John Bekkos’s dream

October 6, 2007

The historian George Pachymeres reports the following dream in the context of events of the patriarchate of Nikephoros II, who was Patriarch of Constantinople during the year 1260. Bekkos’s dream thus probably occurred sometime around that year, when Bekkos was about 35 years old, and the emperor Michael VIII, newly victorious over the Latins at the Battle of Pelagonia, was making preparations for his assault upon the Latin-held Constantinople.

George Pachymeres, De Michaele Palaeologo, II 19; Bekker, ed., p. 121; Failler, ed., vol. I, p. 171; PG 143, 558A-559A.

One might have wondered then at the operation of Justice; for it could not have been thought that the death of so many church dignitaries would have happened by mere chance. About ten of them, in fact, died within the space of nine months,* men greatly revered and of high position. There is a story that is told about this, from someone who, before they died, saw them in a dream: this was that John Bekkos, who later, after being chartophylax, served as patriarch, then suffered many grievous troubles, as the narrative will relate at the proper time. As for the dream that he saw, he declared it thus: it seemed to him that he saw the archons crossing a level plain on horseback. After making a long journey, they stopped at the bank of a great and terrible river that flowed on by. Then they began to cross it in the order in which they were going to encounter death: first this one, next that one, then the rest in turn; they didn’t cross it by twos or by threes, but each one went in by himself. As then he who saw these things stood and beheld in astonishment, wondering how he himself should get across, he heard a voice that came to him from somewhere: “Why are you anxious about this? Now is not the time for you to cross this river. There is indeed a time when you yourself will have to cross it; but, for now, go forth safe and sound: you are being kept in store for a day of importance.” This is how, some years later, he who had seen the dream reported it, and those of us who heard it were amazed. But as for him (who, quite apart from this, was a lover of truth), he added an oath to confirm the things he spoke, in his wonderment at the effective and ineluctable power of Providence.

*This is Failler’s reading. Bekker reads, “many men died in the space of nineteen months.”

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