TABOR - Tradition and Contemporaneity in the Romanian Orthodox Church
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Was St. Photios the Great a humanist?


St. Photios the Great (820-891), Patriarch of Constantinople, was one of the most important personalities of the Byzantine Empire throughout its millennial history. This article examines the accuracy of including St. Photios in the later humanist current as one of its forerunners or even originators. Here, humanism is seen as a movement of return and rediscovery of classical greek culture, in the spirit of admiration and veneration, and at the same time, rejecting the greek christian culture of the Holy Fathers as a period of darkness and decline. The author starts his approach with a brief historical overview of hellenism, spread by Alexander the Great in the civilized world of his time. This spreading will prove providential, because it paved the way for spreading christianity throughout the world. By christianization, classical greek culture does not disappear, but it is transfigured in the spirit of the new faith in Christ, receiving strength to continue throughout history. The Holy Fathers of the Church - with remarkable unity - show wisdom in their attitude towards classical culture, called "outside culture". They do not reject it, but recommend using it with discernment, they receive and use all the positive, healthy elements of the pagan philosophers and authors writings, but rejecting the negative: honoring the gods and immorality. The greek culture - now christian - continues uninterrupted throughout history, keeping all healthy elements of previous classical culture without the need for a period of  "rebirth" or rediscovery. At this point the author gets to St. Photios the Great. After making, at first, a schematic presentation of the huge research dedicated to Photius, he displays the angles that point Photios out as a humanist or "proto-humanist" who rediscovered and brought classical Greek culture to the attention of byzantines. Further, he proves, with arguments from the life and writings of St. Photios, that he can not be considered a humanist in the sense of the later Renaissance scholars who revered antiquity and ignored or even rejected the Christian culture, but a faithful follower in attitude of the Fathers before  him. Thus, Photius`s activity presents him as a genuine man of the Church: he made byzantine education ecclesiastic again, after being removed from the Church protection by the iconoclasts, he carried out an intense missionary work of christianization of the Slavs, he fought against heresies, especially against the Filioque addition in the Creed; he loved monasticism and reopened numerous monasteries. Finally, the writings of Photius reveal him more and more as a follower of the Holy Fathers. First we see that he recommends the study of classical culture, but as subordinate to the culture of the Church and to the spiritual writings, which he considers far superior and the only ones that could bring salvation. Then, his religious conscience is proved by the fact that he emphasizes the value of the Holy Fathers, while firmly criticizing the errors of the heretic and pagan writers, despite the objective presentation of their artistic qualities. Finally, the last argument is the advice he  sent to the newly converted King Boris of Bulgaria, teaching him that each true leader must combine faith with virtue, and that without these two, "outside culture" has no value. All this proves that Photios does not belong to the anti-religious humanist current, but he continues the spirit and attitude of the Fathers of the Church towards classical Greek culture.

Keywords: St. Photios, humanism, classical Greek culture, Fathers of the Church, Boris