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22. METAPHRASTES ( Μάταφραστής), known also by the titles of MAGISTER ( Μάγιστρος) and LOGOTHETA (it is doubtful if he was LOGOTHETA CURSUS, Λογοθέτης τοῦ δρόμου, or MAGNUS LOGOTHETA, μέγας Λογοθέτης᾿, a celebrated Byzantine writer of the end of the ninth and beginning and middle of the tenth centuries, as Allatius has shown, but about whose date writers have differed very widely, some placing him in the beginning of the third century, and others as late as the fourteenth (see Allatius and Cave, ubi infrà). Our chief authority for the life of Symeon is the Ἐγκώμιον εἰς τὸν Μεταφραστὴν κύριον Συμεῶνα. Encomium in Metaphrastem Dominum Symeonem of the younger Psellus [PSELLUS, No. 3], and an Ἀκολουθία, Officium, composed by the same author for the day (28th Nov.) on which Symeon is commemorated as a saint in the Greek Church; to which we may add some incidental notices from the writings of Symeon himself.

Symeon was a native of Constantinople, belonged to an illustrious family, possessed great wealth, and was remarkable even from childhood for " the flowers of the understanding," to quote the words of Psellus, which " blossomed in him." He studied rhetoric, and especially philosophy, and became eminent in both. The reputation he acquired recommended him to the notice of the government, and he was employed under the emperors Leo VI the Philosopher, and Constantine VII. Porphyrogenitus, in public affairs. We should gather from the bombastic expressions of Psellus, that his first office was that of Proto-a-secretis, or chief secretary; but it is unlikely that so important an office should be the first entrusted to him : and the statement of Cedrenus, noticed below, seems more probable. His versatile talents were adapted both to counsel and to action; and he appears to have been engaged in repressing, both by arms and negotiations, the assaults of some enemies on the frontier of the empire, and in reducing others to subjection. He was characterised by magnificence in dress and stateliness of gait, yet tempered by a captivating address and easiness of access. He possessed also a liberal disposition, which his wealth afforded him ample opportunity of indulging. The declamation of Psellus contains neither particulars nor dates. A passage, however, in Symeon's account of St. Theoctista (apud Allat. De Symeon. Scriptis, p. 49), informs us that he was engaged in the expedition, under Himerius, against the Saracens of Crete, with whom he was commissioned to negotiate. This expedition, on Symeon's own authority in another place (Chronog. s. Annales. De Leone Basilii Fil. 100.21. Comp. Theophan. Continuat. lib. vi. De Leone Basilii Fil. 100.26), we may fix in the twenty-third year of the reign of Leo VI., A. D. 908. Allatius fixes the date, we believe erroneously, in A.D. 902. This, however, was not the first occasion in which Symeon appears as a prominent person : he was apparently the Symeon, Proto-a-secretis, who negotiated an exchange of prisoners with Leo the renegade, who commanded the Saracen fleet, which in A. D. 904 took Thessalonica (Theoph. Continuat. 100.21; Symeon. 100.14; Cameniata de Exscidio Thessalonicensi, 100.62, 63; Zonaras, Annal. lib. 16. c.14; Cedren. Compend. p. 600, ed. Paris, vol. ii. p. 263, ed. Bonn.) According to Cedrenus, Symeon received the dignity of Proto-a-secretis as a reward for his service in this business, having previously held a subordinate office. It was when serving under Himerius, in A. D. 908, that Symeon first engaged in composing the lives of the Saints ; and he pleaded as an excuse, when urged to undertake this task, the multitude of his engagements, and the cares of his wife and family. (Symeon, Vitae S. Theoctistae apud Allatium, p. 55.) The life of St. Theoctista, the first of his religious biographies, was not, however, written till after the death of the emperor Leo.

Symeon is mentioned by Liutprand, ambassador from the western emperor Otho to the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus Phocas, as still Proto-a-secretis in A. D. 968. (Baronii Annal. ad ann. 968. c. xxix. ; comp. Pagi, Criticc in Baron. ad ann. eundem, c. xii.; Liutpradi Legatio, apud Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, vol. ii. p. 482.) Symeon is mentioned by Leo Diaconus (Historia, 10.7, p. 169, ed. Bonn) as still living when the comet appeared which shortly preceded the death of the emperor Joannes Tzimisces (comp. Cedrenus, p. 683, ed. Paris, vol. ii. p. 414, ed. Bonn), and which may be fixed in the year 975, so that he must have lived very nearly a century, and perhaps more. His death is described by Psellus as joyful and triumphant. (Comp. Allatius, Vossius, Cave, Oudin, Cellier, Saxius, ubi infra, and Pagi, Critice in Baronii Annales, ad ann. 902, i--xi.; ad ann. 975, c. ix. x.; Bollandus, Praefat. ad Acta Sanctor. cap. 1.3, Januar. vol. i.)


The works of Metaphrastes are numerous and of varied character. They may be thus classified : --

1. Ἁγίων Βίοι

Ἁγίων Βίοι s. Μεταφράσεις, Sanctorum Vitae s. Metaphrases. These constitute the largest and most important class of his writings. A few of them were probably original, but by far the greater part were paraphrases (μεταφράσεις) or recastings of more ancient legends, of which the language was too rude, or the narrative too meagre, to suit the vicious taste and boundless credulity of the age in which Symeon lived, and which he seems to have altered ad libitum. As many, if not most, of the saints whom he commemorated lived before the rupture between the Eastern and Western Churches, some of the more zealous Roman Catholics, as Aloysius Lipomannus, Gretser, and especially Allatius, contend earnestly for the credit of Metaphrastes. Protestant writers have generally set him down as an author unworthy of credit, with the exception, perhaps, of Cave, who seems to think that he only corrected the arrangement and style of those of the ancient legends which needed such revision, and left those which were better written altogether intact. The more critical Roman Catholics unite with the Protestants in depreciating the authority of Symeon. The number of the lives ascribed to Symeon in the MSS. amounts to between six and seven hundred. Lists of these and other Sanctorum Vitae are given by Allatius, ubi infra, and Fabricius (Bibl. Graec. vol. x. p. 186, seq.). Cave gives a list of a hundred and twenty-two which, after Allatius, he supposes to be correctly ascribed to Metaphrastes. Of those inaccurately assigned to him, Allatius ascribes four hundred and forty-four to other authors; of ninety-five others the authors are unknown. A great number of the Vitae, genuine or spurious, are published in a Latin version by Lipomannus, Surius, and others, in their collections, De Sanctorum Vitis : of these Allatius has given a list (p. 76) : a few which Allatius also enumerates (p. 78) have been published in various works in the original Greek, with or without a Latin version. Another list of the published lives is given by Hamberger, Zuverlässige Nachrichten, vol. iv. p. 143, foll. (On these Sanctorum Vitae, the great work of Metaphrastes, see Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. x. p. 180, &c., besides various incidental notices; and the authors cited at the close of this account.)

2. Σημεὼν μαγίστρου καὶ λογοθέτου χρονογραφία

Σνμεὼν μαγίστρου καὶ λογοθέτου χρονογραφία, Symeonis Magistri et Logothetae Annales. These extend from the beginning of the reign of Leo V. the Armenian, A. D. 813, where Theophanes concludes, to the reign of Romanus II. the younger, in the midst of which (A. D. 960 or 961) they somewhat abruptly break off. The work was prepared for the press by Combéfis, and is given among Οἱ μετά Θεοφάνην, Scriptores post Theophanem, in the Paris (fol. 1685), Venice (fol. 1729), and Bonn (8vo. 1838) editions of the Corpus Historiae Byzantinae. The Paris edition, from which the others are taken, was published after the death of Combéfis, and from that circumstance is without notes. In these Annales, which closely, often verbatim, agree with the anonymous continuator of Theophanes [LEONTIUS, literary, No. 6], and with George the Monk [GEORGIUS, literary and ecclesiastical, No. 33.], Symeon, in the incidental notices of himself already cited, speaks in the third person.


Chronicon s. Annales ab orbi condito. This Chronicon has never been published, and seems to be different from the more important work just cited : it was a mere compilation, and was apparently less laboriously prepared than the preceding work; and in many parts agrees with Theophanes. Kollar, however (Supplement ad Lambec. p. 737), speaks of the Annales mentioned above, as a portion of the Chronicon. Different copies of the Chronicon, and there are many MSS. which contain it, terminate at different periods : some end with the accession of Leo the Armenian at the point at which the Annales commence : others terminate with Constantine Porphyrogenitus, and have prefixed the following iambic couplet. A comparison of these last copies would show whether the Annales are an extract from the Chronicon, as Kollar supposes, or not.
ἀρχὴν μὲν Ἀδὰμ ἔσχεν βίβλος, καὶ τέλος,
τὸ Πορφυρογέννητον εὐσεβὲς κράτος.

One MS. at Venice comes down to the reign of Constantine XI. Ducas, who reigned from A. D. 1059 to 1067, a circumstance which shows either that the Chronicon received some additions from a later hand, or that it is incorrectly ascribed to our Symeon, and must have been composed by a later writer. Oudin observes that the Chronicon agrees in several places to the letter with the work of Leo Grammaticus; he says it is borrowed from it, and, as he assigns Leo's work to A. D. 1013. he urges this as one argument for the later date assigned by him to Metaphrastes. But we have elsewhere stated that the date assigned by him to Leo's work is inaccurate; the argument built upon it therefore falls. [LEO, Greek writers, No. 15.] Combéfis suspects that Psellus [PSELLUS, No. 3] was the continuator of the Chronicon. (Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. vii. pp. 471, &c., p. 684, &c.)

4. Συμεὼν μαγίστρου καὶ λογοθέτου τοῦ δρόμου ἐπιστολαί

Συμεὼν μαγίστρου καὶ λογοθέτου τοῦ δρόμου ἐπιστολαί, Symeonis Magistri et Logothetac Cursus Epistolae.


Allatius has given nine of these, with a Latin version, at the end of his De Symeonum Scriptis, 4to. Paris, 1664.

5. Λόγοι

Λόγοι, Sermones.


One of these is given by Allatius with a Latin version at the end of his De Symeon. Scriptis. Another is given in a Latin version in the Bibliotheca Concionatoria of Combéfis, vol. iii. fol. Paris, 1662. Some others had been seen by Allatius in manuscript. (Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. x. p. 183.)


Carmina. Some short poems of Symeon have been printed. Τοῦ Μεταφραστοῦ στίχοι εἰς τὴν ἔνσαρκον οἰκονομίαν. κατ̓ ἐρώτησιν δήθεν καὶ ἀπόκρισιν, Metaphrastae de Salutis nostrae Mysterio et suscepti Nominis Sacramento : per interrogalioneim et responsionem,


This was published by Fed. Morel. with a Latin version, 4to. Paris, 1600. Στίχοι Συμεῶνος τοῦ Μεταφραστοῦ, Simeonis Metaphraslae trimetri iambici, four very short pieces, were given in the Poetae Graeci Christiani, una cum Homericis Cantonibus, 8vo. Paris, 1609, published for the use of the Jesuits schools; and were reprinted in the Ἕλληνες Ποιηταὶ παλαιοὶ, τραγικοὶ κ. τ. λ., Poetae Graeci veteres, tragici etc., vol. ii. p. 753, fol. Geneva, 1614. Four other short poems, two of them having their lines or alternate lines beginning with the successive letters of the alphabet, and bearing each the title Ἀλφάβετον, Alphabetum ; and the other two addressed, one, Εἰς τὴν ἰδίαν ψυχὴν, Ad sui ipsius Animam, the other, Εἰς κύριον Στυλιανὸν πρωτασηκρῆτιν, Ad Dominum Stylianum e Secretariis Primum, are given in the De Symeonum Scriptis of Allatius (p. 132, &c.). Some other poems of Symeon are extant in manuscript.

7. Ἐπιτομὴ κανόνων

Ἐπιτομὴ κανόνων, Synopsis Canonica, already noticed in speaking of the imaginary Symeon Logotheta Junior. [No. 14.]

8. Κεφάλαια τοῦ ἁγίου Μακαριον ηεταφρασθέντα παρὰ Συμεὼν τοῦ Λογοθέτου

Κεφάλαια τοῦ ἁγίου Μακαριον ηεταφρασθέντα παρὰ Συμεὼν τοῦ Λογοθέτου, S. Macarii Aegyptii s. Scetensis [MACARIUS, No. 1] Capita Ascetica centum septuaginta, metaphrasi illustrate a Symeone Logotheta. Either this work or an Epitome of it is inserted in the Thesaurus Asceticus of Possin. (Comp. the obscure notices in Lambecius, De Biblioth. Caesaraea, vol. v. pp. 151, &c., 214, &c., ed. Kollar.) Besides these Κεφάλαια, selected from the works of Macarius and paraphrased, Symeon wrote some original Κεφάλαια γνωμικὰ ρλά, Gnomicae Sententiae CXXXI., extant in manuscript. (Allatius, p. 132.)


Hymni s. Canones et Troparia, also Preces, by Symeon Metaphrastes, were in the time of Allatius, and perhaps are still, in use in the Greek Church (Allatius, p. 131), and are extant in various MSS.



published by Adrian Turnebus, 4to. Paris, 1555, and in a Latin version by Perionius, 4to. Paris, 1555; the version was reprinted in the edition of the works of Clemens Romanus, fol. Cologne, 1569. We know not on what ground this is ascribed to Symeon. (Comp. Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. vii. p. 31.)

11. Ἐκ τῶν τοῦ ἐν ἁγίοις πατρὸς ἡμῶν Βασιλείου ἀρχιεπισκόπου Καισαρείας τῆς Καππαδοκίας ἠθικοὶ λόγοι κδ́ διὰ Συμεὼν τοῦ Μαγίστρου καὶ Λογοθέτου

Ἐκ τῶν τοῦ ἐν ἁγίοις πατρὸς ἡμῶν Βασιλείου ἀρχιεπισκόπου Καισαρείας τῆς Καππαδοκίας ἠθικοὶ λόγοι κδ́ διὰ Συμεὼν τοῦ Μαγίστρου καὶ Λογοθέτου, Ex Libris D. Basilis Archiepicopi Caesareae Cappodociae Orationes de Moribus XXIV. Simeone Magistro ac Logotheta auctore.


These Sermones were made up by Symeon of selections from the works of Basil, and were printed 8vo. Paris, 1556. A Latin version of them by Stanislaus Ilovius had appeared, 8vo. Venice, 1554, and has been reprinted several times. Another Latin version, by Simon Mailleus, archbishop of Tours, was published, 8vo. Paris, 1558, and has been reprinted in the editions of the works of Basil, in which the Orationes are usually given. (Fabric. vol. ix. p. 58, &c., vol. x. p. 183, &c.)

12. An account of the church of St. Sophia

Extant in two MSS. at Vienna (Kollar. Supplement. ad Lambecium, comp. pp. 748, 760), is ascribed in one of the MSS. to Symeon Metaphrastes, but with what accuracy is uncertain. The citations from Metaphrastes in the Catena in Lucam of Nicetas, and the mention by Theophanes Cerameus of his Εἰς τὸν ἱερὸν Λουκᾶν ὑπόμνημα, In Lucam Commentarius, do not show that he wrote commentaries on Luke. The work intended is probably his account of Luke in his Sanctorum Vitae. The citations in the Catena in Matthaeum of Macarius Chrysocephalus are possibly from his account of Matthew. A single manuscript ascribes to Symeon Metaphrastes, but with very doubtful correctness, a work called Dioptra whether the work of Philip the Solitary [PHILIPPUS, literary and ecclesiastical, No. 27], or a different work, is not ascertained. (Allatius, p. 136; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. x. p. 62, note oo.)

The works of Symeon Metaphrastes are still valued by the Greeks. Three small quarto volumes containing selections from the Vitae Sanctorum,translated into the modern Greek tongue by Agapius, a Cretan monk, printed at Venice in the years 1797, 1805, and 1806, and entitled respectively, Παράδεισος, Paradisus, Ἐκλόγιον, Eclogium, and Νέος Παράδεισος, Paradisus Novus, are now before us.

Further Information

Allatius, De Symeon. Scriptis, pp. 24-151; Cave, who makes three persons of our Symeon, viz. Symeon Metaphrastes, Symeon Logotheta, and Symeon Logotheta Junior, Hist. Litt. ad annos 901, 967, 1170, vol. ii. pp. 88, 104, 241; Oudin, De Scriptoribus Eccl. vol. ii. col. 1300-1383; Vossius, De Historicis Graecis, lib. ii. c. xxv. and lib. iv. pars iii; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. vii. pp. 471, 683, vol. viii. p. 29, vol. x. p. 180, &c. alibi : Ceillier. Auteurs Sacrés, vol. xix. p. 565, &c., 592, &c.; Hankius, De Byzantinarum Rerum Scriptoribus, pars 1.100.24; Hamberger, Zuverlässige Nachrichten, vol. iv. p. 139, &c.; Saxius, Onomasticon, vol. ii. p. 135.

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