident loss of clearness, Pachymeres even used the little known Attic names for the months instead of the common Christian names. Some of Pachymeres' writings are not yet published, and even his chief historical work needs a new critical edition.

In the beginning of the fourteenth century, Nicephorus Kallistus Xanthopulos compiled his Ecclesiastical History. His original plan may have been to bring the History up to his own time, but he stopped at the year 911. Only the part of his work which covers the time from the birth of Christ to the beginning of the seventh century exists today in full. He also wrote church poems, epigrams, and some other writings.

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