John Lydos

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Johannes Lydos (* 490 in Philadelphia , † after 560) was a late antique Eastern Roman civil servant and writer.


Flavius ​​Laurentius (?) Iohannes, known as "the Lydian", came from the Philadelphia polis in Lydia and came to Constantinople around 510, at the time of Emperor Anastasius , to pursue a career there in the central administration. The language of the Eastern Roman administration at this time was still Latin , and Johannes proudly emphasizes his bilingualism in his surviving works - written in ancient Greek . His career was initially promoted by the praefectus praetorio Zoticus, a compatriot. Under Justinian I and his praefectus praetorio John of Cappadocia , John's career apparently stalled after initially rapid ascent. The Cappadocian is therefore depicted very negatively in Lydos. After the fall of Prefect 542, better times came for Lydos. In 543 Justinian praised him in a letter to the new praefectus praetorio for his education, his literary works and his legal competence and offered a raise in salary. A little later, the city ​​prefect awarded him a chair in rhetoric for Latin at the University of Constantinople (De Mag. 3,29). Lydos then retired in 552 and died around 560.

Literary work

Johannes Lydos wrote a whole series of literary works, including a now completely lost description of the Persian Wars of Emperor Justinian, which reproduced the official view of things, as well as some Latin celebratory speeches that also did not come to us (De Mag. 3,28) . Only three works written in Greek have survived : “On the months” ( De mensibus ), “On heavenly phenomena” ( De ostentis ) and “On the offices of the Roman state” (for short: De magistratibus ). The latter in particular, which arose after Johannes left the civil service, offers a wealth of valuable information about the imperial administration in the late late antiquity . Lydos describes the changes that were introduced during his period of service and some of which already pointed to the Middle Byzantine period - for example, under Justinian, Greek was allowed as the official language in addition to Latin - with skepticism and rejection. Among other things, he refers to a prophecy according to which the Romans would lose their happiness if they should forget the language of their fathers (De Mag. 3,42).

Editions and translations

  • Michel Dubuisson and Jacques Schamp (eds.): Jean le Lydien: Des magistratures de l'état romain , Les Belles Lettres, Paris 2006 (critical edition of the Greek text with detailed introduction, French translation and commentary)
  • Thomas Francis Carney (translator): John the Lydian, De Magistratibus. On the Magistracies of the Roman Constitution. Coronado Press 1971.
  • Anastasius C. Bandy (Ed.): Ioannes Lydus on powers, or: The magistracies of the Roman state. introduction, critical text, translation, commentary, and indices. Philadelphia 1983.


Overview representations


  • Michael Maas: John Lydus and the Roman Past . London / New York 1992.

Web links