Translated by Anthony Kaldellis and Ioannis Polemis
Psellos and the Patriarchs: Letters and Funeral Orations for Keroullarios, Leichoudes, and Xiphilinos contains translations of the funeral orations written by Michael Psellos, the leading Byzantine intellectual of the eleventh century, for the three ecumenical patriarchs of Constantinople whom he knew best: Michael Keroullarios (1043-1058), Konstantinos Leichoudes (1059-1063), and Ioannes Xiphilinos (1064-1075). The orations are significant sources for the lives and reputations of these patriarchs; they are also a prime source for the educational reforms made by the emperor Konstantinos IX Monomachos in the mid-1040s, and for many events of that turbulent century that Psellos witnessed, including popular uprisings, plots, civil wars, and the battle with the Catholic legates in 1054. Never before translated into English, the orations and letters are introduced by a detailed analysis of Psellos’ historical relationships with the patriarchs and an interpretation of the works.
The orations are not only important historical sources: they are crucial specimens of Byzantine rhetoric in a period of transition, as well as being key texts in the corpus of Psellos himself. Psellos used them to score important points in support of his own philosophical agenda and to make broader claims about ethics and metaphysics and the role of learning in political and ecclesiastical life. The orations are here accompanied by translations of a long letter that Psellos wrote to Keroullarios and a pair of letters to Xiphilinos, in which he defended key aspects of his philosophical project.
“This volume of translations, by two of the best contemporary experts on Psellos and his times, is an important addition to a growing body of scholarship on Byzantium in the eleventh century. Because of the four personalities involved, Psellos and the Patriarchs is an extremely valuable source for historians; it provides a wealth of material on such topics as the secular and ecclesiastical careers of leading intellectuals; relations between patriarch and emperor; the functioning of rhetoric at the highest levels in society; and not least, the personality, character, and literary prowess of Psellos himself.” — John Duffy, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine Philology and Literature, Emeritus, Harvard University
“Learning, philosophy, complex theology, the call of monasticism, high politics, and deep intrigue make up the world of eleventh-century Byzantium. Michael Psellos belonged to this world and wrote about it in an engaging and gossipy way. His funeral orations on three patriarchs of Constantinople, together with some of his letters, shed much light on the detail of this period. The translators, who, by editing these works, rescued them from oblivion, have put the world of scholarship deeply in their debt.” — Andrew Louth, emeritus, Durham University
“Psellos and the Patriarchs offers readers interested in Byzantine history and literature a series of relatively neglected but very important medieval Greek texts in English translation with introduction and brief commentary. Written by the eleventh-century ingenious author Michael Psellos (arguably among the most representative Byzantine rhetors), these texts focus on the lives, networks, and careers of three patriarchs of Constantinople who played a central role in the vibrant political and intellectual life of the capital of the Byzantine empire—in this period, a leading urban center of the eastern Mediterranean world." — Stratis Papaioannou, Brown University
“In Byzantine history, the eleventh century is traumatic and chaotic, innovative and creative. The most perspicacious observer of this destructive and formative period was Michael Psellos, and this collection of some of Psellos’ work related to contemporary patriarchs of Constantinople deepens our picture of a crucial period. The commentary provides relevant context, while the translations render Psellos’ Greek beautifully without sacrificing accuracy. It’s a topos worthy of Byzantine literature, but none the less true: this volume is a must for anyone interested in the history of Byzantium.” — Tia M. Kolbaba, Rutgers University
“There are two kinds of Byzantinists: those who find Psellos difficult, and those who lie about it. Both types will rejoice at the publication of Kaldellis and Polemis’s volume of annotated translations, including the funeral orations … An introductory essay and brief biography of Psellos by Kaldellis provide helpful guidance. … these translations let Psellos’s artistry shine.” — Speculum