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Metaphra'stes, Sy'meon

Συμεὼν Μεταφράστης), a celebrated Byzantine writer, lived in the ninth and tenth centuries. He was descended from a noble family of great distinction in Constantinople, and, owing to his birth, his talents, and his great learning, he was raised to the highest dignities in the state; and we find that he successively held the offices of proto-secretarius, logotheta dromi, and perhaps magnus logotheta, and at least that of magister, whose office resembled much that of our president of the privy council. The title of Patricius was likewise conferred upon him. The circumstance of his having held the post of magister caused him to be frequently called Symeon Magister, especially when he is referred to as the author of the Annales quoted below, but his most common appellation is Symeon Metaphrastes, or simply Metaphrastes, a surname which was given to him on account of his having composed a celebrated paraphrase of the lives of the saints. There are many conflicting hypotheses as to the time when he lived, which the reader will find in the sources below. We shall only mention, that it appears from different passages in works of which the authorship of this Symeon (Metaphrastes) is pretty well established, that he lived in the time of the emperor Leo VI. Philosophus; that in 902 he was sent as ambassador to the Arabs in Crete, and in 904 to those Arabs who had conquered Thessalonica, whom he persuaded to desist from their plan of destroying that opulent city; and that he was still alive in the time of the emperor Constantine VII. Porphyrogenitus. Michael Psellus wrote an Encomium of Metaphrastes, which is given by Leo Allatius, quoted below.


The principal works of Metaphrastes are :--


Metaphrastes, it is said, undertook this work at the suggestion of the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, but this is not very probable, unless the emperor requested him to do so while still a youth. The work, however, is ho original composition, but only a paraphrase or metaphrase of the lives of a great number of saints which existed previously in writing; Metaphrastes has the merit of having re-written them in a very elegant style for his time, omitted many things which appeared irrelevant to him, and added others which he thought worth admitting. The biographers of Metaphrastes were in their turn remodelled by later writers, and in many places completely mutilated; but whatever was left untouched is easily to be distinguished from the additions. Fabricius gives a list of 539 lives which are commonly attributed to Metaphrastes: out of these, 122 are decidedly genuine; but, according to Cave, the greater part of the remaining 417, which are extant in MSS. in different libraries, can be traced to Metaphrastes.


The principal lives are published, Greek and Latin, in Bollandii Acta Sanctorum. Agapius, a monk, made an extract of them, which was published under the title Liber dictus Paraclitus sen illustrium Sanctorum Vitae, desumptae ex Simeone Metaphraste, Venice, 1541, 4to.


Annales, beginning with the emperor Leo Armenus (A. D. 813-820), and finishing with Romanus, the son of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, who reigned from 959-963. It is evident that the Metaphrastes who was ambassador in 902 cannot possibly be the author of a work that treats on matters which took place 60 years afterwards: thence some believe that the latter part of the Annales was written by another Metaphrastes, while Baronius thinks that the author of the whole of that work lived in the 12th century.


The Annales were published with a Latin version by Combéfis in Hist. Byzant. Script. post Theophanem, of which the edition by Immanuel Bekker, Bonn, 1838, 8vo., is a revised reprint. The Annales are a valuable source of Byzantine history.


said to be extant in MS.


Greek and Latin, apud Allatium, quoted below.


apud Allatium, and in Poetae Graeci Veteres, ed. Lectius, Geneva, 1614, fol.



Latin, in the 3d vol. of Combéfis, Biblioth. Concionator.

7. Εἰς τὸν Δρῆνον τῆς ὑπεραγίας Θεοτόκον, &c., &c.


Greek and Latin, apud Allatium.

8. Several Hymns or

still used in the Greek church.

9. Ἠθικοὶ λόγοι,

extracted from the works of S. Basil


ed. Greek and Latin by Morellus, Paris, 1556, 8vo.; also Latin, by Stanislas Ilovius, in Opera Basilii Magni ; the same separate, Frankfort, 8vo. (when ?)

Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. vii. p. 683, 10.180, &c.; Cave, Hist. Lit. p. 492, &c. ed. Geneva; Hankius, Script. Byzant. 100.24; Oudin, Dissertatio de Aetate et Scriptis Simeonis Metaphrastis, in his Commentarii; Baronius, Annales ad ann. 859; Leo Allatius, Diatriba de Simeonibus.


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