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Article

Anekdota de Procope de Cesarée entre histoire et littérature: Basileus vs Démon; Basilissa vs Hetaera

Studia Litterarum. 2018. Т. 3. № 4. С. 106-115.

The article analyzes the reception of the “Secret History” pamphlet written by Procopius of Caesarea, a 7th century AD Byzantine historian, author of well-known panegyric texts about the Basileus Justinian. The manuscript of this pamphlet was found by an hellenophile Niccolo Alemanni and published in 1623 in Lyon as “Anekdota” (this literary work was first mentioned under this Greek title, meaning “unedited notes,” in “Suda,” a 10th century AD Greek encyclopedic lexicon).  17th century French historians and writers perceived “Secret History” as a unique attempt to see behind the curtain of byzantine history and to learn the true causes of great events. Antoine de Varillas, a famous historian, tried to create a “secret history” based on the history of the Medici Florence. The article argues that in the 17th century, the meaning and pragmatics of this work by Procopius were understood in an incorrect way: the text of “Secret History” could have been created as an exercise in rhetoric, in which Procopius was showing his abilities not only as a writer of panegyrics but also as a master of “inverted” praise. To support this hypothesis, the article provides examples related to the descriptions of Justinian as a demon, tracing their origin to the characters from “The Testament of Solomon”, as well as pornographic scenes dealing with the basilissa’s follies that resemble rhetorically hypertrophied exempla from the oratory skills manuals (progymnasmata) by Hermogenes of Tarsus.