Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.


Photius (fōˈshəs), c.820–892?, Greek churchman and theologian, patriarch of Constantinople, b. Constantinople. He came of a noble Byzantine family. Photius was one of the most learned men of his time, a professor in the university at Constantinople and, under Byzantine Emperor Michael III, president of the imperial chancellery. When the head of the sterner orthodox faction, St. Ignatius of Constantinople was deposed (858) from the patriarchate, Photius, a layman, was rushed through the stages of the holy orders and installed in the position. In 861 the legates of Pope St. Nicholas I approved the election of Photius, but the pope refused to recognize him. In 867, Photius called a synod that challenged the rights of the pope in Bulgaria, questioned certain Latin practices, and challenged the pope's right to judge the canonicity of the election of the patriarch. Nicholas died without learning of the synod's work. When Basil I became Byzantine emperor (867), Photius was banished to Cyprus and St. Ignatius became patriarch again. Although Photius was condemned two years later (see Constantinople, Fourth Council of), he reconciled with Basil and Ignatius, and on the death of Ignatius he again became patriarch (877). Pope John VIII recognized him as patriarch and sent legates to a synod, held in 879–80, which the Orthodox Eastern Church regards as an ecumenical council. This synod affirmed that Photius had been legally elected, nullified those synods that had condemned him, ruled against the elevation of laymen to the episcopacy, and agreed that Constantinople would relinquish authority in Bulgaria. The acts of this council were apparently approved by Pope John VIII, but without any retraction of his predecessors' condemnations. Photius continued as patriarch until the accession of Byzantine Emperor Leo VI in 886, when he was forced to resign under imperial pressure; he died in exile. Photius is a figure of controversy. In later years the deep cleavage between East and West was reckoned from the schism of Photius, even though the formal schism did not occur until the 11th cent. Certainly Photius encouraged the growing self-consciousness in the Greek church, not only through his exposition of the theological differences between the two churches, but also through his humanist and scholarly works. He is venerated as a saint in the Orthodox Eastern Church. Many of his letters, homilies, and dogmatic and polemical works are extant. His writings include the Myriobyblion, or Bibliotheca, a collection of extracts from 280 volumes of classical authors, which contains many quotations from lost Greek writings; a Lexicon to assist in reading the works of older authors; and the Nomocanon, a collection of the acts and decrees of the councils and ecclesiastical laws of the emperors.


See J. H. Freese, The Library of Photius (1920); F. Dvornik, The Photian Schism (1948); A. Gerostergios, St. Photios the Great (1980).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Born between 810 and 827, in Constantinople; died between 891 and 897. Byzantine ecclesiastical and political figure, writer.

As patriarch of Constantinople from 858 to 867 and again from 877 to 886, Photius criticized the despotism of the emperor and asserted that the patriarch and the emperor were equal in authority. Photius did much to extend the influence of the Byzantine church to the Slavic lands of Bulgaria, Moravia, and Rus’. In so doing, however, he came into conflict with the papacy and thus helped precipitate the Great Eastern Schism. Of Photius’ many works, the most important was Myriobiblon (Bibliotheca), the first medieval bibliographical work to contain elements of literary criticism. He also wrote theological treatises on such subjects as the Paulician heresy; sermons, including two that mention the attack of Rus’ on Constantinople in 860; and letters, which are important sources on the domestic history and foreign policy of Byzantium. Photius was deposed in 886 by Emperor Leo VI and died in exile.


Kazhdan, A. P. “Sotsial’nye i politicheskie vzgliady Fotiia.” In the collection Ezhegodnik Muzeia istorii religii i ateizma, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958. Pages 107–36.
Dvornik, F. The Photian Schism. Cambridge, 1970.
Dvornik, F. Photian and Byzantine Ecclesiastical Studies. London, 1974.
Lemerle, P. Le Premier Humanisme byzantin. Paris, 1971. Pages 177–204.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(117) It is even tempting to conjecture that it could either have been the manuscript that Photius had seen, or a copy of it.
En effet, Jamblique prAaAaAeA@tend AaAaAeA tre, selon Photius, un Babylonien acquiert la culture grecque, mais, selon une scholie, ce serait un Syrien vivant en dehors des frontiAaAaAeA?res de la province romaine de Syri amenAaAaAeA@, au cours de son existence, AaAaAeA apprendre le syrien, le babylo et le grec et AaAaAeA s'imprAaAaAeA@gner de la culture babylonienne.
Thus, for instance, the name Derbikkai is so well attested, not only in Ptolemy 6, 10, 2, but also in Stephanus of Byzantium, and as Derbikes in Ktesias (Photius) and Strabo (11, 11, 8), that it is difficult to take Dribyces/Dribices of Pliny (who is notoriosly careless with foreign names) as a better reading and therefore connect it with Avestan dri/Sika (p.
The Emperor exiled Ignatius and hand-picked a crony of his named Photius to replace him.