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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

Theological disputes and the Third Ecumenical Council   -Cf. Acts of the Third Ecumenical Council


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The higher school at Constantinople. The organization of the higher school at Constantinople and the publication of the Theodosian Code, which took place during the reign of Theodosius, were both of great significance in the life of the Byzantine Empire.

Until the fifth century the city of Athens, the home of the famous philosophical school, was the main center of pagan teaching in the Roman Empire. Greek teachers of rhetoric and philosophy, better known as the sophists, came there from all parts of the Empire, some to display their knowledge and oratorical eloquence, others in hopes of obtaining good positions in the teaching profession. These teachers were supported partly from the imperial treasury, partly from the treasuries of the various cities. Tutoring and lecturing were also better paid in Athens than elsewhere. The triumph of Christianity at the end of the fourth century dealt the Athenian school a heavy blow, and intellectual life there was also greatly affected at the very close of the century by the devastating advances of the Visigoths into Greece. Even after the departure of Alaric and the Visigoths, the Athenian school did not rise to its former position; the number of philosophers was greatly decreased. Most severe of all was the blow dealt the Athenian pagan school by the organization of the higher school, or university, in Constantinople.

When Constantinople became the capital of the Empire, many rhetoricians and philosophers came to the new city, so that even before Theodosius II a kind of high school may have existed there. Teachers and scholars were invited to Constantinople from Africa, Syria, and other places. St. Hieronymus remarked in his Chronicle (360-62 A.D): Euanthius, the most learned grammarian, died at Constantinople, and in his place Charisius was brought from Africa. Accordingly a recent student of the problems of the higher schools in Constantinople in the Middle Ages says that under Theodosius II the higher school was not founded but reorganized.

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