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Saint Theophanes Confessor (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 Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church (March 25 in those churches that follow the Julian calendar).

Biography

Theophanes was born at Constantinoplemarker, of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac, imperial governor of the islands of the Black Sea, and of Theodora, of whose family nothing is known. Isaac 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 induced his wife to lead a life of virginity, and in 799, after the death of his father-in-law, they separated with mutual consent to embrace the religious life, she choosing a convent on an island near Constantinople, while he entered the monastery called Polychronius in the district of Sigiane (Sigriano), near Cyzicus on the Asian side of the Sea of Marmoramarker. Later he built a monastery on his own lands on the island of Calonymus (now Calomio).

After six years he returned to Sigriano, founded an abbey known by the name "of the great acre", and governed it as abbot. As such he was present at the Second General Council of Nicaea in 787, and signed its decrees in defense of the sacred images.

When the emperor Leo V the Armenian (813-820) resumed his iconoclastic warfare, he ordered Theophanes brought to Constantinople and tried in vain to induce him to condemn what had been sanctioned by the council. Theophanes was cast into prison and for two years suffered cruel treatment; he was then banished to Samothracemarker in 817, where overwhelmed with afflictions, he lived only seventeen days and is credited with many miracles after his death, probably 12 March, the day he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology.

Chronicle

At the urgent request of his friend George Syncellus, Theophanes undertook the continuation of his chronicle, 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.

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.

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

(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 Sciencesmarker (1896, pp. 583-625; and 1897, pp. 371-399)
  • Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the West (ed. Bury), v. p. 500.


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).


Editions of the Continuation:
  • J. P. Migne, Pair. Gr., cix.
  • I. Bekker, Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byz. (1838).


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