Olympiodorus of Thebes
Olympiodorus (Greek: Ὀλυμπιόδωρος; born c. 380, fl. c. 412–425) was an historical writer of classical education, a "poet by profession" as he says of himself, who was born at Thebes in Egypt, and was sent on a mission to the Huns on the Black Sea by Emperor Honorius about 412, and later lived at the court of Theodosius II, to whom his History was dedicated. The record of his diplomatic mission survives in a fragment among the forty-six in the epitome by the patriarch Photius, who considered Olympiodorus a "pagan", doubtless for his classical education:
- Donatus and the Huns, and the skillfulness of their kings in shooting with the bow. The author relates that he himself was sent on a mission to them and Donatus, and gives a tragic account of his wanderings and perils by the sea. How Donatus, being deceived by an oath, was unlawfully put to death. How Charaton, the first of the kings, being incensed by the murder, was appeased by presents from the emperor.
- — from Photius' Bibliotheca, tr. J. H. Freese
He was the author of a history in twenty-two books of the Western Empire from 407 to 425, which was used by Zosimus and Sozomen and probably Philostorgius, as J.F. Matthews has demonstrated. The original is lost, but an abstract is given by Photius, who also tells us Olympiodorus referred to himself as poietes, which means 'poet', though in the past this has also been taken as an indication that he may have been an alchemist.
From fragments of his History, it can be inferred that he spent a sojourn in Athens, traveled to the remote parts of Upper Egypt among the barbarian Blemmyes, and that he visited Rome towards the end of his career.
Greek text with English translation in R.C. Blockley, The fragmentary classicising historians of the later Roman empire. Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus. 2 vols. Liverpool: Francis Cairns, 1981.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Olympiodorus". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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