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Three Political Voices from the Age of Justinian

This one-volume translation, with commentary and introduction brings together three important works. All three texts cast great, if generally neglected light on politics and ideology in early Byzantium. Agapetus wrote, c. 527-30CE, from a position sympathetic to Justinian, when he had still to consolidate his authority. He sets out what an emperor must do to acquire legitimacy, in terms of government's being the imitation of God. Read in context, his work is much more than a list of pious commonplaces. The Dialogue, written anonymously towards the end the same reign, comprises fragments from Books 4-5 of a philosophically sophisticated (lost) longer work, setting out requirements for the ideal polity, based on a similar concept of imperial rule, with extensive comment on matters of current political salience but from an implicitly hostile standpoint. Not only does the text reflect the nature of Neoplatonic political philosophy but it also penetrates with its ideas deep into the inner realities of the time, into the political problems of Constantinople during the first half of the sixth century. The third text was written by Paul the Silentiary to mark the rededication of the basilica Hagia Sophia, built thirty years earlier under the orders of Emperor Justinian I. Together the translations provide an important insight into the early Byzantine period.
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Table of Contents

Preface Abbreviations INTRODUCTION 1. The World of Agapetus, the Dialogue on Political Science and Paul the Silentiary 2. The Authors 3. Dating 4. Agapetus - Advice: His Sources, Methods and Thought 5. The Dialogue on Political Science - Sources, Methods and Thought 6. Paul the Silentiary - Description of Hagia Sophia: Sources, Methods and Thought 7. Texts and Translations AGAPETUS: ADVICE TO THE EMPEROR JUSTINIAN Translation and Notes THE DIALOGUE ON POLITICAL SCIENCE BOOK 4 - MILITARY MATTERS Translation and Notes BOOK 5 - THE IDEAL STATE 1. Translator's Synopsis 2. Translation and Notes PAUL THE SILENTIARY: DESCRIPTION OF HAGIA SOPHIA Translation and Notes Select Bibliography Map of Constantinople Index

About the Author

Peter Bell teaches at the University of Oxford.


When the political rhetoric of the reign of Justinian is mentioned we may be inclined to think first of the salacious and slanderous bombast of Procopius' Secret History. Bell makes a wider range of texts, perhaps better representative of the intellectual life of the period, available to general readers and scholars alike. Readers of the Secret History may, nevertheless, find the tone of unremitting pessimism in the introduction's description of the crisis, turmoil, and particularly repression of the Justinianic age altogether familiar. Justinian's government may have been intolerant and repressive in comparison with modern liberal democracies, but was not especially so by the standards of its own day and many a long day to come. This vision of the reign that was once taken to be the pinnacle of the Eastern Roman Empire's achievement is part of a wider hermeneutic approach. If in the past the assumption has been that most people in the sixth-century Greek world were Christians, inasmuch as they were religious at all, the indications in this book are that now the burden of proof will rest upon anyone who cares to accept uncritically a profession of Christian faith or presume Christianity when a sixth-century figure's ideological commitments are not stated. Such searching of the hearts of the long since dead can easily go astray. Bell's work is presented in two halves. The first offers an introduction to the world of sixth-century Byzantium, the authors generally, and their dates, as well as thorough and helpful introductions to each of the works. Seldom have I seen the promise of 'accessible to the beginner, useful to the expert' better fulfilled. The reader without any background in sixth-century history or Platonic philosophy will not be at a loss and the reader well versed in either will see sources neatly traced and patterns astutely identified. The second half is composed of the translations of the three texts. These are lucid and readable without being colloquial. The accompanying notes supply a more than adequate commentary, discussing, as they do, everything from the translator's grounds for his rendering and the fontes of significant words and phrases to their implications in the court of Justinian. I will address each text, along with Bell's discussion, in turn. Although he deals with Renate Frohne's application of Agapetus' Advice to various dates in Justinian's tenure on the throne, Bell judiciously settles on the unspecific but largely indisputable date of "near the beginning of the reign." Perhaps a sign of the excess to which a questioning of an historical individual's sympathies may lead us is offered by Bell entertaining the question, "So was Agapetus a Christian?" In an overwhelmingly Christian society a deacon of the Church should not have to write overtly theological, homiletic, or devotional literature in order to prove that his Christianity was more than nominal. Bell sensibly answers his question in the positive. Agapetus' Advice to the Emperor, seventy-two brief, pithy, but seemingly unrelated chapters of counsel and exhortation, must strike the reader as rather platitudinous at first blush. But Bell does a very good job of showing how each piece of advice fits into the wider context of Hellenic and Christian discourse on kingship and the 'Mirror for Princes' tradition, as well as suggesting an overall pattern to the Advice. He draws attention to two particularly remarkable points. In chapter 16 Agapetus urges the emperor not only to give to the poor, but also to take from the rich. Such redistribution would have found no favour with the aristocratic classes who, according to Procopius and John Lydus, complained bitterly of the heavy tax burden which they shouldered under Justinian. Agapetus also warns the emperor (c. 35) that he who rules willing subjects rules in safety. Bell suggests that this may be the most important passage in the text. He is undoubtedly right to call it "a political maxim of universal application", but is perhaps stretching things when he says that this chapter is concerned with the legitimacy of the emperor. Bell also draws attention to the great favour Agapetus enjoyed in the courts of eastern and western Europe as long as the institution of monarchy flourished, allowing his to be classed among that select number of texts avidly read in the Greek, Latin, and Slavic spheres. Bell reviews the arguments for references in the Dialogue on Political Science to events in Justinian's reign, but considers the senatorial interest of the work indicative of a dramatic setting at the beginning and an actual date of composition at the end of Justinian's reign. The work is composed on the model of a proper Platonic dialogue, between the astute and insightful Menas and his Dr Watson, Thomas, and not by accident. Both Plato and Cicero are important sources and authorities for the unknown author, and his object is to marry the philosophical idealism of the Greek author with the political realism of the Roman. The question of the author's ideological commitments inevitably crops up again, perhaps most understandably here in regard to the Dialogue. Bell dismisses Lesley MacCoull's arguments for Christian authorship, but his own for pagan authorship (he writes in the dialogue form; Romanus the Melode [!] is critical of Plato and Homer; neither is Cicero a Christian) are just as weak. Parts of only two of the books of the Dialogue survive. Book 4 deals with military matters and insists upon training, the role of the commander, and the importance of the infantry in a field army. Bell takes pains to show that, while the author may have no military experience, his advice, especially in regard to foot soldiers, is not merely nostalgic antiquarianism. Book 5 is concerned with how the 'philosophical emperor and imperial philosopher' might rule in the image and likeness of God. Much of the program is unsurprisingly Platonic, but there are also some striking innovations. The author prescribes a method for selecting the emperor according to justice and law which involves elections among all the classes of society. But this should not be taken as much of a concession to democracy; the disorder of the masses in the tumult of the circus factions is also roundly excoriated. In fact, the author would place the real running of the empire in the hands of the 'optimates', or senators, as magistrates and governors, rather than those of the crowd or even the emperor himself. The author further advises that the disorder occasioned by the imperial succession might be alleviated if he voluntarily retired or selected an heir. Bell's discussion and notes are erudite, but he might have treated at greater length the question of our author's knowledge of Latin (neither unknown nor at all common in sixth-century Byzantium) and the faithfulness of his citations of Latin authors, particularly as so many of them are to passages that cannot be identified among the surviving works of Cicero, Cato, or Juvenal. He would be neither the first nor the last author to arbitrarily assign an authority to a phrase of his own making. Paul the Silentiary's Description of Hagia Sophia was composed to be recited at the rededication of Justinian's magisterial church over Christmastide, 562. Bell translates Paul's Greek verse into a readable English prose which manages to convey some sense of the poetic attainments of the original. Bell omits the passages which describe the Hagia Sophia's architectural form and decoration, which are already available in Mango's translation in The Art of the Byzantine Empire: 312-1453 (1986). Instead he presents the introductory and concluding portions which have been neglected by the art historians who have gravitated to this text, but are of real interest in this collection as an example of the rhetoric directed toward the emperor on a public occasion. In the Description, as Bell notes, the time-honoured genre of panegyric is concentrated upon the ruler's architectural achievement. In this context Paul is able to present Justinian as guided and protected by God, as the partner and fellow-worker of the Patriarch (even though the two were soon to have a violent falling out), and as the ruler who had advanced Constantinople above and beyond old Rome, 'a daughter who excels her mother.' Also noteworthy is Paul's dilation on Justinian's commendably speedy and competent response to the collapse of the dome of the Hagia Sophia in 558 which necessitated the rebuilding and rededication which offered an occasion for Paul's poem. The treatment of crisis as a litmus test for leaders has a pedigree in Greek literature which goes back to Homer, and Paul's lines are not unworthy of consideration alongside some of the best examples. Bell is once again troubled by traditional poetic forms, archaisms, and allusions to classical Greek myth and philosophy as possible signs of an adherence to Hellenism going under the mask of toeing the 'party line.' Perhaps some of these difficulties might be alleviated by an acknowledgement that by Paul's time Hellenic paideia had long since become an integral part of the lives of innumerable Christians and of the Church as a whole. Be it remembered that some two hundred years earlier one of the most irksome persecutions imposed upon the Christians by Julian the Apostate was his forbidding them to hold positions teaching Homer and the other great works of Greek letters. These three books offer rnuch for scholars of Late Antiquity, including archaeologists. The LUP Translated Texts for Historians series is long established and continues to bring to attention lesser works by well-known sources like Bede or Gregory of' Tours, or little known works by little known scholars, clerics, rnonks or court politicians. Whether chronicles, letters, hagiographies or poetry, many off insights into their contemporary (or past) towns, countrysides, beliefs, lives and deaths and help contextualise some of the archaeologies being explored. In Three Political Voices Bell skilfully dissects three 6th-century Byzantine sources which, with their 'particularly abstruse' Greek, consider, advise and promote the rule and role of the emperor, and demonstrate the sizeable 'range of literary material available to the elite of Constantinople, in Latin as well as Greek' (p56). Book IV of the anonymous Dialogues identifies aspects of military practice (eg cavalry roles, use of mock-battles, defences), while Paul the Silentiary's poem waxes at length on the restored Justinianie Hagia Sophia church (though the actual description of decoration, lights, galleries, porticoes, etc is only summarised by Bell- p207). Justinianic work in the Sinai, specifically the construction of the extant church and fortified monastery of St Catherine's is just one component of a wide set (the majority not previously translated into English) of Christian texts and extracts belonging to the 5th-7th centuries, describing the lands and its religious beacons and narrating events, both inspiring and dangerous (three texts deal with same 'Slaughter of the Monks' by Saracens). Caner shows these texts were crafted 'to edify as much as to inform' (p2), in combination establishing a powerful Christian tradition and holy landscape, with Biblical roots and martyrs 'blood. Caner's Introduction provides an excellent contextualisation of these sources, which also include pilgrim accounts (these featuring two Syriac hymns, a late 4th-century travelogue by a Spanish nun, and three papyri from the Negev which include an Arab governor's request for guides and a trading company account detailing costs for camels, asses, guides, food as well as donations to the monastic destinations). In contrast to the above, Readings in Late Antiquity (a sizeable re-edition of an already substantial volume) is a veritable mine of bite-size and more chunky passages and extracts from a wide 'range of sources, whether histories, letters, sermons, laws, panegyrics, inscriptions, monastic codes or council canons, and running from Eumenius of Autunin 290 requesting a painted map of the Empire in the school of rhetoric, to Libanius denouncing angry mobs of destructive monks in late 4tth-century Antioch, enforced conversion of Jewson Minorca in 418, and Pope Gregory I bemoaning continued idol-worship by peasants on Church lands in Sicily at the close of the 6th century. Maas offers 15 sections, including the thernes of' 'Cities', 'Law', 'Women', but with a strong emphasis on religion; the four end section streat with Sassanians, Invaders, Steppe peoples and Islam. Agapet nothing to current church policy issues, telling the embattled relationship of these spheres, we now (not quite correctly) with 'church' and 'State' means, Bell suggested as an indication that the author (as a cleric) could have possibly encountered in the religious role that Justinian claimed for himself, perhaps - as a further possibility that is being floated - but he would also simply avoid those points, the critical demands would have resulted, since, generally, was his attitude to the Emperor - as I said - loyal (42f.). It is quite different with the fragments of dialogue Peri policy episteme whose treatment initially Warning Bell prefixing one that leads the reader in mind as we actually know about these little text and how each must ultimately remain speculative approach (49f.). Central to the unknown author was Eusebius in the 4th Century placed prominently in political discourse hypothesis that the central task of the emperor in the imitatio Dei exists because the earthly empire replica of the heavenly kingdom constituted. But the author of Peri policy episteme had it not matter rest: He combined the idea of the divine chosenness of the emperor and the limitations that a monarch structures of a mixed constitution subject is the in, the basis of Platonic theories (philosopher rulers) and their connection to at political practice by Cicero, he developed the postulate of the ruler who reigns and just law-abiding and his imitatio Dei only because it was set up by God takes not, but especially as an act arduous philosophical and political gain in knowledge. Above all, he has to involve the aristocrats, he rules so - quite unlike Agapet - not as aloof monarch beyond the people and the law, but as an integral part of a comprehensive, of the people and laws defined unit (cf. 70) . The author of this fascinating text (of which we like a few pages more supplies could have been) was moving so says Beller, not an ideal state as a theoretical construct before, but a real monarchy, the God-given (and well accepted) claims a constraint counterweight in the mixed constitution should see: "The ideal state is a Thus 'Ciceronian' mixed constitution with a metaphysically enlightened political scientist as its ruler" (71). Hence the tension that emanates from the text, because "the Dialogue is surprisingly critical of the regime Justinianic (73). The example of the concept of imitatio Dei , the Agapet complete within the meaning of the claims represented Justinian had positive or, as the anonymous author of Peri episteme policy on how the contemporary elite were scrambling to recapture the postulates of their ruler. Quite different again Paulos, the audience made clear its "how the emperor himself wished to be seen [...] in the dark final years of his reign" (79). Paulos' ekphrasis provides for Bell is an example of the deeper penetration of Christian ideas in the field of classical literature dar. At this point we would have certainly strengthening its response to this phenomenon required one that is by no means unknown, not only the literature of those years does and law as "depressing" describes (87) is too general under the heading 'Liturgisierung' is negotiated - a key sign of the time, the Bell based spatjustinianischen chronicles the tradition. Paulos' intention had been to the middle of disaster and depression show that Justinian continued as a faithful servant of God, under whose protection stand (89), and therefore have the poet including such special attention to the emphasis on the (by no means obvious) agreement between Kaiser Patriarch and down, and probably why he had such Agapet critical issues left out as well, such as the riots, the so-called circus parties were in, or the events surrounding the Council of Constantinople 553rd The particular strength of the interpretations presented by Bell based on the fact that he translated and annotated texts, regardless of their species membership (which is by no means simply ignored as a problem) consistently, so are sometimes even read relentlessly political. This stand out moments of tension that have been in the recent literature Justinian has not yet been sufficiently respected. That this interpretation approach for each reader is understandable, including translation result of the liquid and the excellent commentary. We must now look forward eagerly to the publication of Bell's Justinian book that has been announced under the title "Social Conflict in the Age of Justinian. The three short texts assembled and translated by Peter N. Bell in this slim, but amply annotated, volume implicitly reject the view, as stated by D. M. Nicol in the sole chapter on Byzantium in The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought (p. 55), that "Byzantine society after the fourth century produced little in the way of political theorizing." Bell acknowledges (esp. pp. 29-31) that political thinking in the Greek East remained fixed, in the centuries after Constantine I (r. 306-37), upon the idea that terrestrial mon--archy (basileia) ought to strive to be an approximation or imitation (mimesis) of the celestial and, correspondingly, that the emperor (basileus) of the Romans was God's elect and therefore uniquely the focus of divine favor and the agent of victory, stability, and prosperity. Bell's contribution is to show persuasively-and in a manner that makes these sources fully accessible to an Anglophone audience for the first time-how different au--thors in the sixth century, proceeding from that fundamental premise, were nevertheless able to reach appreciably divergent conclusions about legitimate and illegitimate uses of power and about the purposes and responsibilities of government. Agapetus's Advice to the Emperor takes the form of seventy-two exhortations on the nature of kingship, the initial letters of which form an acrostic identifying Justinian (al--most certainly Justinian I, r. 527-65; see pp. 8-9) as the addressee and Agapetus himself as a deacon. Bell dwells upon Agapetus's apparent "radicalism" -surprising, in light of the work's influence and wide circulation as a mirror for princes and a school text both within and beyond Byzantium well into the Renaissance (pp. 48-49)-for endorsing (esp. in sec. 16) the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor as a means of addressing the social pathologies of each (pp. 45-46). Bell likewise sees in Agapetus's repeated stress upon the need to secure the compliance of willing subjects (secs. 35,47) a concern for legitimacy that reflects and responds to the aftermath of the Nika Riot of 532, which nearly cost Justinian his throne; the work was accordingly composed in the earlier part of the reign by a sympathetic clerical supporter of the regime, making it "an (elegant) survival manual for an embattled emperor" (p. 47). In contrast, Bell attributes the anonymous Dialogue on Political Science, fragments of which survive in a Vatican palimpsest discovered by Cardinal Mai in the nineteenth cen--tury, to "an alienated upper-class perspective" (p. 75), proponents of which found their interests threatened by Justinian's fiscal imperatives and the promotion of new men to high offices. Much about the work remains conjectural and tentative, as Bell acknowl--edges (pp. 49-50). He follows Mai and the text's indefatigable modern editor, Carlo Maria Mazzucchi (whose name is misspelled in places), among others, in identifying it with the dialogue on political science in six books noted by Photius (p. 11). Bell himself finds it more likely to have been composed later in Justinian's reign than earlier, while allowing for the possibility of a dramatic date nearer the Nika Riot (pp. 19-27). Extant portions of books 4 and 5 of the Dialogue address aspects of military and po--litical organization respectively. Although the former betrays an apparent lack of actual military experience on the part of the writer, the anonymous author "understands the im--portance of treating non-combatants considerately on pragmatic, rather than merely moral grounds" (p. 53)-particularly important in light of Justinian's efforts to reassert central imperial authority in the western Mediterranean. Book 5 mobilizes Platonic philosophy and engages closely with Cicero's De republica and other works of Latin literature to of--fer "something closer to our idea of a constitutional monarchy [than is found in Agape--tusJ" (p. 75), distinguished most notably by an orderly scheme for securing the imperial succession and a principle of delegating power that effectively constrains imperial initia--tive while leaving the administration of the state in the hands of aristocratic "optimates." Imitation of divinity on the part of an emperor is comprehensible here with reference to Neoplatonic ideas about the ascent of the intellect toward the One (Dialogue 5.116-17 and see p. 169 n. 105), while power and authority radiate outward through a centralized hierarchy that invites comparison with the more-or-less contemporary thought of Pseudo--Dionysius the Areopagite (p. 68). In contrast with both Agapetus and the anonymous author of the Dialogue, Paul the Silentiary is well attested as a contributor to the Greek Anthology and in an admiring notice by Agathias, his contemporary; the circumstances of the composition of his De--scription of Hagia Sophia, marking Justinian's restoration of the earthquake-damaged struc--ture and its rededication in January of 563, are reasonably clear. Bell's decision to avoid treating the portions of the work concentrating on the building's architecture, fixtures, and decorations-which are already available in English in Cyril Mango's Art of the Byz--antine Empire, 312-1453 (pp. 80-96) together with Paul's additional poem on the ambo of the great church-is on balance the right one given Bell's focus on politics and ideol--ogy (p. 81). His translation, based upon unpublished work by Mary Whitby (pp. 96-97), does not attempt to versify Paul's striking iambic double prologue or the hexameters of the work proper. Paul's poem attempts "to spin a panegyric" of Justinian at a troubled point near the end of his reign (pp. 1 and 87-88 for the context). Renewed splendor attaches to themes about divine favor and imperial renewal that had been trumpeted in imperial legislation thirty years earlier (p. 90; see also p. 14), by virtue of Paul's ability to fuse monument and politico-liturgical moment in a composition remarkable for its elaborately classicizing style and literary virtuosity. In all this Paul remains "an apologist, a spin-doctor" (p. 91): one of those functionaries who (and here Bell adduces his own experience as a sometime civil servant) try "to articulate what their masters tell them, or more often what they would, if they had thought of it, have liked them to say" (p. 86). In making him a proxy for the regime Bell establishes a reference point from which the more idiosyncratic stances of Agapetus and the author of the Dialogue can be triangulated. Bell's efforts to situate his sources within their larger context and with reference to one another occupy the better part of the book. Out of 249 pages, excluding the front matter, the introduction takes up 97, and in the translations themselves (pp. 99-212) perhaps one--third of each page on average is occupied by footnotes. The notes are extensively cross--referenced with the introduction, and the work as a whole evinces care. Some repetition might have been avoided (e.g., p. 115 n. 61 and p. 118 n. 71) and prolixity resisted (p. 117 n. 68). A glossary of key terms would have been welcome. The lack of a synthetic treat--ment of the Nika Riot, details of which are scattered through the discussion, is surprising, as is the absence of pertinent work by, for example, G. Greatrex, Journal of Hellenic Studies 117 (1997), and M. Meier, Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 142 (2003), in the select bibliography. For the most part, the translations are straightforward and serviceable in the best senses of those words. (An exception is Agapetus, Advice 65, in which the composition of the initial clause is awkward at best, nor is the basis of the reading discussed on p. 119 n. 76 at all clear.) Bell is generous in acknowledging the contributions of prior scholarship, can--did in discussing his choices, and disarming in expressing hesitations and uncertainties. His work fills a real need, up until now partially and problematically filled by the relevant sections of Ernest Barker's Social and Political Thought in Byzantium (pp. 54-75). Three Political Voices makes a welcome addition to the accessible and affordable Translated Texts for Historians series. Three Political Voices makes a welcome addition to the accessible and affordable Translated Texts for Historians series. From the perspective of literature, the age of Justinian, in particular with the oeuvre of Prokopios of Caesarea is linked. Prokopios is not the only witness to the literary culture of this era. Bell's translation, now enables a broad readership, the view of the literary life in the 6th Century to expand by drawing attention to the rhetoric is so important to the Byzantines, while it is directed at students rather than specialists. The book contains an English translation of three rhetorical texts that deal with political and theoretical issues, particularly the role of the emperor in society and in the cosmos. It's about ecthesis Kephalaion Parainetikon of Agapetus, a deacon of the Hagia Sophia, Peri policies episteme by an anonymous author and praising the poetic description Hagia Sophia by Paul Silentiarius. The book is divided into two parts. The first was designed as an introduction to the Age of Justinian and all three texts. In places, however, Bell's remarks go far beyond the limits of a general Beyond representation. The second part consists of the English translation of the texts, which is provided with a detailed commentary. Not in every case, but the full text is translated: In the case of the prize poem of Paul Silentiarius was an extensive passage disregarded, which describes in detail the Hagia Sophia. The right ekphrasis is thus not necessary in this issue. Bell explains this omission with the fact that there is an English translation of this passage already in C. Mango, The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312-1453 (1986) there. Without doubt Bells are on the individual texts is an important voice in the debate about the main problems of the literary and intellectual life of Byzantium in the sixth Century. Bell's thinking here is heavily influenced by the controversial thesis of A. Kaldellis. He agrees with Kaldellis that there were far more pagan intellectuals at the time of Justinian, as previously approved by the Research (P. 57). This leads to a marked trend, Christianity, individual authors, despite their clear Christian testimony to contest again. However, as regards Bell unfortunately not the opinions and arguments of those scholars who inveigh against Kaldellis' conceptions. Total Bell looks at the age of Justinian in large measure from a modern perspective, and therefore this period is considered as a time of terror and political and religious pressure. With such a simplification but I think he goes too far. Indeed been then both the pagans and the heretics persecuted, but in no case was it beyond the old standards. Nonetheless, it is gratifying that these three rhetorical texts with Bell's translation to a wider Audiences are now accessible. it is gratifying that these three rhetorical texts with Bell's translation to a wider Audiences are now accessible. Justinian's era is suddenly becoming more accessible with translations of key contemporary documents presenting new opportunities for students, teachers and scholars. The verbatim Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553 are now available and the Novels of Justinian are awaited. Especially welcome is this indispensable translation by Peter Bell of three lesser known, and far less available, voices from Constantinople: the Advice of Agapetus (a deacon, possibly associated with the 'sleepless monks', written early 530s); the anonymus Dialogue on political science (extant only in part of bk IV on the military and bk V on the ideal commonwealth, set in the 530s, written in the 560s); and the Description of Hagia Sophia of Paul the Silentiary (imperial courtier, written January 563). The annotated translation of the texts is preceded by a general introduction covering the date, sources, method and thought of each author plus their textual history and status. Bell's book marks a new starting point for exploring these texts. He has succeeded in producing a clear and readable translation of some notoriously opaque documents including the first English translation of the Dialogue and the first modern English translation of both Agapetus and Paul. The translations would be valuable enough service but the introduction and substantial notes to each text are a real bonus, made even more usable by the separate 'subject index'. Bell teases out how divine inspiration for the political order is justified with Agapetus seeing Justinian as the imitator of God, but for the Neoplatonic Dialogue writer the focus is on how the emperor can ascend to the intellectual world above. As an encomium commissioned by the court, and recited in the presence of emperor and patriarch, Paul's work is rather different in ideology and tone. These texts demonstrate especially the influence of the Platonic philosophical tradition (Agapetus, Dialogue) and Cicero's political ideals (Dialogue) but tempered by current military and political realities. Overall, as Bell's detailed commentary shows, these texts are situated in an era of pronounced religious, social and political conflict. They provide insight into how the emperor Justinian cast his role as God's earthly representative with responsibility for ensuring doctrinal unity and purity in a world where the state could regulate social order and the lives of clergy, as well as supporting the poor and victimised. There are especially valuable discussions on the attitude of Agapetus and the Dialogue writer to Justinian's political legitimacy (pp. 46-8, 62-4) but there remains the interesting question whether the emperor knew and took lessons from Agapetus and the Dialogue. Bell's book marks a new starting point for exploring these texts. He has succeeded in producing a clear and readable translation of some notoriously opaque documents including the first English translation of the Dialogue and the first modern English translation of both Agapetus and Paul. This volume is a welcome addition to the burgeoning collection of titles in the TTH series. In many ways it embodies the founding ethos of the series. It supplies an English translation of material dating from the period between 400 and 800 ad which has not previously been accessible to more than a handful of scholars. It also sets the work in its historical, literary and intellectual context through a long introduction and supporting apparatus. But at the same time, it also represents something of a departure from the original model in that this volume studies three different works by three different authors. Each composition has its own literary aims, models and strategies, as well as very different receptions and textual trajectories. Their assemblage and collective assessment in one volume has a number of obvious merits, not least of which is the practical consequence of opening up a body of materials for inclusion in the series whose length would otherwise have disqualified them. There is perhaps a flip side to this approach as well, that in seeking to justify the inclusion of two or more texts in a single volume, albeit subconsciously, there may be a temptation to overstress the similarities and downplay the differences. At the very least, it makes for added complexity within the introduction, as the reader encounters not one but three unfamiliar or little-known texts. Bell has a bleak vision of the historical context into which these texts were written. The reign of Justinian was characterized by horizontal and vertical social tensions, by intolerance and violence, warfare and plague. The ideal empire, 'a relatively lightly administered aggregate of quasiautonomous cities', was transformed into 'an ever-more centralised autocracy which, from the conversion of the emperor Constantine, was also increasingly and intolerantly Christian'. Bell sets the three works against this unremittingly turbulent backdrop, exploring first the author-ship and then the date of composition of each work before offering a meticulous examination of the sources, methods and thought underlying each work. As both the longest and least familiar of the three, the anonymous and fragmentary Dialogue understandably receives the most sustained treatment in the Introduction; indeed it comes with a short but highly valuable guide to Platonic and Neoplatonic thought. The inclusion of this guide in many ways goes to the heart of Bell's thesis, which is to set all three works, and their authors, in the twin contexts of classical philosophical tradition and contemporary political dissidence. The first of these propositions is proved in relation to the Dialogue and Agapetus' Advice through a mass of citations and allusions, each painstakingly traced back to its original source; whether these were derived from these originals or via intermediate works is not addressed but it is of secondary importance. The second is necessarily inferred and relies upon Bell's vision of an oppressive Christian administration directed by the emperor Justinian himself. Thus borrowings from Hellenistic thought and tradition are deemed to reflect the 'true' opinions of the author whilst Christian formulae and motifs, where indeed these are acknowledged, are dismissed as expedient veneers. Paul the Silentiary's Description of Hagia Sophia presents the greatest challenge to this vision of literary culture in sixth-century Constantinople. As a panegyric to Justinian's great Church it is not infused with pre-Christian associations or influences. Instead Bell notes the presence of 'Pagan' imagery in Paul's epigrams, arguing that his 'religion' cannot be inferred from what he wrote under an intolerant regime: 'expressions of unorthodoxy are more likely to provide truer indications of what a writer truly believed than professions of piety, especially on a public platform'. Bell's own sympathies are not hard to discern; the repetitive use of 'Pagan' and 'god' reveal these quite as much as the contentions he advances. This is an important volume, one that should be required reading for scholars and students of the sixth century. The translations are precise and accessible and are accompanied by a wealth of analysis and commentary. The multiple associations with Classical and Neoplatonic intellectual traditions are established definitively and these will need to be considered and applied alongside Christian and patristic influences when scrutinizing literature from late antiquity in the future. The former however have been promoted in place of, rather than in conjunction with, the latter. Thus the notes accompanying Agapetus' Advice are decidedly light in terms of their Biblical and patristic referencing; so footnote 75 refers to the chapter reflecting 'the (Christian) so-called Lord's Prayer' but neglects to give the specific New Testament reference (Matthew VI.12). This downplaying of Christian teaching and doctrine may mislead the unwary into thinking that these three works all draw predominantly upon pre-Christian sources and traditions rather than expressing, each in its own way, the blending of Classical and Christian modes of thought. It is this fusion that gives a particular vitality and freshness to so much of sixth century literature, each work conforming to some historic rules of composition or ways of thinking about the world, whilst transgressing or repudiating others. Rather than seeing an intolerant faith-based belief system in apposition to an older, rational philosophical tradition, it might be more fruitful to consider all literature of this era as the product of individual negotiation along a spectrum between these two poles. If earlier scholars highlighted Justinian's Christian faith as central to any understanding of his era, this volume suggests that we may now be in danger of underestimating the place of Christian faith and doctrine in the thought-worlds and learned discourses of contemporaries. One final observation: it is a pity that Bell did not translate the whole of Paul's Description, omitting lines 355-921, which represents almost half the text. These may not be germane to Bell's interpretation, and they may have been translated 'largely' by Mango, but there is nothing more frustrating than finding a translation is less than complete. This diminishes the usefulness of the volume. This is an important volume, one that should be required reading for scholars and students of the sixth century. The translations are precise and accessible and are accompanied by a wealth of analysis and commentary.

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