Procopius

Procopius

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Procopius of Caesarea (Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

: Procopius Caesarensis, ; c. AD 500 – c. AD 565) was a prominent Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 scholar from Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

. Accompanying the general Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

 in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History. He is commonly held to be the last major historian of the ancient world.

Life


Apart from his own writings, the main source for Procopius' life is an entry in the Suda
Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

, a 10th century Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 encyclopedia that tells nothing about his early life. He was a native of Caesarea in Palaestina Prima
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 (modern Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

). He would have received a conventional élite education in the Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 and then rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

, perhaps at the famous School of Gaza, may have attended law school, possibly at Berytus (modern Beirut
Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

) or Constantinople, and became a rhetor (barrister
Barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

 or advocate
Advocate
An advocate is a term for a professional lawyer used in several different legal systems. These include Scotland, South Africa, India, Scandinavian jurisdictions, Israel, and the British Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man...

). He evidently knew Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, as was natural for a man with legal training. In 527, the first year of Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

's reign, he became the adsessor (legal adviser) for Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

, Justinian's chief military commander who was then beginning a brilliant career.

Procopius was with Belisarius on the eastern front until the latter was defeated at the Battle of Callinicum
Battle of Callinicum
The Battle of Callinicum took place Easter day, 19 April 531, between the armies of the Eastern Roman Empire under Belisarius and the Sassanid Persians under Azarethes. After a defeat at the Battle of Dara, the Sassanids moved to invade Syria in an attempt to turn the tide of the war...

 in AD 531 and recalled to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. Procopius witnessed the Nika riots
Nika riots
The Nika riots , or Nika revolt, took place over the course of a week in Constantinople in AD 532. It was the most violent riot that Constantinople had ever seen to that point, with nearly half the city being burned or destroyed and tens of thousands of people killed.-Background:The ancient Roman...

 of January, 532, which Belisarius and his fellow general Mundo repressed with a massacre in the Hippodrome
Hippodrome of Constantinople
The Hippodrome of Constantinople was a circus that was the sporting and social centre of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Today it is a square named Sultanahmet Meydanı in the Turkish city of Istanbul, with only a few fragments of the original structure surviving...

. In 533, he accompanied Belisarius on his victorious expedition against the Vandal
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 kingdom in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, took part in the capture of Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

, and remained in Africa with Belisarius' successor Solomon the Eunuch when Belisarius returned to Constantinople. Procopius recorded a few of the extreme weather events of 535-536, although these were presented as a backdrop to Byzantine military activities, such as a mutiny
Mutiny
Mutiny is a conspiracy among members of a group of similarly situated individuals to openly oppose, change or overthrow an authority to which they are subject...

, in and near Carthage. He rejoined Belisarius for his campaign against the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and experienced the Gothic siege of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 that lasted a year and nine days, ending in mid-March, 538. He witnessed Belisarius' entry into the Gothic capital, Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

, in 540. Book Eight of The Wars of Justinian, and the Secret History, suggest that his relationship with Belisarius seems to have cooled thereafter. When Belisarius was sent back to Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 544 to cope with a renewal of the war with the Goths, now led by the able king Totila
Totila
Totila, original name Baduila was King of the Ostrogoths from 541 to 552 AD. A skilled military and political leader, Totila reversed the tide of Gothic War, recovering by 543 almost all the territories in Italy that the Eastern Roman Empire had captured from his Kingdom in 540.A relative of...

, Procopius appears to have no longer been on Belisarius' staff.

It is not known when Procopius himself died, and many historians (James Howard-Johnson, Averil Cameron
Averil Cameron
Dame Averil Millicent Cameron, DBE, FBA is Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History in the University of Oxford, and was formerly the Warden of Keble College, Oxford between 1994 and 2010....

, Geoffrey Greatrex) date his death to 554, but in 562 there was an urban prefect
Prefect
Prefect is a magisterial title of varying definition....

 of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 who happened to be called Procopius. In that year, Belisarius was implicated in a conspiracy and was brought before this urban prefect.

Writings


The writings of Procopius are the primary source of information for the rule of the Roman emperor Justinian
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

. Procopius was the author of a history in eight books of the wars fought by Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

, a panegyric
Panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

 on Justinian's public works
Public works
Public works are a broad category of projects, financed and constructed by the government, for recreational, employment, and health and safety uses in the greater community...

 throughout the empire, and a book known as the Secret History
Secret history
A secret history is a revisionist interpretation of either fictional or real history which is claimed to have been deliberately suppressed, forgotten, or ignored by established scholars.-Secret histories of the real world:...

(Greek: Anekdota) that claims to report the scandals that Procopius could not include in his published history.

The Wars of Justinian


Procopius' Wars of Justinian is clearly his most important work, although it is not as well-known as the Secret History. The first seven books, which may have been published as a unit, seem to have been largely completed by 545, but were updated to mid-century before publication, for the latest event mentioned belongs to early 551. The first two books (often known as the Persian War, Latin De Bello Persico) deal with the conflict between the Romans and Sassanid Persia in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, Lazica and Caucasian Iberia
Caucasian Iberia
Iberia , also known as Iveria , was a name given by the ancient Greeks and Romans to the ancient Georgian kingdom of Kartli , corresponding roughly to the eastern and southern parts of the present day Georgia...

 (roughly modern-day Georgia). It details the campaigns of the Sasanian Shah Kavadh I
Kavadh I
Kavad or Kavadh I was the son of Peroz I and the nineteenth Sassanid king of Persia, reigning from 488 to 531...

, the 'Nika' revolt
Nika riots
The Nika riots , or Nika revolt, took place over the course of a week in Constantinople in AD 532. It was the most violent riot that Constantinople had ever seen to that point, with nearly half the city being burned or destroyed and tens of thousands of people killed.-Background:The ancient Roman...

 in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 in 532, the war by Kavadh's successor, Khosrau I
Khosrau I
Khosrau I , also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just Khosrau I (also called Chosroes I in classical sources, most commonly known in Persian as Anushirvan or Anushirwan, Persian: انوشيروان meaning the immortal soul), also known as Anushiravan the Just or Anushirawan the Just...

, in 540 and his destruction of Antioch and the transportation of its inhabitants to Mesopotamia, and the great plague
Plague of Justinian
The Plague of Justinian was a pandemic that afflicted the Eastern Roman Empire , including its capital Constantinople, in 541–542 AD. It was one of the greatest plagues in history. The most commonly accepted cause of the pandemic is bubonic plague, which later became infamous for either causing or...

 that devastated Constantinople in 542. They also cover the early career of the Roman general Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

, Procopius' patron, in some detail. The next two books, the Vandal War (Latin De Bello Vandalico), cover Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

' successful campaign
Vandalic War
The Vandalic War was a war fought in North Africa, in the areas of modern Tunisia and eastern Algeria, in 533-534, between the forces of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Vandal Kingdom of Carthage...

 against the Vandal
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 kingdom in Roman Africa
Africa Province
The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, and the small Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor...

. The remaining books cover the Gothic War (Latin De Bello Gothico), the campaigns by Belisarius
Belisarius
Flavius Belisarius was a general of the Byzantine Empire. He was instrumental to Emperor Justinian's ambitious project of reconquering much of the Mediterranean territory of the former Western Roman Empire, which had been lost less than a century previously....

 and others to recapture Italy, then under the rule of the Ostrogoths. This includes accounts of the sieges of Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 and Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

.

Later, Procopius added an eighth book (Wars VIII or Gothic War IV), which brings the history to 552/553, when a Roman army led by the eunuch Narses
Narses
Narses was, with Belisarius, one of the great generals in the service of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I during the "Reconquest" that took place during Justinian's reign....

 finally destroyed the Ostrogothic kingdom
Ostrogothic Kingdom
The Kingdom established by the Ostrogoths in Italy and neighbouring areas lasted from 493 to 553. In Italy the Ostrogoths replaced Odoacer, the de facto ruler of Italy who had deposed the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire in 476. The Gothic kingdom reached its zenith under the rule of its...

. This eighth book covers campaigns both in Italy and on the Eastern frontier.

The Wars of Justinian was influential on later Byzantine history-writing. A continuation of Procopius' work was written after Procopius' death by the poet and historian Agathias of Myrina
Agathias
Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

.

Secret History


The famous Secret History (Lat. Historia Arcana) was discovered centuries later in the Vatican Library
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

 and published by Niccolò Alamanni
Niccolò Alamanni
Niccolò Alamanni was a Roman antiquarian of Greek origin. He was educated in Rome at the Greek College, founded by Gregory XIII, but was ordained deacon and priest according to the Latin rite....

 in 1623 at Lyon
Lyon
Lyon , is a city in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon is located at from Paris, from Marseille, from Geneva, from Turin, and from Barcelona. The residents of the city are called Lyonnais....

s. Its existence was already known from the Suda
Suda
The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often...

, which referred to it as the Anekdota . The Secret History covers roughly the same years as the first seven books of the History of Justinian's Wars and appears to have been written after they were published. Current consensus generally dates it to 550 or 558, or maybe even as late as 562.

The Secret History reveals an author who had become deeply disillusioned with the emperor Justinian and his wife, Empress Theodora
Theodora (6th century)
Theodora , was empress of the Roman Empire and the wife of Emperor Justinian I. Like her husband, she is a saint in the Orthodox Church, commemorated on November 14...

, as well as Belisarius, his former commander and patron, and Antonina
Antonina (wife of Belisarius)
Antonina was a Byzantine patrikia and wife of the general Belisarius. Her influence of her husband was great. Procopius features her as dominating Belisarius.- Family :...

, Belisarius' wife. The anecdotes claim to expose the secret springs of their public actions, as well as the private lives of the emperor, his wife and their entourage. Justinian is raked over the coals as cruel, venal, prodigal and incompetent; as for Theodora, the reader is treated to the most detailed and titillating portrayals of vulgarity and insatiable lust combined with shrewish and calculating mean-spiritedness.

Among the more titillating (and doubtful) revelations in the Secret History is Procopius' account of Theodora's thespian accomplishments:
Often, even in the theatre, in the sight of all the people, she removed her costume and stood nude in their midst, except for a girdle about the groin: not that she was abashed at revealing that, too, to the audience, but because there was a law against appearing altogether naked on the stage, without at least this much of a fig-leaf. Covered thus with a ribbon, she would sink down to the stage floor and recline on her back. Slaves to whom the duty was entrusted would then scatter grains of barley from above into the calyx of this passion flower, whence geese, trained for the purpose, would next pick the grains one by one with their bills and eat.


Her husband Justinian, meanwhile, was a monster whose head could suddenly vanish, at least according to this passage:
And some of those who have been with Justinian at the palace late at night, men who were pure of spirit, have thought they saw a strange demoniac form taking his place. One man said that the Emperor suddenly rose from his throne and walked about, and indeed he was never wont to remain sitting for long, and immediately Justinian's head vanished, while the rest of his body seemed to ebb and flow; whereat the beholder stood aghast and fearful, wondering if his eyes were deceiving him. But presently he perceived the vanished head filling out and joining the body again as strangely as it had left it.

The Buildings of Justinian



Procopius' Buildings of Justinian is a panegyric
Panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

 on Justinian's building activity in the empire. The first book may date to before the collapse of the first dome of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

 in 557, but some scholars think that it is possible that the work postdates the building of the bridge over the Sangarius
Sangarius Bridge
The Sangarius Bridge or Bridge of Justinian is a late Roman bridge over the river Sakarya in Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey. It was built by the East Roman Emperor Justinian I to improve communications between the capital Constantinople and the eastern provinces of his empire...

 in the late 550s. The Peri ktismaton (or De Aedificiis) tells us nothing further about Belisarius, but it takes a sharply different attitude towards Justinian. He is presented as an idealised Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 emperor who built churches for the glory of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 and defenses for the safety of his subjects and who showed particular concern for the water supply. He built new aqueducts as well as restoring those that had fallen into disuse.

Historians consider Buildings to be an incomplete work, due to evidence of the surviving version being a draft with two possible redactions.

Theodora, who was dead when this panegyric was written, is mentioned only briefly, but Procopius' praise of her beauty is fulsome. The panegyric
Panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

 was likely written at Justinian's behest, however, and it is doubtful that the sentiments expressed are sincere.

Due to the panegyrical nature of the The Buildings, historians have discovered in several occasions discrepancies between claims made by Procopius and other primary sources. A primary example is in Procopius starting the reign of Justinian in 518, which was actually the start of the reign of Justin I
Justin I
Justin I was Byzantine Emperor from 518 to 527. He rose through the ranks of the army and ultimately became its Emperor, in spite of the fact he was illiterate and almost 70 years old at the time of accession...

, Justinian’s predecessor and uncle. This discrepancy can be seen as part of Procopius’ panegyric method, as it allowed him to credit buildings constructed under the rule Justin I as Justinian’s accomplishments. In this context can be mentioned the renovations to the walls of Edessa after a flood in 525, along with several churches in the region, all of which were completed under Justinian's uncle. Similarly, Procopius falsely credits Justinian for the extensive re-fortifications made in the cities of Tomis and Histria
Histria (Sinoe)
Ancient Histria or Istros , was a Greek colony or polis on the Black Sea coast, established by Milesian settlers to trade with the native Getae. It became the first Greek town on the present day Romanian territory. Scymnus of Chios , the Greek geographer and poet, dated it to 630 BC...

 in Scythia Minor
Scythia Minor
Scythia Minor, "Lesser Scythia" was in ancient times the region surrounded by the Danube at the north and west and the Black Sea at the east, corresponding to today's Dobruja, with a part in Romania and a part in Bulgaria....

, along the Danubian frontier, actual accomplishments of Anastasius I
Anastasius I
Anastasius I or Anastasios I may refer to:*Anastasius I , Roman Emperor from 491 to 518*Pope Anastasius I , pope from November 27, 399 to 401...

, predecessor of Justin I.

Context


Procopius belongs to the school of late antique
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 secular historians who continued the traditions of the Second Sophistic
Second Sophistic
The Second Sophistic is a literary-historical term referring to the Greek writers who flourished from the reign of Nero until c. 230 AD and who were catalogued and celebrated by Philostratus in his Lives of the Sophists...

; they wrote in Attic Greek, their models were Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 and especially Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

, and their subject matter was secular history. They avoided vocabulary unknown to Attic Greek and inserted an explanation when they had to use contemporary words. Thus Procopius explains to his readers that ekklesia, meaning a Christian church, is the equivalent of a temple
Temple
A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites. A templum constituted a sacred precinct as defined by a priest, or augur. It has the same root as the word "template," a plan in preparation of the building that was marked out...

 or shrine
Shrine
A shrine is a holy or sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific deity, ancestor, hero, martyr, saint, daemon or similar figure of awe and respect, at which they are venerated or worshipped. Shrines often contain idols, relics, or other such objects associated with the figure being venerated....

 and that monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s are "the most temperate of Christians...whom men are accustomed to call monks." (Wars 2.9.14; 1.7.22) In classical Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, monks had been unknown and an ekklesia was the assembly of Athenian citizens that passed the laws.

The secular historians eschewed the history of the Christian church, which they left to ecclesiastical history—a genre that was founded by Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

. However, Averil Cameron
Averil Cameron
Dame Averil Millicent Cameron, DBE, FBA is Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History in the University of Oxford, and was formerly the Warden of Keble College, Oxford between 1994 and 2010....

 has argued convincingly that Procopius' works reflect the tensions between the classical and Christian models of history in 6th century Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

. This is supported by Mary Whitby's analysis of Procopius’ Book I depiction of Constantinople and the Church of Hagia Sophia in comparison to contemporary pagan panegyrics. Procopius can be seen as depicting Justinian as essentially God’s Vicegerent, making the case for Buildings being a primarily religious panegyric.

Procopius indicated (Secret History 26.18) that he planned to write an ecclesiastical history himself and, if he had, he would probably have followed the rules of that genre. But, as far as we know, the ecclesiastical history remained unwritten.

A number of historical novel
Historical novel
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...

s based on Procopius' works (along with other sources) have been written, one of which, Count Belisarius
Count Belisarius
Count Belisarius is a historical novel by Robert Graves, first published in 1938, recounting the life of the Byzantine general Belisarius ....

, was written by poet and novelist Robert Graves
Robert Graves
Robert von Ranke Graves 24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985 was an English poet, translator and novelist. During his long life he produced more than 140 works...

 in 1938.

Further reading

  • Börm, Henning: Prokop und die Perser. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007.
  • Brodka, Dariusz: Die Geschichtsphilosophie in der spätantiken Historiographie. Studien zu Prokopios von Kaisareia, Agathias von Myrina und Theophylaktos Simokattes. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2004.
  • Cameron, Averil: Procopius and the Sixth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
  • Evans, James A. S.: Procopius. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1972.
  • Greatrex, Geoffrey: The dates of Procopius' works; in: BMGS
    Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies
    Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies or BMGS is a peer reviewed British journal which contains articles that pertain to both Byzantine Studies and Modern Greek studies, i.e. the language, literature, history and archaeology of the post-classical Greek world, from Late Antiquity to the present day,...

     18 (1994), 101-114.
  • Greatrex, Geoffrey: Rome and Persia at War, 502-532. London: Francis Cairns, 1998.
  • Greatrex, Geoffrey: Recent work on Procopius and the composition of Wars VIII; in: BMGS
    Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies
    Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies or BMGS is a peer reviewed British journal which contains articles that pertain to both Byzantine Studies and Modern Greek studies, i.e. the language, literature, history and archaeology of the post-classical Greek world, from Late Antiquity to the present day,...

     27 (2003), 45-67.
  • Howard-Johnston, James: The Education and Expertise of Procopius; in: Antiquité Tardive 10 (2002), 19-30
  • Kaldellis, Anthony: Procopius of Caesarea: Tyranny, History and Philosophy at the End of Antiquity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
  • Martindale, John: The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire III, Cambridge 1992, 1060–1066.
  • Meier, Mischa: Prokop, Agathias, die Pest und das ′Ende′ der antiken Historiographie, in: Historische Zeitschrift
    Historische Zeitschrift
    Historische Zeitschrift, founded in 1859 by Heinrich von Sybel is considered to be the first and for a time the foremost historical journal. The creation of this journal inspired Gabriel Monod to found the French Revue historique in 1876. In 1886 the English Historical Review was founded and in...

    278 (2004), 281–310.
  • Rubin, Berthold: Prokopios, in: RE
    Pauly-Wissowa
    The Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, commonly called the Pauly–Wissowa or simply RE, is a German encyclopedia of classical scholarship. With its supplements it comprises over eighty volumes....

     23/1 (1957), 273–599. Earlier published (with index) as Prokopios von Kaisareia, Stuttgart: Druckenmüller, 1954.
  • Treadgold, Warren: The Early Byzantine Historians, Basingstoke 2007, 176-226.
  • The Secret History of Art by Noah Charney on the Vatican Library and Procopius. An article by art historian Noah Charney
    Noah Charney
    Noah Charney is an American art historian and novelist. He is the author of The Art Thief, a mystery novel about a series of thefts from European museums and churches, and is the founder of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.-Early life and education:Charney was born in New...

     about the Vatican Library and its famous manuscript, Historia Arcana by Procopius
    Procopius
    Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

    .

List of selected works

  • Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia. Edited by J. Haury; revised by G. Wirth. 3 vols. Leipzig: Teubner, 1976-64. Greek text.
  • Procopius. Edited by H. B. Dewing. 7 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press and London, Hutchinson, 1914-40. Greek text and English translation.
  • Procopius, The Secret History, translated by G. A. Williamson
    G. A. Williamson
    Geoffrey Arthur Williamson was an English classicist.He was a graduate of Oxford University and was Senior Classics Master at Norwich School from 1922-1960....

    . Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966. A readable and accessible English translation of the Anecdota. Recently re-issued by Penguin (2007) with an updated and livelier translation by Peter Sarris, who has also provided a new commentary and notes.
  • Prokopios, The Secret History, translated by Anthony Kaldellis. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2010. This edition includes related texts, an introductory essay, notes, maps, a timeline, a guide to the main sources from the period and a guide to scholarship in English. The translator uses blunt and precise English prose in order to adhere to the style of the original text.

Texts of Procopius


  • Complete Works, Greek text (Migne Patrologia Graeca
    Patrologia Graeca
    The Patrologia Graeca is an edited collection of writings by the Christian Church Fathers and various secular writers, in the ancient Koine or medieval variants of the Greek language. It consists of 161 volumes produced in 1857–1866 by J. P. Migne's Imprimerie Catholique...

    ) with analytical indexes
  • The Secret History, English translation (Atwater, 1927) at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook
  • The Secret History, English translation (Dewing, 1935) at LacusCurtius
    LacusCurtius
    LacusCurtius is a website specializing in ancient Rome, currently hosted on a server at the University of Chicago. It went online on August 26, 1997; in January 2008 it had "2786 pages, 690 photos, 675 drawings & engravings, 118 plans, 66 maps." The site is the...

  • The Buildings, English translation (Dewing, 1935) at LacusCurtius
  • The Buildings, Book IV Greek text with commentaries, index nominum, etc. at Sorin Olteanu's LTDM Project
  • Dewing's Loeb edition of the Wars, books 1 and 2 at the Internet Archive
  • Dewing's Loeb edition of the Wars, books 3 and 4 at the Internet Archive
  • Complete Works 1, Greek ed. by K. W. Dindorf
    Karl Wilhelm Dindorf
    Karl Wilhelm Dindorf , German classical scholar, was born at Leipzig....

    , Latin trans. by Claude Maltret
    Claude Maltret
    Claude Maltret was a French Jesuit.Maltret was born at Puy. He entered the Society of Jesus on October 12, 1637. Upon the completion of his studies, he was engaged for eleven years in teaching belles-lettres and rhetoric and became widely known as a classical scholar...

     in Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae Pars II Vol. 1, 1833. (Persian Wars I-II, Vandal Wars I-II)
  • Complete Works 2, Greek ed. by K. W. Dindorf, Latin trans. by Claude Maltret in Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae Pars II Vol. 2, 1833. (Gothic Wars I-IV)
  • Complete Works 3, Greek ed. by K. W. Dindorf, Latin trans. by Claude Maltret in Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae Pars II Vol. 3, 1838. (Secret History, Buildings of Justinan)

Secondary material


This article is based on an earlier version by James Allan Evans, originally posted at Nupedia
Nupedia
Nupedia was an English-language Web-based encyclopedia whose articles were written by experts and licensed as free content. It was founded by Jimmy Wales and underwritten by Bomis, with Larry Sanger as editor-in-chief...

.