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Leontius of Byzantium: Against the forgeries of the Apollinarists (2013). Introduction

Leontius of Byzantium
Against the forgeries of the Apollinarists

(CPG 6817)


Leontius Byzantinus was a 6th century Chalcedonian theologian, known to us as the author of a small collection of four christological treatises (CPG 6813-7).[1] He composed Contra Nestorianos et Eutychianos lib. III, issued separately and then collected with a prologue by the author.  These excited opposition from Severian Monophysite writers, to whom he responded with the Epilysis, and with the Triginta Capita contra Severum.

Only a little is known about his life.  He is mentioned in the Vita Sabae by Cyril of Scythopolis.  Leontius was a monk of the New Laura, and head of the Palestinian Origenists.  Leontius accompanied Sabas on his journey to Constantinople in 531, where he proved effective in defending the definition of Chalcedon against the Monophysites.  He seems to have made known his Origenism, which led Sabas to condemn him.  But he perhaps stayed in the capital for a number of years, and a Leontius is mentioned in the Acts as taking part in the anti-Monophysite synod of 536, although this may be Leontius of Jerusalem. Returning to Palestine between 537-540, he tried to advance the views of the Origenist party, but was forced to return to Constantinople where he died, soon after the anti-Origenist edict of 543 was issued.

He also seems to be the author of the work translated here Adversus fraudes Apollinistarum, a florilegium of passages from the works of the condemned heretic Apollinarius / Apollinaris of Laodicea and his disciples. The works of the latter could not circulate under their own name, but passages from them were being brought forward for controversial purposes by monophysite writers, under the impression that they were in fact by such luminaries as Pope Julius I and Gregory Nazianzen.  The purpose of the collection was to permit identification of these spurious items.

This text has reached us in a single 10th century manuscript, Vaticanus graecus 2195, where it appears on folios 165-184.  The manuscript also contains copies of other works by Leontius (which exist in several other copies) and other works.

The work was first printed in a Latin translation in 1603 by Henricus Canisius S.J., in volume 4 of his Lectiones Antiquae, f.106 f. Canisius states, however, that the translation was actually made by Turrianus, or Francesco Torres S.J. ( 1584). 

The Greek text was first printed by Angelo Mai in Spicilegium Romanum volume 10, part 2, p.128-151, from the Vatican ms., which he states had once belonged to Cardinal Salvati, and then to the Colonna family, before being purchased by the Vatican when he was in charge of the library there. 

Mai's Greek text, accompanied by the Latin translation of Turrianus, were reprinted in the Patrologia Graeca series, vol. 86, cols.1948-1976.  This translation has been made from the Greek text in that edition.  The column numbers from this edition are given inline as [M.----].

After the translation was completed, we became aware of an unpublished critical edition of the works of Leontius Byzantinus, produced in 1978 by Brian Daley as a DPhil. thesis.[2] An edition and translation of all the works of Leontius Byzantinus by Brian Daley is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.[3]


Roger Pearse
July 2013

[1]More details of his life and works may be found in Angelo Di Berardino, Patrology: The Eastern Fathers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) toJohn of Damascus (d.750), tr. A. Walford, James Clarke & co (2006), p.285-288.  A critical edition and translation of all the works of Leontius of Byzantium has been made by Brian Daley and is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

[2] B. E. Daley, Leontius of Byzantium: A Critical Edition of his Works, with Prolegomena (Diss. Oxford, 1978). Unfortunately this has not been accessible.

[3]Private email from Brian Daley.

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