Theodore Metochites
Theodore Metochites was a Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 statesman, author, gentleman philosopher, and patron of the arts. From c. 1305 to 1328 he held the position of personal adviser (mesazōn
The mesazōn was a high dignitary and official during the last centuries of the Byzantine Empire, who acted as the chief minister and principal aide of the Emperor.- History and functions :...

) to emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos
Andronikos II Palaiologos
Andronikos II Palaiologos , Latinized as Andronicus II Palaeologus, was Byzantine emperor from 1282 to 1328. He was the eldest surviving son of Michael VIII Palaiologos and Theodora Doukaina Vatatzina, grandniece of John III Doukas Vatatzes...



Metochites was born in Nicaea
İznik is a city in Turkey which is primarily known as the site of the First and Second Councils of Nicaea, the first and seventh Ecumenical councils in the early history of the Church, the Nicene Creed, and as the capital city of the Empire of Nicaea...

 as the son of the archdeacon
An archdeacon is a senior clergy position in Anglicanism, Syrian Malabar Nasrani, Chaldean Catholic, and some other Christian denominations, above that of most clergy and below a bishop. In the High Middle Ages it was the most senior diocesan position below a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church...

 George Metochites
George Metochites
George Metochites was an archdeacon in Constantinople during the 1270’s and early 1280’s, and an important, fervent supporter of the Union of the Greek and Latin Churches that was agreed to at the Second Council of Lyons .-Life:...

, a fervent supporter of the union of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. After the Second Council of Blachernae
Blachernae was a suburb in the northwestern section of Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire. It was the site of a spring and a number of prominent churches were built there, most notably the great Church of St. Mary of Blachernae , built by Empress Pulcheria in circa 450,...

, his father was condemned and exiled, and Metochites seems to have spent his adolescence in the monastic milieux of Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

 in Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

. He devoted himself to studies of both secular and religious authors. When Andronicus II visited Nicaea in 1290/1291, Metochites made such an impression on him that he was immediately called to the court and made Logothete of the Herds. Little more than a year later, he was appointed a Senator. Besides carrying out his political duties (embassies to Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

 in 1295 and to Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 in 1299), Metochites continued to study and to write. In 1312/1313, he started learning astronomy from Manuel Bryennios; later he himself became the teacher of Nicephorus Gregoras
Nicephorus Gregoras
Nikephoros Gregoras, latinized as Nicephorus Gregoras , Byzantine astronomer, historian, man of learning and religious controversialist, was born at Heraclea Pontica....

. He was married with five sons and one daughter, Irene (spouse of John Komnenos Palaiologos).

Metochites’ political career culminated in 1321, when he was invested as Grand Logothete. He was then at the summit of his power, and also one of the richest men of his age. Some of the money was spent on restoring and decorating the church of the Chora monastery
Chora Church
The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of a Byzantine church. The church is situated in Istanbul, in the Edirnekapı neighborhood, which lies in the western part of the municipality of Fatih...

 in the northwest of Constantinople, where Metochites’ donor portrait
Donor portrait
A donor portrait or votive portrait is a portrait in a larger painting or other work showing the person who commissioned and paid for the image, or a member of his, or her, family...

 can still be seen in a famous mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

 in the narthex
The narthex of a church is the entrance or lobby area, located at the end of the nave, at the far end from the church's main altar. Traditionally the narthex was a part of the church building, but was not considered part of the church proper...

, above the entrance to the nave.

Metochites’ fortunes were, however, linked with his emperor’s. After a few years of intermittent civil war, Andronicus II was overthrown in 1328 by his own grandson, Andronicus III Palaeologus. Metochites went down with him. He was deprived of his possessions and forced into exile in Didymoteicho
Didymóteicho is a town located in the eastern part of the Evros peripheral unit of Thrace, Greece. It is the seat of the municipality of the same name. The town sits on a plain and located south east of Svilengrad, south of Edirne, Turkey and Orestiada, west of Uzunköprü, about 20 km north...

n. In 1330, he was allowed to return to Constantinople. He then withdrew to Chora, where he died on 13 March 1332, having adopted the monastic name Theoleptos.


Metochites’ extant œuvre comprises 20 Poems in dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter is a form of meter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. It is traditionally associated with the quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin, and was consequently considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry...

, 18 orations (Logoi), Commentaries on Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

’s writings on natural philosophy
Natural philosophy
Natural philosophy or the philosophy of nature , is a term applied to the study of nature and the physical universe that was dominant before the development of modern science...

, an introduction to the study of Ptolemaic
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 astronomy (Stoicheiosis astronomike), and 120 essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s on various subjects, the Semeioseis gnomikai. Many of these works are still unedited.

Editions with English translations:
  • Featherstone, J. M. 2000. Theodore Metochites’s Poems ‘To Himself’. Introduction, Text, and Translation. Vienna. ISBN 3-7001-2853-3

Reviewed by Lazaris, S. 2002. "Jeffrey Michael Featherstone (Introduction, Text and Translation), Theodore Metochites’s poems ‘to Himself’ [Byzantina vindobonensia, XXIII], Wien : Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2000", Scriptorium 56 (2002), p. 328*-330*
  • Hult, K. 2002. Theodore Metochites on Ancient Authors and Philosophy: Semeioseis gnomikai 1–26 & 71. A Critical Edition with Introduction, Translation, Notes, and Indexes. With a Contribution by B. Bydén. Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia 65. Göteborg. ISBN 91-7346-434-1

Editions without translation:
  • Bydén, B. 2003. Theodore Metochites' Stoicheiosis astronomike and the study of natural philosophy and mathematics in early Palaiologan Byzantium. 2nd rev. ed. Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia 66. Göteborg. ISBN 91-7346-459-7

External links

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