Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Life of the Patriarch Tarasios by Ignatios the Deacon (BHG 1698). Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Life of the Patriarch Tarasios by Ignatios the Deacon (BHG 1698). Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary

Article excerpt

The Life of the Patriarch Tarasios by Ignatios the Deacon (BHG 1698). Introduction, text, translation and commentary. By Stephanos Efthymjadis. [Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman MonogrAphs,Volume 4.1 (Brookfield, Vermont: Variorum, Ashgate Publishing Co. 1998. Pp. xvii, 309; 3 plates. $76.95.)

The opening words of this vita of the Patriarch of Constantinople who, even if a little prematurely, dug the grave for Byzantine iconoclasm reveal the genre to which this piece of hagiography belongs:

About to swim across the infinite magnitude of the ocean of virtues of a glorious father who has led an unapproachable life, I fear lest by the adverse winds of my uncultivated tongue I raise a huge wave of obscurity and cause myself a tempest and a storm of psychic drowning. ( 1)

At once one senses the verbal wealth, the assumed humility, and the delight in literary conjuring, which are hallmarks of the subgenre made by such vitae (studied in detail by Dr. Efthymiadis in an earlier Oxford thesis).

Tarasios, a pious lay court official, appointed Patriarch in 784 by the Empress Irene in order to restore the cult of icons, organized the Council (Nicaea 11 of 787) which condemned iconoclasm, and then set about an ambitious programme of writing and church decoration in favor of icons. Earlier he taught his biographer, then in the "acme of youth" the intricacies of Greek verse, "trimetre and tetrametre, trochees and anapaests, and dactylic verse" (69), and Ignatios tells us that he was present at the Patriarch's deathbed (()0) in 806. Less than ten years later, iconoclasm was restored by Leo V, and would be finally interred only in 843.

The present vita, which is just over thirty pages long, probably dates from shortly after that date, when Ignatios was some seventy years old. …

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