Theophanes the Confessor

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Saint Theophanes
Image Theopanes nicea.png
Confessor
Born c. 758 x 760
Constantinople
Died March 12, 817(817-03-12)
Samothrace
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church; Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 12 March (Catholic Church); 25 March (Orthodox Church)

Saint Theophanes the Confessor (Greek: Θεοφάνης Ὁμολογητής; c. 758/760 – March 12, 817/818) was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Biography[edit]

Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac, imperial governor of the islands of the Black Sea, and Theodora, of whose family nothing is known. His father died when Theophanes was three years old, and the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V Copronymus (740-775) subsequently saw to the boy's education and upbringing at the imperial court. Theophanes would hold several offices under this patron.

He was married at the age of twelve, but convinced his wife to lead a life of virginity. In 799, after the death of his father-in-law, they separated with mutual consent to embrace the religious life. She chose a convent on an island near Constantinople, while he entered the Polychronius Monastery, located in the district of Sigiane (Sigriano), near Cyzicus on the Asian side of the Sea of Marmara. Later, he built a monastery on his own lands on the island of Calonymus (now Calomio).

After six years he returned to Sigriano, where he founded an abbey known by the name "of the great acre" and governed it as abbot. In this position of leadership, he was present at the Second General Council of Nicaea in 787, and signed its decrees in defense of the veneration of icons.

When Emperor Leo V the Armenian (813-820) resumed his iconoclastic warfare, he ordered Theophanes brought to Constantinople. The Emperor tried in vain to induce him to condemn the same veneration of icons that had been sanctioned by the council. Theophanes was cast into prison and for two years suffered cruel treatment. After his release, he was banished to Samothrace in 817, where overwhelmed with afflictions, he lived only seventeen days. He is credited with many miracles that occurred after his death, which most likely took place on 12 March, the day he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology.

Chronicle[edit]

At the urgent request of his friend George Syncellus, Theophanes undertook the continuation of his Chronicle (Χρονογραφία), during the years 810-15 (P.G., CVIII, 55), making use of material already prepared by Syncellus, probably also the extracts from the works of Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomenus, and Theodoret, made by Theodore Lector, and the city chronicle of Constantinople. Cyril Mango has argued that Theophanes contributed but little to the chronicle that bears his name, and that the vast bulk of its contents are the work of Syncellus; on this model, Theophanes' main contribution was to cast Syncellus' rough materials together in a unified form.

Theophanes' chronicle of world events, covering events from the accession of Diocletian in 284 (the point where the chronicle of George Syncellus ends) to the downfall of Michael I Rhangabes in 813, is valuable for preserving the accounts of lost authorities on Byzantine history that would be otherwise lost for the seventh and eighth centuries. The language occupies a place midway between the stiff ecclesiastical and the vernacular Greek.

The work consists of two parts, the first giving the history, arranged according to years, the other containing chronological tables, full of inaccuracies. It seems that Theophanes had only prepared the tables, leaving vacant spaces for the proper dates, but that these had been filled out by someone else (Hugo von Hurter, Nomenclator literarius recentioris I, Innsbruck, 1903, 735). In chronology, in addition to reckoning by the years of the world and the Christian era, Theophanes introduces in tabular form the regnal years of the Roman emperors, of the Persian kings and Arab caliphs, and of the five oecumenical patriarchs, a system which leads to considerable confusion, and therefore of little value.

The first part, though lacking in critical insight and chronological accuracy, which could scarcely be expected from a man of such ascetical disposition, greatly surpasses the majority of Byzantine chronicles (Krumbacher, "Geschichte der byzant. Litteratur," 1897, 342). Theophanes's Chronicle becomes valuable with the reign of Justin II (565) the point in his work he drew upon sources that have not survived his times (Traianus Patricius, Theophilus of Edessa).

His Chronicle was much used by succeeding chroniclers, and in 873-875 a Latin compilation (published in vol. ii. of De Boor's edition) was made by the papal librarian Anastasius from the chronicles of Patriarch Nicephorus, George Syncellus, and Theophanes for the use of a deacon named Johannes in the second half of the ninth century, and thus was known to Western Europe.

There also survives a further continuation, in six books, of the Chronicle down to the year 961 written by a number of mostly anonymous writers (called Theophanes Continuatus or Scriptores post Theophanem), who undertook the work at the instructions of Constantine Porphyrogenitus.

Sources and references[edit]

(incomplete)

  • C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897); Ein Dithyrambus auf Theophanes Confessor (a panegyric on Theophanes by a certain protoasecretis, or imperial chief secretary, under Constantine Porphyrogenitus) and Eine neue Vita des Theophanes Confessor (anonymous), both edited by the same writer in 'Sitzungsberichte' of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Sciences (1896, pp. 583–625; and 1897, pp. 371–399)
  • Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the West (ed. Bury), v. p. 500.
  • Cyril MANGO, “Who Wrote the Chronicle of Theophanes?” Zborknik Radova Vizantinoškog Instituta 18 (1978), 9-18, republished in id., Byzantium and its Image, London 1984.

Editions of the Chronicle:

  • Editio princeps, Jacques Goar (Paris, 1655)
  • Combefis (Venice, 1729), with annotations and corrections.
  • J. P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, cviii (vol.108, col.55-1009).
  • J. Classen in Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byzantinae (1839–41)
  • C. de Boor (Leipzig, 1883–85), with an exhaustive treatise on the manuscript and an elaborate index, and an edition of the Latin version by Anastasius Bibliothecarius
  • Jules Pargoire, "Saint Theophane le Chronographe et ses rapports avec saint Theodore studite," in VizVrem, ix. (St Petersburg, 1902).

Translations of the Chronicle:

  • Феофан Исповедник. Летопись византийца Феофана. Полная версия.(СПб., 1884).
  • Чичуров, И. С. Византийские исторические сочинения: "Хронография" Феофана, "Бревиарий" Никифора. Тексты, переводы, коментарии. (М., 1980); http://www.krotov.info/acts/08/3/feofan_00.htm.
  • The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284-813. Tr. Cyril Mango and Roger Scott (Oxford, 1997).

Editions of the Continuation:

  • J. P. Migne, Pair. Gr., cix.
  • I. Bekker, Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byz. (1838).

External links[edit]