Lukhovitskii Lev

The mission of st. Michael the Synkellos and the graptoi brothers in 9th–14th century sources: metaphrastic principles and historical memory of iconoclasm

Lukhovitskii Lev (2013) "The mission of st. Michael the Synkellos and the graptoi brothers in 9th–14th century sources: metaphrastic principles and historical memory of iconoclasm ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia III : Filologiia, 2013, vol. 34, pp. 58-73 (in Russian).


The paper focuses on the common hagiographical dossier of st. Michael the Synkellos and the Graptoi brothers, confessors of the 2nd period of the iconoclast controversy in Byzantium (AD 815–843). The dossier has the following structure: the anonymous 9th century Life of st. Michael, the Metaphrastic Life of the Graptoi Brothers (10th century), the Life of st. Theophanes and Theodore Graptoi by Theodora Raoulaina (ca. 1274–1282), and the Life of st. Michael the Synkellos by Nicephorus Gregoras (1321–1328). The late 9th century Encomium of st. Theodoros by Theophanes of Caesarea is of minor interest since it was not used as a primary source by later hagiographers. While both earlier texts has recently received much scholarly attention, the Palaeologan metaphraseis (i.e. stylistically elevated retellings of earlier Lives) are as a rule neglected by modern scholarship. Nevertheless, if compared with their prototypes, they may contribute to our understanding of the mutual processes of transmission and distortion of historical memory and elucidate the aesthetic demands of the Palaeologan audience. This methodological approach is illustrated by a case-study of an isolated episode (Michael’s and Graptoi’s journey to Rome/Constantinople in early 810s) narrated by each of the four authors. Its complex (if not self-contradictory) structure in the prototype Life didn’t meet the expectations of the Palaeologan literati. Therefore they paraphrased it omitting certain plot-motifs, reducing the number of characters, and adding new features to the protagonist’s psychological portrait, thus both implementing their political agenda and adapting the story to fit the aesthetic demands of their learned audience.


Hagiography, Byzantine literature, Palaeologan period, Symeon Metaphrastes, Nicephorus Gregoras, Theodora Raoulaina, iconoclasm


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Lukhovitskii Lev