Skip to main content
Select Source:

Photius

Photius

The Byzantine scholar and writer Photius (ca. 820-891) was patriarch of Constantinople and leader of the Orthodox Byzantine Renaissance.

Photius was trained from his early years to be a philosopher and scholar. He taught at the Imperial Academy at Constantinople. He became known to the imperial court when his brother Sergius married the sister of Empress Theodora. Appointments followed. He was put in charge of the Chancellery and became a member of the Senate. While he was absent on a diplomatic mission to the Arabian caliph in 855, there was a palace revolt. Empress Theodora was deposed by her brother Bardas. Photius was recalled, ordained priest and bishop within 6 days, and then appointed patriarch to replace Ignatius, who had been forced to resign by the new regent, Bardas.

Pope Nicholas I confirmed all these actions except the nomination of Photius, in spite of the fact that all the bishops of the Church acknowledged Photius as patriarch. Photius was excommunicated by Nicholas, and he responded by summoning a synod in 867 and proposing to condemn all papal interference in the Eastern Church. The new emperor, Michael III, a supporter of Photius, requested Louis II of France to depose Pope Nicholas. Michael, however, was assassinated by Basil I, his coemperor. The latter became emperor and reinstated Patriarch Ignatius in November 867. Furthermore, a council called for the occasion and sitting from 867 to 870 condemned and excommunicated Photius, who then went into exile.

But the new emperor found that Photius remained the choice of the vast majority of the clergy, and eventually he was recalled from exile, reconciled with Patriarch Ignatius, and succeeded the latter when he died in 877. Photius's troubles, however, were not over. Emperor Leo VI, probably under strong pressure from the Pope and also because of palace intrigues, forced Photius to resign in 886. He retired to a monastery and died there in the spring of 891.

Photius is an important figure both in the history of relations between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Roman Catholic Church and in the literature and learning of Eastern Christianity. He was a forewarning to Rome and the papacy of the coming schism between Western and Eastern Christianity. Between the 9th and the 11th centuries, when the final schism took place, Photius was one of those whose views helped to fashion the antipapal view which finally triumphed. Photius, in fact, labored against any final ecclesiastical rupture, and he died in communion with Rome. As a churchman, he was responsible for the spread of Byzantine religion to Bulgaria, Russia, and Moravia. As a scholar, he has left some works of immense value: his Biblioteca, a bibliography of 280 works with his comments; his Lexicon; and his Amphilochia, which is a catechetical question-and-answer discussion of religion. His Mystagogia is a theological work concerning the Trinity. There are numerous letters, sermons, homilies, and treatises of his extant.

Further Reading

The most complete studies of Photius in English are Francis Dvorniks, The Photian Schism, History and Legend (1948) and The Patriarch Photius in the Light of Recent Research (1958). For extensive background on the Byzantine Empire during the time of Photius see George Ostrogorski, History of the Byzantine State (1940; trans. 1954; rev. ed. 1969), and Romilly Jenkins, Byzantium: The Imperial Centuries A.D. 610-1071 (1967). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Photius." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Photius." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/photius

"Photius." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/photius

Photius

Photius (fō´shəs), c.820–892?, Greek churchman and theologian, patriarch of Constantinople, b. Constantinople. He came of a noble Byzantine family. Photius was one of the most learned men of his time, a professor in the university at Constantinople and, under Byzantine Emperor Michael III, president of the imperial chancellery. When the head of the sterner orthodox faction, St. Ignatius of Constantinople was deposed (858) from the patriarchate, Photius, a layman, was rushed through the stages of the holy orders and installed in the position. In 861 the legates of Pope St. Nicholas I approved the election of Photius, but the pope refused to recognize him. In 867, Photius called a synod that challenged the rights of the pope in Bulgaria, questioned certain Latin practices, and challenged the pope's right to judge the canonicity of the election of the patriarch. Nicholas died without learning of the synod's work. When Basil I became Byzantine emperor (867), Photius was banished to Cyprus and St. Ignatius became patriarch again. Although Photius was condemned two years later (see Constantinople, Fourth Council of), he reconciled with Basil and Ignatius, and on the death of Ignatius he again became patriarch (877). Pope John VIII recognized him as patriarch and sent legates to a synod, held in 879–80, which the Orthodox Eastern Church regards as an ecumenical council. This synod affirmed that Photius had been legally elected, nullified those synods that had condemned him, ruled against the elevation of laymen to the episcopacy, and agreed that Constantinople would relinquish authority in Bulgaria. The acts of this council were apparently approved by Pope John VIII, but without any retraction of his predecessors' condemnations. Photius continued as patriarch until the accession of Byzantine Emperor Leo VI in 886, when he was forced to resign under imperial pressure; he died in exile. Photius is a figure of controversy. In later years the deep cleavage between East and West was reckoned from the schism of Photius, even though the formal schism did not occur until the 11th cent. Certainly Photius encouraged the growing self-consciousness in the Greek church, not only through his exposition of the theological differences between the two churches, but also through his humanist and scholarly works. He is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Eastern Church. Many of his letters, homilies, and dogmatic and polemical works are extant. His writings include the Myriobyblion, or Bibliotheca, a collection of extracts from 280 volumes of classical authors, which contains many quotations from lost Greek writings; a Lexicon to assist in reading the works of older authors; and the Nomocanon, a collection of the acts and decrees of the councils and ecclesiastical laws of the emperors.

See J. H. Freese, The Library of Photius (1920); F. Dvornik, The Photian Schism (1948); A. Gerostergios, St. Photios the Great (1980).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Photius." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Photius." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/photius

"Photius." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/photius

Photius

Photius (sometimes called ‘ The Great’, c.810–c.895). Patriarch of Constantinople. A high official at the Byzantine court, Photius succeeded the patriarch Ignatius who was deposed by the emperor in 858. His election, at first endorsed by the legates of Pope Nicholas I, was then (863) annulled by the pope and a schism ensued. Divisions were sharpened by an encyclical of 867 in which Photius attacked the filioque in the W. creed, and by the rival claims of Rome and Constantinople to the newly evangelized territory of Bulgaria. The Photian schism anticipated the final East–West schism of the 11th cent., and Photius is remembered in the E. Church as a champion against Rome.

Photius' learning was amazing. His most important work, his Biblioteca, describes several hundred books and is a mine of information.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Photius." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Photius." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/photius

"Photius." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/photius

Photius

PhotiusBierce, fierce, Pearce, Peirce, pierce, tierce •Fabius, scabious •Eusebius •amphibious, Polybius •dubious • Thaddeus • compendious •radius • tedious •fastidious, hideous, insidious, invidious, perfidious •Claudiuscommodious, melodious, odious •studious • Cepheus •Morpheus, Orpheus •Pelagius • callipygous • Vitellius •alias, Sibelius, Vesalius •Aurelius, Berzelius, contumelious, Cornelius, Delius •bilious, punctilious, supercilious •coleus • Julius • nucleus • Equuleus •abstemious •Ennius, Nenniuscontemporaneous, cutaneous, extemporaneous, extraneous, instantaneous, miscellaneous, Pausanias, porcellaneous, simultaneous, spontaneous, subcutaneous •genius, heterogeneous, homogeneous, ingenious •consanguineous, ignominious, Phineas, sanguineous •igneous, ligneous •Vilnius •acrimonious, antimonious, ceremonious, erroneous, euphonious, felonious, harmonious, parsimonious, Petronius, sanctimonious, Suetonius •Apollonius • impecunious •calumnious • Asclepius • impious •Scorpius •copious, Gropius, Procopius •Marius • pancreas • retiarius •Aquarius, calcareous, Darius, denarius, gregarious, hilarious, multifarious, nefarious, omnifarious, precarious, Sagittarius, senarius, Stradivarius, temerarious, various, vicarious •Atreus •delirious, Sirius •vitreous •censorious, glorious, laborious, meritorious, notorious, uproarious, uxorious, vainglorious, victorious •opprobrious •lugubrious, salubrious •illustrious, industrious •cinereous, deleterious, imperious, mysterious, Nereus, serious, Tiberiuscurious, furious, injurious, luxurious, penurious, perjurious, spurious, sulphureous (US sulfureous), usurious •Cassius, gaseous •Alcaeus • Celsius •Theseus, Tiresias •osseous, Roscius •nauseous •caduceus, Lucius •Perseus • Statius • Propertius •Deo gratias • plenteous • piteous •bounteous •Grotius, Photius, Proteus •beauteous, duteous •courteous, sestertius •Boethius, Prometheus •envious • Octavius •devious, previous •lascivious, niveous, oblivious •obvious •Vesuvius, Vitruviusimpervious, pervious •aqueous • subaqueous • obsequious •Dionysius

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Photius." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Photius." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/photius

"Photius." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved June 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/photius