Theophanes the Confessor

Saint Theophanes the Confessor (Greek: Θεοφάνης Ὁμολογητής; c. 758/760 – March 12, 817/818) was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He served in the court of Emperor Leo IV the Khazar before taking up the religious life. Theophanes attended the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 and resisted the iconoclasm of Leo V the Armenian, for which he was imprisoned. He died shortly after his release.

Theophanes is venerated on March 12 in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. (He should not be confused with Theophanes of Nicaea, whose is commemorated on October 11.)

Saint Theophanes
Image Theopanes nicea
Bornc. 758–760
Died12 March 817 (aged 57–59)
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church; Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast12 March (Catholic Church); 12 March (Julian Calendar for Orthodox Church)


Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac, imperial governor of the islands of the Black Sea, and Theodora, of whose family nothing is known.[1] His father died when Theophanes was three years old, and the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V (740–775) subsequently saw to the boy's education and upbringing at the imperial court. Theophanes would hold several offices under Leo IV the Khazar.[2]

He was married at the age of twelve, but convinced his wife to lead a life of virginity. In 799, after the death of his father-in-law, they separated with mutual consent to embrace the religious life. She chose a convent on an island near Constantinople, while he entered the Polychronius Monastery, located in the district of Sigiane (Sigriano), near Cyzicus on the Asian side of the Sea of Marmara.[1] Later, he built a monastery on his own lands on the island of Calonymus (now Calomio), where he acquired a high degree of skill in transcribing manuscripts.

After six years he returned to Sigriano, where he founded an abbey known by the name "of the big settlement" and governed it as abbot. In this position of leadership, he was present at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787, and signed its decrees in defense of the veneration of icons.[1]

When Emperor Leo V the Armenian (813–820) resumed his iconoclastic warfare, he ordered Theophanes brought to Constantinople. The Emperor tried in vain to induce him to condemn the same veneration of icons that had been sanctioned by the council. Theophanes was cast into prison and for two years suffered cruel treatment. After his release, he was banished to Samothrace in 817, where overwhelmed with afflictions, he lived only seventeen days. He is credited with many miracles that occurred after his death,[1] which most likely took place on 12 March, the day he is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology.[1]


At the urgent request of his friend George Syncellus, Theophanes undertook the continuation of Syncellus' Chronicle (Χρονογραφία, Kronografia), during the years 810 to 815.[3] The language used occupies a place midway between the stiff ecclesiastical and the vernacular Greek.[4]He arguably made use of three main sources: first, material already prepared by Syncellus; second, he probably made the use of a set of extracts made by Theodore Lector from the works of Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomenus, and Theodoret; and third, the city chronicle of Constantinople.[1] Cyril Mango has argued that Theophanes contributed but little to the chronicle that bears his name, and that the vast bulk of its contents are the work of Syncellus; on this model, Theophanes' main contribution was to cast Syncellus' rough materials together in a unified form.

Theophanes' part of the chronicle covered events from the accession of Diocletian in 284 (which is the point where the chronicle of George Syncellus ends) to the downfall of Michael I Rhangabes in 813. This part of the chronicle is valuable for having preserved the accounts of lost authorities on Byzantine history for the seventh and eighth centuries that would be otherwise have been lost.[5]

The work consists of two parts, wherein the first provides a chronological history arranged per annum, and the second contains chronological tables that are regrettably full of inaccuracies. It seems that Theophanes had only prepared the tables, leaving vacant spaces for the proper dates, but that these had been filled out by someone else (Hugo von Hurter, Nomenlator literarius recentioris I, Innsbruck, 1903, 735). In the chronological first part, in addition to reckoning by the years of the world and the Christian era, Theophanes introduces in tabular form the regnal years of the Roman emperors, of the Persian kings and Arab caliphs, and of the five ecumenical patriarchs, a system which leads to considerable confusion,[4] and therefore of little value.

The first part, though lacking in critical insight and chronological accuracy, greatly surpasses the majority of Byzantine chronicles.[6] Theophanes's Chronicle is particularly valuable beginning with the reign of Justin II (565), as in his work, he then drew upon sources that have not survived his times[7]

Theophanes' Chronicle was much used by succeeding chroniclers, and in 873–875 a Latin compilation was made[8] by the papal librarian Anastasius from the chronicles of Nicephorus, George Syncellus, and Theophanes for the use of a deacon named Johannes in the second half of the ninth century and thus was known to Western Europe.[1]

There also survives a further continuation, in six books, of the Chronicle down to the year 961 written by a number of mostly anonymous writers (called Theophanes Continuatus or Scriptores post Theophanem), who undertook the work at the instructions of Constantine Porphyrogenitus.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Mershman 1912.
  2. ^ "Venerable Theophanes the Confessor of Sigriane", Pravoslavie
  3. ^ Mershman 1912 citing P.G., CVIII, 55
  4. ^ a b Chisholm 1911.
  5. ^ "Venerable Theophanes the Confessor of Sigriane", Orthodox Church in America
  6. ^ Mershman 1912 citing Krumbacher 1897, p. 342.
  7. ^ Mershman 1912 citing Traianus Patricius, Theophilus of Edessa.
  8. ^ Mershman 1912 notes that it was published in vol. ii. of De Boor's edition.


  • Krumbacher, C. (1897). Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainMershman, Francis (1912). "St. Theophanes" . In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 14. New York: Robert Appleton.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Theophanes" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Endnotes:
    • Editions of the Chronicle:
      • Editio princeps, Jacques Goar (Paris, 1655)
      • J. P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, cviii (vol.108, col.55-1009).
      • J. Classen in Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byzantinae (1839–1841);
      • C. de Boor (1883–85), with an exhaustive treatise on the MS. and an elaborate index, [and an edition of the Latin version by Anastasius Bibliothecarius]
    • see also the monograph by Jules Pargoire, Saint Theophane le Chronographe et ses rapports avec saint Theodore studite," in VizVrem, ix. (St Petersburg, 1902).
    • Editions of the Continuation in
      • J. P. Migne, Pair. Gr., cix.
      • I. Bekker, Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Hist. Byz. (1838)
    • On both works and Theophanes generally, see:
      • C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litleratur (1897);
      • Ein Dithyrambus auf Theophanes Confessor (a panegyric on Theophanes by a certain proto-asecretis, or chief secretary, under Constantine Porphyrogenitus), Eine neue Vita des Theophanes Confessor (anonymous), both edited by the same writer in Sitzungsbertchte der philos.-philol. und der hist. CI. der k. bayer. Akad. der Wissenschaften (1896, pp. 583– 625; and 1897, pp. 371–399);
      • Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (ed. Bury), v. p. 500.

Further reading

  • Mango, Cyril (1978). "Who Wrote the Chronicle of Theophanes?". Zborknik Radova Vizantinoškog Instituta. 18: 9–18. — republished in id., Byzantium and its Image, London 1984.
  • Combefis. Venice. 1729. — An editions of the Chronicle with annotations and corrections.
  • The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284–813. Translated by Mango, Cyril; Scott, Roger. Oxford. 1997. — a translations of the Chronicle

External links

557 Constantinople earthquake

The 557 Constantinople earthquake took place on the night of December 14. This earthquake, described in the works of Agathias, John Malalas, and Theophanes the Confessor, caused great damage to Constantinople, then capital of the Byzantine Empire in a region frequently afflicted with earthquakes. More minor quakes had preceded the large event, including two in April and October respectively. The main quake in December was of unparalleled ferocity, and "almost completely razed" the city. It caused damage to the Hagia Sophia which contributed to the collapse of its dome the next year, as well as damaging the walls of Constantinople to the extent that Hun invaders were able to penetrate it with ease the following season.


Ascum (Greek: Ασκούμ) was a general of the Byzantine Empire, active early in the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565). He was in command of the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum. His name is reported by John Malalas. Both Theophanes the Confessor and George Kedrenos render his name "Ακούμ" (Acum).


Baduarius was an East Roman (Byzantine) aristocrat, the son-in-law of Byzantine emperor Justin II (r. 565–578). Theophanes the Confessor erroneously calls him a brother.


Constantiolus (Greek: Κωνσταντίολος) was a general of the Byzantine Empire, active early in the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565). He succeeded Justin in command of Moesia Secunda. A passage of Theophanes the Confessor incorrectly identifies him as "Constantinus" (Constantine).

Cosmas I of Alexandria

Cosmas I or Kosmas I (Greek: Κοσμάς Α′) served as Greek Patriarch of Alexandria between ca. 727 and his death in 768.

Cosmas was the first residential Chalcedonian (Melkite) patriarch to be established in Alexandria following the Muslim conquest of Egypt in the 640s. The see had remained vacant since, but Cosmas was appointed with the consent of both the Umayyad Caliph and the Byzantine Emperor. The chronicler Theophanes the Confessor reports that in 742/3, he abjured Monotheletism, the dominant doctrine among Alexandrian Melkites since it had been promulgated by Emperor Heraclius. As Cosmas himself was most likely not a Monothelete, this has been interpreted by modern scholarship as a garbled reference to Alexandria's recognition by the other Chalcedonian patriarchates.

Fabia Eudokia

Eudokia or Eudocia (c. 580 – 13 August 612), originally named Fabia, was a Byzantine woman who became the first empress-consort of Heraclius from 610 to her death in 612. She was a daughter of Rogas, a landowner in the Exarchate of Africa, according to Theophanes the Confessor.

George Kedrenos

George Kedrenos or Cedrenus (Greek: Γεώργιος Κεδρηνός, fl. 11th century) was a Byzantine historian. In the 1050s he compiled Synopsis historion (also known as A concise history of the world), which spanned the time from the biblical account of creation to his own day. Kedrenos is one of the few sources that discuss Khazar polities in existence after the sack of Atil in 969 (see Georgius Tzul).

Material in Synopsis historion mostly comes from the works by Pseudo-Symeon Magistros(de) (a version of Logothete's chronicle(de)), George Syncellus, Theophanes the Confessor, and, starting from 811, almost exclusively and word-for-word from the chronicle by John Skylitzes.One late manuscript of Synopsis historion preserves a poem (anonymous but thought to be by Kedrenos) that derives his family name from the place where he was born, a small village of Cedrus (or Cedrea) in the Anatolic Theme. The poem also identifies him as a proedrus, a senior court official.Before becoming a proedros, Kedrenos may have held the somewhat lower rank of vestarches. Vestarches Georgios Kedrenos is in fact known from a number of 11th–12th-century seals found mostly in the Danube region, but also in Crimea. Furthermore, several roughly contemporary seals refer to another court official, a certain "John Cedrenus, protocuropalates and duke" who may have been a relative, perhaps, a brother or a cousin.

Joseph Genesius

Genesius (Greek: Γενέσιος, Genesios) is the conventional name given to the anonymous Byzantine author of Armenian origin of the tenth century chronicle, On the reign of the emperors. His first name is sometimes given as Joseph, combining him with a "Joseph Genesius" quoted in the preamble to John Skylitzes. Traditionally, he has been regarded as the son or grandson of Constantine Maniakes.

Composed at the court of Constantine VII, the chronicle opens in 814, covers the Second Iconoclast period and ends in 886. It presents the events largely from the view of the Macedonian dynasty, though with a skew less marked than the authors of Theophanes Continuatus, a collection of mostly anonymous chronicles meant to continue the work of Theophanes the Confessor.

The chronicle describes the reigns of the four emperors from Leo V down to Michael III in detail; and more briefly that of Basil I. It uses Constantine VII's Life of Basil as a source, though it appears to have been finished before Theophanes Continuatus, and gives information present in neither Continuatus nor Skylitzes.

Justin (Moesia)

Justin (Latin: Iustinus; Greek: Ἰουστίνος; died 528) was a general of the Byzantine Empire, active early in the reign of Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565) as commander of the Danubian limes in Moesia Secunda.Justin is mentioned in 528 as "stratelates of Moesia". He probably held the title of dux Moesiae Secundae and the rank of magister militum. He joined forces with Baduarius, dux of Scythia Minor, in battle against a force of foreign invaders, who John Malalas identifies as "Huns", while Theophanes the Confessor identifies as Bulgars. Justin was killed in that battle and was succeeded in his post by Constantiolus.


Marcianopolis or Marcianople (Greek: Μαρκιανούπολις) was an ancient Greek, then Roman city in Moesia Inferior. It is located at the site of modern-day Devnya, Bulgaria.


The paradynasteuōn (Greek: παραδυναστεύων, "the one who rules beside") was a term used, especially in the Byzantine Empire, to designate a ruler's favorite, often raised to the position of chief minister. Probably deriving from Thucydides, it was used in the later Roman Empire for people with great authority. It was not an official title or position, but the term was extensively used by chroniclers such as Theophanes the Confessor or Theophanes Continuatus to designate an emperor's closest aide and chief minister. It gained greater currency during the Komnenian period and continued to be used by historians of the Palaiologan period, although the more technical term of mesazōn ("mediator"), which eventually came to correspond to an actual office, had largely replaced it.


Pseudo-Simeon or Pseudo-Symeon is the title given to the anonymous author of a late 10th-century Byzantine chronicle which survives in the Codex Parisinus graecus 1712. It describes world history from the Biblical creation of the world to the year 963. For the years up to 812, the author uses Theophanes the Confessor and George Hamartolos as his sources. For later years, he uses parts of an anonymous chronicle of Leo the Armenian and Joseph Genesius. George Kedrenos used it as the model for his own chronicle up to the year 812.

Scriptor Incertus

The Scriptor Incertus de Leone Armenio ("Unknown writer on Leo the Armenian") is the Latin title given to an anonymous 9th-century Byzantine historical work, of which only two fragments survive.

The first fragment, preserved in the 13th-century Vat. gr. 2014 manuscript (interposed into descriptions of the Avaro-Persian siege of Constantinople and the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople, as well as hagiographical texts) in the Vatican Library, deals with the 811 campaign of Emperor Nikephoros I (r. 802–811) against the Bulgars, which ended in the disastrous Battle of Pliska. Discovered and published in 1936 by I. Dujčev, it is also known as the Chronicle of 811, or the Dujčev Fragment.The second, which is preserved in the early 11th-century B.N. gr. 1711 manuscript in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris along with the chronicle of the so-called "Leo Grammaticus", deals with the reigns of Michael I Rhangabe (r. 811–813) and Leo V the Armenian (r. 813–820) that followed after Nikephoros I. The date of authorship is disputed, but the vividness of the narrative suggests that it was written by a contemporary of the events described.The two fragments were identified as forming part of the same work by Henri Grégoire based on similarities in style. Although generally an unreliable indicator, this hypothesis has since been commonly accepted. Both fragments provide information not included in the contemporary histories of Theophanes the Confessor and Theophanes Continuatus, and Grégoire hypothesized, again based on style, that the Scriptor Incertus was a continuation of the work of the 6th-century historian John Malalas. The second fragment was known to, and used by, the late 10th-century Pseudo-Symeon Magister, but he does not appear to have used it for the sections of his history before Michael I.

Theophanes Continuatus

Theophanes Continuatus (Greek: συνεχισταί Θεοφάνους) or Scriptores post Theophanem (Οἱ μετὰ Θεοφάνην, "those after Theophanes") is the Latin name commonly applied to a collection of historical writings preserved in the 11th-century Vat. gr. 167 manuscript. Its name derives from its role as the continuation, covering the years 813–961, of the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor, which reaches from 285 to 813. The manuscript consists of four distinct works, in style and form very unlike the annalistic approach of Theophanes.The first work, of four books consists of a series of biographies of the emperors reigning from 813 to 867 (from Leo the Armenian to Michael III). As they were commissioned by Emperor Constantine VII (r. 913–959), they reflect the point of view of the reigning Macedonian dynasty. The unknown author probably used the same sources as Genesios. The second work is known as the Vita Basilii (Latin for "Life of Basil"), a biography of Basil I the Macedonian (r. 867–886) written by his grandson Constantine VII probably around 950. The work is essentially a panegyric, praising Basil and his reign while vilifying his predecessor, Michael III. The third work is a history of the years 886–948, in form and content very close to the history of Symeon Logothetes, and the final section continues it until 961. It was probably written by Theodore Daphnopates, shortly before 963.

Theophano of Athens

Theophano (Greek: Θεοφανώ; dead after 811) was the Empress consort of Staurakios of the Byzantine Empire. According to the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor, Theophano was a relative of Irene (reigned 797–802). Both women were from Athens but the nature of their relation to each other is not known.


Tornadotus (Greek: Τορναδότη) or Tornadatus or Physcon is a small river of Assyria (now in Iraq) that falls into the Tigris at Opis.

Pliny the Elder uses the name Tornadotus, but it is probably the same stream as that noticed by Xenophon under the name of the Physcus or Physcon. Writing in the early 9th century, Theophanes the Confessor calls the river the Torna in his Chronicle. Authors in the 19th century identified it with the modern Odorneh.

Trajan the Patrician

Trajan the Patrician (Greek: Τραϊανός Πατρίκιος, Traianos Patrikios; Latin: Traianus Patricius) was a Byzantine historian.

According to the 10th-century Suda lexicon, a patrician Trajan flourished under emperor Justinian II (r. 685–695, 705–711). Trajan wrote a chronicle, which was "very admirable" (Suda T 901). The Suda describes him as "a most faithful Christian and most Orthodox". The chronicle is commonly believed to have covered the period from the late 7th century (likely 668) to ca. 713 or 720, and was probably used by Theophanes the Confessor and Patriarch Nikephoros I of Constantinople as a common source for their own chronicles.


The vestitor, Hellenized as vestētōr (Greek: βεστήτωρ) was a lowly Byzantine palace position and rank.

As their name suggests, the vestitores were originally officials of the imperial wardrobe (Latin: vestiarium, adopted into Greek as vestiarion), and are first attested as such in the 6th century. By the 9th century, the title had also become an honorary dignity (δια βραβείου άξια, dia brabeiou axia) intended for "bearded men" (i.e. non-eunuchs), marked in the Klētorologion of 899 as the third-lowest of the imperial hierarchy, coming between the silentiarios and the mandatōr (both also classes of palace officials). Its distinctive insignia was a fiblatorium, a cloak fastened by a fibula brooch.According to the Klētorologion, together with the silentiarioi, the vestētores were under the command of the court official known as the epi tēs katastaseōs. The later De Ceremoniis of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (r. 913–959) indicates that they assisted the praipositos in dressing the Byzantine emperor, while the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor calls them wardens of the imperial crown. From sigillographic evidence, in the 9th century the rank was held by senior provincial officials, i.e. prōtonotarioi (heads of the civil administration) and kommerkiarioi (customs officials) of the themes. The term last occurs in the 10th century.

Vita Mahumeti

A number of Latin works on the Life of Muhammad (Vita Mahumeti, Vita Machometi, etc.) were written during the 11th to 13th centuries.

They are ultimately based on the tradition of the Chronographia of Theophanes the Confessor (d. 818), translated into Latin in the 9th century by Anastasius Bibliothecarius, which contained a chapter on the life of Muhammad. The earliest original Latin composition is Eulogius of Córdoba (c. 857).While Latin biographies of Muhammad in the 11th to 12th century are still in the genre of anti-hagiography, depicting Muhammad as an heresiarch, the tradition develops into the genre of picaresque novel, with Muhammad in the role of the trickster figure, in the 13th century.

The Vita Mahumeti by Embrico of Mainz (Embricho Moguntinus) is an early example of the genre. The text is in rhyming leonine hexameters, extending to 1,148 lines.

It was modelled on the verse hagiography of contemporaries such as Hildebert of Le Mans. It was most likely written between 1072 and 1090. The author of the Vita has been identified with the future provost of Mainz Cathedral, Embricho II by Rotter (1994).

Embrico's text is roughly contemporary with the Dei gesta per Francos by Guibert of Nogent. Both texts are the tradition of the biography the Chronographia of Theophanes, including the account of Muhammad's epilepsy and his body being eaten by pigs after his death.A 12th-century versions include Otia Machometi by Gautier de Compiègne (c. 1155)

and Vita Machometi by Adelphus-

13th-century works of the romance type, written in Old French, include The Romance of Muhammad (1258) and The Book of Muhammad's Ladder (1264).

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