Anastasius the Librarian

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Enigmatic personality, very influential behind the scenes in Rome from the 840s to 870s; b. probably Rome, c. 810817; d. c. 878. By his own account he was the nephew of Arsenius, the influential bishop of Orte, rather than his son, as hincmar of reims held (Annales Bertiniani, ann. 868). His knowledge of Greek, which he learned at an early age, brought him into prominence. The beginning of his career was stormy and even scandalous. Created cardinal priest of St. Marcellus by leo iv in 847 or 848, Anastasius soon abandoned his church for motives still obscure but in which ambition must have played a part; he was excommunicated (Dec. 16, 850), anathematized (May 29, and June 19, 853), and deposed (Dec. 8, 853). Between the election and the consecration (Sept. 29, 855) of benedict iii, successor to Leo IV (d. July 17, 855), Anastasius attempted to secure the pontifical throne by force and for a few days stood as antipope. Benedict III later admitted him again to lay communion. Anastasius henceforth altered his whole attitude, becoming a zealous defender of the succeeding popes. It is this change that explains why, up to the time of hergenrÖther, Lapôtre, and Perels, the existence of two men named Anastasius (Anastasius the cardinal and Anastasius the librarian) was admitted. Anastasius became abbot of S. Maria in Trastevere under nicholas i, was freed from his suspension on the day of the consecration of adrian ii (Dec. 14, 867), and immediately afterward was named librarian of the Holy Roman Church, a post he retained under john viii until his death (the last official mention of him is May 29, 877, the first allusion to his successor, Zacharias of Anagni, March 29, 879).

It is hard to exaggerate the part Anastasius played from 861 onward in drawing up papal letters, especially those dealing with the Byzantine Church and the Patriarch photius, whose determined opponent he was. At the beginning of 868 Anastasius was acting patron to SS. cyril (constantine) and Methodius on their arrival in Rome with the Slavonic liturgy. When Eleutherius, the son of Arsenius, shortly afterward (March 10, 868) ravished the daughter of Adrian II and a few months later killed her and her mother, Stephania, Anastasius was accused of complicity in the murder, whereupon the previous condemnations were at once reimposed. After being rehabilitated, probably before the middle of 869, he was sent by Emperor louis ii to Constantinople, on the occasion of the eighth ecumenical council, constantinople iv, to arrange a marriage between Louis's daughter, Ermengard, and the eldest son of the Byzantine Emperor Basil I. The project did not succeed, but Anastasius made good use of his stay, now in questioning metrophanes of smyrna, the bishop whom Photius had once exiled to Cherson, about the discovery there of the relics of Pope St. clement i by Cyril (Constantine), now by helping the official delegates of the Holy See to the Council, at whose last session (Feb. 28, 870) he also assisted. As the acta of the official delegates perished, it was his personal copy that was accepted in Rome; in 871 Anastasius offered Adrian his Latin translation of these acta, preceded by a long dedicatory epistle. He was to do precisely the same thing, at the beginning of the pontificate of the new Pope John VIII, with the acta of the seventh ecumenical Council (nicaea ii, 787). During John's pontificate Anastasius' literary activity was particularly intense, consisting mainly of translations (of unequal value) from Greek into Latin. Thus, he composed for John the Deacon of Rome (Hymmonides) a Chronographia tripertita out of extracts from the Byzantine chronicles of Patriarch nicephorus i, george syncellus, and theophanes and a Collectanea relating to the history of monothelitism. For Emperor Charles II the Bald, both before and after his coronation (Christmas 875), he translated the Scholia of St. maximus the confessor and of Patriarch john iii Scholasticus to the works of pseudodionysius and the life of the latter by Patriarch methodius of constantinople (Bibliotheca hagiographica latina antiquae et mediae aetatis 554d), as well as summaries of liturgical treatises attributed to Maximus and to Patriarch germanus i of constantinople and a passio of St. demetrius. His hagiographical work over 20 years included versions of lives, miracles, or translations relative to SS. john the almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea, John Calybites, Bartholomew the Apostle, Pope Martin I, Stephen the protomartyr, Peter of Alexandria, Cyrus and John, and the 10,000 martyrs of Mt. Ararat. His translations of two short works of Cyril (Constantine) and his letter to Photius when he was restored to favor by John VIII are lost. Of the liber pontificalis, the composition of which was once gratuitously attributed to Anastasius, probably only the notice on Pope Adrian II is from his hand.

Bibliography: anastasius the librarian, Epistolae sive praefationes, ed. e. perels and g. laehr, Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Epistolae 7:395442. u. westerbergh, Anastasius Bibliothecarius. Sermo Theodori Studitae de sancto Bartholomaeo apostolo (Stockholm 1963). j. hergenrÖther, Photius Patriarch von Konstantinopel, 3 v. (Regensburg 186769). a. lapÔtre, De Anastasio bibliothecario sedis apostolicae (Paris 1885). e. perels, Papst Nikolaus I und Anastasius Bibliothecarius (Berlin 1920). g. laehr, "Die Briefe und Prologe des Bibliothekars Anastasius," Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 47 (1928) 416468. f. dvornik, The Photian Schism: History and Legend (Cambridge, Eng. 1948). p. devos, "Anastase le bibliothécaire: Sa Contribution à la correspondance pontificale. La date de sa mort," Byzantion 32 (1962) 97115; "Une Passion grecque inédite de S. Pierre d'Alexandrie et sa traduction par Anastase le bibliothécaire," Analecta Bollandiana 83 (1965) 157187.

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