or SCYLITZA, JOANNES, a Byzantine historian, of the later period of the empire, surnamed, from his office, CUROPALATES (Ἰωάννης Κουροπαλάτης ὁ Σκυλίτζης
); probably also called (apud Cedren. Compend.
sub init.) JOANNES THRACESIUS, and, from his office, PROTOVESTIARIUS (ὁ πρωτοβεστιάριος Ἰωάννης ὁ Θρακήσιος τὸ ἐπώνυμον
According to the account given by Fabricius and Cave, and which is now generally received, he was a native of the Thracesian Thema (which nearly corresponded to the Roman proconsular Asia), and attained successively at the Byzantine court, the dignities of protovestiarius (high chamberlain), magnus drungarius vigiliarum (captain of the guards), and curopalates.
He flourished as late as A. D. 1081, if not later.
While Scylitzes was protovestiarius he published the first edition of his great historical work, which came down to A. D. 1057; and in or after A. D. 1081, when he was curopalates, he published either a supplement, or a second and enlarged edition, bringing the work down to about A. D. 1080. Several parts of this account are, however, very questionable, as we shall take occasion to show.
It has been already observed [CEDRENUS, GEORGIUS] that the portion of the history of Cedrenus which extends from the death of the emperor Nicephorus I. (A. D. 811) to the close of the work (A. D. 1057), is found almost verbatim in the history of Joannes Scylitzes, which commences from the death of Nicephorus 1. (A. D. 811), and extends, in the printed copies, to the reign of Nicephorus Botaniotes (A. D. 1078-1081). From this circumstance two questions arise. Did Cedrenus borrow from Scylitzes, or Scylitzes from Cedrenus P and, did Scylitzes publish two editions of his history, or only one?
The former question is the more important.
As the history of Scylitzes, in its present form, extends to a period more than twenty years after that at which Cedrenus closes his work, the natural inference, if we judged from this circumstance alone, would be that Scylitzes was the later writer. And this was the opinion of Fabrot, the Parisian editor of Cedrenus; and of Henschenius. (Acta Sanctorum Februar.
a. d. xi. Comment. de Imperatrice Theodora,
§ 90, 97.)
As, however, the dates indicate that they were nearly contemporary, such an extensive incorporation as must have been practised by one or the other could hardly have been practised without its being known; and, if known, there could be no reason why the borrower should not avow the obligation.
The question then turns upon this point, has either of the two mentioned or referred to the other?, Scylitzes, in his Pröoemium,
which is given in the original Greek by Montfaucon (Biblioth. Coislin.
p. 207, &c.), from a MS. apparently of the twelfth century, mentions Georgius Syncellus [GEORGIUS, lit. and eccles. No. 46] and Theophanes [THEOPHANES], as the only writers who, since the time of the ancients, had successfully written history; and says that, after them, no one had devoted himself to the production of similar works; that those who had attempted to write history had either given mere catalogues of sovereigns, or had been influenced by the desire of panegyrising or vituperating some prince or patriarch or personal friend; by which we suppose lie means that they had written biography, and that partially, instead of history.
He enumerates many writers of this class, as Theodorus Daphnopates [THEODORUS], Nicetas Paphlago [NICETAS, Byzantine writers, No. 9], Joseph Genesius [GENESIUS], &c.
But in neither class does he notice Cedrenus, whom, as the author of a recent work of such extent, and to the merit of which, had he transcribed it, he would thereby have borne a virtual testimony, he could hardly have overlooked. His silence, therefore, furnishes a strong, if not a decisive argument against the priority and originality of Cedrenus.
The title of the work from which this Pröoemium
is taken is thus given by Montfaucon, from the MS., Σύνοψις ἱστοριῶν συγγραφεῖσα παρὰ Ἰωάννου κουροπαλάτου καὶ μεγάλου δρουγγαρίου τῆς Βίγλας τοῦ Σκυλίτζη
, Synopsis Historiarum Scripta a Joanne Seylitzc Curopalata et Magno Drungario Vigiliae.
On the other hand Cedrenus is a professed compiler: his work, which is also called Σύνοψις ἱστοριῶν
, Synopsis Historiarum,
is avowedly described in the title as συλλεγεῖσα ἐκ διαφόρων βιβλίων
, " ex diversis Libris collecta.
" The Pröoemium
is so far identical with that of Scylitzes as to show that one has been taken from the other, and adapted to the borrower's purpose.
In a passage, however, peculiar to Cedrenus, he quotes as one of his chief authorities, a certain Joannes Protovestiarius, surnamed Thracesius, whose manner of writing he describes in the very terms in which Scylitzes, in his Pröoemium,
had laid down his own principles of composition.
The point at which Cedrenus describes the history of this Joannes Thracesius as commencing, is precisely that at which the history of Scylitzes begins.
There can, therefore, we think, be no reasonable doubt that Joannes Thracesius and Joannes Scylitzes are the same person; and their identity is further established by a short piece in the Jus Graeco-Romanum
of Leunclavius, mentioned below, in the title of which Joannes Thracesius is called Curopolata and Magnus Drungarius Vigiliarum.
It is clear also that he wrote before Cedrenus; and that the latter borrowed from him; and this is now the general conclusion of competent judges, including Vossius, Hankius, Pontunus, Goar, Labbe, Lambecius, and Fabricius.
It may be observed, however, that no other discredit than that of being a mere compiler justly attaches to Cedrenus from this circumstance: he did not profess to be more than a compiler, and has fairly owned his obligations both to Scylitzes, assuming the latter to be identical with Joannes Thracesius, and to other writers from whom he borrowed. Had Scylitzes, who does not mention Cedrenus, borrowed as largely from the latter and concealed his obligation, he would have justly incurred the reproach of endeavouring to deck himself out with stolen plumage.
The question whether Scylitzes published two editions of his history, though less important, deserves notice. Vossius, Hankius, and other criticscontend that he did. Their opinion appears to rest on these circumstances: that, in the Latin translation of Scylitzes by Gabius (of which presently), the history is said in the title-page to extend to the reign of Isaac Comnenus, " ad imperium Isaaci Comneni :" that Cedrenus, who, in the latter part of his work, transcribes Scylitzes, brings down his work only to A. D. 1057, and that, in speaking of Joannes Thracesius, he gives him the title of Protovestiarius, awhile in the MSS. of Scylitzes' own work he has the titles of Curopalata and Magnus Drungarius Vigiliarum; and the work itself comes down to about 1080. From these premises it is inferred that Scylitzes first held the office of Protovestiarius, and during that time published a first edition of his work, coming down to A. D. 1057; and that afterwards he attained the dignities of Curopalata and Drungarius, and then published a second edition brought down to a later period.
But this reasoning is not satisfactory.
The title of Gabius's version is a manifest error, for the version itself comes down, as does the printed Greek text, to the reign of Nicephorus Botaniotes. Gabius apparently translated the title of the MS. which he used; and the name of Isaac Comnenus is probably an error (either of the transcriber of the MS. or of the translator) for Alexius Comnenus, Botaniotes' successor, to whose accession, as we shall presently see, the history extended in the author's purpose, if not in his performance.
The earlier cessation of Cedrenus narrative may be otherwise accounted for.
It may be questioned whether he ever finished his work ; or whether, if he did, his work is extant in its entire form (comp. Vossius, de Historicis Graec.
lib. ii. c. xxvi. ubi de Cedren.): the actual conclusion is abrupt; and the point at which it terminates partakes not of the character of an historical epoch. To this it may be added that the extant work of Scylitzes, which is assumed to be the second edition, does not make any reference to a former edition, or bear any mark of a continuation having been appended at the place where the supposed first edition concluded. Another consideration which weighs with us is this; that the title of Protovestiarius was, in the scale of Byzantine rank, above those of Curopalata and Drungarius; and was, therefore, it is reasonable to suppose, the last attained (comp. Codinus, de Official. Palat. CPolit.
c. ii.). We see no reason, then, to suppose that there was more than one edition.
It remains to be considered at what date the history of Scylitzes was written, and to how late a period it extended.
The abruptness of the termination of the work, as printed, in the middle of the short reign of Nicephorus Botaniotes, shows that we have it in an incomplete form, whether so left by the author or derived from an imperfect copy. A MS. in the Imperial Library at Vienna, fully described by Kollar (Supplement ad Lambecii Commentar.
lib. i. p. 613, &c.), contains a variety of chronological and other tables, probably compiled by Scylitzes (and which we shall presently notice), and a copy of his Synopsis Historiarum,
written, as Kollar judges, early in the twelfth century. This MS. is mutilated at the end of Scylitzes' Synopsis,
so as to prevent our ascertaining at what point the history concluded.
But a list of Byzantine sovereigns of both sexes, bearing the inscription οἱ ἐν τῇδε τῇ βίβλψ ἀναγεγραμμένοι βασιλεῖς εἰσιν οὗτοι
, Imperatores quorum Res in hoc Libro sunt conscriptae, sunt hi,
ends with Ἀλέξιος ὁ Κομνηνὸς
, ἔτη λζ́ μῆνας δ́ ἡμέρας ιδ́
, ἡ γυνὴ αὐτοῦ Εἰρήνη
, Alexius Comnenus, annis septem et triginta, mensibus quatuor, diebus quatuordecim. Uxor ejus Irene.
From this passage Kollar inferred that the history included the whole reign of Alexius, and that the author must have written after its close in A. D. 1118.
But this inference, so far as it respects the close of the history, is contradicted by the title of the history itself, which describes it as τελευτῶσα ἐς τὴν ἀναγόρευσιν Ἀλεξίου τοῦ Κομνηνοῦ
. In Alexii Commeni Coronatione desinens.
The history then included, or was intended to include, not the whole reign of Alexius, but only its commencement ; though the extant, at least the published copies do not reach even this point, thus evidencing their incompleteness.
The writer, therefore, must have lived after the commencement; and, if he was the author of the table of sovereigns, after the close of the reign of Alexius : but it may be doubted whether that table was not added, or the length of each sovereign's reign inserted, by a subsequent transcriber. All that can with certainty be concluded is, that the printed editions and the known MSS. of the history do not complete the work, according to the description given in its title; and that the author filled the offices ascribed to him by Cedrenus and in the title of his own work. Whether he lived after A. D. 1118; whether he held his several offices successively or simultaneously, and if successively, in what order, is quite uncertain.
The theory of a double edition of his work, and the succession of his offices deduced from that theory, rests, as we have shown, on no sufficient foundation. Even the assertion that he was a native of the Thracesian Thema is doubtful; for Cedrenus, who calls him ὑ Θρακήσιος
, " Thracesius," does not add τὸ Υένος
, " by birth," but τὸ ἐπώνυμον
, "by surname," as if to guard against the otherwise obvious inference as to his birth-place. Possibly, like Georgius Trapezuntius (George of Trebizond), he derived his surname from the original seat of his family. [GEORGIUS, literary and ecclesiastical, No. 48.]
The work of Scylitzes, one of the most important of the Byzantine histories, has been singularly neglected.
The unfounded opinion of Fabrot, the Parisian editor of Cedrenus, that Scylitzes was merely the " Cedreni simia," led to the publication of only that part of Scylitzes which Cedrenus did not transcribe, viz., the part extending from 1057 to 1080, and which those who suppose that there were two editions of the work regard as having been added in the second edition.
It constitutes about a seventh part of the whole work. The Paris edition of Cedrenus appeared in two vols. fol. 1647. The Excerpta ex Breviario Historico Joannis Scylitzae Curopalatae, excipientia ubi Cedrenus desinit are in the second volume, and are illustrated with a Latin version (slightly altered from Gabius's) and a few notes, by Goar. The Venice edition, fol. 1729, is a mere reprint of the foregoing
; though in the interim Montfaucon had published (Biblioth. Coislin.
p. 207) the Pröoemium, which, in an abridged or mutilated form, Cedrenus had adopted as his own, and prefixed to his own work. In the Bonn edition of Byzantine historians, it might have been expected that the entire work of Scylitzes would have appeared, even if the transcript of it in Cedrenus had been suppressed : but Bekker, the editor of Cedrenus, has been content to repeat the Excerpta of Fabrot, with the mere addition in the margin of such supplements, both to Cedrenus, in the part transcribed from Scylitzes, and to the Excerpta, as could be obtained from MSS., including the Coislin MS. examined by Montfaucon, but apparently not including the Vienna MS.
The greater part of the Greek text of one of the most valuable of the Byzantine writers is yet, therefore, unpublished in its original and proper form.
A Latin version of the whole work (with the exception of some lacunae), by Joannes Baptista Gabius (Giovanni Battista Gabio), Greek professor at Rome, was published, fol. Venice, 1570.
A part of this version accompanies the Greek text of the Excerpta
in the above editions. Gabio writes his author's name Scillizza or Scyllizzes.
Tables Prefixed to the Work of Scylitzes
The tables prefixed to the work of Scylitzes in the Vienna MS. were conjectured by Kollar to have been collected or compiled by Scylitzes as introductory to his work.
This is not unlikely; and whenever the whole of the text of Scylitzes shall appear, it may be hoped these tables will be published also. They are : --
- 1. Σύνοψις τῶν χρόνων ἀπὸ τῆς κτίσεως κόσμου, Synopsis annorum a creatione mundi. It is little else than a list of names, with their respective dates, beginning with Adam, and ending with the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian.
- 2. Ὅσοι ἐν Βυσαντίῳ ἐβασίλευσαν Χριστιανοί, Quot Byzantii imperium obtinuerunt Christiani, beginning with Constantine the Great, and ending with Nicephorus Botaniotes : the length of each emperor's reign is given.
- 3. Certain historical epochs; beginning Εἰσὶ οὖν ἀπὸ Ἀδ̂ὰμ ἕως τοῦ κατακλυσμοῦ κ. τ. λ., Ab Adamo igitur usque ad Diluvium fluxerunt anni.
A list of the Kings of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
A list of the High Priests of Israel, beginning with Aaron.
A list of the Patriarchs of Jerusalem.
A list of the Bishops of Rome, ending with Boniface II., A. D. 530.
A list of the Bishops or Patriarchs of Byzantium, to Stephen, A. D. 886-893.
A list of the Patriarchs of Alexandria.
A list of the Patriarchs of Antioch, ending with the second patriarchate of Anastasius I., A. D. 593.
- 11, 12. The Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments.
- 13. Controverted Books of the Old Testament, chiefly the Books of our Apocrypha.
- 14. Controverted Books of the New Testament, including the Apocalypsis Joannis, and some others not included in our canon, viz., the Apocalypsis Petri, Barnabae Epistola, and the Evangelium secundum Hebraeos.
- 15. Spurious Books of the Old Testament.
- 16. Spurious Books of the New Testament, among which are classed the Writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Hermas.
- 17. The Genealogy of the Roman Emperor Valentinian I.
Lambecius, and, after him, Fabricius, doubted if all these tables were to be attributed to Scylitzes : but Lambecius (according to Kollar) subsequently changed his opinion, and thought they were his. (Kollar, Supplement,
The Jus Graeco-Romanum
of Leunclavius (vol. i. p. 132, &c.) contains, Ὑπόμνησις τοῦ κουροπαλάτου καὶ μεγάλου δρουγγαρίου τῆς βίγλης Ἰωάννου τοῦ Θρακησίου μετὰ τὴν περὶ μνηστείας νεαρὰν γενομένη πρὸς τὸν αὐτὸν βασιλέα κύριον Ἀλέσιον περι τινος ἀμφιβολίας ἐπὶ ταύτͅη ἀναφυείσης
, Suggestio Curopalatae, Magnique Drungarii Vigiliarum, Domini Joannis Thracesii post promulgatam de Sponsalibus Novellam oblata eidem Principi, Domino Alexio, de ambiguitate quadam super haec enata.
According to Possevino (Apparatus Sacer. Catalog.
ad fin. tom. iii. p. 42), there were extant in MS. in the library of a convent of the monks of St. Basil, in the isle of Patmos, some other works of Scylitzes : -- Joannis Scylitzae Varii Sermones Philosophici et Theologici,
of which the first was, Ηερὶ κόσμου καὶ τῆς κατ̓ αὐτὸν φύσεως
, De Mundo et ejus Natura :
also Ejusdem quaedam Epistolae.
The dissertations would be curious, as Scylitzes appears to have had little respect for the property, whatever he may have had for the doctrines of the Church.
He vindicates in his history (p. 808, ed. Paris, p. 642, ed. Bonn) the conduct of Isaac Comnenus, in seizing the superfluous wealth of the monasteries, and wishes that he had been able to treat the whole Church in a similar way. (See, however, Montfaucon, Bibl. Coisl.
p. 206.) Possibly, however, the Patmos MSS. may contain the works of a younger Joannes Scylitzes, different from the historian, who is mentioned by Nic. Comnenus Papadopoii, but whose writings Fabricius had not seen.
Vossius, De Historicis Graecis,
lib. ii. c. xxvi.; Hankius, De Byzantin. rerum Scriptoribus,
pars. i. c. xxvii.; Lambecius, Comment. de Biblioth. Caesaraea,
vol. ii. p. 232, &c. ed. Kollar; Kollar, Supplement. ad Lambec. l.c.;
Cave, Hist. Litt.
vol. ii. p. 155, ed. Oxford, 1740-1743; Montfaucon, Bibl. Coislin,
p. 206, &c.; Goar, Notae Posteriores in Cedrenum,
sub init.; Oudin, De Scriptoribus Ecclesiasticis,
vol. ii. col. 745, &c.; Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. vii. pp. 464, &c., 722, &c., vol. xi. pp. 644, 651; Allatius, Diatriba de Georgüs,
apud Fabric. vol. xii. p. 33; Labbe, Catalog. Scriptor. list. Byzant.
Nos. ix. x.; Appar. Hist. Byzantin.
pars ii. prefixed to the Paris edition of the Byzantine writers.