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Damasce'nus, Joannes

Ἰωάννης Δαμασκηνός), a voluminous ecclesiastical writer, who flourished during the first half of the eighth century after Christ, in the reigns of Leo Isauricus and Constantine VII. He was a native of Damascus, whence he derived his surname, and belonged to a family of high rank. His oratorical powers procured him the surname of Chrysorrhoas, but he was also stigmatized by his enemies with various derogatory nicknames, such as Sarabaita, Mansur, and Arclas. He devoted himself to the service of the church, and after having obtained the dignity of presbyter, he entered the monastery of St. Saba at Jerusalem, where he spent the remainder of his life, devoting himself to literary pursuits, especially the study of theology. He seems to have died, at the earliest, about A. D. 756, and his tomb was shewn near St. Saba down to a very late period. He is regarded as a saint both by the Greek and Latin churches; the former celebrates his memory on the 29th of November and the 4th of December, and the latter on the 6th of May.

Life of Joannes by Joannes, Patriarch of Jerusalem

His life, which is still extant, was written by Joannes, patriarch of Jerusalem; but little confidence can be placed in it, as the facts are there mixed up with the most incredible stories. It is printed in Surius's Lives of the Saints, under the 6th of May.


All the writers who mention Joannes Damascenus agree in asserting, that he surpassed all his contemporaries as a philosopher and by the extensive range of his knowledge. This reputation is sufficiently supported by the great number of his works which have come down to us, though he was extremely deficient in critical judgment, which is most apparent in the stories which he relates in confirmation of the doctrines he propounds. He was a strong opponent of those who insisted upon removing all images from the Christian churches, and upon abolishing prayers for the dead.


We pass over the several collections of his works, as well as the separate editions of single treatises, and only refer our readers to the best edition of his works, which was prepared and edited by Michael le Quien, Paris, 1712, in 2 vols. fol., though it is far from containing all the works that are still extant under his name, and are buried in MS. in the various libraries of Europe. It contains the following works:

Works Printed in the le Quien Edition

Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. ix. pp. 682-744; Cave, Hist. Lit. i. p. 482, &c., ed. London, 1688.


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756 AD (1)
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