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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Hexabiblos

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, produced in the first half of the 15th century, contains a collection of different texts, primarily legal but also including basic works on theological controversies and lists of Byzantine state and ecclesiastical offices. It was copied by Stephanos, Metropolitan of Medeia in Thrace, a Byzantine clergyman who was responsible for producing a number of manuscripts both before and after his appointment to episcopal office. His dated manuscripts range from 1411/12-1442. In the late 16th century this manuscript was owned and annotated by another scholarly senior cleric, Thodosios Zygomalas, a member of the patriarchal clergy of Constantinople.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The first and longest of the texts in the main body of the volume is the <i>Hexabiblos</i> (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(19);return false;'>ff. 1r-146v, line 25</a>), a compilation of secular laws with commentary, which was the principal work of Konstantinos Harmenopoulos, a senior Byzantine judge in the city of Thessalonike in the 14th century. The thematic organisation of this text made it more accessible than previous collections, and even after the fall of the Byzantine Empire it remained the foundation of Greek civil law in the Ottoman Empire and modern Greece until the mid-20th century. It is followed by a series of briefer texts which are very commonly found together with the Hexabiblos in its manuscript copies and appear to have been selected by Harmenopoulos himself to accompany this work (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(310);return false;'>f. 146v, line 26-f. 186r, line 13</a>). These include other works by Harmenopoulos, including selections from canon law, brief treatises on the tenets of the Orthodox faith and on various heresies, and a Greek translation of the Donation of Constantine. A selection by Harmenopoulos of three synodical resolutions from various periods of Byzantine history, imposing ecclesiastical anathema on rebels against imperial authority, is followed by a refutation of these by Philotheos Kokkinos, who served as Patriarch of Constantinople in 1353-1354 and again in 1364-1376, which had been added to this textual tradition. Harmenopoulos and Kokkinos took opposing sides in the civil wars and religious controversies of the mid-14th century. This collection also includes the legal text known as the Farmer's Law and ends with 14th-century lists of the ranks of the imperial court hierarchy, the patriarchal clergy and the Orthodox episcopate.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This standard selection of texts associated with the Hexabiblos is followed by a series of other brief texts of similar content, including further 14th-century episcopal lists, excerpts from legal collections, glossaries of legal terms, a set of questions and answers on canon law by the 11th-century cleric Petros the <i>chartophylax</i>, and legal treatises by another Thessalonian jurist, Georgios Phobenos, active in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. There is also one longer text, the treatise on the religious errors of the Latins by another 14th-century author, Matthaios Blastares.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript was rebound and repaired in the later 15th century, and around this time was owned and extensively annotated by Theodosios Zygomalas, who held the patriarchal office of <i>protonotarios</i> and later also of <i>dikaiophylax</i>, offices with administrative and judicial responsibilities for which the texts in this manuscript would have been of practical use. On the endleaves and blank spaces within the manuscript he added other brief texts, some of them harmonious with the original content, including prefatory epigrams on justice, address formulae for letters to the eastern patriarchates, and a more up-to-date list of the top ranks of the patriarchal clergy of Constantinople, reflecting the situation in 1582/3. More incidental additions are a recipe for medicine for digestive complaints and a compass rose giving the names of directions and winds in Greek and Italian.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In his later years Zygomalas fell into dire financial straits, as a result of acting as a financial guarantor for another cleric, apparently at the request of the Patriarch of Constantinople Ieremias II. One of his annotations to this manuscript bears witness to his mishap (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(351);return false;'>f. 167r</a>). It is appended to an earlier annotation to a statement in canon law that a cleric who acts as a financial pledge in this way should be dismissed from office, which asserts instead that when this is done on behalf of another cleric and out of necessity rather than for profit, it is permissible and indeed praiseworthy. Zygomalas exclaims bitterly that the earlier commentator does not know what he is talking about, and that even such well-intentioned transactions can lead to the worst consequences, as shown by his own situation, which has not only brought him to penury but put him in danger of his life from ill-health, while the person on whose behalf he acted prospered and remained indifferent to his suffering, possibly an allusion to the Patriarch himself.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Zygomalas was a correspondent of German scholars including Martin Crusius (1526-1607), and provided much of the material for the latter's historical work <i>Turcograecia</i>. In the spring of 1600 he wrote to Crusius and other German contacts begging for money, of which he received little, and offering Crusius an old Greek manuscript in recompense. An annotation at the end of this manuscript, dated October 1600 and apparently expanding on an ownership note he had written there earlier, gives a dedication to an individual whose name is unclear, but is possibly to be identified with Ivan or Iov Boreckij, a future Metropolitan of Kiev (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(484);return false;'>f. 233v</a>). It is possible that in his desperate cicumstances Zygomalas sought to exchange this manuscript too for financial support. A peculiar detail of his annotations, however, is that some of them, including the one lamenting his troubles, have been dusted with flecks of gold leaf, an extravagant gesture suggesting that these were added before his financial difficulties became acute.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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