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Joannes LAURENTIUS

79. LAURENTIUS or LYDUS (the LYDIAN), or of PHILADELPHIA, or more fully JOANNES LAURENTIUS Of PHILADELPHIA, the LYDIAN (Ἰωάννης Λαυρέντιος Φιλαδελφεὺς Λυδός), a Byzantine writer of the sixth century. He was born at Philadelphia, in the ancient Lydia, and the Roman province of Asia, A. D. 490. His parents appear to have been of a respectable family, and of considerable wealth. At the age of twenty-one (A. D. 511) he went to Constantinople, and after deliberation determined to enter the civil service of the government as a " memorialis; " and either while waiting for a suitable vacancy, or in the intervals of his official duties, studied the Aristotelian, and a little of the Platonic, philosophy, under Agapius, the disciple of Proclus. By the favour of his townsman Zoticus, praefect of the praetorium under the emperor Anastasius I., he was appointed a tachygraphus or notarius, in the office of the pracfect, in which office his cousin Ammianus had already obtained considerable advancement; and though the praefecture of Zoticus lasted little more than a year, he put Joannes in the way of making 1000 aurei, without any transgression of justice or moderation. Joannes gratefully addressed a poetical panegyric to his patron, which obtainled from the latter a reward of an aureus per line. The kindness of some official persons (Joannes calls them " ab actis") to whom Zoticus recommended him, procured for him, without purchase (a most unusual thing) the post of primus chartularius in their office, which he held with several other employments, labouring most assiduously in the fulfilment of his duties. During this period Zoticus, at the suggestion of Joannes' cousin, Ammianus, obtained for him a wife of pre-eminent modesty and considerable wealth. He concluded his official career in the office of matricularius or cornicularius, which was formerly so profitable as to be conferred as the reward of long service in subordinate situations ; but the circumstances of the times and the necessities of the state had diminished the emoluments of the office, so that Joannes was by no means satisfied with the pecuniary results of this long-coveted climax of forty years' service. The disappointment of his hopes in this respect was, however, somewhat alleviated by marks of distinction, and flattering testimonials of his literary attainments.


Works

The latter part of Joannes' life seems to have been wholly devoted to literature; and he received two literary appointments from the emperor Justinian I., one to compose and deliver a panegyrical address to the emperor, in the presence of the chief persons of the capital; the other to write a history of the Persian war or campaign, in which the enemy suffered a signal repulse before Dara. The foregoing particulars are gathered from Joannes' own statements (De Magistratibus, 3.26-30; comp. Hase, de Joanne Lydo ejusque Scriptis Commentarius).

Joannes obtained reputation as a poet (De Magistrat. 100.27, 29), but his poetical compositions are all lost. His encomium on Zoticus and his complimentary address to Justinian are also lost; as well as his history of the Persian war, if ever it was finished, which is not certain. His works, of which many parts are extant, were all written in his old age, and are:


1. Περὶ μηνῶν δυγγραφή,

Of which there are two epitomae or summaries and a fragment extant.

The work de Mensibus is an historical commentary on the Roman calendar, with an account of its various festivals, their occasion and mode of celebration, derived from a great number of authorities, most of which have perished. Of the two summaries of this curious work, the larger one is by an unknown hand, the shorter one by Maximus Planudes.

Editions

They were both published by Nicolaus Schow (the shorter one inserted in brackets in the course of the larger), 8vo. Leipzig, 1794, with a fragment, Περὶ δειδμῶν, De Terrae Motibus, of the work De Ostentis.

The Epitomae in a revised text, and with the addition of a Latin version and variorum notes, were published by Roether, 8vo. Leipzig and Darmstadt, 1827.


2. Περὶ ἀρχῶν τῆς Ῥωμαίων πολιτείας, or Περὶ ἀρχῶν πολιτικῶν, (s. )

The work De Magistratibus was thought to have perished, with the exception of a few glosses given anonymously in the Glossarium ad Scriptores Mediae atque Infimae Graecitatis of Du Cange: for an extract, given as if from it, by Lambecius, in his Animadversiones in Codinum (p. 208, ed. Paris), is really from the De Mensibus. But in or about 1785 a MS. (known as the Codex Caseolinus) was discovered by J. B. d'Ansse de Villoison in the suburbs of Constantinople, and obtained by the Le Comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, then French ambassador in that city, containing about nine-tenths of the work De Magistratibus, three-fourths of that De Ostentis, and two leaves, scarcely legible, of the De Mensibus.

From this MS. the De Magistratibus was published at the cost of M. de Choiseul-Gouffier, and under the editorial care of Dominic Fuss, with a Commentarius de Joanne Lydo ejusque Scriptis, by Ch. Benert. Hase, Paris, 1811. The fragments of the De Ostentis, and the fragment of the De Mensibus, were published from the same MS., but with some alterations, with a preface and a Latin version and notes, by C. B. Hase, 8vo. Paris, 1823.


3. Περὶ διοδημειῶν,

The last written of his works.

Edition

One of the fragments of the De Ostentis, containing a Greek version by Lydus, of the Ἐφήμερος βροντοκοπία of P. Nigidius Figulus, had been published by Rutgersius (Lectiones Variae, lib. iii. p. 246, &c.), and another fragment, as already noticed, by Nic. Schow.


Editions

All the extant portion of the works of Joannes Lydus, with a text revised by Imman. Bekker (8vo. Bonn, 1837), form one of the volumes of the reprint of the Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae.


Assessment

Photius mentions the three works, πραγματεῖαι, of Lydus; he criticises his style severely, as too stately and elaborate where simplicity was required, and as mean where greater elevation was appropriate. He charges him also with barefaced flattery of the living, and unjust censure on the dead : and intimates that he was a heathen, yet spoke respectfully of Christianity, whether sincerely or not Photius could not determine.


Further Information

Photius, Biblioth. Cod. 180 ; Suidas, s. v. Ἰωάννης Φιλαδελφεὺς Λυδός; Hase, l.c.; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. iv. p. 155.

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490 AD (1)
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