), the son of Mamnonius, a rhetorician, was born, as it seems, in 536 or 537 A. D. (Hist.
2.16, and Vita Agathiae
in ed. Bonn. p. xiv.), at Myrina, a town at the mouth of the river Pythicus in Aeolia (Agathiae Prooemium,
p. 9, ed. Bonn.; p. 5, Par.; p. 7, Ven.), and received his education in Alexandria, where he studied literature. In 554 he went to Constantinople (Hist.
2.16), where his father then most probably resided, and studied for several years the Roman law. (Epigr.
He afterward exercised with great success the profession of an advocate, though only for the sake of a livelihood, his favourite occupation being the study of ancient poetry (Hist.
3.1); and he paid particular attention to history. His profession of a lawyer was the cause of his surname Σχολαστικός
(Suidas, s. v. Ἀγαθίας
), which word signified an advocate in the time of Agathias. Niebuhr (Vita Agath.
in ed. Bonn. p. xv.) believes, that he died during the reign of Tiberius Thrax, a short time before the death of this emperor and the accession of Mauritius in 582, at the age of only 44 or 45 years. Agathias, who was a Christian (Epigr.
3, 5, and especially 4), enjoyed during his life the esteem of several great and distinguished men of his time, such as Theodorus the decurio, Paulus Silentiarius, Eutychianus the younger, and Macedonius the ex consul.
He shewed them his gratitude by dedicating to them several of his literary productions, and he paid particular homage to Paulus Silentiarius, the son of Cyrus Florus, who was descended from an old and illustrious family. Hist.
Agathias is the author of the following works :
, a collection of small love poems, divided into nine books; the poems are written in hexametres. Nothing is extant of this collection, which the author calls a juvenile essay.
p. 6;, ed. Bonn.; p. 4, Par.; p. 6, Ven.
, an anthology containing poems of early writers and of several of his contemporaries, chiefly of such as were his protectors, among whom were Paulus Silentiarius and Macedonius.
This collection was divided into seven books, but nothing of it is extant except the introduction, which was written by Agathias himself. However, 108 epigrams, which were in circulation either before he collected his Κύκλος
, or which he composed at a later period, have come down to us.
The last seven and several others of these epigrams are generally attributed to other writers, such as Paulus Silentiarius, &c.
The epigrams are contained in the Anthologia Graeca (iv. p. 3, ed. Jacobs)
, and in the editions of the historical work of Agathias. Joseph Scaliger
, Janus Douza
, and Bonaventura Vulcanius
, have translated the greater part of them into Latin.
The epigrams were written and published after the Δαφνιακά
Ἀγαθίου Σχολαστικοῦ Μυριναίου Ἱστορίων ε.
, Agathiae Scholastici Myrinensis Historiarum Libri V.
This is his principal work.
It contains the history from 553-558 A. D., a short period, but remarkable for the important events with which it is filled up.
The first book contains the conquest of Italy by Narses over the Goths, and the first contests between the Greeks and the Franks; the second book contains the continuation of these contests, the description of the great earthquake of 554, and the beginning of the war between the Greeks and the Persians; the third and the fourth books contain the continuation of this war until the first peace in 536; the fifth book relates the second great earthquake of 557, the rebuilding of St. Sophia by Justinian, the plague, the exploits of Belisarius over the Huns and other barbarians in 558, and it finishes abruptly with the 25th chapter.
Agathias, after having related that he had abandoned his poetical occupation for more serious studies (Prooemium,
ed. Bonn. pp. 6, 7; Par. p. 4; Ven. p. 6), tells us that several distinguished men had suggested to him the idea of writing the history of his time, and he adds, that he had undertaken the task especially on the advice of Eutychianus. (Ib.
) However, he calls Eutychianus the ornament of the family of the Flori, a family to which Eutychianus did not belong at all.
It is therefore probable that, instead of Eutychianus, we must read Paulus Silentiarius: Niebuhr is of this opinion. (Ib.
not. 19.) Agathias is not a great historian; he wants historical and geographical knowledge, principally with regard to Italy, though he knows the East better.
He seldom penetrates into the real causes of those great events which form the subjects of his book: his history is the work of a man of business, who adorns his style with poetical reminiscences.
But he is honest and impartial, and in all those things which he is able to understand he shews himself a man of good sense. His style is often bombastic; he praises himself ; in his Greek the Ionic dialect prevails, but it is the Ionic of his time, degenerated from its classical purity into a sort of mixture of all the other Greek dialects. Nothwithstanding these deficiences the work of Agathias is of high value, because it contains a great number of important facts concerning one of the most eventful periods of Roman history.
Ἀγαθίου Σχολαστικοῦ περὶ τῆς Βασιλείας Ἰουστινιανοῦ, τόμοι E., ed. Bonaventura Vulcanius, with a Latin translation, Lugduni, 1594. The Parisian edition, which is contained in the " Corpus Script. Byzant." was published in 1660
; it contains many errors and conjectural innovations, which have been reprinted and augmented by the editors of the Venetian edition. Another edition was published at Basel (in 1576?)
. A Latin translation by Christophorus Persona was separately published at Rome, 1516, fol., and afterwards at Augsburg, 1519, 4to.
; at Basel, 1531, fol.
, and at Leyden, 1594, 8vo.
The best edition is that of Niebuhr, Bonn. 1828, 8vo.
, which forms the third volume of the " Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae."
It contains the Latin translation and the notes of Bonaventura Vulcanius. The Epigrams form an appendix of this edition of Niebuhr, who has carefully corrected the errors, and removed the innovations of the Parisian edition.