Nicephorus, Callistus Xanthopulus

Nicephorus, Callistus Xanthopulus son of Callistus Xanthopulus, is the last of the Greek Church historians, and the only one their Church produced in the Middle Ages. He is frequently denominated the ecclesiastical Thucydides, because of the elegance of his style, and the "theological Pliny," because of the superstition and credulity which are betrayed in his writings. The precise date of his birth is not ascertained. He flourished at Constantinople near the opening of the 14th century, and was probably a monk of St. Sophia, of which he was librarian. According to his own statement (Hist. Eccles. vol. i, c. 1) he commenced his Ch. Hist. at an early age, and labored at it till he was thirty-six years old. It is dedicated to the elder Andronicus Palseologus. As the latter was already well advanced in years, and died in 1327, it is supposed that Nicephorus was still alive in 1356, and therefore during the reign of John Cantacuzenus. We possess no information of his personal history. His work is of great interest, as it is the only contribution to Church history which appeared in the East from the 6th century to the 14th. It is, however, generally condemned in modern times as a compilation of fables and absurdities, and Casaubon says of it," Historia eius non pluris quam folia farfari facienda est" (Exercitt. in Baron. i, sect. 17; comp, Joh. Gerhard, Method. Stud. Theol. p. 238). If we set. aside the too great credulity of the author, the work will be judged as not without merits. Says Dowling: "Though he amply partook of the superstition of the age in which he lived, and paraphrased the writers from whom he derived his information in the extravagant style characteristic of the later Greeks, he has transmitted some important facts, of which we should without him have remained in ignorance" (Study of Eccles. History, p. 91-93). In his first chapter Nicephorus speaks of the utility of ecclesiastical history, and gives a list of his predecessors in that line -from Eusebius to Procopius and Agathias, with a notice concerning each of them in which indeed he accuses Eusebius of heresy and Socrates of impurity. He states that each of them wrote only the history of a period, and some often wandered away from the pure doctrine, while he intends to give a full and impartial history. The work is divided into eighteen parts, treating of the internal and external history of the Church with reference to the dogmas, doctrines, and usages. Monasticism and the episcopacy are specially considered. The plan was good. It begins with the incarnation (ἀπὸ τῆς κατὰ σάρκα τοῦ Σωτῆρος ἐπιφανείας), and continues to the death of Phocas (611). He, besides, refers to five other parts which were to extend down to the death of Leo Philosophus (911); but of these we find only the headings, which seem to have been written subsequently by some one else. Whether he did not continue his history any further, or whether the other parts of his work are lost, is unknown. This, however, is certain, that while he was to have given the whole history of the Church in these eighteen parts, as stated in his preface, they embrace only a period of 600 years. As to the nature of the work, it is evident that Nicephorus made extensive use of the early MSS. of ecclesiastical history, merely completing them by means of all kinds of materials. He made use for his purpose of the ancient Greek writers, political sources, legends, and traditions. He greatly neglected the history of the Latin Church. Thus, while he gives full details concerning Anastasius Sinaita, John Philoponus, and the leaders of the Monophysites, he says nothing of the Pelagians and their controversy. .His information on the invasions of the Huns, Goths, Burgundians, Vandals, and Alans is valuable. There is only one Greek MS. known of this history. It was stolen under Mathias Corvinus by a Turkish soldier out of the library of Buda (Ofen) and brought to Constantinople; here it was bought by a Christian, and after many adventures now lies in the imperial library at Vienna. It was published in Latin by John Lange in Erfurt, Nicephori Hist. Ecclesiastica (Basle, 1553, fol.; often reprinted, Basle, 1560; Antw. 1560; Paris, 1562- 73; Frankf. 1588,1618). The Greek text was subsequently published also: Greece et Lat. cura Frontonis Duccei (Par. 1630, 2 vols.). Nicephorus is also considered as the author of the Catalogus imperatorum C. Politanoaum versibus iambicis Gr. in Labbei Protreptica histor. Byzant. p. 34: — Catalogus patriarcharum Constantinopolit. ibid. p. 35, extends down to Callistus, under John Cantacuzenus: — Excidium Hierosol. versibus iambicis, in.Morelli Exposit. memorabiliuma quce Hieros. sunt (Paris, 1620): Synopsis totius script. sacrce ad calcem Epigramnmatum Theodori Prodromi (Paris, 1536): — — Σύνταγμα de templo et miraculis S. Marice adfontem, in MSS. See Lambec. Comment, 8:119; Oudini Coemm. de Script. 3:710; Fabricius, Bibl. Greeca, ed. Harl. 7:437 sq.; Stiaudlin. Gesch. u. Literatur d. Kirchengeschichte, p. 111 sq.; Darling. Cycl. Bibliographica, 2:2192; Cave, Hist. Lit. ad ann. 1333; Dupin, Bibliotheque des eciovains ecclsiastiques du quatorzieme siecle. —

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