Zacharias Rhetor Zacharias Scholasticus, Zacharias bp. of Mytilene (late 5th/early 6th cent.)

Greek author and bp. Zacharias was born in Maiuma, the port of Gaza, in the late 460s; he studied at the School of Gaza and then went on to higher studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Alexandria, where he belonged to a group of zealous Christian students known as philoponoi (‘lovers of labour’). He first met Severus in Alexandria and he later followed him to Beirut to study law. In the early 490s he moved to Constantinople to practice law, and met Severus again during the latter’s time in the capital, 508–11. Details of the later years of his life are very scanty; at some time, perhaps shortly before 536, he became bp. of Mytilene. The date of his death is unknown. Of his various writings ( CPG 6995–7001), a few are only known in Syriac translation; the most important of these are his Ecclesiastical History and ‘Life of Severus’. The former covers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) to the end of the reign of Zeno (491), which was incorporated into Pseudo-Zacharias’s Ecclesiastical History as Books 3–6, perhaps in a slightly adapted form. The original Greek was used by Evagrius Scholasticus in his Ecclesiastical History; the Syriac translation is occasionally quoted by Michael Rabo in a fuller form than is found in Pseudo-Zacharias. The ‘Life of Severus’ was written to refute a scurrilous pamphlet claiming that Severus had been involved in pagan practices during his student days; it covers up to 512, when Severus became patr. of Antioch. Also surviving is the Syriac translation of Zacharias’s Life of the monk Isaiah, and a fragment of a Life of Peter the Iberian (distinct from the Life attributed to John Rufus), ed. Brooks, CSCO 7–8 (1907), 1–16, 18. His two main surviving works in Greek are a philosophical dialogue entitled ‘Ammonios’ (against the Aristotelian notion of the eternity of the world), and 7 ‘Chapters against the Manichaeans’ (ed. with ET, S. Lieu, in JAC 26 [1983], 152–218). In the past some scholars have tried to distinguish between the rhetor, the scholasticus, and the bp., but for their probable identity, see Honigmann.

    Primary Sources

    • CPG 6995–7001.
    • (For his Ecclesiastical History, see under Pseudo-Zacharias)
    • L.  Ambjörn, The Life of Severus by Zachariah of Mytlilene (2008). (Syr. and ET)
    • M. A.  Kugener, Vie de Sévère, par Zacharie le scholastique (PO 2.1; 1903). (Syr. and FT)

    Secondary Sources

    • P.  Blaudeau, ‘Zacharie le rhéteur, ou Alexandrie centre de gravité ecclésial en Orient’, in his Alexandrie et Constantinople (451–491) (2006), 581–617.
    • E.  Honigmann, ‘Zacharias of Mytilene’, in his Patristic Studies (SeT 173, 1953), 194–204.
    • C. B.  Horn, Asceticism and Christological Controversy in Fifth-Century Palestine. The Career of Peter the Iberian (2006), 44–6.
    • E.  Watts, ‘Winning the intracommunal dialogues. Zacharias Scholasticus’ Life of Severus’, JECS 13 (2005), 437–64.


How to Cite This Entry

Sebastian P. Brock, “Zacharias Rhetor,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Zacharias-Rhetor.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Sebastian P. Brock, “Zacharias Rhetor,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Zacharias-Rhetor.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Brock, Sebastian P. “Zacharias Rhetor.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Zacharias-Rhetor.

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