Who is Mikhael Psellos?June 26, 2021
(1018, Constantinople [Istanbul]-1078 or 1096?) Byzantine thinker, theologian, writer and statesman.
He pioneered the revival of Byzantine classical education, which would later affect the Italian Renaissance, by arguing that Platonic philosophy could be integrated with Christian teaching and opposing the Aristotelian thought introduced by the Patriarch of Constantinople Photios I in the Byzantine intellectual world.
In some sources, it is claimed that the real name of Psellos, who was born in Nicomedia (Izmit), was Konstantinos. But he is known for his monastic name, Michael. Having received an extraordinary education in Constantinople, he had the opportunity to work with valuable people such as the future patriarch Xyphilinos (III), Konstantinos (III), Leihudes and the poet Mauropus. It is claimed that Psellos joined the palace for the first time in 1041 as the imperial secretary of Mikhail V. Psellos, who first chose legalism, IX. He became head of the school of philosophy, one of the two schools opened in Constantinople in 1045 by Constantine (reigned 1042-1055). (His teacher, Xyphilinos, was running the law school.) According to his writings, Psellos taught a wide range of students, from Arabs to Celts. In this school, he developed a new Platonist philosophy against Aristotelianism, which was the dominant view in Byzantium, and reinterpreted the literature of Homer, which he accepted as the beginning of Christian thought.
Although Psellos had a reputation as a thinker, in some sources he is described as an ambitious and scheming person with a great interest in political life. In 1054, Emperor IX. When Constantine’s political and military failures were blamed on the elite around him, Psellos, who was forced to retreat to Mount Olympus (Uludag) as a monk with Xifilinos, soon managed to return to the capital. He was recalled by the Empress Theodora as chief adviser, his former student from Theodora VII. He took up active political roles until the end of Michael’s reign (1071-1078). There are also researchers who argue that these claims are exaggerated and that Psellos is content only with the title of “hipatos ton philosofon” (head of thinkers).
Most likely VII. Mihael Psellos, who had to leave the capital by gaining the hostility of the “logothetes” Nikeforitzes during the reign of Michael, spent the last days of his life in relative poverty and died forgotten by the younger generations. While the date of death was accepted as 1078, which was mentioned as the death date of a person named Mihael from Nicomedia, it was suggested that this date could be 1096, based on the foreword written by Filip Monotropos to his work Dioptra. Indeed, it seems certain that some of the works of M. Psellos were written after 1081.
l Psellos occupies a distinguished place in the entire Byzantine history as a true intellectual with a vast culture. His letters on history, philosophy, oratory, theology, medicine, mathematics, astrology and law constitute a large collection. As a philosopher, Psellos emphasized the role of nature and minimized the role of miracle in this context. Psellos’s history book Chronography (Chronicle) covers the events that he personally witnessed between 976-1078, and according to some authors, he personally created. His other most important work is “Commentary on Plato’s Teaching on the Origin of the Soul”.
According to a group of historians, including George Ostrogorsky, Psellos was a politician-thinker who kept up with the personalities of different emperors and the trends of the time, intrigued when necessary, flattered, and thus steadily rose. But at the same time, he was a very distinguished personality who brought the Hellenistic thought to life again in Byzantium, with his dexterous and fast pen, high oratory power and creative intelligence.