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Golubkov A.V. Anekdota of Procopius of Caesarea between History and Literature: Basileus vs Demon; Basilissa vs Hetaera. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 4, pp. 106–115. (In French)

DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-4-106-115

Author: Andrey V. Golubkov
Information about the author:

Andrey V. Golubkov, DSc in Philology, Senior Researcher, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 a, 121069 Moscow, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Received: July 28, 2018
Published: December 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №4
Department: World Literature
Pages: 106-115

UDK: 821.14+821.133.1
BBK: 83.3(0)4 + 83.3(4Фра)51
Keywords: Byzantine Empire, France, Procopius of Caesarea, anecdote, history, “secret history”, rhetoric.


The article analyzes the reception of the “Secret History” pamphlet written by Procopius of Caesarea, a 7 th century AD Byzantine historian, author of well-known panegyric texts about the Basileus Justinian. The manuscript of this pamphlet was found by an hellenophile Niccolo Alemanni and published in 1623 in Lyon as “Anekdota” (this literary work was first mentioned under this Greek title, meaning “unedited notes,” in “Suda,” a 10 th century AD Greek encyclopedic lexicon). 17 th century French historians and writers perceived “Secret History” as a unique attempt to see behind the curtain of byzantine history and to learn the true causes of great events. Antoine de Varillas, a famous historian, tried to create a “secret history” based on the history of the Medici Florence. The article argues that in the 17 th century, the meaning and pragmatics of this work by Procopius were understood in an incorrect way: the text of “Secret History” could have been created as an exercise in rhetoric, in which Procopius was showing his abilities not only as a writer of panegyrics but also as a master of “inverted” praise. To support this hypothesis, the article provides examples related to the descriptions of Justinian as a demon, tracing their origin to the characters from “The Testament of Solomon”, as well as pornographic scenes dealing with the basilissa’s follies that resemble rhetorically hypertrophied exempla from the oratory skills manuals (progymnasmata) by Hermogenes of Tarsus.


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