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Att leva i en stad utan murar: Theodoros Metochites om människans villkor

Magazine article
Authors Karin Hult
Published in Bysantinska sällskapet. Bulletin
Volume 23
Pages 17-22
Publication year 2005
Published at Department of Classical Studies
Pages 17-22
Language sv
Keywords Theodoros Metochites, Bysans, lycka, pessimism, topos, retorik
Subject categories Classical Greek language, History of Ideas, Byzantinology


To live in a city without walls: Theodore Metochites on the human condition. The Byzantine statesman and scholar Theodore Metochites in his essays, Semeioseis gnomikai, time and again returns to the topic of the uncertainty of fortune and the fragility of life and the human condition, illustrating this with sayings such as "We are living in a city without walls" [viz., because of death] and "It is impossible to find anyone living a life without sorrow", and a reference to "the wise king Solomon", i.e. the passage in Ecclesiastes which says that death is better than life. This pessimism has a long tradition in Greek literature, where it is found e.g. in the story of Cleobis and Biton in Herodotus and in tragedy, but also in Oriental wisdom literature (of which Ecclesiastes in an example). But although it is a literary topic, Metochites’ pessimism also appears genuine and heartfelt. When he enumerates the dangers of an elevated political position, we can say with hindsight that he predicts his own fall from power in 1328. In the second part of essay 58, Metochites enumerates a number of reasons (Christian and philosophical) why life, despite all its dangers and sorrows, is nevertheless preferable to death.

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