This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine sources produced and mounted with historical introduction and commentary by Paul Stephenson.


 

Theodore Daphnopates (?)

Oration, ed. I. Dujcev (after A. Stauridou-Zafraka), trans. R. J. H. Jenkins in Polychronion (1966).

 

12. But when the die fell on the other side, and the scales tipped up, and it was needful for misfortune to come and for the worse to prevail – either because good fortune had reached the ridge and therefore began to go downhill, or else because our sins came before God and cried out for the cup of drunkenness so that we might wake to dreadful   nausea – then alas for the fifth race and for misery unceasing! For at once the torrent of vainglory, the rainstorm and snowstorm – such as especially disturbs the Haemus and Danube – swept into the heart of the archon [Symeon], and the earthquake came and was felt by those beyond the Pillars of Herakles! At once crown (stephos) and throne (diphros) were led away captive, the crown that discrowned Europe and “cast the heads of many down upon earth (Homer, Iliad 11.500).” Then followed insurrection, or rather apostasy: for the proclamation [of Symeon as emperor] came, and the other [titles] with which he profaned his seals, and the evil was born, and he [Symeon] appropriated the fruits of his father, and rejected his father [Constantine VII] , and rejected the spirit in which lay the pledge of his sonship.

 

13. But he [Patriarch Nicholas I Mystikos, in 913], after enquiry of what he knew already, excluded for that time the lords of the senate, out of his reverence for the imperial office and for Him Who gave it. But he [Symeon], hidden beneath his helmet of darkness, called for fellow celebrants and proposed the confirmation of the covenant. But he [Nicholas] opposed this and said straight out that it was abominable for Romans to do proskynêsis to an emperor ( baslieus ) unless he was a Roman; “Rather wear your makeshift diadem for a little, and let your fellow celebrants [Bulgarians] do you proskynêsis .” Who could number the devices, the expedients, the impositions of that man? “I know,” says the tale, “the number of [the grains of] sand and the measurements of the sea [Zenobius, 1. 80]”; but it is impossible to tell the the devices whereby, without force, he [Nicholas] cunningly mastered and restrained Hadad [Symeon] all through his life. Well: so he [Nicholas, then acting as regent], honouring peace and as yet honoured by it, quietly took rule over a quiet folk, and the brother went off by the same way he had come, leaving the sceptre to the child [Constantine VII] and attaching the aristocracy to the youth to whom it already pertained …


 

Overly brief commentrary

Extensive commentary is provided by Jenkins and Dujcev. The interpolations in square parentheses follow Jenkins. The oration is believed to have been delivered in 927, in the palace, to mark the peace agreement between Byzantium and Bulgaria and marriage of Maria Lekapena to Peter of Bulgaria. However, the sections presented here relate to an earlier episode, the supposed coronation of Symeon by Nicholas Mystikos in 913.

It is nowhere stated that Daphnopates was the author of this oration, and it has been argued that it should be attributed to Nicholas Mystikos (who died in 925) or Arethas. However, consensus now favours Daphnopates, and parallels are drawn to the language of the last book of Theophanes Continuatus. Daphnopates has also been identified -- but not conclusively -- as the author of the final section of that chronicle. A most pressing question of historical rather than authorial import is: did the imperial coronation of Symeon take place in 913, or is Daphnopates repeating a story current in 927? On spriritual sonship, see the De Cerimoniis Protocols.


Paul Stephenson, January 2004; January 2012