Byzantine Philosophy and Its Ancient Sources

By Katerina Ierodiakonou | Go to book overview

3
The Justinianic Dialogue On
Political Science and its
Neoplatonic Sources

DOMINIC O’MEARA

This chapter concerns the fragments of an anonymous dialogue in Greek ’On political science’ discovered by Angelo Mai in a Vatican palimpsest (Vat. gr. 1298) and first published by him in 1827. A more complete edition of the fragments was published in 1982 by Carlo Mazzucchi, together with an Italian translation.1 Mai identified the author of the dialogue as Peter the Patrician, a high official in the court of Justinian. Although this particular identification is fairly speculative, there is at least agreement that the anonymous dialogue dates to the Justinianic period, given its references, as if to a recent past, to the Persian King Peroz (459–484) and to the Frankish King Clovis (481–511). Mazzucchi thinks that the dialogue was written in the earlier part of the Justinianic reign, before 535, deriving from the higher circles of Justinian’s administration,2 whereas Averil Cameron prefers to place it towards the end of the reign (565) and considers it as voicing the interests of a senatorial elite.3 The later dating seems more plausible, since, as will be seen below, the two speakers in the dialogue appear to represent high officials active in Justinian’s administration in 528–9 and it seems unlikely that the dialogue, in portraying them, would have been written close to the time of their activity.

Already in 1900, Karl Praechter showed that the fragments of the anonymous dialogue present many affinities with Neoplatonic philosophy as well as with the work of an author who is almost contemporary, or perhaps somewhat earlier, the Pseudo-Dionysius. Praechter concluded, despite these affinities, that the author of the dialogue ‘On political science’ was not a

1Menae patricii cum Thoma referendario De scientia politica dialogus, ed. C. Mazzucchi (Milan, 1982).

2 Ibid., p. xiii.

3 Cameron (1985: 250–1).

-49-

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