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Philosophy and Theology under the Komnenoi: The Case of Eustratios of Nicaea

Michele Trizio, Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Fellow 2011–2012

My project intended to investigate the philosophical and theological works of the eleventh- to twelfth-century court theologian and Aristotle commentator Eustratios of Nicaea. During my stay at Dumbarton Oaks, I collected all the material relating to this author and his times and made advances in my project of writing the first monograph on this Byzantine scholar. My main focus was Eustratios’s usage of philosophical sources, in particular the Neoplatonic source material in both his theological and philosophical works. In this regard I highlighted some specific cases, such as Eustratios’s treatment of the Muslim faith, his attitude toward Aristotle, and his use of examples from late antique philosophers to explain theological truths. I also investigated the textual tradition of his philosophical commentaries and used other manuscripts, such as Vat. gr. 626 (which I was able to purchase in digital reproduction thanks to research funds granted by Dumbarton Oaks), for the assessment of the text. Finally, I studied the Latin fortunes of Eustratios’s philosophical commentaries, made available thanks to Robert Grosseteste’s mid-thirteenth-century translation.

The concrete outcomes of my research activity can be summarized as follows:

  1. Eustratios of Nicaea is a devoted reader of Proclus’s work, which he utilizes as a source when assembling his own arguments.
  2. Eustratios’s use of Homer, Plutarch, and the tragedians shows how important this author is for understanding the reception of classical scholarship in Byzantium.
  3. Eustratios also wrote a piece against the Muslims, which he included as a digression in his commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics VI and which has so far been ignored by modern scholars.
  4. Eustratios’s philosophical commentaries were an essential tool for teaching Aristotle in western medieval universities.

The results of my research activity will be published in the form of a monograph on Eustratios and a series of articles.