Metaphrastes, Simeon

Metaphrastes, Simeon a Byzantine writer of the Middle Ages, acquired great reputation by his compilation of the lives of many saints and martyrs. Very little is known of his individual history. It appears, however, to be proved that he lived at Constantinople, and there filled an official position. The name Metaphrastes was given him on account of the manner in which he commented and paraphrased (ἐμετέφρασε) the materials for his biographical work. The greatest variety of opinion prevails as to the time when he lived: Blondell, Vossius, Ceillier, Baronius, Simler, Volaterra, Allatins, Cave, Oudin, Fabricius, all give different dates, varying from the 9th to the 14th century. It even appears uncertain whether there may not have existed two men of that name at different times. The more ancient date is that of Leo Allatius, who in his work De Simeonum Scriptis (Par. 1664, p. 49 sq.) enters into deep researches concerning Metaphrastes, the result of which is adopted by Cave (Histor. Litter. [Lond. 1688], p. 573) and Fabricius (Bibl. Gr. 6:509; in ed. Harl. 10:180 sq.). His conclusions were opposed by Oudin in his Dissertatio de cetate et scriptis Sim. Met. (Comment. 2:1300 sq.). From various passages in works undoubtedly written by Metaphrastes, it appears to be pretty well established that he lived during the reign of the emperor Leo VI (Philosophus), and was sent as ambassador to the Arabs of Crete in 902, and in 904 to those who had conquered Thessalonica, whom he persuaded not to destroy that city, as they originally intended. It seems also well established that he was still alive in the time of the emperor Constantine VII (Porphyrogenitus). His principal works are: Vitae Sanctorum, undertaken, it is said, at the suggestion of the emperor Constantine. This assertion, however, has often been contradicted. The work is not original; Metaphrastes only arranged and paraphrased, in very good style for the times, various biographies which existed previously in the libraries of churches and convents. He omitted many details which he considered useless or unproved, and substituted others which he looked upon as more important or authentic. He has been accused of having by these modifications destroyed the simplicity of the ancient biographies. His own work has undergone many alterations and additions, as well as curtailment, so that, according to Fabricius, out of 539 biographies generally ascribed to him, only 122 are undoubtedly genuine. Cave, on the other hand, maintains that the greater part of the 417 manuscript biographies extant in the various libraries of Europe are the work of Metaphrastes. Agapius, a monk, gave an extract of them under the title Liber dictus Paraclitus, seu illustrium sanctorum vitce desumptce ex Simeone Metaphraste (Venice, 1541, 4to). The most important among these biographies were published, in Greek and Latin, in the Bollandists' Acta Sanctorum: Annales, commencing with the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), and ending with Romanus, the son of Constantine Porphyrogenitus (959-963). It is evident that Metaphrastes, who was already an ambassador in 902, could not have been the historian of events which occurred sixty years later. Some critics consequently consider the later part of the Annales to have been written by another Metaphrastes, while Baronius thinks that the whole work was composed by a writer living in the 12th century. These Annales, which are of great historical value, were published with a Latin translation by Combofis in his Hist. Byzantince Scriptores. post Theophanem. of which the edition by Immanuel Bekker (Bonn, 1838, 8vo) is a carefully-revised reprint:- — Epistolac IX, published in Greek and Latin by Leo Allatius, Diatriba de Simeonibus; Carmina pia duo politica, ii Allatius; and in Lectius, Potcta Grceci veteres (Geneva, 1614, fol.):-Sermo in Diem Sabbati sancti, in Latin only, by Combefis, Biblioth. Concionator. vol. iii :- Εἰς τὸν θρῆνον τῆς ὑπεραγίας θεοτόκου, etc., in Greek and Latin by Allatius; several hymns, or canons, still in use in the Greek Church : — ᾿Ηθικοὶ λόγοι, an extract from the works of St. Basil, and published in Greek and Latin by Morel (Paris, 1556, 8vo). See Fabricius, Biblioth. Graeca, vii. 683; 10:180; Cave, Histoire Litt.; Hankius, Scriptores Byzant. ch. 24; Oudin, Dissert. de AEtate et Scriptis Simeonis Metaphrastis, in his Comment. de script. eccles.; Baronius, Annales ad ann. 859. Herzog, Real-Encykl. 9:446; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Genesis 35:188; Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Romans Biog. and Mythol. 2:1055. (J. N. P.)

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