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Fictional biographies? Thomas, Manuel and Theophobos, Three Characters of the Second Iconoclasm

Fictional biographies? Thomas, Manuel and Theophobos, Three Characters of the Second Iconoclasm, lecture by Juan Signes (University of Valladolid)

The paper will deal with the biographies of Thomas the Slav, the patrician Manuel the Armenian and the Persian Theophobos, who played a very important role during the reign of Michael II of Amorion (820 - 827) and his son Theophilos (829 - 842, but already since 821 in co-reign with his father). Modern scholars have tended to reject most of the narrative of their lives as preserved in the two main histories of the period, Genesios and the so-called Continuation of Theophanes (both written during the reign of Constantine VII in the middle of the 10th century), for they considered that it was fanciful and rather a literary (sub-)product, and must therefore be neglected in every accurate rendering of the facts. I will try to prove that, contrary to the prevailing opinion, the apparently fictional elements in these biographies must not to be rejected in toto as invention, but provide the clue for a correct understanding of the underlying events. The conclusions will be reached by reference to the original sources in Greek (with English translation) and will have a bearing on the assessment of the historical métier at the time of the Macedonian emperors in Byzantium.

Juan Signes (Valencia 1964) is Professor for Greek at the University of Valladolid (Spain) since 1996. He studied Classical Philology at the University of Salamanca (1982-1987) and Byzantine Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin (1987-1989), and wrote his PhD on Byzantine Historiography at the Complutense Unversity (Madrid) under the Supervision of Prof. Antonio Bravo. He has researched on the Homeric Question, Isocrates and Greek oratory, Byzantine Literature (Procopius, middle Byzantine Historians, Psellos), Byzantine Law (the Eisagoge of Photius), Iconoclasm, Greek Grammatical Tradition, Georgios Gemistos Pletho and Spanish Hellenism during the Renaissance, among other topics. He has stayed as researcher in some of the leading centres in the field of Byzantine Studies (Vienna, Birmingham, Paris, Washington). A book of his on the emperor Theophilos (829-842) is currently in press in Ashgate.


Posted on Mar 26, 2014 in Lectures

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