Teuta Serreqi Jurić, Odjel za klasičnu filologiju Sveučilišta u Zadru, Zadar
The Christian idea of Providence is quite conventional in Byzantine literature and it is not surprising that it is present in Vita Bas., the biography of Emperor Basil I, Porphyrogenitus’ grandfather, in which we also find a strong influence of the Holy Scripture. Taking into account the author’s frequent references to the mentioned idea, in this paper we aim to examine the relationship between the emphasis of the idea of Providence and the influence of the Holy Scripture, as well as to answer the question of why Porphyrogenitus constantly stresses the importance of divine providence throughout Basil’s life if the Byzantines perceived emperors as appointed by God himself. Our research has shown that the author, wishing to support the idea that God’s will played a key role in every aspect of Basil’s life, used the Holy Scripture as a source from which he extracted quotes or lexical and phraseological parallels and incorporated them into the descriptions of important moments in Basil’s life in order to present his grandfather as a pious man, obedient to God’s will, which consequently led him to the throne. Additionally, he aimed to describe Basil’s personal traits, more precisely, justice, piety and mercy, as Christian virtues which marked his politics, as well as to highlight his sobriety and prudence in the face of most difficult family circumstances, one of which was surely the death of his son Constantine. With the same intention the author used the exempla when comparing Basil to the biblical figures of Samson, Abraham and the father from the Parable of the prodigal son, or biblical metaphors of the storm and the shepherd and his flock, when illustrating the dangers of war and depicting Basil as a ruler. Although the use of quotes and stylistic devices usually follows the rhetorical conventions of a given period of time and genre standards, and in this case the genre we are dealing with is an encomium written in honour of a Byzantine emperor, the mutual connection between the emphasis of the idea of Providence and the biblical elements that are used cannot be denied. The fact that, if these were lacking, the specified idea would not possess such expressive and aesthetic strength as it does in this panegyric biography, undoubtedly confirms that the author included parts of the Holy Scripture into his narrative not only in order to achieve the exalted stylistic expression, but also to realize his ideological intention throughout the text, which was obviously to whitewash the reputation of his grandfather as the founder of the Macedonian dynasty. Motivated by this desire, instead of denying Basil’s involvement in the murders of Cesar Bardas and Emperor Michael III, the author portrays his grandfather as a pious and moral man (which is consistent with Christian principles), whose accession to the throne was ordained by God’s will, and not a consequence of his immoral acts or great ambition.
Key words
Vita Basilii; Basil I; God’s providence; biblical quotes; biblical exempla; biblical metaphors
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