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Syropoulos, Sylvester


Byzantine ecclesiastic and historian; b. Constantinople, end of the 14th century; d. after 1453. Syropoulos, probably the son of a deacon functionary of hagia so phia, received a good education, became (c. 1430) Great Ecclesiarches and Dikaiophylax of St. Sophia. He accompanied the Patriarch Joseph II (141639) to Italy for the Council of florence, served as a member of various committees, and signed the decree of union; but on his return to Constantinople he became an active member of the antiunionist movement. He resigned his office to the unionist Patriarch Metrophanes, but seemingly retained the title. Several manuscripts in his hand date from this period. His name appears among the signatures of antiunionist manifestoes and documents preceding the fall of Constantinople (May 1453). Thereafter he is not heard of again, unless, under the name of Sophronius, he was the third patriarch of Constantinople after the capture, who reigned for one year and was deposed by the clergy.

Syropoulos is known almost exclusively for his Memoirs, edited in 1660, without the first section, by the Anglican Bp. Robert Chreyghton, with the title: Vera historia unionis non verae, an account of the Council of Florence with an introduction recording the preliminary negotiations. Syropoulos portrays himself as the most anti-Latin and antiunionist of the Greeks in Italy, who had been silenced in the private Greek meetings by the Emperor for his antiunionist influence; but was made to sign the decree of union. The Memoirs say extremely little of the public events of the Council; they are devoted almost entirely to backstage relations of Greeks with Greeks and, to a lesser degree, with the Latins. The Memoirs are in reality a thesis to prove that the union of the two churches achieved in Florence was the result of duress, and so no union at all. Syropoulos himself had signed the decree and had to explain why. As a historical document, the Memoirs are untrustworthy. Unquestionably they contain a vast number of facts, but one can never be sure one has the truth in its full context: at times their assertions can be disproved or called into doubt. Yet Syropoulos did not falsify facts deliberately. He wrote after 1444 from memory, but from a memory enmbittered by controversy and remorse, and by the hostility that the union had aroused in Constantinople.

Bibliography: w. gass and p. meyer, j. j. herzog and a. hauck, eds., Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie, 24v. (3d ed. Leipzig 18961913) 19:306308. m. jugie, Échos d'Orient 38 (1939) 7071. h. g. beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich (Munich 1959) 759760. j. gill"The Acta and the Memoirs of Syropoulos as History" Orientalia Christiana periodica 14 (1948) 303355; The Council of Florence (Cambridge, Eng. 1959).

[j. gill]

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