Der Brief des Michael Psellos an den geblendeten Romanos Diogenes : ein Fall von Zynismus und Sarkasmus?

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2010, vol. 15, iss. 2, pp. [25]-41
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
License: Not specified license
Michael Psellos' letter to the blinded Romanos Diogenes (C. Sathas, Bibliotheca graeca medii aevi, 1876, V, 316–318, ep. 82) was in all probability nothing else but a later rhetorical exercise meant to protect the young emperor Michael VII Dukas and Psellos himself as well, from the accusation of having violated the agreement made between Diogenes and the imperial court, which granted Diogenes his personal safety, provided that he would abandon his claims to the throne and become a monk. The moral outrage felt by many scholars in regard to the particular letter seems to derive from the idea that the dying Diogenes actually received it and had it read aloud, but there is in fact no evidence at all for Psellos ever having sent the letter in question to Diogenes. In any case, Diogenes could not have possibly taken note of the letters content, considering his miserable condition at the time. The letter was most likely meant for a public readership rather than for its nominal addressee, and in fact written only after the latter's death, and is thus not to be interpreted primarily as the cynical and sarcastic mockery of a dying man. Consequently, if one takes into consideration the fact that the letter in question is probably a purely rhetorical and politically motivated piece, then the harsh judgment on its authors' moral sensibility is definitely to be reconsidered. As for Psellos' consolatory words to the blinded Diogenes that "he is now like a martyr all the more able to see the divine light", at which many scholars took great offence, it should be considered that Psellos' words are grounded on traditional rhetorical rules and popular religious notions his contemporaries were very familiar with.