Reading Michael Psellos (The Medieval Mediterranean)
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The papers of this volume originated in a workshop held at the University of Notre Dame in February 2004 to discuss the variety of ways one might read Michael Psellos (1018-after 1081?). One of most original figures of Byzantine intellectual history, Psellos was a polymath whose range extended from rhetoric and philosophy to law and medicine. While his history of his own times, the "Chronographia," is one of the best known works of Byzantine literature, very little else of his large body of work has been translated. It is the intention of this volume to encourage a wider awareness of Psellos' many interests by offering readings of his original texts from a variety of scholarly perspectives.
non-being, and guarded their union and distinctiveness even more precisely than Plato did in the Sophist . . .” Enc. in Xiphil. 457.10; congratulating a friend’s wisdom: “But you alone are able to vary your wisdom, sometimes mixing the unmixed, at others keeping them separate in order to comprehend their opposite qualities. For you can either be exclusively philosophical or exclusively rhetorical or you can gather together diﬀerences and from opposites fashion a new and composite understanding.”
have greatly loved him.”34 In fact, it seems Psellos came to identify his own character with that of his friend: in a letter found in Paris BN ms. 1182, after recounting at length how quickly and in what ways Elias is able to transform his sensibility, Psellos ends by saying:35 Here is a riddle. I declare that he is the one who has written this letter. May this declaration now, in accord with Aristotle’s dictum, be made public and not be made public. Just as Aeschylus, therefore, may this man
oneirology these deﬁnitions correspond to the three types of signiﬁcant dreams: the oneiros, the chrematismos and the horama. The two dreamers in the text—Theodote and Psellos, the mother and the son—have one double and three independent dreams.17 These refer to Psellos’ intellectual and spiritual growth and, additionally, stress the loving bond between parents and son. Psellos was eight years old when his mother had the ﬁrst dream mentioned in the Oration. At that time, he had completed his
reproduces the emblematic moment of Jonah’s story, in which he is swallowed by the whale (an established typological image for Christ’s burial, descent into Hades and resurrection),50 and it is a key to understanding the content of Psellos’ dream. The Old Testament Book of Jonah relates the peregrination of the prophet, who reluctant to fulﬁl God’s will, tried to escape 47 For other examples, see Theoph.Cont. 438–39; Enc. in mat., 134.1414; Angelidi (1983), 84, 94 and n. 12. 48 Cf. Aristides,
complex to analyze in this paper. Inasmuch as he describes the deeds of Byzantine rulers of his times, there are no ideal heroes. Every positive comment is countered by something that to a lesser or greater degree besmirches their memory.54 His two main models of good rulership, Isaac Komnenos and Romanos Diogenes, are ultimately ﬂawed, failed leaders with human weaknesses that lead them to make mistakes. There is also Botaneiates, ostensibly the object of praise in the encomium attached to the