Eustathius of Thessalonica (Greek: Εὐστάθιος) (? - 1198) was a native of Constantinople who became archbishop of Thessalonike. After being a monk in the monastery of St. Florus, he was appointed to the offices of superintendent of petitions (ἐπὶ τῶν δεήσεων epi tōn deēseōn), professor of rhetoric (μαΐστωρ ῥητόρων maistōr rhetorōn), and deacon of the church of Constantinople. After being appointed to the bishopric of Myra he was raised to the archbishopric of Thessalonike, where he remained until his death in 1198.
Euthymius and Michael Choniates delivered funeral orations on him, of which manuscripts survive in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Writers such as Nicetas Choniates (viii.238, x.334) and Michael Psellus (Glossar. s.v. ῥήτωρ) bestowed praise on him as the most learned man of his age, a judgment which is difficult to dispute. He wrote commentaries on ancient Greek poets, theological treatises, homilies, epistles, and an important account of the sack of Thessalonike by William II of Sicily in 1185.
Of his works, his commentaries on Homer are the most widely referred to: they display an extensive knowledge of Greek literature from the earliest to the latest times; other works exhibit an impressive character, and a great oratorical power which earned him the esteem of the imperial family of the Comneni.
His most important works are the following:
- The Sack of Thessalonike, an eye-witness account of the siege in 1185 and the subsequent sufferings of the people of Thessalonica. In the early sections of this compelling memoir Eustathius describes political events at Constantinople from the death of Manuel I Comnenus through the short reign of Alexius II Comnenus to the usurpation of Andronicus I Comnenus, with sharp comments on the activities of nobles and courtiers. The Greek text was edited most recently by Kyriakidis; there is an English translation by Melville-Jones and a German translation by Herbert Hunger.
- Commentaries on the Iliad and Odyssey (παρεκβολαὶ εἰς τὴν Ὁμήρου Ἰλιάδα καὶ Ὀδυσσείαν). These are not original commentaries but collections of extracts from earlier commentators of those two poems; there are many correspondences with the Homeric scholia. This vast compilation was made with great diligence and perseverance from the numerous and extensive works of the Alexandrian grammarians and critics, as well as from later commentators, and constitute the most important contribution to Homeric scholarship in the Middle Ages, not least because all the works from which Eustathius made his extracts are lost.
He quotes from a prodigious number of authors; but though it is certain that he had not read all of them, and that he quoted some at second-hand, it is entirely likely that he was personally acquainted with the works of the greatest ancient critics, namely Aristarchus of Samothrace, Zenodotus, Aristophanes of Byzantium, and others, which were probably still accessible in the libraries of Constantinople. He was also an avid reader of the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus. As commentaries per se these works are less impressive: his remarks are very diffuse, frequently interrupted by all kinds of digressions and filled with etymological and grammatical errors inherited from his Alexandrian predecessors. The commentary contains very little original material, but covers grammar, mythology, history, and geography.
The first edition of it was published in Rome in 1542-1550 (4 volumes, fol.), of which an inaccurate reprint was published in Basel in 1559-1560. A. Potitus' edition (Florence, 1730, 3 volumes, folio), contains only the commentary on the first five books of the Iliad with a Latin translation. A tolerably correct reprint of the Roman edition was published at Leipzig in two parts; the first, containing the Odyssey commentary (2 volumes, 4to.), appeared in 1825-1826, and the second, containing the Iliad commentary (3 volumes, 4to.), was edited by G. Stalbaum, 1827-1829. Useful extracts from the commentary of Eustathius are contained in several editions of the Homeric poems.
A commentary on Dionysius Periegetes, dedicated to John Ducas, son of Andronicus Camateros. This is in the same spirit as the commentary on Homer, and shares its diffuseness. It does, however, conprise numerous valuable extracts from earlier writers to illustrate the geography of Dionysius. It was first printed in R. Stephens' edition of Dionysios (Paris, 1547, 4to.), and later in that of H. Stephens (Paris, 1577, 4to., and 1697, 8vo.), in Hudson's Geograph. Minor, vol. iv., and lastly, in Bernhardy's edition of Dionysius (Leipzig, 1828, 8vo.).
A commentary on Pindar. Unfortunately this seems to be lost; at least no manuscript of it has yet come to light. The introduction survives, however, and was first published by Tafel in his Eustathii Thessalonicensis Opuscula (Frankfurt, 1832, 4to.), from which it was reprinted separately by Schneidewin, Eustathii prooemium commentariorum Pindaricorum (Göttingen, 1837, 8vo.).
Of Eustathius' other works some were published for the first time by Tafel in the 1832 Opuscula just mentioned, some have appeared more recently, and some remain unpublished. They include theological writings and commemorative speeches; the latter are, in several cases, important historical sources.
- Smith, William (editor); Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Eustathius (7)", Boston, (1867)
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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