Byzantine missions among the Slavs. SS. Constantine-Cyril and Methodius

Francis Dvornik


II. Byzantium, the Russians, the Khazars, the Arabs, and Constantine’s Early Career


Appearance of Russians under Constantinople’s walls—The Khazars, the Jews, and Byzantium—Youth of Constantine and Methodius—Constantine’s stay in the capital—Methodius, civil servant and monk—Constantine at the university, and his definition of philosophy—Constantine’s disputation with the iconoclastic ex-patriarch, and the Arab mission—Constantine and the political upheaval in Byzantium—The brothers’ stay in Cherson, and the relics of St. Clement—The Khazar mission—Constantine at the patriarchal academy.



Suddenly the Byzantines were faced with another Slavic problem, that of the Russians. [1] On June 18, 860 “this sudden hailstorm of barbarians burst forth,” according to one of the homilies of Photius. Their hordes landed on the shores near the capital, destroying and plundering cities and villages and encircling Constantinople. It was the first invasion by the Russians, called Rhôs by the Byzantines. The attack was completely unexpected and was made in strength. Over two hundred small vessels appeared on the sea of Marmara, sortie of them landing on the islands. In his two homilies the Patriarch Photius left a vivid description of the devastating effect resulting from the apparition of unknown barbarians under the walls of the capital. [2]


“A nation dwelling somewhere far from our country, barbarous, nomadic, armed with arrogance, unwatched, unchallenged, leaderless, has so suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, like a wave of the sea, poured over our frontiers, and as a wild boar has







devoured the inhabitants of the land like grass, or straw, or a crop . . . sparing nothing from man to beast. . . but boldly thrusting their sword through persons of every age and sex.”


The danger was all the greater since the Emperor Michael III and his army were in Asia Minor on an expedition against the Arabs. The inhabitants, frightened by this sudden danger, invoked the protection of Our Lady whose garment—a most venerated relic—the Patriarch carried in procession along the walls of Constantinople. Fortunately, the invaders did not stay under the walls, but took to their vessels loaded with booty and returned whence they had come. They seem to have sailed into a violent storm which destroyed many of their small vessels.


Although there are still some scholars who think that the attack was made by Russians established near the Crimea at Tmutorakan, it seems certain that the attackers came from “far away,” from their center at Kiev on the Dnieper. This also seems confirmed by the description given by Photius. The Byzantines still had some possessions in the Crimea centering on Cherson. If there had existed such a powerful Russian center near the Crimea, the Byzantines could have learned about it from their own people in Cherson and they would not have been so much surprised by the sudden attack by a foreign nation. An expedition sailing from Kiev down the Dnieper to the Black Sea and, following its shores to Constantinople would naturally escape the attention of the Chersonese and the Byzantines.


The attack against Constantinople was a last link in a chain of events taking place in Eastern Europe, between the Baltic and the Black Sea. Numerous Slavic tribes had preceded and followed the Goths along the Dnieper and Dniester rivers toward the frontiers of the Eastern Roman Empire on the lower Danube. They came into touch with the many nations which had established themselves in what is today southern Russia—the Scythians and the Sarmatians, both of Iranian stock, then the Goths, the Huns, the Avars, and finally the Khazars. The latter were a Turkic tribe which occupied the Caucasus region in the second half of the seventh century and founded a political structure which extended from the Sea of Azov to the Aral Sea with its capital at Itil, on the delta of the Volga. They replaced the Avars in South Russia and extended their domination over the Slavs settled in the Dnieper region. The Poljane, the most important of these





Slavic tribes, had already developed an important center at Kiev on the Middle Dnieper and were engaged in lively commercial transactions with Greek colonies which had survived on the shores of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and in the interior. The Khazars saw the importance of this Slavic center and of the commerce with the Crimean cities and the Near East, and occupied Kiev.


Soon, however, another enterprising nation, the Scandinavians, discovered the importance of commercial relations with the Arabic Near East. In this case it was the Swedes who, exploring the Baltic coast and the Gulf of Finland, found easy access to the Volga via Lakes Ladoga and Beloozero, hauling their boats over the portages. Soon a lively commercial intercourse was established by the Swedes with the Bulgars on the Middle Volga, with the Khazars and, through the Caspian Sea, with the Arabs of Bagdad.


More important, later, was the discovery of another route, from the Baltic Sea to the Dnieper and to Kiev, then in Khazar hands. Since the Khazars were not able to offer sufficient protection to the Slavs against the marauding nomadic tribes, the Slavs welcomed the Swedes, concluding protective treaties with them or simply accepting their political leadership. Once established in Kiev, the Swedes and their Slav protégés coveted the riches which were accumulating in the Byzantine cities on the Black Sea and especially in Constantinople. The attack of 860 was their first direct contact with Byzantium. [3]


*  *  *


The appearance of a new nation under the walls of the capital naturally alerted Byzantine diplomacy and forced it to take prompt action. The last Byzantine possessions in the Crimea were in danger. There was, in these regions, only one possible ally who could also regard himself as endangered by the Rhôs, the Khazars.


The Byzantines had been in touch with the Khazars since the sixth century. [4] The Emperor Heraclius concluded an alliance with them against the Persians and a strong Khazar contingent placed at his disposal, contributed considerably to the emperor’s famous victory over the Persians in 627. Then the Arab danger, threatening both the Khazars and the Byzantines, brought them together once more. During the reign of Justinian II the Khazars played an





important role in Byzantine politics. The alliance was renewed by Leo III the Isaurian, whose son Constantine V married a Khazar princess. His son Leo IV was called simply the Khazar.


In spite of some tension at the end of the eighth century, the alliance continued to exist. Under the Emperor Theophilus the Khazars, menaced by perhaps the Magyars or the Petchenegues, asked the Byzantines to help them to strengthen their defensive measures. Theophilus, who reorganized the Byzantine possessions in the Crimea, sent Greek architects who constructed for the Khazars the fortress of Sarkel at the mouth of the Don (c. 833).


Thanks to these friendly relations with Byzantium Christianity penetrated the lands of the Khazars. But Christian missionaries encountered very serious competition from the Arabs and Jews. The Abbasid dynasty of Caliphs at Baghdad (from 750 on) brought Arab power to new heights. Their influence grew not only in the political, but also in the cultural field. A kind of cultural renaissance under the first Abbasid Caliph, of course, also encouraged religious propaganda among the neighboring nations. Through the Caspian Sea and the Volga this penetrated among the Turkic Bulgars on the middle Volga. The Bulgars began to embrace the religion of Mohammed during the ninth century. The conversion of the whole nation was achieved at the beginning of the tenth century.


Mohammedan propaganda also reached the Khazars, and many of them embraced the religion of the Prophet. There, however, the Mohammedan proselytizers encountered serious competition from the Jews. In the many Greek colonies on the coast of the Sea of Azov there had always lived numerous Jews engaged in commerce, serving as intermediaries between the Byzantines and Arabs and the interior of Russia. The Jewish communities in these regions were always zealous proselytizers for their religion among the pagans. Their religious zeal and success in their missionary activity seem to have attracted the Apostle Andrew. He is said to have preached in Scythia, which can only mean modern southern Russia with the Crimea (see below, Chapter VII, p. 261).


Thanks to their commercial relations with the Khazars, the Jewish proselytizers were successful in Khazaria and seem even to have won over the Khagan of the Khazars to the teaching of Moses. The date and the circumstances of their conversion are still under discussion. [5] Jewish sources date this conversion at about





730 and call the first Khagan who became a Jew Bulan. Arab sources date this event from the reign of Harun-al-Rašid (786-809), and this date also seems to be indicated by the biographer of the Georgian Saint Abo. It seems that, in the first half of the ninth century, the upper class of the Khazars had been won over to Judaism.


This situation was well known in Byzantium. When it was decided to send a new embassy to the Khazars to renew the alliance in view of the fresh danger coming from the Russians, it was thought that the ambassadors should be accompanied by one or several scholars, well versed in theology. Because three religions were competing in Khazaria it was to be assumed that the embassy might also be involved in religious disputations. For this mission the Emperor Michael III, his uncle the regent Bardas, and the Patriarch Photius chose the young scholar Constantine and his brother Methodius. Before examining the historicity of this embassy, let us see who were the men chosen as companions for the official ambassador and why they were chosen for such a task.


*  *  *


Fortunately, two important documents are extant which give us ample information on the activity of Constantine-Cyril and his brother Methodius. These documents, whose authenticity has been definitely established, [6] were the so-called Pannonian Legends, the Life of Constantine and the Life of Methodius. [7]


They were natives of Thessalonica, Constantine being born in 826 or 827 and his older brother about the year 815. Their father Leo was a high-ranking officer—drungarios—a rank corresponding to that of colonel. Thessalonica was a very important outpost of the Empire and the second city after Constantinople. We have seen that masses of Slavs had settled in its neighborhood. During the political and ecclesiastical reorganization of the Empire after the pacification of the Slavs, Thessalonica, as we have seen above, became a thema headed by a strategos, who exercised not only administrative power but also military command. This reorganization was effected before 832 and the strategos mentioned in the Life of Constantine is an historical person.


It is also quite probable that this military governor of Thessalonica with his drungarios Leo participated about 836 in the





campaign against the Bulgars. These, taking advantage of some troubles among the Slavs in the neighborhood of Thessalonica, seemed to menace the city itself. The Bulgars occupied the territory of the Slavic tribe of the Smoljans, but the Byzantine army, commanded by the Caesar Alexis, prevented them from penetrating towards the coast of the Aegean Sea. [8]


This incident shows clearly how important the Slavic problem was for the thema of Thessalonica and also explains why the two brothers were so familiar with the Slavic language.


The author of the Life of Constantine was well versed in Byzantine hagiography. All his remarks (in chapters two and three of the Life) on his hero’s youth reflect the mentality of Byzantine hagiographers. For example, the baby refused to take the milk of the nurse. This had to happen in order that a child of such parentage should be nourished only by the milk of his pious mother. Inspired by the story of St. Plakidas, who was converted while hunting a stag, the biographer shows how Constantine made a decision to reject all earthly things when he had lost his falcon during a hunting expedition. His parents had seven children, and, after the birth of the last—Constantine-they lived as brother and sister, in mutual abstinence for fourteen—that is, twice seven—years. This predilection for the number of seven, the sacred number, preferred by the hagiographers, should make us a little hesitant to accept all the numerical indications without serious scrutiny. [9]


The choice of Sophia, in the dream of the boy, as his bride among the beautiful girls of Thessalonica assembled by the military governor, can be explained by the custom at the Byzantine court of assembling young ladies of the best families so that the future emperor should choose his wife from among them. [10] St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who became the favorite saint and doctor of Constantine, also had a vision in a dream of two beautiful ladies, Chastity and Temperance, whom he chose for himself. [11] He relates in his poem how he left to other people all the beauties of nature, all entertainment, “the neighing of the horses and the barking of hunting dogs,” and accepted the yoke of temperence. [12] One can see how easy it was for Constantine’s biographer to find inspiration in Byzantine customs and hagiography to illustrate the exemplary life of his hero.


The stressing of the great piety of the parents was also a commonplace in hagiographic writings. This does not mean that all





that the biographer relates about Constantine’s youth was unsubstantiated, It is quite understandable that St. Gregory of Nazianzus should have become his favorite doctor. He was extremely popular in Byzantium and his poems attracted Constantine—and other young men—and it must be his poems which Constantine is supposed to have learned by heart. The short encomium which Constantine is said to have composed in his honor seems to have been the young man’s first literary achievement. [13]


Both brothers obtained their elementary education in Thessalonica. Constantine is said to have endeavored vainly to persuade a grammarian to give him a more solid training in scholarship. This he only obtained in Constantinople at the invitation of the Logothete (Theoctistus)—equivalent to a modern prime minister— and he was educated with the young emperor Michael III.


This statement of the biographer needs some investigation. This invitation was apparently issued after the death of Constantine’s father. It must have happened when Constantine was fourteen years old. This may be exact but it is also possible that the biographer adjusted the dates slightly, in order to obtain the holy number, seven plus seven.


One is tempted to admit that the drungarios Leo died from a wound inflicted on a battlefield. In reality we learn from Constantine Porphyrogenitus [14] that the Peloponnesian Slavs became independent during the reign of the Emperor Theophilus (829—842), and that “in the reign of Michael, the son of Theophilus, the protospatharius Theoctistus, surnamed Bryennius, was sent as military governor to the province of Peloponnesus with great power and force, viz., of Thracians and Macedonians and the rest of the western provinces, to war upon and subdue them.” His expedition was successful and the Slavs were forced to pay tribute to the Empire.


The revolt must have happened in 841. Michael was born in January of 840 and crowned co-emperor towards September of the same year. He became emperor nominally in 842, after the death of his father, under the regency of his mother Theodora. Theoctistus’ expedition may be dated in this year. According to Porphyrogenitus, the military contingents from Thrace and Macedonia especially participated in this expedition, but also those from “the rest of the western provinces,” thus equally from the thema of Thessalonica. If the death of Leo can be dated in 842,





it is admissible that he died from wounds received during the campaign. If this was the case, it is more easily comprehensible why, when dying, he sought to relieve the anxiety of his wife concerning the education of their youngest son, by saying that he “who governs, all Christians” will take care of him (chapter two). This can only be the emperor, who regarded it as his duty to take care of the orphans of officers who died on active service.


Of course, it is also possible that Leo’s family had some connections with Theoctistus, the Logothete, prime minister for the Empress Theodora. In any event, the government took the young orphan under its protection and gave him the opportunity to obtain a higher education. [15] We can, however, hardly accept the biographer’s note that Constantine was to be educated together with the young Emperor Michael III. Even if Michael’s birth could be dated not from 840 but from 836, [16] which is now disproved, he would have been only six years old in 842. It is, however, quite possible that Constantine was accommodated in the imperial palace, because the highest official was interested in his education.


*  *  *


It is evident that Constantine was to study at the imperial university in whose reorganization Theoctistus was personally interested. The biographer describes (chapter four) Constantine’s studies in the following manner:


“After having learned grammar there ... in three months, he turned his attention to other sciences. He studied Homer and geometry and equally—with Leo [17] and Photius-dialectics and all other philosophical disciplines. Moreover, he also learned rhetoric, arithmetic, astronomy, music, and the other hellenic arts.”


The biographer’s statement corresponds with the facts we know from other Byzantine sources about the university and Byzantine scholarship. The university had existed since the reign of Constantine the Great. It was enriched by his son Constantius and reorganized by Theodosius II. Contrary to what has been thought, it was not suppressed by the iconoclastic emperors, and flourished again in the ninth century. The emperors were necessarily interested in its prosperity, since its main object was to train able personnel for imperial offices.





Constantine was also destined to enter the imperial service. In chapter four the biographer describes how much the logothete liked and trusted the talented young man. He offered him the hand of his spiritual daughter—he had no children, being an eunuch—and he promised him a high post in the imperial service. “You will attain even more,” he said, “because you will quickly become a strategos." However, Constantine desired to continue his scholarly career. After consulting the empress, Theoctistus decided to let Constantine take holy orders and be appointed librarian to the patriarch.


It is now established that Constantine was not ordained a priest, but only deacon. The post of librarian (bihliothecarius) in Rome— the hagiographer employs here the title used in the western Church—corresponded in Byzantium to that of the chartophijlax. It was the most important function in the offices of the patriarch’s entourage. [18] The chartophylax represented the patriarch at all important functions which the latter did not attend personally and, because of that, when exercising his function, he enjoyed precedence over the bishops, although only a deacon. When the patriarch desired to get rid of his chartophylax it was necessary to raise him to the priesthood for, as such, he could not continue to be chartophylax.


One can understand why Theoctistus and the empress desired to have at the court of the patriarch someone they trusted. The Patriarch Ignatius was appointed by the Empress Theodora in June 847 without the customary election by the local synod and presentation to the emperor for approval. The liquidation of iconoclasm by Theodora in 842 did not immediately pacify the Byzantine Church. Two parties were trying to influence ecclesiastical life in Byzantium. The intransigents asked for severe measures against the former heretics, but the moderates advised more benevolent treatment of the penitent iconoclasts. The Patriarch Methodius (843-847) excommunicated some of the intransigents who criticized his benevolent treatment of the returning heretics. Fearing new complications, the empress thought she was entitled to dispense with the ordinary procedure and herself appointed Ignatius, son of the former Emperor Michael I. The appointment, however, did not help to establish peace among the two factions. It is understandable that, in these conditions, the post of the chartophylax became all the more important, and it was natural





that the government wished to appoint to this post someone in their confidence.


*  *  *


Contrary to Constantine’s biographer, Methodius’ biographer gives very little data on his subject’s early years. He was also predestined to a career in the imperial administration. The biographer says (chapter two) that when the emperor learned of his capacities, he appointed him archon of a Slavic territory. The information deserves credit. The Byzantine list of functionaries enumerates several archons in different territories—for example, those of Cherson, of Dyrrhachium, of Dalmatia, or of Crete. Some of these archontiai became themata, others seem to have been part of a thema, preserving, however, some local autonomy.


It seems logical to look for the Slavic territory of which Methodius became archon in the neighborhood of Thessalonica. It can be assumed that it was situated in the region of the river Strymon. This region was in danger of being absorbed by the progress of the Bulgars, a fact which, probably, warranted its special position in the administration. It could have formed a part of the thema of Thessalonica, but, because of its importance, was raised to an archontia. As stated before, in the second half of the ninth century this territory became a thema. [19]


Methodius seems to have occupied this post during the years 843 and 856. In the short third chapter of his biography we read that Methodius, after some years, resigned his post and became a monk in a monastery on Mount Olympus in Asia Minor which was, at that time, the most important center of Byzantine monasticism. The biographer gives as a reason for his resignation Methodius’ desire for things eternal.


There exists, however, a liturgical panegyric in honor of St. Methodius, called canon, which gives some new details about his decision to become a monk. Its anonymous author apostrophizes Methodius in the following way: [20] “Holy and most glorious Teacher, when you had decided to leave your family and your native country, your spouse and your children, you chose to go away into the wilderness in order to live there with the Holy Fathers.”


Is this information to be credited? We do not know, but it





should not be completely neglected. Cases were not rare in Byzantium where a husband and wife decided to renounce their common life and to retire into a monastery and a convent. The existence of children would complicate such a mutual arrangement, but it is possible that this is an addition of the author of the canon, who desired to make this separation even more painful for his hero. In any case it seems clear that Methodius’ decision was freely taken and that it was not politically motivated.


*  *  *


His brother Constantine also resigned his high post at the patriarcheion. If we may believe the hagiographer (chapter four) this happened in a rather spectacular fashion. Constantine is said simply to have disappeared after a short time and to have been found only six months later in a monastery on the Bosphorus.


What was the real reason for this resignation? Most probably the office of a chartophylax did not suit the nature of the young scholar. He preferred scholarship to an administrative office. Ignatius himself was a saintly man, but we know from other sources that he did not favor scholarship. He belonged to the group of monks who were hostile to profane studies. Many hagiographers have left us descriptions showing to what extent their heroes disliked and underestimated profane learning. [21] Moreover, in his religious policy Ignatius did not fulfill the hopes the government had nurtured when it had appointed him. He liquidated the schism of the intransigent monks, but his strict attitude toward the repentant iconoclasts evoked bitter criticism among the partisans of a more liberal policy. Constantine could not feel at home in such an atmosphere and it is understandable that he acted as his biographer indicates.


Again Theoctistus intervened and, because Constantine refused to go back to the patriarcheion, he appointed him professor of philosophy at the university he had himself reorganized. There Constantine gave courses on philosophy “to natives and to foreigners.” This happened most probably in 850, or at the beginning of 851.


At the university Constantine most probably succeeded his teacher Photius. The latter was the most prominent scholar in Byzantium at this time. [22] His family enjoyed high esteem there,





which was only enhanced by the exile which his parents had suffered under the Iconoclasts. Photius was related to the reigning family, and his brother had married a daughter of Theodora. Photius was appointed to the university by Theoctistus, together with Leo, the former iconoclastic bishop of Thessalonica, also famous for his learning. In about 850 Photius abandoned his teaching career to become chancellor of the Empire, a promotion which he owed again to Theoctistus. This explains why the chair of philosophy was offered to Constantine and accepted by him.


Constantine is called, by all our sources, the Philosopher. We do not know the origin of this title. It may have been that of the professor of philosophy at the imperial university. There is no doubt that Constantine obtained this chair. We know that the rector of the university was called “oecumenical teacher”, a title which was later given to the rector of the patriarchal academy. But we do not know if the other professors had special titles. Such a title may have been given to Constantine because of his achievements in this discipline. Both explanations are possible. [23]


What did philosophy mean to Constantine himself? We know that it had a double meaning in Byzantine intellectual and religious life. A philosopher was supposed to be a man well versed in the teaching of the great classical age, using this knowledge for a deeper understanding of Christian teaching. On the other hand, the man who abandoned all wordly goods and led an ascetic life as a monk was called a true philosopher.


In chapter four of the Life of Constantine we find a definition of philosophy given by Constantine himself. Theoctistus is said to have told Constantine that he would like to know what philosophy was. The young graduate from the university answered “with a quick mind.” “Knowledge of things divine and human, as much as man is able to approach God, for it teaches man by deeds to be the image and after the likeness of the One who created him.”


This definition goes back to the Stoic teaching that wisdom consisted in the knowledge of things divine and human. The second part of Constantine’s definition recalls Plato’s idea that man has to approach God according to his ability.


An attempt has been made to show that Constantine was influenced in this respect by his favorite master, St. Gregory of Nazianzus. [24] This is, however, an exaggeration. Gregory was not alone in using such a definition. The Stoic and Platonic under





standing of the meaning of philosophy is frequently used in Byzantine literature and by many Greek Fathers. The source of Constantine’s definition might better be sought in the standard Byzantine textbook for the study of dialectic, the Isagoge of Porphyry (died c. 305), and in the numerous commentaries on it, especially those of Ammonius (late fifth century), Elias (sixth century) and David (sixth or seventh century). [25] The definition by David is especially suggestive: “Philosophy is the knowledge of things divine and human, the becoming like God according to the ability of man.” [26] Among the many definitions given in these textbooks, Constantine had evidently chosen the best. This reveals his originality.


The biographer presented the interrogation by Theoctistus as a kind of examination of the young man before he was offered a post in the imperial administration. This may be an addition by the hagiographer, who thus wished to place his hero in the best possible light and to exhibit his scholarship.


Constantine’s definition of philosophy is thus well in accord with what he had learned at the university from his master Photius. The handbooks from which he derived this definition were also the basis of his teaching at the university.


This, of course, does not mean that Constantine did not try to give to his commentaries on philosophical treatises and disciplines a more profoundly Christian character. He was an intellectual like his master, and in Byzantium all science was connected with Christian teaching. Constantine’s biographer shows this in the same chapter, when he lets Constantine say that he preferred to go on with his scholarship “in order to recover the honor of the ancestors,” meaning, probably, Adam and Eve, who had lost honor through their sin. [27]


In chapter five the biographer describes a disputation between the young philosopher and the former iconoclastic patriarch John VII, called Grammaticus because of his great learning. John was deposed in 843 and interned in the monastery of Kleidion on the Bosphorus. It is quite possible that the young Constantine had a discussion with the ex-patriarch at this place during the six months he was in hiding in a monastery. Kleidion may have been that monastery, or one of the other monasteries which Constantine visited during this time.


There may thus be some truth in the description of this disputation.





However, the discussion is presented as a kind of public examination. Hitherto this passage has been interpreted as a promise to Constantine that if he defeated the ex-patriarch, he would obtain the chair of philosophy at the imperial university. However, some specialists in Slavic philology have shown convincingly that the passage should be translated and interpreted as a challenge to the ex-patriarch : “If you can defeat this young man in disputation, you will get back your chair,” namely, the patriarchal throne. [28]


This is, however, once again an imaginative presentation of a private disputation, with details added by the biographer in order to glorify his hero. The situation in Byzantium about the year 850 was not ripe for a public disputation with a deposed patriarch who was a stubborn iconoclast. There was still danger of a renewal of the iconoclastic movement and it would have been inexpedient to offer the heretics an opportunity to defend their doctrine. [29]


The story, however, reflects well the mentality in Byzantium after 843. The biographer was a Byzantine, who wrote his biography under the direction of Constantine’s brother Methodius. His interest in the ex-patriarch John and in iconoclasm shows clearly that this problem was still of lively importance in Byzantium at that period. There was no danger of iconoclasm among the Moravians for whom the Life was written, but the biographer, although far from his homeland, used this opportunity to refute the main objections of the iconoclasts against the worship of images and the Holy Cross. He still sensed the tense atmosphere which prevailed in Byzantium after the defeat of iconoclasm, and was anxious to preserve his new converts from any iconoclastic danger. It should be stressed that a discussion with the famous iconoclastic patriarch was a kind of commonplace in the hagiographic literature of the ninth century.


In the next chapter the biographer describes how the Arabs sent an embassy to Constantinople asking for a religious disputation in their land. The emperor thereupon convoked the Senate to deliberate as to what should be done and he asked Constantine to go in person to the Arabs for this discussion. Constantine is said to have been at that time twenty-four years old (851).


Because the historicity of this embassy has been questioned by some authors, I have devoted to it a special study which is reprinted in Appendix One of this book: I came to the conclusion





that there are good reasons for accepting the historicity of a Byzantine embassy to the Arabs in 851 when Constantine was twenty-four years old, and that he did not participate in the embassy of 855-56, to which his former teacher Photius had been attached.


Thus, there is no evidence for the supposition that Constantine had accompanied Photius during the embassy of 855-856. The author of the Life has in mind a different embassy, and, as we have seen, we are entitled to accept the historicity of an embassy to the Arabs in 851, although it is not mentioned in any historical document other than the Life.


*  *  *


After recounting the events during the Arab embassy, the author of the Life reports in chapter seven that Constantine suddenly renounced all he possessed and took refuge, first in a peaceful spot, and then with his brother Methodius in his monastery on Mount Olympus.


What had provoked this new escapade? If Constantine desired only to “converse with books,” as the biographer has it, he could have indulged his desire in Constantinople at the university. Photius’ Bibliotheca, in which he describes the works in all disciplines which he had read, reveals the immense wealth of literature on philosophy, theology, and other related disciplines which could be found in Constantinople’s libraries. A monastery at Mount Olympus could hardly compete with Constantinople in this respect. There must have been another and more serious reason which compelled the Philosopher to abandon his teaching and take refuge in a monastery.


This reason could only have been the political upheaval which took place in the capital in 856. [31] The Logothete Theoctistus, murdered by the supporters of Theodora’s brother, the ambitious Bardas, with the consent of the young emperor, had been Constantine’s greatest benefactor. There was a danger that the friends of the unfortunate prime minister would be persecuted. In such a case a monastery was the safest place in which to mourn the death of a fatherly friend and await the passing of the political storm.


Other events followed. The Senate put an end to the regency of





Theodora in the same year. To prevent a counter-revolution by her partisans, she was expelled from the palace at the end of the summer of 857. The patriarch Ignatius, a supporter of Theodora, became involved in trouble with the new regent Bardas, to whom he is said to have refused Holy Communion, accusing him of incest with his widowed daughter-in-law. Ignatius, a pious, simple, and inexperienced man, may have believed the barely substantiated stories [32] of Bardas’ misbehavior propagated by his enemies. But this regrettable incident put the Church in a difficult situation. In order to avoid an open clash between the Church and the new government, the bishops advised Ignatius to resign his office. He did so in 858. The local synod elected as his successor Photius, the chancellor of the Empire. The choice of a layman was made in order to avoid the struggle for power in the Church between the two factions—the intransigents, whose majority favored Ignatius, and the moderates who stood for the “economy,” a word which the Byzantines used for compromise in difficult and delicate situations. The consent of all the bishops was given to the election of the new patriarch, even by those who most fervently supported Ignatius, their attitude having been influenced by the fact that Photius was not involved in any way in the upheaval of 856, since he was absent from the city and on his way back from the embassy to the Arabs. He may not have returned until the early part of 857, thus giving the followers of Theodora time to become reconciled to the idea of Photius as the successor of Ignatius. Had he been present in Constantinople at the time of the disturbance, it is possible that the reactionary members of the clergy would have refused to accept Bardas’ proposal to elevate him to the patriarchate, for it was Bardas who was responsible for the changes in the government, and who was favorably inclined to the intellectual circle of which Photius was the center.


Although the bishops had unanimously consented to the election of the new patriarch, the intransigents, for reasons unknown, revolted against Photius two months afterwards, declaring that Ignatius was the only legitimate patriarch. The revolt had a political aspect, namely, the restoration of Theodora’s régime, and the imperial police intervened against organized noisy demonstrations when the intransigents refused to accept the decision of a local council convoked by the patriarch in order to pacify the Church.





All this took place before the attack of the Russian fleet. Constantine was certainly not an intransigent. His resignation from the highest office in the patriarcheion shows clearly that Constantine did not share Ignatius’ disdain of scholarship and, perhaps, that he disapproved of Ignatius’ methods in the government of the Church. He was not a fanatic, however, and abhorred being involved in party intrigues. It is therefore quite probable that he stayed with his brother in the monastery all this time, although his biographer does not say so explicitly. Before joining his brother he appeals to have been in material difficulties, but the sudden appearance of a benefactor (chapter seven) provided him with the necessary means.


*  *  *


The biographer himself seems to suggest that Constantine was still on Mount Olympus when the decision was made to send an embassy to the Khazars. He speaks first of an embassy sent by the Khazar Khagan asking for a theologian capable of explaining Christian doctrine to the Khazars, who were hesitating between paganism, Judaism, and Islam. Then, he says, “the emperor searched for Constantine and after finding him, he communicated to him the message of the Khazars.” If Constantine had been in the city teaching philosophy, it would hardly have been necessary to search for him. [33]


The sending of a Khazar embassy could be an invention of the biographer, although an exchange of embassies is not impossible. The aim of the supposed Khazar embassy was, however, certainly an invention of the biographer. [34] Religious discussions at the court of the khagan were to be expected, and, therefore, the presence of a good theologian was necessary, although this was not the sole, or even principal, aim of the embassy as it is presented by the biographer.


If Photius had not been elected patriarch, he would probably have been the man whom the government would have chosen to represent Christian theological scholarship in Khazaria. Because he was not available for such a mission, the emperor and Bardas chose his disciple and successor at the university—Constantine. The acceptance of the embassy by the latter also marked his





reconciliation with the new régime. It can be imagined that his former teacher acted as intermediary, recommending his disciple for this important mission.


The ambassadors, with Constantine and his brother Methodius—his presence is attested by the author of the Life of Methodius (chapter four)—spent the winter in Cherson, the Byzantine possession in the Crimea (chapter four, Life of Constantine). Constantine profited from this occasion to make further progress in the Hebrew language in preparation for his encounter with the Jewish scholars. He had a discussion with a Samaritan, was able to learn that language, and to read a Samaritan Bible. The biographer also says (chapter eight) that he found in Cherson a psalter written with “rus’skymi” letters and a man speaking this language. Many scholars thought that Constantine had found a Russian alphabet in Cherson, but this was impossible, since at that time the Russians could not have possessed any kind of literature. Others thought that he had found a Gothic translation of the psalter made by Ulphila. Both solutions proved to be wrong. It has been established that the word is corrupted and that we should read “sur’skymi” which means “Syriac.” [35] All this shows that Constantine was a very good philologist.


The most important event during the stay in Cherson was the discovery of relics believed to be those of St. Clement of Rome. Constantine and all his contemporaries were convinced that Clement, the second successor to St. Peter, was exiled in Cherson and died a martyr’s death there. This was described in his Life, which was composed in the fourth, or at the beginning of the fifth century, and was well known in both West and East. The author of the descriptions of Clement’s martyrdom, however, confused Clement with another saint who may have been martyred in the Crimea. The whole tradition concerning Clement is legendary. It is not even certain that St. Clement died a martyr’s death. The first Church historian, Eusebius, ignores it in his History (Book 3, chapter 15). But, because his relics were not in the church built in his house in Rome, the statement of the anonymous author concerning Clement’s martyrdom was generally accepted, and it was thought that his relics were still hidden in the ruins of a church on a small island near Cherson, which was not easily accessible because it was flooded by the sea. Constantine was honestly convinced that he had found the relics of St. Clement of Rome. This





discovery was highly regarded by all his contemporaries, and the finding of these relics later played a great role in the Slavic mission.


The discovery, made on January 30, 861, was described by Constantine in a special discourse, which was translated into Latin by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in Rome, but which is partly preserved only in Old Slavonic. [36]


A short story about the discovery, composed in Greek by Constantine, is known in an Old Slavonic translation. The hymn composed by him on the saint seemed so artistic to Anastasius that he did not dare translate it, and it is not preserved even in Old Slavonic. [37]


During their stay in Cherson the ambassadors found it necessary to intervene officially in a border incident. A Khazar general was besieging a Christian city. Constantine is said to have gone to the general and to have persuaded him to withdraw. This story may not have been invented, however; it was probably not Constantine alone who intervened, but the imperial official, representing the emperor, who led the embassy.


The other incident reported by the biographer also has an historical background. Probably when returning to Cherson from their expedition, the envoys were surprised by a horde of Magyars who “shouted like wolves,” threatening to kill Constantine. The latter did not interrupt his prayers, and his attitude calmed the interlopers who let him go free, together with his companions. The Magyars, before invading Central Europe during the ninth century, stayed for some time in the territory of the Lower Don. It is quite possible that one horde made an incursion into the Crimea. [38]


*  *  *


From Cherson the embassy sailed through the Strait of Kerch, formerly known as Panticapaeum, to the Sea of Azov. [39] The legend does not say expressly when Constantine and his companions met the khagan of the Khazars. The Khazars evidently expected them, because they sent an emissary to meet them and, probably, to conduct them to where the Khagan was staying with his court. This emissary most probably met the envoys at Sarkel on the Don. The khagans had their winter quarters at Itil on the Volga delta. Their summer residence was at Semender (Samander) near the





pass of Derbend on the Caspian Sea, called by the biographer, Kaspiskaja vrata. [40] It is there that they met the Khagan. All these details must have been prepared in advance as is indicated by the sending of an emissary to act as guide. These arrangements could have been made during the prolonged stay of the envoys in Cherson.


The embassy was well received at the khagan’s court and was invited to a banquet. The master of ceremonies is said to have asked Constantine what rank he held in order to give him his proper place at the table (chapter nine). This cannot be regarded simply as a stylistic phrase used by the author to introduce Constantine’s clever answer that “he was Adam’s grandson.” This reply was intended to show the Khazars that the noble origin of Adam superseded that of Abraham, whose sons the Jews called themselves. We know that the Khazars observed a strict ceremonial on such occasions. [41] This indicates also that Constantine was not the head of the embassy, for had he been the emperor’s representative there would have been no need to enquire about his rank.


The first subjects of discussion were the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Redemption. Constantine defended the doctrine of the Trinity by quoting certain passages of the Old Testament on the Word and the Spirit. Concerning the Incarnation he asked the Jews why God could not have appeared in human form when he appeared as a burning bush to Moses. Then they discussed the law of Moses which was abrogated by the law of the New Testament. With numerous quotations from the Prophets, Constantine proved that Jesus was the expected Messiah. He justified also the veneration of pictures of the Saints. During the third meeting Constantine defended the superiority of Christian morality.


Constantine (chapter ten) is said to have described the disputations in detail in a special report which was later translated into Old Slavonic by his brother, and divided into eight chapters. The Legend contains a part of this composition. [42]


The whole presentation of the discussions makes a good impression. It is quite realistic and it can be compared favorably with other Byzantine writings against the Jewish and Mohammedan doctrines. Constantine was a good theologian.


One can conclude from the description of the disputations that the khagan had already embraced the Jewish creed, and that Judaism had many adherents at his court. Islam seems to have





held a much weaker position in Khazaria. Constantine mentions the Moslems only toward the end of the disputation when explaining why the Christians cannot venerate Mohammed, although the latter recognized Christ as a Prophet. The majority of the Khazars still seem to have been pagan, and about two hundred of them demanded to be baptized as the result of the discussions.


The khagan is said to have written to the emperor thanking him for having sent him such a man, and announcing that he had given permission to those who wished to be baptized.


There is a phrase at the end of the letter which seems to confirm that the purpose of the embassy encompassed more than discussions on religion. The khagan writes, “We are friends of the Empire and we are ready to be at your service wherever you may wish it.” These words indicate the renewal of the Byzantine-Khazar alliance, a renewal which seemed to be necessary to both because of the threat of new danger from the Russians on their common frontier.


The Philosopher is then said to have returned to Cherson with two hundred Greek prisoners whom the khagan had released. En route through Khazaria the expedition had trouble finding drinking water. The biographer, of course, cannot refrain from seeing a miracle in their manner of finding it. In the same chapter twelve we read how Constantine had learned that in a Christian city in the peninsula, called Phoullae, the men of that place venerated a huge oak tree, even bringing sacrifices to it, especially in times of drought, but that no woman could come near. The Philosopher went to the city and persuaded the men to abandon this idolatrous custom. They obeyed, felled the tree and burned it. That same night the Lord sent rain. [43]


In his harangue Constantine quoted abundantly from Isaiah who spoke of Tärshish and Pul (Isa. 66:19). The Greek text reads Phud instead of Pul. E. H. Mins [44] rightly concluded from this that Constantine knew and was using the Hebrew text. This confirms the biographer’s statement concerning Constantine’s Hebrew studies in Cherson (chapter eight). He is also said to have translated eight parts of a Hebrew grammar, which again testifies to his keen interest in philology.


*  *  *





When returning from Cherson to Constantinople, the Philosopher is said (chapter thirteen) to have seen the emperor and afterwards to have lived in peace, praying to God and “sitting in the Church of the Holy Apostles.” [45]


It is interesting to note that Constantine did not resume his teaching at the imperial high school. Nor did he go back to the patriarcheion where his former master and friend, Photius, was then presiding. Why should he have taken up his residence at the Church of the Holy Apostles? And why does the biographer describe him as “sitting in the Church of the Holy Apostles”?


Only one explanation of this strange behavior on the part of the Philosopher seems feasible. After such a great success in Khazaria, and after having rendered great service to the Empire and the Church, it could be expected that his new function would be an honorable one serving the interests of the Church. This leads us to seek an explanation in the religious situation in Byzantium.


After the envoys returned from Khazaria, the new Patriarch Photius seems to have affirmed his position by confirming the deposition of ex-Patriarch Ignatius, pronounced by the papal legates in a council held in the summer months of 861. [46] Important measures were voted to improve the religious situation and to remove abuses which had crept into monastic institutions, especially during and after the iconoclastic persecutions. It can be imagined that Photius, the greatest scholar of his time, now head of the Byzantine Church, would devote his attention in the first place to the education of the clergy.


A special institution existed for this purpose, a kind of patriarchal Academy. It had its headquarters in, or near, the Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia)), and there were branches in different ecclesiastical institutions. We have some information as to their existence before the ninth century, but more complete data are available for later periods. [47] A high school in the Church of the Holy Apostles is especially mentioned by Mesarites, in the twelfth century, in his description of the church. According to the eulogies with which he exalts its teaching, the school must have been very famous and had a long-established tradition. In chapters seven to twelve [48] he describes the elementary curriculum, corresponding to the trivium, and the behavior of the young students in the different classes, which were not held in the church itself but in an adjacent building.





In chapters forty-two and forty-three, Mesarites describes the more advanced courses corresponding to the quadrivium. He dwells especially on the courses in grammar, dialectics, physiology and medicine, and arithmetic and geometry. [49] It is evident from his words that he is not describing the courses given at the imperial university, but at a school which was under the supervision of the patriarch. It is clear then that the liberal arts were also taught at the patriarchal Academy, and that this teaching was given in classes adjoining the Church of the Holy Apostles. Theological courses seem to have been held near the Church of St. Peter, in the neighborhood of Hagia Sophia. [50]


All this shows us that the patriarchal Academy possessed several kinds of colleges where both profane and theological instruction was given. It was certainly reformed after the victory over the Iconoclasts, and further reorganization was needed when Photius became patriarch, because secular scholarship was most probably neglected during the patriarchate of Ignatius. This permits us to suppose that Photius reorganized the Academy and introduced the teaching of philosophy and other profane disciplines, corresponding to the trivium and quadrivium in the schools surrounding the Church of the Holy Apostles where, perhaps, this teaching had been given previously.


As professor of philosophy he appointed his former student, Constantine. This is indicated by the description of Constantine’s activities in this church by his biographer, “he was sitting in the Church of the Holy Apostles.” In antiquity teachers were represented as “sitting.” [51] In the New Testament, Christ, when teaching, is said to have “sat down.” [52] Only twice, in Luke 21:35 and in the Apocalypse 14:06, is the word Kathizein employed to indicate “staying,” or “living in.” In early Christian art, Christ as Teacher was represented sitting. [53]


Constantine’s biographer was a Byzantine well acquainted with ecclesiastical and other usages. If Constantine had held an ecclesiastical position in the church he would have used another expression. But what kind of function could he have fulfilled, since he was only a deacon? Besides, sitting during liturgical office was not customary in the Eastern Church.


Constantine’s office can then be compared to that of George Choiroboskos who, in the first half of the seventh century, was deacon, grammarian, and chartophylax, who gave courses in grammar





and dialectics at the patriarchal Academy. He seems also to have been called “Oecumenical Teacher”. [54]


Knowledge of the Hebrew and Samaritan languages helped Constantine to solve a puzzling inscription on a precious chalice which was believed to have belonged to Solomon, and which was kept in the treasury of Hagia Sophia. The three verses of the inscription were interpreted as a prophecy about Christ, but they could also have echoed Christian apocryphal tradition concerning the Messiah and his reign. [55] This is all that we learn of the activities of Constantine after his return from the Khazarian mission.




1. This highly debated event seems to have been definitely clarified. For details, see A. Vasiliev, The Russian Attack on Constantinople in 860 (Cambridge, Mass., 1946) with full bibliography. A clear, succinct review of problems concerning this event was given by C. Mango, The Homilies of Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), pp. 74-82.


2. C. Mango, Photius, p. 98.


3. Some Russian scholars still believe that the first attack was made by the Russians in 842. This is based on the misinterpretation of a passage in the Life of St. George of Amastris, as has been shown by G. Da Costa-Louillet, “Y eut-il des invasions russes dans l’Empire byzantin avant 860,” Byzantion, 15 (1940-41), pp. 231-248. On the origin of the name “Russians,” “Rhôs,” see F. Dvornik, The Making of Central and Eastern Europe (London, 1949), pp. 62, 305-314. The Scandinavian origin (from the old Swedish word rodi, rodhsi, “rowing”) is still much more plausible than the Sarmatian origin defended by G. Vernadski, Ancient Russia (New Haven, 1943), pp. 280, 343; idem, The Origins of Russia (Oxford, 1959), p. 198 ff. The Finns still call the Swedes “Ruotsi.” See below, Chapter VII, p. 266, for details.


4. For details, see F. Dvornik, Les Légendes de Constantin et de Méthode vues de Byzance (Prague, 1933), p. 148 ff.


5. For more details, see F. Dvornik, Les Légendes, pp. 148-176, with complete bibliography to 1933. In 1939 the Slavic division of the New York Public Library compiled a bibliography of all the sources and works on the Khazars published up to 1939 (The Khazars, a Bibliography, New York, 1939). On Khazar history from the fifth to the seventh century, see M. I. Artamonov, Očerki drevnejsej istorii Chazar (Studies on the Ancient History of the Khazars [Leningrad, 1936]). On St. Abo, see P. Peeters, “Les Khazars dans la Passion de S. Abo de Tiflis,” Analecta Bollandiana, 52 (1934), pp. 21-56. H. Grégoire rejected the authenticity of the Jewish documents in his study, “Le Glozel' Khazare,” Byzantion, 12 (1937), pp. 225-266. A. Zajączkowski, in his study Ze studiów nad zagadnieniem Chazarskim (Studies on the Khazar Problem [Cracow, 1947]), admits the apocryphal character of the Jewish letters on Khazar history—he dates them from the twelfth century—but shows that they are based upon a national Jewish tradition and should not be neglected. D. M. Dunlop, in his The History of the Jewish Khazars (Princeton, 1954), pp. 89-170, after examining the





Arabic and Judaic sources, comes to the conclusion that about the year 740 the khagan accepted a modified form of Judaism, and at around 800 his descendant accepted Rabbinic Judaism. S. Szyszman, “Le roi Balan et le problème de la conversion des Khazars,” Actes du X. Congrès international d'études byzantines (Istanbul, 1957), pp. 249-252, thinks that the first missionaries—Karaites—came from Khorezm in the eighth century, but that the final conversion should be attributed to the Karaites coming from Byzantium through the Crimea or the Caucasus region. Cf. also his study, “Les Khazars, problèmes et controverses," Revue de l'Histoire des religions, 152 (1957), pp. 174-221. The most recent history of the Khazars was written by M. L Artamonov, Istorija Chazar (Leningrad, 1962). S. P. Tolstov, Po sledam drevnochorezmijskoi tsivilizatsii (Moscow, 1948), brings also the judaization of the Khazars into connection with the expulsion of Jewish scholars from Khorezm by Kutaiba after the defeat of Khurzad's insurrection. I used the Czech translation of his work by P. Poucha, Po stopách dávného Chórezmu (Prague, 1952), p. 226 ff.


6. This was the aim of my book Les Légendes. It was challenged only by the Polish philologist A. Brückner, in his review in Archiv für slavische Philologie. Their genuineness, disputed since the time of their discovery, is now accepted by all specialists.


7. See the introduction to, and French translation of, these Lives in my Les Légendes, pp. 339-392. There is a German translation with a commentary, by J. Bujnoch, Zwischen Rom und Byzanz. (Graz, Vienna, Cologne, 1958), pp. 19-100.


8. For details, see F. Dvornik, La Vie de St. Grégoire le Décapolite et les Slaves macédoniens au IXe s. (Paris, 1926), p. 32 ff., 35 ff., 54, 62 ff., Cf. idem, “Deux inscriptions gréco-bulgares de Philippi," Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, 52 (1928), p. 138 ff. Cf. above, Ch. I, p. 40.


9. Cf. H. Schaeder, “Geschichte und Legende im Werk der Slavenmissionare Konstantin und Method," Historische Zeitschrift, 152 (1935), p. 232 ff.


10. F. Dvornik, Les Legendes, p. 19 ff. Cf. also G. Hunger, “Die Schönheitskonkurenz in Belthandros und Chryzantza und die Brautschau am Byzantinischen Kaiserhof," Byzantion, 55 (1965), pp. 150-158


11. A. Benoit, Saint Grégoire de Nazianze (Paris, 1876), p. 22 ff.


12. PG, 37, cols. 1369 ff.; V. Vavřínek in his study Staroslověnské životy Konstantina a Metoděje (Old Slavonic Lives of Constantine and Methodius), Rozpravy of the Czech Academy, vol. 73, 7 (Prague, 1963), acknowledged that the author of the Life of Constantine was inspired, on several points, by Gregory’s panegyric on Basil the Great, especially in the description of his hero’s studies in Athens, but he manifested a certain originality in his description. A. Dostál has devoted a short





study to the scholarly education of Constantine: “Konstantin der Philosoph und das Ausmass seiner geistigen Bildung," Byzantinische Forschungen, 1 (1966), pp. 76-91; on pp. 80-82 he tries to show the metrical form of Constantine's prayer to Gregorius of Nazianzus. In his paper, “Staroslověnské životy Konstantina a Metoděje a panegyriky Nazianzu" (“The Old Slavonic Lives of Constantine and Methodius and the Panegyrics of Gregory of Nazianzus"), Listy filologické, 85 (1962), pp. 96-122. The author shows convincingly that the Lives were not written according to the models of these panegyrics as was stated by F. Gnidovec, Vpliv sv. Gregorija Nazianskega na sv. Cirila u Metodi]a (Influence of St. Gregory of Nazianzus on Ss. Cyril and Methodius), Dissertation XX (Ljubljana, 1942). Gnidovec followed F. Grivec who had expressed this thesis on many occasions, lately in his book Konstantin und Method. See R. Keydell, “Die Literarhistorische Stellung der Gedichte Gregors von Nazianz," Studi bizantini e neoellenici, 7 (1953), pp. 134-143, for literary appreciation of Gregory’s poetical work.


13. It was written in Greek and in verse on the wall of Constantine’s room. See, for details, I. Dujčev, “Costantino Filosofo nella storia della litteratura bizantina," Studi in onore di Ettore Lo Gatto e Giovanni Mayer (Rome, 1961), pp. 205-222, esp. pp. 211-214. This kind of writing on the wall of religious items seems to have been customary in Byzantium, as is shown by a passage in the Vita Euthymii, PG, 86, col. 2321.


14. De admin, imperio, ch. 50, ed. Moravcsik and R. J. H. Jenkins, p. 233. Cf. also the Commentary, ed. R. J. H. Jenkins, vol. 2 (1962), pp. 185, 186.


15. The invitation to go to Constantinople should not be regarded as a mere commonplace of hagiographers in order to exalt their hero, as H. Schaeder, “Konstantin und Method," thinks. The government seemed to have accepted responsibility for the orphans of high functionaries.


16. G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, p. 219. C. Mango has proved definitely that Michael III was born, not in 836 or 839 as has been thought, but in January 840. See his paper, “When Was Michael III Born?" DOP, 21 (1967), pp. 184-193.


17. A detailed study of Leo, the former iconoclastic metropolitan of Thessalonica, and professor at the University, who was very highly thought of for his learning, was published by E. E. Lipšič, “Vizantijskij učenyj Lev Matematik," in Vizant. Vremmenik, 2 (1949), New series, pp. 106-149. More recently, V. Laurent, “Jean VII Grammarien (837-843)," Catholicisme, vol. 6 (Paris, 1964), cols. 513-515.


18. See F. Dvornik, Les Légendes, pp. 49-66, on the ecclesiastical commentary on chaps. 37—42 in De administrando imperio (ed. Jenkins), vol. 2, p. 142 ff.





charges in Constantinople. No other treatise on this problem has appeared since 1933.


19. On the organization of the themata, see above, Ch. I, p. 30 ff.


20. It was published by P. A. Lavrov, Materialy po istorii voznikovenija drevn. slav. pismennosti (Leningrad, 1930), p. 122 ff.


21. For details, see F. Dvornik, Les Légendes, p. 25 ff.


22. Cf. F. Dvornik, “Patriarch Photius Scholar and Statesman," Classical Folia, 13 (1959), pp. 3-18; 14 (1960), pp. 3-22.


23. The main Latin source for the history of Constantine—the Legenda italica—seems to indicate that this title was given to Constantine for his great learning: “Constantine who, because of his admirable talent for which he was wonderfully illustrious from his youth on, was rightly given the name of philosopher." Ed. F. Méyvaert and P. Devos, “Trois énigmes cyrillo-méthodiennes de la ‘Légende Italique,'" Analecta Bollandiana, 73 (1955), p. 455. On this Legend, see pp. 144, 380.


24. F. Grivec, “Vitae Constantini et Methodii," Acta Academiae Velehradensis, 17 (1941), pp. 10, 12, 17, 55.


25. 6It is to the credit of I. Ševčenko to have drawn the attention of specialists to these sources in his well-documented study, “The Definition of Philosophy in the Life of Saint Constantine," For Roman Jakobson (The Hague, 1956), pp. 449-457. His interpretation is also accepted by I. Dujčev, Costantino Filosofo, p. 209.


26. Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca, vol. 18, 2. p. 18, ed. A. Busse (Berlin, 1904). On the interest of Byzantium in the Greek classics at this time, see the notes by B. Hemmerdinger, “La culture grecque classique du VIIe au IXe siècle," Byzantion, 34 (1964), pp. 127-133. On Byzantine schools and teachers useful comments will be found in the paper by Robert Browning, “Byzantinische Schulen und Schulmeister," Das Altertum, 9 (1963), pp. 105-118. His other study, “The Correspondence of a Tenth Century Byzantine Scholar," Byzantion, 24 (1954), pp. 397-452, gives an interesting insight into the private life of the teachers and of their relations with their students, and that of the students with their parents. See the edition of such letters by R. Browning and B. Laourdas in Ἐπετηρὶς τῆς Ἐταιρείας τῶν Βυζαντινῶν Σπουδπῶν, 27 (1957), p. 185 ff.


27. F. Grivec, who rightly praised this interpretation, is exaggerating when he continues with his definition of philosophy, seeing in it a poetic spirit and an ascetic character. He is pushed to this exaggeration in his frantic effort to separate Saint Constantine from the “wicked" Photius. See his study, “Constantinus philosophus amicus Photii," Orientalia Christ. Periodica, 23 (1957), pp. 415-422, and his book Konstantin und Method, Lehrer der Slaven (Wiesbaden, 1960), p. 28 ff.


28. Until now, one of the replies of the ex-Patriarch used to be





translated as follows: “One should not look for flowers in the autumn nor chase an old man, one Nestor, into a fight as a young man.” It has been suggested, however, that the Nestor mentioned in this passage is not the figure from Classical mythology, but a young Christian called Nestor who, in the presence of the Emperor Maximian in Thessalonica, had defeated in single combat a famous gladiator named Lyacus who enjoyed great favor with the emperor because of his prowess and strength. Because he confessed to being a Christian, Nestor died a martyrs death. This story is told in the Life of Demetrius, patron saint of Thessalonica, preserved by Metaphrastes (Acta Sanctorum, October IV, cols. 99 ff.). It is said that Nestor owed his strength to the prayers of St. Demetrius. This story seems to have been quite popular in Byzantium. The Old Slavonic glagolitic calendar of Assemani lists the feast of St. Nestor on October 25, which indicates that this story must have been known also to Constantine’s Slavic disciples. However, the Nestor mentioned in this passage is the well-known figure who was hailed in classical literature as an archetype of a wise old man.


29. The situation is described by F. Dvornik, “The Patriarch Photius and Iconoclasm,” DOP, 7 (1953), pp. 69-97, especially p. 81.


30. For details, see F. Dvornik, Les Légendes, p. 73 ff. I. Dujčev, Costantino Filosofo, p. 221, includes among the Greek writings of Constantine the description of his disputation with the ex-patriarch, although this is not vouched for by the author of the Vita. If it could be proved that Constantine had composed a short treatise against iconoclasm this would show once more what the religious situation in Byzantium was about 850. In this case, we should suppose that the author of the Life used the short treatise of Constantine as a base for his narration. He presented it as a disputation with the iconoclastic ex-patriarch, following here a pattern with which he was familiar from other hagiographical works of his time.


31. The best account of the events from 856 to 859 is still that given by J. B. Bury, A History of the Eastern Roman Empire (London, 1912), p. 157 ff., p. 469. Cf. also F. Dvornik, The Photian Schism, History and Legend (Cambridge, 1948), p. 36 ff.


32. The main reason for the break between Ignatius and Bardas was the rumor spread by his enemies in the city that Caesar Bardas was living with his daughter-in-law, the wife of his deceased son. The Patriarch, taking these rumors seriously, is said to have refused the Holy Communion to Bardas during a solemn Mass. However, there does not seem to be any direct evidence to confirm these rumors. A contemporary and partisan of Ignatius, the Metropolitan Metrophanes, when informing the logothete Manuel about Photius’ case, does not say a word about Bardas or his misbehavior. Both should have known





what had really happened (Mansi, 16, col. 416). Theognostus (ibid., col. 296C), who acted as Ignatius’ representative in Rome, and Nicetas, Ignatius’ biographer (ibid., cols. 224, 225), speak only of rumors which had spread in the city and had reached Ignatius. The encomium on Ignatius by Michael (ibid., col. 292) is very vague. Even Stylianus, the great enemy of Photius (ibid., col. 428), speaks only of news which had reached Ignatius of Bardas’ incest. The biographer of Nicholas of Studios (PG, 105, col. 905) is more explicit, but does not say more than Nicetas. The historians, Leo the Grammarian (Bonn, p. 240), the Continuator of George (Bonn, p. 826) and Symeon Magister (Bonn, p. 667) who represent the same tradition, also speak only of rumor which had reached the patriarch. Only the Continuator of Theophanes (Bonn, p. 193), Cedrenus (Bonn, vol. 2, p. 172) and Zonaras, XVI, 4 (Bonn, vol. Ill, p. 403, ed. Dindorf, vol. 4, p. 15) report in almost identical words, that Bardas had divorced his wife and taken home his daughter-in-law. There is a detail not given in earlier sources—namely his divorce—and not even in the chronicles of the circle around Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the chief aim of which was to discredit Michael III and his reign as much as possible. One has the impression, from reading these reports, that Bardas’ elder son, husband of Eudocia, was not alive when these rumors spread. V. Grumel (Diskussionbeiträge zum XL Internat. Byzantinisten-Kongress [Munich, 1958]), pp. 49, 50, tried to show the veracity of these reports without revealing their biased background. It is a repetition of his earlier statement, rather hastily compiled, as is shown by mistakes in his quotations (Nicetas is left out; Michael’s encomium should be col. 292, not 192; Stylianus, col. 428, not 272; and Metrophanes is not mentioned). On the behavior of Ignatius and of his partisans towards Basil (who had killed both Bardas and Michael III) cf. J. B. Bury, Eastern Roman Empire, p. 188 ff. With regard to Bardas, I have been able to discover more evidence about him in the Life of St. Eustratius, abbot of the monastery of Agauron. It was published by A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus in Ἀνάλεκτα ἱεροσολ. σταχυολογίας (St. Petersburg), vol. 4 (1897), pp. 367-400. On p. 389 the biographer speaks of the veneration which Bardas’ wife, Theodosia—this is the only text which gives us her name—had for the saint, and he describes a miracle the saint had performed in her house where he had been a frequent guest. When speaking of Theodosia, the biographer says only that she “had been injured by her husband .. . and has been banished from cohabitation with him.” There is no mention of Bardas’ misbehavior with his daughter-in-law. Neither does the biographer of Theodosia’s sister, St. Irene, say anything of this kind, although when speaking of Theodosia’s husband, Bardas, he calls him “an unworthy man, consumed with ill will, enjoying robbery and killing.” He may have had in mind the murder of Theoctistos (Acta Sanctorum,





July 28, vol. 6, p. 604). See F. Dvornik, “Patriarch St. Ignatius and Caesar Bardas," Byzantinoslavica, 27 (1966), pp. 7-22.


33. In my book Les Légendes, p. 146 ff., I suggested that perhaps Constantine was already in the capital when the Khazar embassy was discussed. It is safer, however, to follow the text of the Legend literally and admit that he stayed at Olympus until that time.


34. In spite of some critics (M. Weingart, Byzantinoslavica, 5 [1933—34], p. 537) I maintain that basically the mission had both a political and diplomatic character. The fact that the Legends do not mention it cannot be used as an argument against this interpretation. The hagiographers were interested only in the religious aspect and they often omitted details which did not contribute to the glorification of their hero. To say that the mission also had another object, and that it was led by high imperial officials who were the chief personalities, would have diminished the importance of the role which Constantine had to play in Khazaria. Constantine's biographer also speaks of the presence of Methodius in the mission only in passing in chapter 12. The words which are put into the mouths of the Khazarian envoys, “you are a great nation and you have your imperium from God," would hardly have been spoken by the Khazars. But they reveal the Byzantine patriotism of the hagiographer and the main thesis of Byzantine political philosophy.


35. A. Vaillant, “Les lettres russes de la vie de Constantin," Revue des études slaves, 15 (1935), pp. 75-77; R, Jakobson, “Saint Constantin et la langue Syriaque," Annuaire de l’Institut de philologie et d’histoires orient, et slave, 1 (1939-44), pp. 181-186; idem, “Sources for Early History of the Slavic Church," Harvard Slavic Studies, 2 (1954), p. 68 ff.; D. Gerhard, “Goten, Slaven oder Syrer im alten Cherson," Beiträge zur Namenforschung, 4 (1953), pp. 78-88; K. Horálek, “St. Kirill i semitskie jazyki," For Roman Jakobson (The Hague, 1956), pp. 230-234.


36. See the Old Slavonic text of the transfer with Latin translation, historical commentary, and bibliographical indication, in J. Vašica's study “Slovo na perenesenie moštem preslavnago Klimenta neboli Legenda Chersonská," Acta Academiae Velehradensis, 19 (1948), pp. 38-80. Cf. also A. P. Péchayre, “Les écrits de Constantin le Philosophe sur les reliques de St. Clément de Rome," Echos d’Orient, 35 (1936), pp. 465-472. Cf. also A. Essen, “Wo fand der hl. Konstantin-Kyril die Gebeine des hl. Clemens von Rom?" Cyrillo-Methodiana (Cologne, Graz, 1964), Slavische Forschungen, ed. R. Olesch, vol. 6, pp. 126-147.


37. On Anastasius and his account of Constantine, see pp. 139-142.


38. Cf. the most recent study by G. Vernadsky-M. de Ferdinandy, Studien zur ungarischen Frühgeschichte, I. Lebedia, II. Almos, Südeuropäische Arbeiten, 47 (Munich, 1957). Cf. also G. Moravcsik's





39. In my book Les Légendes, I accepted the interpretation suggested by some manuscripts that the embassy went to Semender (Samander), near Derbend, on the Caspian Sea. In his review of my book (Byzantinoslavica, 5, 1933-34, p. 239) Weingart pointed out that instead of Kaspiskaja vrata one should read Kapiskaja. This would mean the Strait of Panticapaeum (Kerč). On the history of this city, see Pauly Wissowa, Realanzyklopädie (1949), vol. 18, 2, cols. 780 ff. On col. 791 is a history of the Byzantine and Khazar period. From the eighth to the tenth century the city belonged to the Khazars. Weingart's interpretation was discarded by another eminent Slavic philologist J. Vašica, Na úsvitu Křestanství (Prague, 1942), p. 246, on philological grounds. Therefore I maintain my interpretation which corresponds to our knowledge of the summer residence of the khagans.


40. G. Vernadsky, Ancient Russia (New Haven, 1943), p. 350, thinks that Constantine could not have used the Strait of Kerč because of the presence of the Russians at Tmutorakan and he would have had to board a boat on the north coast of the Crimea. He places the encounter with the Magyars somewhere there. However, the presence of the Russians in these places at that time is unwarranted. Vernadsky, too, thinks that Constantine met the Khagan at his residence at Samander. F. Grivec, Konstantin und Method (Wiesbaden, 1960), p. 50, places the encounter at Derbend.


41. This is stressed by A. Zajączkowski, Ze studiów nad zagadnieniem Chazarskim, p. 18.


42. Cf. I. Dujčev, Costantino Filosofo, pp. 214, 215. Cf. also, below, Ch. VI, p. 181.


43. Cf. I. Dujčev, “Zur literarischen Tätigkeit Konstantins des Philosophen," BZ, 44 (1951), pp. 105-110. He explains the confusion over the name “alexandros" given to the oak tree and meaning “protecting the men" and which is not the proper name of the tree. Cf. also idem, Costantino Filosofo, p. 216. It seems that the author of the Legend misunderstood this passage, interpreting the name as that of Alexander the Great.


44. “S. Cyril really knew Hebrew," Melanges P. Boyer (Paris, 1925), pp. 94, 95: “this means that Cyril was so familiar with the Hebrew text as to use its insignificant variants for his own purposes."


45. Cf. the text published by P. A. Lavrov, Materialy, p. 26, text in the Fontes Rerum Bohemicarum (Prague, 1865), vol. 1, p. 26: v tsrkvi svetikh apostolov siede. Ed. T. Lehr-Splawinski, Żywoty Konstantyna i Metodego (Poznan, 1959), p. 63.


46. For details on this council, see F. Dvornik, The Photian Schism, History and Legend, pp. 69-90.


47. For details, see F. Dvornik, “Photius et la reorganisation de l'Académie patriarcate," Analecta Bollandiana, 68 (1950), cols. 108-125.





48. G. Downey, Nikolaus Mesarites, Description of the Church of the Holy Apostles (Philadelphia, 1957. Transactions of the Amer. Philosoph. Soc., vol. 47), pp. 865-867, 898, 899 (text).


49. G. Downey, Nikolaus Mesarites, pp. 894-896, 916-918 (text).


50. The Byzantines seem to follow an old practice when establishing schools in or near churches. The sophists also often held their classes in temples. Libanius’ Oratio I, 102 (ed. R. Foerster, Teubner, 1903), vol. 1, p. 133 is advised to establish his school in a temple. Cf. J. W. H. Walden, The Universities of Ancient Greece (New York, 1909), p. 366.


51. See, for example, Libanius’ Oratio I, 102, pp. 132, 133: an old man came to Libanius in Antioch and told him that it was no wonder that, as Libanius says, “I did not succeed when I lay at my ease in my own house, for, of course, those (teachers) who sat in public had the advantage.” Libanius followed his advice, hired rooms in the city and sat down near the agora. His class soon increased threefold.


52. G. Kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart, 1938, reprint 1950), vol. 3, p. 446, notes fourteen passages in the Gospels having this meaning. It seems to have been a rabbinic custom which was accepted by Christ.


53. For details, see J. Kollwitz, “Christus als Lehrer und die Gesetzübergabe an Petrus in der konstantinischen Kunst Roms,” Römische Quartalschrift, 44 (1936), pp. 45-66.


54. F. Dvornik, Photius et la réorganisation, pp. 114, 115. It is not clear if the school in which Constantine was appointed as teacher of philosophy was established in the Church of the Twelve Apostles, described by Mesarites, or in the Church of SS. Peter and Paul which was also often called by the Byzantines the Church of the Holy Apostles, or the Church of St. Paul. This school had been reorganized by the Emperor Alexis I (Anna Comnena, Alexiad, XIV, i, ed. Leib, vol. 3, p. 217 ff.). We have information about the functioning of this school from the eleventh century on. There is no doubt that it was a part of the Patriarchal Academy. It is possible that the school at the Church of the Twelve Apostles was organized only during the patriarchate of John XI Kamateros (1198-1206) who may have transferred there some sections from other churches. See, for more details, R. Browning, “The Patriarchal School of Constantinople,”' Byzantion, 32 (1962), p. 167 ff., especially pp. 175-179.


55. Thanks to the discovery made by I. Ševčenko of Dumbarton Oaks, the problem of this inscription is at least partly solved. He found a Greek text of a part of this inscription in a Greek manuscript in the Escurial (Esc. 4f. Ill, 7). Cf. I. Ševčenko, “The Greek Source of the Inscription on Solomon’s Chalice in the Vita Constantini? To Honor Roman Jakobson (The Hague, 1967), III, pp. 1806-1817.


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