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Psellos, Michael  

Stratis Papaioannou

Psellos, Michael (baptismal name Constantine) (1018–1078 CE) was born into a middle-class family in Constantinople, at a time when the capital of the Byzantine Empire was again at the peak of its power, after the crisis of the 7th and 8th centuriesce. Psellos’s life was punctuated by the reigns of the emperors and the careers of other members of the Constantinopolitan ruling elite, whose patronage and friendship he successfully or (occasionally) less successfully sought. Because of his education and learnedness in all fields of the Byzantine curriculum, which must have appeared spectacular in the eyes of his contemporaries, Psellos gained and sustained various posts in the imperial court and related networks of elite society as secretary, professional public speaker, and teacher during the thirty-five years (until 1078) when we can follow his career. His impressive erudition, but also his brilliant talent (by Byzantine standards) in literary discourse were also the reason for his inclusion, almost immediately after his death, in the reading canon of Byzantine advanced literacy and, therefore, the continued copying and preservation of his vast discursive production.

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Proclus Constantinopolitanus, c. 385–446 CE; bishop, 434–446 CE  

Maximos Constas

An early archbishop of Constantinople and a popular preacher in the rhetorical style of Gregory Nazianzus (d. 390), Proclus was the principal architect of the Byzantine cult of the Virgin Mary. Nothing is known of his family, social class, or early life, although he seems to have studied under Alexandrian teachers of rhetoric recently established in the new capital. Later Byzantine sources make Proclus the student of John Chrysostom (sed. 397–404), who died in exile (d. 407) and whose relics Proclus had with great pomp returned to Constantinople (438). However, contemporary sources place Proclus in the service of Atticus of Constantinople (sed. 406–425), who ordained him to the diaconate and priesthood, and whom Proclus served as secretary and ghostwriter. After the death of Atticus, Proclus was a candidate for the archiepiscopal throne, but lost the election to Sisinnius (sed. 426–427), who subsequently ordained Proclus to the see of Cyzicus. The people of Cyzicus, however, resisting interference in the affairs of their church, rejected Proclus, who remained in the capital where he flourished as a popular preacher. After the death of Sisinnius, Proclus was again put forward as a candidate but was blocked by the emperor, Theodosius II (r.