Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople
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Photios I or Photius I (in Greek: Φώτιος, Phōtios), (Constantinople c. 820 – February 6, 893, Bordi, Armenia), Patriarch of Constantinople from 858 to 867 and from 877 to 886. Photios is widely regarded as the most powerful and influential patriarch of Constantinople since John Chrysostom. He was later recognized as a Saint by the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Little is known of his origin or family, but Photios was a relative of the Patriarchs Tarasios and John VII Grammatikos. Byzantine writers report that Emperor Leo VI once angrily called Photios "Khazar-faced", but whether this was a generic insult or a reference to his ethnicity is unclear.
As soon as he had completed his own education, Photios began to teach grammar, rhetoric, divinity and philosophy. The way to public life was probably opened for him by (according to one account) the marriage of his brother Sergios to the Irene, a sister of the Empress Theodora, who upon the death of her husband Theophilos in 842, had assumed the regency of the empire. Photios became a captain of the guard and subsequently chief imperial secretary (prōtasēkrētis). At an uncertain date, Photios participated in an embassy to the Arabs.
The dissension between the patriarch Ignatios and the Caesar Bardas, the uncle of the youthful Emperor Michael III, concerning Bardas' relationship with his daughter-in-law, brought promotion to Photios. Ignatios was arrested and imprisoned in 858, and upon refusing to resign his office was deposed, while Photios was inducted into the priesthood within six days, and was installed as patriarch in his place.
Ignatios continued to refuse abdication, and his supporters appealed to Pope Nicholas I when Photios began to alter his predecessor's policies. When in 863 Nicholas anathematized and deposed Photios, the latter replied with a counter-excommunication. The situation was additionally complicated by the question of papal authority over the entire Church and by disputed jurisdiction over newly-converted Bulgaria.
This state of affairs changed with the murder of Photios' patron Bardas in 866 and of the emperor Michael in 867, by his colleague Basil the Macedonian, who now usurped the throne. Photios was deposed as patriarch, not so much because he was a protegé of Bardas and Michael, but because Basil I was seeking an alliance with the Pope and the western emperor. Photios was removed from his office and banished about the end of September 867, and Ignatios was reinstated on November 23. During his second patriarchate, Ignatios followed a policy not very different from that of Photios. This perhaps helped improve relations between the two, and in c. 876 Photios was suddenly recalled to Constantinople and entrusted with the education of the emperor's children. On the death of Ignatios in October 877, Photios, after the requisite show of reluctance, was restored to the patriarchal throne.
Photios now obtained the formal recognition of the Christian world in a council convened at Constantinople in November 879. The legates of Pope John VIII attended, prepared to acknowledge Photios as legitimate patriarch, a concession for which the pope was much censured by Latin opinion. The patriarch stood firm on the main points contested between the Eastern and Western Churches, the demanded apology to the Pope, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Bulgaria, and the introduction of the filioque clause into the creed. Eventually Photios refused to apologize or accept the filioque, and the papal legates made do with his return of Bulgaria to Rome. This concession, however, was purely nominal, as Bulgaria's return to the Byzantine rite in 870 had already secured for it an autocephalous church. Without the consent of Boris I of Bulgaria, the papacy was unable to enforce its claims.
During the altercations between Basil I and his heir Leo VI, Photios took the side of the emperor. Consequently, when Basil died in 886 and Leo became senior emperor, Photios was dismissed and banished, although he had been Leo's tutor. Photios' was sent into exile to the monastery of Bordi in Armenia. From this time Photios disappears from history. No letters of this period of his life are extant. The precise date of his death is not known, but it is said to have occurred on February 6, 893.
For Eastern Orthodox, Photios was long the standard-bearer of their church in its disagreements with the pope of Rome; to Catholics, he was a proud and ambitious schismatic: the relevant work of scholars over the past generation has somewhat modified partisan judgements. All agree on the virtue of his personal life and his remarkable talents, even genius, and the wide range of his intellectual aptitudes. Pope Nicholas himself referred to his "great virtues and universal knowledge." It may be noted, however, that some anti-papal writings attibuted to Photios were apparently composed by other writers about the time of the East-West Schism of 1054 and attributed to Photios as the champion of the independence of the Eastern Church.
The Eastern Catholic and the Orthodox Churches venerate Photios as a saint; his feast day is February 6.
The most important of the works of Photios is his renowned Bibliotheca or Myriobiblon, a collection of extracts and abridgments of 280 volumes of classical authors (usually cited as Codices), the originals of which are now to a great extent lost. The work is specially rich in extracts from historical writers.
To Photios we are indebted for almost all we possess of Ctesias, Memnon, Conon, the lost books of Diodorus Siculus, and the lost writings of Arrian. Theology and ecclesiastical history are also very fully represented, but poetry and ancient philosophy are almost entirely ignored. It seems that he did not think it necessary to deal with those authors with whom every well-educated man would naturally be familiar. The literary criticisms, generally distinguished by keen and independent judgment, and the excerpts vary considerably in length. The numerous biographical notes are probably taken from the work of Hesychius of Miletus.
The Lexicon, published later than the Bibliotheca, was probably in the main the work of some of his pupils. It was intended as a book of reference to facilitate the reading of old classical and sacred authors, whose language and vocabulary were out of date. The only manuscript of the Lexicon is the Codex Galeanus, which passed into the library of Trinity College, Cambridge.
His most important theological work is the Amphilochia, a collection of some 300 questions and answers on difficult points in Scripture, addressed to Amphilochius, archbishop of Cyzicus. Other similar works are his treatise in four books against the Manichaeans and Paulicians, and his controversy with the Latins on the Procession of the Holy Spirit. Photios also addressed a long letter of theological advice to the newly-converted Boris I of Bulgaria.
The chief contemporary authority for the life of Photios is his bitter enemy, Niketas David Paphlagon, the biographer of his rival Ignatios.
|Patriarch of Constantinople|
|Patriarch of Constantinople|
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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