Byzantine historian, b. in the latter years of the fifth century at Caesarea in Palestine , d. not earlier than A.D. 562. We have no account of his parentage or education, except that by a legal and literary training he qualified himself for the civil service. As early as A.D. 527, before Justin's death, he became counsellor, assessor, and secretary to Belisarius, whose fortunes and campaigns he followed for the next twelve or fifteen years. He was raised to the dignity of an illustris . He is reckoned the greatest of the later Greek historians.
We owe to him an eyewitness's description of Belisarius's wars, in eight books. Of these, two deal with the Persian war, two with the Vandalic, three with the Gothic ; Book VIII concludes with a general survey of events down to A.D. 554. The scope of the work is more than military; he is the best authority for the history of Justinian's reign, and Gibbon eloquently expresses his regret at reaching a date where he must exchange Procopius for less intelligent guides. In style he imitates Thucydides chiefly; perhaps also in casting his work into eight books. His range of reading included all the greatest of the Greek historians and geographers, and he was well schooled in the poets and the orators. But his unique value lies in his personal as well as official familiarity with the people, the places, and the events of which he writes. His tone in this work is critical and independent. His account of "Justinian's Buildings" ( peri ktismaton ) was completed in A.D. 558 or 559. It is composed in the manner of the courtly panegyrics for which Pliny's encomium of Trajan had cast the model; and he is thought to have written it either by imperial command or at least in order to vindicate himself from suspicions of disaffection. But the very extravagance which prompts him to credit Justinian with all the public works executed in the entire Eastern Empire during his reign gives the work an exhaustive scope and a peculiar value for the archaeologist. The third of his books has gained a scandalous celebrity and aroused much question both as to its authenticity and motives. This is the "Anecdota", which Suidas characterizes as "a satirical attack on Justinian ", but which is most commonly known by the title of "Arcana Historia" (the secret history ). It is a supplement to the other history, carrying the narrative down to the year 558-9, where it breaks off. Into it, as into the pages of a private journal, Procopius pours his detestation of Justinian and Theodora; even Belisarius and his wife are not spared. It is a bitter, malignant, and often obscene invective against all the powers of the Byzantine Church and State, apparently the tardy revenge of an ill-conditioned man of letters for a lifetime of obsequiousness. The indiscriminate violence of the pamphlet betrays the writer's passionate indignation, but spoils his case. The authenticity is now generally allowed, after a great deal of not unbiased discussion in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (The "Anecdota" was first published in 1623.)
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online