A Fake Source on Justinian

LacusCurtius’ Bill Thayer often puts online old articles, which are referred to in -for example- in Samuel Platner’s Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. You can find those old articles in Bill’s Antiquary’s Shoebox. This time, he has made available a really interesting piece of research by James Bryce, in which he proves that Theophilus, author of a Life of Justinian, is not reliable.

In a nice piece of detective work, Bryce shows that the text, which is quoted and accepted as genuine by well-known, professional historians like Edward Gibbon, was not -as was commonly accepted- a manuscript from the Vatican Library, but a document in the library of the Barberini family. He also shows that the manuscript was written in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, and contains Slavonic legends about Justinian. As such, it tells more about medieval ideas about the Byzantine emperor than about the man himself. (The photo that accompanies this blog article, is an ivory showing Justinian, also from the Barberini collection, but now in the Louvre, Paris.)

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