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Steven D. Smith

Agathias of Myrina (c. 532 to c. 580 ce), also known as Agathias Scholasticus, was a lawyer, poet, and historian active during the reigns of the Emperors Justinian I, Justin II, and Tiberius II. The epigrams on contemporary subjects and traditional themes that he and his circle composed and that he himself collected and published were widely read in the 6th century and later. His Histories, a lively continuation of the work of Procopius, remains a crucial source for the events of the 550s ce.A lawyer (scholastikos) by profession, Agathias (c. 532-c.580) came from Myrina, on the western coast of Asia Minor. Some knowledge of his family can be gleaned from Agathias’s works. His father Memnonius was also a lawyer, and his mother Pericleia died when he was only 3 years old (Anth. Pal. 7.552). He had two siblings; nothing is known of his brother, but his sister Eugenia was a brilliant woman, who, like Agathias, had a talent for poetry and rhetoric and who also had some knowledge of the law (.


Sozomen, church historian  

Alberto J. Quiroga Puertas

Salamanes Hermeias Sozomenus, also known as Sozomen, was a lawyer and church historian. The scarce biographical information that we have about him derives from ex silentio arguments and from the interpretation of passages of his extant work, The Ecclesiastical History. Even his full name presents doubts, as the three names that it consisted of are presented in different orders in the manuscripts transmitting his work. It has also been argued that Sozomen could be a Greek translation of Salamanes, a name of Semitic origins. Sozomen’s date of birth has also been a matter of debate, with estimates ranging from 380 to 427, although a date at the beginning of the 5th century seems to be the most likely approximation. Less problematic is to determine his place of birth, Betheleia, a village near Gaza in Palestine where Sozomen’s family had been long established. His grandfather seems to have been the first of the family to convert to Christianity when he witnessed how the monk Hilarion cast out a demon that had possessed a fellow citizen (Sozomen, Historia Ecclesiastica 5.


Flaccilla, Aelia Flavia, wife of the eastern emperor Theodosius I  

Meaghan McEvoy

Aelia Flavia Flaccilla was the first wife of the emperor Theodosius I, and the mother of his two surviving sons, Arcadius (b. c. 377 ce) and Honorius (b. 383 ce), as well as of a daughter named Pulcheria, who predeceased both her parents.1 Flaccilla is generally believed to have been a native of Spain, and her marriage to Theodosius probably occurred some two or three years prior to his elevation as emperor, perhaps during his temporary retirement from military service to family properties in Spain, after the sudden execution of his father, the comes Theodosius, in 375/376 ce.2

Flaccilla’s location at the time of her husband’s elevation as emperor in January 379 ce is unknown; however, when Theodosius entered the city of Constantinople for the first time as Augustus in November 380 ce, he was accompanied by his wife, the empress, and his young son Arcadius.


Byzantine and Slavic Orthodoxy  

Alexander Rentel

The Byzantine-Slav liturgical tradition emerged as an aggregate rite from the diverse liturgical practices of the Eastern Mediterranean from the early 4th century. This tradition developed around the city of Constantinople but was also influenced by the liturgical traditions of Jerusalem and the monasteries surrounding Jerusalem. While Constantinople remained the center of this tradition, it also found its home and developed in unique ways throughout the Mediterranean and the Balkan Peninsula, into Ukraine and Russia, and eventually throughout the world. The liturgical tradition itself weaves together the diverse practices of monastic and urban worship, creating very much a hybrid rite. The daily office, primarily drawn from monastic practices, utilizes a mix of invariable texts, prayers, psalmody, and composed hymns of ancient provenance as well as a wide array of variable hymns of different origins and genre. Throughout these services, the monastic elements stand side by side with remnants of the urban cathedral worship. The Divine Liturgy, the Eucharist service, has at its core prayers that go back to the classic patristic age of the church, the 4th and 5th centuries. The entire service, however, betrays multiple layers of influence on its development, ranging from practices of the imperial cult of late antiquity to popular piety. All these elements have come together through organic development and, at times, directed reform to form a vast liturgical tradition with rich textures and complex nuances of meaning.


European Literature and Book History in the Middle Ages, c. 600-c. 1450  

Lars Boje Mortensen

Medieval European literature is both broader and deeper in its basis than what is usually offered in literary histories with their focus only on a narrow canon and on vernacular languages. One way to see this bigger canvas is to consider technical and statistical book-historical factors together with the authority of the two Roman Empires (Western and Eastern) and of their religious hierarchies (the papacy and the patriarchate). A coordinated reading of developments in the Latin West and the Greek East—though rarely directly related—brings out some main features of intellectual and literary life in most of Europe. With this focus, a literary chronology emerges—as a supplement to existing narratives based on either national or formal (genre) concerns: the period c. 600 to c. 1450 can be considered a unity in book-historical terms, namely the era dominated the hand-written codex. It is also delimited by the fate of the Roman Empire with the Latin West effectively separated from the Greek Empire by c. 600 and the end of Constantinople in 1453. Within this broad framework, three distinctive phases of book- and intellectual history can be discerned: the exegetical (c. 600–c. 1050), the experimental (c. 1050–c. 1300), and the critical (c. 1300–c. 1450). These three headings should be understood as a shorthand for what was new in each phase, not as a general characteristic, especially because exegesis in various forms continued to lie at the heart of reading and writing books in all relevant languages.


Pulcheria, Roman Augusta, 414–453 CE  

Hugh Elton

Pulcheria was a Roman empress in the early to mid-5th century ce, one of the sisters of the eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II (408–450). Pulcheria spent her entire life in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and its suburbs where she was a prominent public figure. She has been described as being influential in the First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and as a significant founder of churches in Constantinople. Following the death of the childless Theodosius in 450, Marcian (450–457) became emperor and then married Pulcheria. Aged 55, Pulcheria died in Constantinople in July 453. Many ancient and modern interpretations of Pulcheria’s life rely heavily on later source material, with the result that she was more influential in historiography from the 6th century onward than in her own lifetime. She is portrayed very differently by two contemporary historians, Sozomen and Socrates Scholasticus. In Sozomen’s account, she is represented as managing the Roman Empire in the early part of Theodosius’ reign. Socrates Scholasticus, however, omits her from his history. These two different perspectives probably relate to conflict between Pulcheria and Eudocia, Theodosius’ wife from 421.



Anna Tiziana Drago

The collection of fifty fictitious love letters (epistulae amatoriae) subdivided into two books contained in a single Greek manuscript (codex unicus) copied in the south of Italy around 1200 ce and now housed in Vienna (V = Cod. Vindobonensis phil. Graec. 310) has had a curious history. This manuscript identifies its epistolographer as a certain Aristaenetus, but in fact the author’s name is as uncertain as his birthplace and the dates of his career. The corpus might have been composed between the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th centuries ce, and its author could be an epistolographer belonging to the literary humanist circles formed in the imperial atmosphere of Constantinople under Justinian I (including Procopius, Agathias, and Paulus Silentiarius). The letters are written from a variety of senders to diverse addressees, including historical or literary figures (often professional epistolographers: Alciphron, Aelian, Philostratus, but also Lucian, Stesichorus, Eratosthenes, Archilochus, and Terpander). Aristaenetus’ epistolary collection has a dominant thematic nucleus: the description, conquest, and defence of love. This thematic nucleus gathers around itself conventional amatory topics: the flame of love; love at first sight; servitium amoris (“love slavery”); love-sickness; the erōtodidaskalos (teacher of love); the paraclausithyron (lover’s lament by a locked door).


Zacharias, bishop of Mytilene, c. 465–c. 536 CE  

Geoffrey Greatrex

Zachariah rhetor or scholasticus, following an education at Gaza and Alexandria, trained as a lawyer in Beirut (Berytus). A close friend of the future patriarch Severus of Antioch, he wrote a detailed biography of his life until his nomination as patriarch in 512; he also composed biographies of three other anti-Chalcedonian holy men and an Ecclesiastical History. The one biography that survives and the latter work exist only in a Syriac translation because of their anti-Chalcedonian line. Zachariah spent much of his life in Constantinople practising as a lawyer, where he composed two works refuting Manichaeanism and a philosophical dialogue, set in Alexandria, rebutting pagan views. He appears to have accepted the pro-Chalcedonian policies of Justin I and Justinian, becoming metropolitan bishop of Mytilene at some point before 536, the year in which he attended the Council of Constantinople. At this gathering he was absent for the session that condemned Severus and other leading opponents of Chalcedon.



Marion Kruse

Procopius was a Greek historian, born in Caesarea (2) in Palestine c.500ce. He joined the staff of Belisarius, the leading general of the reign of Justinian, by 527, and served as his legal secretary (assessor/πάρεδρος). Both this post and his corpus indicate that he received a standard education in rhetoric and law, and he claimed to be familiar with matters of Christian theology, though he declined to discuss them. Procopius served under Belisarius throughout the general’s early campaigns against Sassanian Persia (527–531), Vandal North Africa (533–536), and Ostrogothic Italy (535–540). Procopius and Belisarius parted ways at some point between 540 and 542, at which point Procopius took up residence in Constantinople and turned to his literary projects. There is no indication that he remained connected to Belisarius’s circle or dependent upon his patronage after this point. He can, however, be compellingly linked to an active literary circle composed of mid-level officials operating in Constantinople in the mid-6th century, such as John Lydus, who appears to have been familiar with the Secret History.


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.