Nicephorus Gregoras

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Nicephorus Gregoras, in Greek: Νικηφόρος Γρηγορᾶς - Nikephoros Gregoras, was a man of learning of his time in the Eastern Roman Empire. He was noted as a historian, theologian, astronomer, and religious controversialist.

Contents

Life

Nicephorus Gregoras was born at Heraclea in Pontus about the year 1295. He settled in Constantinople at a young age and developed a reputation for learning. He soon came to the notice of emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus who appointed him chartophylax (keeper of the archives).

In 1326, Gregoras proposed (in a still extant treatise) reforms in the calendar that some two hundred years later were introduced by Pope Gregory XIII on almost the same lines. However, emperor Andronicus II refused to initiate any changes for fear of disturbances. Also in 1326, Gregoras was entrusted with a number of diplomatic missions, including a legation to the Serbian king Stephan Uroš III.

After Gregoras was attacked by Barlaam, the famous humanist scholar and monastic heretic of Calabria, he was with difficulty persuaded to come forward and meet Barlaam in a war of words. In the ensuing debate Barlaam was worsted by Gregoras which greatly enhanced Gregoras reputation and brought him a large number of pupils.

In 1328, emperor Andronicus was dethroned by his grandson Andronicus III Palaeologus. With the downfall of his patron, Gregoras, as was the custom, shared his downfall and retired into private life. Gregoras remained loyal to the elder Andronicus. After the elder Andronicus' death Gregoras succeeded in gaining the favor of his grandson, who appointed him to take part in the unsuccessful negotiations in 1333 with the ambassadors of Pope John XXII concerning union of the Greek and Latin churches.

Gregoras later took an important part in the Hesychast controversy, in which he violently opposed Gregory Palamas, the chief supporter of the doctrine. After Palamas' position was recognized at the synod of 1351, Gregoras, who refused to agree, was practically imprisoned in a monastery until 1355. Nothing is known of his repose.

Writings

His most famous work, the Byzantine History, also known as Roman History, presented in 37 books covering the years 1204 to 1359, chronicles the events of the Eastern Empire from the time of the Latin conquest in the fourth crusade of 1204 to 1359. It supplements the work of the earlier fourteenth-century historian George Pachymeres, in which Gregoras enlarged on the philosophical and theological disputes in which he had engaged. His Correspondence, that contains more than 160 letters, is a rich source for knowledge of the many outstanding Eastern Roman ecclesiastical and political figures of the period. Other notable works by Gregoras include philosophical dialogues against the Sophists, studies in astronomy, a commentary on the Almagest of the second century astronomer Ptolemy, eulogies for several emperors, and the proposal for calendar reform that anticipated the calendar revision of 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.

Sources

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