3. An historical writer, a native of Thebes in Egypt, who lived in the fifth century after Christ.
Olympiodorus seems to have had better qualifications as a statesman than as a writer; and in various missions and embassies amongst barbarian states he rendered important services to the empire, for which the highest honours were conferred upon him by the Roman senate (Photius, Phot. Bibl. 214
. p. 171, ed. Bekker.)
He was sent by Honorius on an embassy to the Huns, probably to Hungary.
After the death of Honorius Olympiodorus removed to Byzantium, to the court of the emperor Theodosius. Hierocles dedicated to this Olympiodorus his work on providence and fate [HIEROCLES], the groundwork or idea of which he professes to have derived from him. Photius states that Olympiodorus was a ποιητής
, that is, an alchymist.
It has been supposed that this statement has arisen from a confusion between this and some other man of the same name. But Photius distinctly makes the statement on the authority of Olympiodorus himself (ὡς αὐτός φησι
It appears, from what Photius has preserved of his writings, that he was a heathen.
He wrote a work in 22 books, entitled Ἰστορικοὶ λόγοι
, which comprised the history of the Western empire under the reign of Honorius, from A. D. 407 to October, A. D. 425 (Clinton, Fast. Rom.
anno 425). Olympiodorus took up the history from about the point at which Eunapius had ended. [EUNAPIUS.]
The original work of Olympiodorus is lost, but an abridgment of it has been preserved by Photius (Phot. Bibl. 80
), who describes the style of the work as being clear, but without force or vigour, loose, and descending to vulgarity, so as not to merit being called a history. Of this Photius thinks that the author himself was aware, and that for this reason he spoke of his work as being not a history, but a collection of materials for a history (ὕλη συγγραφῆς
It was dedicated to the emperor Theodositis II.
The abridgment by Photius has been several times published : by Phil. Labbeus, in his Eclogue Histor. de Rebus Byzunt.
; by Sylburg, in his Collectio Scriptorum Hist. Rom. Minorum
; by Andreas Schottus, in his Eclogae Historicorum de Reblus Byzantinis
; and, in conjunction with Dexippus, Eunapius, and other historical fragments, by Niebuhr, Bonn, 1829.
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. x. pp. 632, 703.