Prokopios of Caesarea
Prokopios of Caesarea (Προκόπιος, Latin Procopius Caesarensis , in German usually called Prokop ; * around 500 in Caesarea Maritima ; † around 560 in Constantinople ) was a late antique Greek or early Byzantine historian of the 6th century AD. He is considered to be the last great historian of antiquity and as the most important source at the time of Emperor Justinian .
Prokopios probably came from a privileged Hellenized family from Caesarea Maritima ( Greek. Παράλιος Καισάρεια) in Palestine and enjoyed obviously a rhetorical and legal education, probably at the law school of Beirut , but perhaps also in Caesarea or Konstantin Opel . From 527 to 540 or 542 he was a consiliarius or assessor (Greek πάρεδρος) and thus legal advisor to the Eastern Roman magister militum Belisarius . The entire field post went through his hands, so he was at least well informed about the military and diplomatic events, and in this way he had access to many actors. However, his work, which is formally and linguistically strongly based on the classics of ancient historiography, often shows a certain tendency towards entertaining anecdotes , and his statements about foreign peoples are sometimes of dubious value. Procopius took part personally in Belisarius campaigns against the Sassanids , Vandals and Ostrogoths , after 542 he probably stayed mainly in Constantinople and wrote his works there. As the assessor of an army master, he must have held at least the rank of vir spectabilis ; the Central Byzantine Suda even calls it vir illustris . If so, he was not only formally but also de facto a senator. Johannes von Nikiu also refers to him as patricius and prefect.
Perhaps Procopius was identical with the Prefect of Constantinople, who, according to Johannes Malalas 561/62, investigated a conspiracy against Justinian, but this remains uncertain. It is usually assumed that Prokop died before Justinian's death in 565; there is no reference to the peace treaty with the Sassanids in the year 562, which Prokop would have mentioned with certainty if he had lived through it.
The war history ( histories )
Books 1 and 2 deal with the Persian theater of war ( Sassanids , see also Roman-Persian Wars ) up to the 540s. Books 3 and 4 describe the struggles against the Vandals in North Africa, books 5 to 7 the wars against the Ostrogoths in Italy . The first seven books were finally completed in 550/51 and published together. Book 8 was only finished in 553/54, has its own short foreword and, as a "colorful story", offers a summary of the further military conflicts in various theaters of war (both in the west and in the east) up to the autumn of the year 553.
Prokop's histories are based on the model of Appian (ie according to geographical aspects), stylistically they are based on Herodotus and Thucydides , which is already clear in the prefaces. The histories are not only very comprehensive in terms of content, they are also on a high stylistic level and arrange the material skillfully and by no means unintentionally. Due to their digressions, they represent much more than a pure chronicle of war, but can certainly be viewed as the history of Justinian's time. For retrospectives, for example in the 5th century, Prokop used partly written works as sources, for example Priskos and Eustathios of Epiphaneia . Otherwise he could mainly fall back on his own experience, for which he will have already made notes; Due to his position, he also had partial access to official documents and was able to talk to eyewitnesses.
Prokop's other works are the buildings ( De Aedificiis ) and the famous so-called "secret story". In the buildings , a presumed commissioned work, in which Prokop went into six books on Justinian's comprehensive building program in Constantinople (Book I) and in the provinces (except Italy), the emperor (but partly also Belisarius ) was praised panegyric . The criteria by which Prokop selected the places and buildings described have so far been poorly researched; so it is unclear why Antioch is dealt with in detail, whereas the no less important Alexandria is treated only in a few sentences. Books 5 and 6 may also not have been completed, but may have remained in the drafting stage (the note-like drafting suggests this); The lack of treatment of Italy, which Prokop knew well, suggests that the buildings may have remained unfinished.
According to most scholars, the work was written between 553 and 555. Researchers such as James Evans and Michael Whitby , on the other hand, have rather pleaded for it to be written around 561 and suspect that Prokop died before the work was completed. The work is handwritten in two clearly different versions, a short ("z") and a long ("y"). According to the current state of research, the latter seems to receive a number of later additions that did not come from Prokop himself.
The secret story
In contrast, the secret story ( Historia Arcana or Anekdota , mentioned for the first time and so called in the Suda ), which most likely was not published during the lifetime of the emperor and Prokop and was written either in 550 or (less likely) in 558, is a pure scandal story and diatribe ( psogos ) . Either the text was to be integrated into the Bella after Justinian's death , or it was intended from the beginning as a secret script for oppositional circles. In it Justinian and his wife Theodora I , but also Belisarius and his unfaithful wife Antonina are scourged. How and how the enigmatic work was handed down is unclear; It was first mentioned in the 10th century, which is why it was previously assumed that it was a later forgery. For decades, however, it has been considered certain that the anecdotes actually come from Prokop. The purpose, interpretation and background of the work are still very controversial in research.
Even if the descriptions in the anecdota, in view of the completely contrary image of Justinian in the buildings, at first glance throw a crooked light on Prokop's character, his works are nevertheless the most important source for Justinian's reign. Averil Cameron tried to explain the contradictions between the works by saying that Prokop believed that this was the only way to provide a complete picture of his time. Procopius repeatedly mentions his intention to write a church history as well, but if he should have realized his plan (which is unlikely) the work is completely lost.
Style and intention
The level of representation in Prokop's works, especially in the histories , is to be considered very high overall; in fact he was the only (surviving) historian of late antiquity , alongside Ammianus Marcellinus , who could compete with the famous models ( Herodotus , Thucydides , Polybios and Tacitus ). Prokop, who was based formally and linguistically on classical authors such as Herodotus and Thucydides, later served as a model and source for many authors. His work must have been widespread, as it has survived in an unusually large number of manuscripts and was also continued by other historians who consciously followed him (see below). John B. Bury formulated the importance Prokop in his History of the Later Roman Empire ( history of the late Roman Empire ): "It was one of the glorious chapters of the Justinian age, to have produced an author who are considered the most outstanding Greek historian since Polybius must. ”Even in modern research, its source value is generally estimated to be very high. Our picture of Justinian's time is still based to a large extent on Prokop's depiction, although attempts have recently been made to break away from his work. Prokop's work is still one of the most intensively evaluated and researched sources on late antiquity.
Prokop used a powerful language, interspersed with classicisms , and wrote good Attic style - which, however, may have made reading difficult for his contemporaries, with the exception of the educated upper class, which Prokop's presentation also aimed at. The late antique everyday Greek of its time had already changed a lot, but can still be described as ancient Greek and certainly left traces in the language of Prokop. His account is spiced with many anecdotes and he had a firm (but not always objective) judgment. He built in hidden (and in secret history open) criticism of Justinian's person; Criticism of rulers was, however, a genre feature of ancient historiography, so that ultimately it is difficult to decide what Prokop actually thought of Justinian. In later sections he also criticized Belisarius , whom he had first praised in the highest tones. Overall, with regard to Prokop's judgment, considerable inconsistencies and contradictions can be established within the history of war .
In the history of war , the work most closely indebted to classical tradition, Prokop remains at least superficially objective and reveals a clear view of events. He divides his material more according to (actual or supposed) contexts than according to chronology. While on the one hand he feels bound to the facts known to him, on the other hand he does not shy away from at the same time imposing his interpretation of things on his readers and manipulating his material through the selection and arrangement of the facts: Prokop's criticism is largely personal criticism. For example, he never criticizes the institution of the empire itself, but only the politics of Justinian, whom he often accuses of hesitation or mistrust towards his generals, which inhibited the war efforts of Eastern Europe. Prokop was close to conservative Senate circles, whose interests were affected by Justinian's policies. In secret history , the emperor is even denigrated as a "demon prince" who wanted to plunge the empire into ruin. In religious questions Prokop stood up for a tolerant Christianity, so he may not have taken a liking to the emperor's rigid religious policy. The fact that he was actually a pagan, as was sometimes suspected earlier, is very unlikely and has been generally disproved since Averil Cameron's fundamental study. The extensive (but not total) lack of Christian references can be explained by Prokop's classicist approach.
However, in the opinion of some researchers, there are indications that Prokop, even at the end of his work, might no longer see the classicist style he cultivated as no longer appropriate. The catastrophes that afflicted the Eastern Roman Empire (plague epidemics, earthquakes, barbarian incursions) could no longer be explained according to classical thought patterns, so that Procopius pointed to the rule of God, which defied human logic, as an explanation. This may also be one reason why the historiography based on the classical model in Eastern Europe soon fell silent for a long time and instead church history gained ground. None of his successors reached his level: Prokop's work was continued by Agathias , this by Menander Protektor , who in turn was the last late antique historian Theophylactus Simokates to build on . At the beginning of the 7th century the tradition of ancient historiography also ended in Eastern Europe (see also Byzantine historiography ). However, the histories of Prokopius remained known and popular in Byzantine times and, after a break, served as a model for many historians. In humanism they were printed in 1607 for the first time ( De Aedificiis already in 1531, the Historia Arcana until 1623).
Apart from the first seven books of the histories , which were undoubtedly published in 550/51, the question of the exact dating of the other works has long been debatable. An early dating (everything up to 553/54) contrasts with a late dating ( buildings and secret history only around 560), without a clear answer being possible. At the moment, however, most researchers prefer early dating.
Editions and translations
- Jacob Haury (Ed.): Procopii Caesariensis Opera omnia . Four volumes, Teubner, Leipzig 1905–1913; Reprinted with additions and corrections by Gerhard Wirth , Teubner, Leipzig 1962–1964. (Authoritative edition of the Greek text.)
- Henry B. Dewing and Glanville Downey (Eds.): Procopius. Buildings, History of the Wars, and Secret History . Loeb Classical Library , seven volumes, Cambridge / MA 1914–1940. (Greek text with English translation.)
- Anthony Kaldellis (Ed.): Prokopios. The Wars of Justinian. Hackett, Indianapolis 2014. (This is a one-volume new edition of Dewing's Translation of the Histories , revised in many places and with new annotations, by Anthony Kaldellis ; technical review .)
- Prokopios of Caesarea: Works (Greek-German), translated and edited by Otto Veh . Tusculum library , five volumes (I: Anekdota ; II: Gothic Wars ; III: Persian Wars ; IV: Vandal Wars ; V: Buildings ), Heimeran, Munich 1961–1977. (A translation that is not always regarded as successful by the specialist field.)
Henning Börm : Prokop and the Persians. Investigations into the Roman-Sasanid contacts in late antiquity. Steiner, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-515-09052-0 ( Oriens et Occidens 16; also Diss. Univ. Kiel 2006: Perser und Persisches with Prokop von Caesarea ).
(Special study with extensive bibliography; specialist review by H-Soz-u-Kult .)
- Henning Börm: Procopius, his predecessors, and the genesis of the Anecdota: Antimonarchic discourse in late antique historiography . In: Henning Börm (Ed.): Antimonarchic discourse in Antiquity . Steiner, Stuttgart 2015, pp. 305–346. (Börm doubts that one could infer Prokop's personal attitude towards Justinian from the imperial criticism in the histories and the anecdotes , since it is mostly about traditional topoi .)
- Dariusz Brodka: The philosophy of history in the late antique historiography. Studies on Prokopios of Kaisareia, Agathias of Myrina and Theophylactus Simokattes. Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2004, ISBN 3-631-52528-1 ( Studies and texts on Byzantine studies 5; also Habil.-Schr. Univ. Krakau).
- Dariusz Brodka: Prokop von Kaisareia and his informants. An attempt at identification . In: Historia 65, 2016, pp. 108–124.
- Averil Cameron : Procopius and the Sixth Century. University of California Press, Berkeley / CA et al. 1985, ISBN 0-520-05517-9 ( The transformation of the classical heritage 10). (Standard work.)
- James AS Evans: Procopius. Twayne, New York 1972.
- James AS Evans: The dates of Procopius' works: A recapitulation of the evidence. In: Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 37, 1996, , pp. 301-313.
Geoffrey B. Greatrex : Recent work on Procopius and the composition of Wars VIII. In: Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 27, 2003, , pp. 45-67.
(Excellent overview of the state of research up to 2003.)
- Geoffrey B. Greatrex: Perceptions of Procopius in Recent Scholarship. In: Histos 8, 2014, pp. 76–121 and 121a – e ( addenda ).
(Excellent overview of the state of research up to 2013.)
- Walter Kaegi: Procopius the military historian. In: Byzantine Research. 15, 1990, online (PDF; 989 kB) ( Memento from February 6, 2007 in the Internet Archive ). , pp. 53-85;
- Anthony Kaldellis: Procopius of Caesarea. Tyranny, History, and Philosophy at the End of Antiquity. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA 2004, ISBN 0-8122-3787-0 . (Kaldellis puts forward various new, controversial theses. His argumentation is primarily directed against Cameron: meeting at H-Soz-u-Kult ; review in BMCR.)
- Christopher Lillington-Martin, Elodie Turqois (Ed.): Procopius of Caesarea: Literary and Historical Interpretations . Routledge, London 2017, ISBN 978-1-4724-6604-4 . ( Scientific review at H-Soz-u-Kult .)
- John Robert Martindale: Prokopios of Caesarea. In: The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire (PLRE). Volume 3B, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1992, ISBN 0-521-20160-8 , pp. 1060-1066.
- Mischa Meier : Prokop, Agathias, the plague and the "end" of ancient historiography. In: Historische Zeitschrift 278, 2004, pp. 281-310.
- Frederico Montinaro: Power, Taste, and the Outsider: Procopius and the Buildings revisited . In: Geoffrey Greatrex, Hugh Elton (Eds.): Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity . Ashgate, Aldershot 2013, 191-206. (Current overview of the "buildings".)
- Berthold Rubin : Prokopios 21. In: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume XXIII, 1, Stuttgart 1957, Col. 273-599. (Rubin can be regarded as the best expert on Justinian and Prokop in older research. Although in parts - especially due to the work of Cameron - obsolete, the article is nevertheless highly informative.)
- Michael Edward Stewart: Masculinity, Identity, and Power Politics in the Age of Justinian: A Study of Procopius. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2020, ISBN 978-9-4629-8823-1 .
- Warren Treadgold : The early Byzantine Historians. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke et al. 2007, ISBN 978-1-4039-3458-1 , pp. 176-227.
- Michael Whitby: Religious Views of Procopius and Agathias. In: Dariusz Brodka, Michał Stachura (eds.): Continuity and Change. Studies in Late Antique Historiography. Jagiellonian University Press, Warsaw 2007, ISBN 978-83-233-2374-7 , pp. 73-94.
(Whitby opposes Kaldellis' thesis that Prokop and Agathias were secret pagans.)
- Scientific article in the Encyclopædia Iranica
- Prokop's Secret Story (English translation by Dewing) at LacusCurtius
- The secret story in a different English translation
- Prokops Buildings (English translation by Dewing)
- Texts in Project Gutenberg (including Persian War and Vandal War in translation by Dewing)
- Prokop's histories in the ancient Greek original
- Literature by and about Prokopios von Caesarea in the catalog of the German National Library
- Works by and about Prokopios von Caesarea in the German Digital Library
- Suda , keyword Prokopios ( Προκόπιος ), Adler number: pi 2479
- John of Nikiu 92:20.
- On Prokop's life cf. lastly H. Börm, Prokop and the Persians. Stuttgart 2007, p. 45 ff. (With further literature).
- Klaus Meister : Thucydides as a role model for historians. From antiquity to the present. Paderborn 2013, p. 94 ff.
- "It was one of the glories of Justinian's age to have produced a writer who must be accounted the most excellent Greek historian since Polybius". Bury, History of the later Roman Empire Volume 2, 1923, p. 419.
- Henning Börm: Procopius, his predecessors, and the genesis of the Anecdota: Antimonarchic discourse in late antique historiography. In: Henning Börm (Ed.): Antimonarchic discourse in Antiquity. Steiner, Stuttgart 2015, pp. 305–346.
- See also Averil Cameron, Procopius .
- Anthony Kaldellis now sees it differently again , but he was unable to establish himself in research with it.
- So at least Mischa Meier , Prokop, Agathias, the plague and the "end" of ancient historiography .
- Dariusz Brodka: Review of: Meier, Mischa; Leppin, Hartmut (ed.): Prokop, Secret History of the Imperial Court of Byzantium. Anecdota. Düsseldorf 2004. In: H-Soz-Kult . January 30, 2006, archived from the original on January 13, 2016 ; accessed on April 25, 2020 .
|SURNAME||Prokopios of Caesarea|
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Procopius; Procopius|
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||Byzantine historian|
|DATE OF BIRTH||around 500|
|DATE OF DEATH||around 560|