Gregoras: How Bekkos changed his mind

January 4, 2008

Note: The main events described below occurred in the year 1273. The paragraphs follow directly upon a passage from Gregoras’s History that was posted in October; see Gregoras on Bekkos.

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Nicephorus Gregoras, Byzantine History [Rhomaïke Historia], Book V, ch. 2, §§ 6-7; PG 148, 268C – 269B.

6. But, since the Emperor failed to realize his hopes by this method, he tried a different approach: and, after arresting him and virtually his whole family, he confined them in most fearful dungeons. So then, this is how matters stood. Then, at length, the Emperor called to mind how, twenty five years earlier, during the reign of John Dukas, more or less the same issue had been raised by the Latins, and there was at that time a wise man, most learned in the divine Scriptures, Nikephoros Blemmydes, who, having devoted himself to quiet studies, began to collect from the divine Scriptures numerous testimonies which appeared to be in accord with the Latins’ dogma, and to write commentary upon them; he did so discreetly, because of the commonly-held assumption; nevertheless, he did write such things. So the Emperor now finds them and sends them to Bekkos. When Bekkos had read them, with great presence of mind he requested those books of the saints from which Blemmydes had gathered his testimonies; and when he had received this allowance from the Emperor, who gave it very willingly, it was his work thereafter to go through them, tracking things down and observing them in their original contexts; so that, in a short time, he had amassed an array of testimonies so considerable as to suffice to fill up entire volumes. And he who was earlier a two-edged sword against the Latins, having once been put up in storage, now gives the victory to the other side.

7. By reason of these things, when he had been raised to the patriarchal throne, he was to the Emperor all things — tongue and hand and pen of a ready writer, in speaking and in writing and in discoursing on dogma; and he had as co-workers and assistants in this enterprise Meliteniotes and Metochites, who were archdeacons belonging to the clergy of the imperial chapel, as well as George, from Cyprus. Now, none of them in fact concelebrated liturgically with the Pope’s men, neither the patriarch himself nor any of the others, except that permission was given once to some of the Friars to hold a service in the church of the Blachernae palace so they could ordain one of their own men. But let us resume our narrative from where we left off.

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