1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Manasses, Constantine

MANASSES, CONSTANTINE, Byzantine chronicler, flourished in the 12th century during the reign of Manuel I. (Comnenus) (1143-1180). He was the author of a Chronicle or historical synopsis of events from the creation of the world to the end of the reign of Nicephorus Botaniates (1081), written by direction of Irene, the emperor’s sister-in-law. It consists of about 7000 lines in the so-called “political” metre.[1] There is little to be said of it, except that it is rather more poetical than the iambic chronicle of Ephraim (about 150 years later). It obtained great popularity and appeared in a free prose translation; it was also translated into Slavonic. The poetical romance of the Loves of Aristander and Callithea, also in “political” verse, is only known from the fragments preserved in the Ῥοδωνία (rose-garden) of Macarius Chrysocephalus (14th century). Manasses also wrote a short biography of Oppian, and some descriptive pieces (all except one unpublished) on artistic and other subjects.

Editions.Chronicle in Bonn, Corpus scriptorum hist. Byz., 1st ed. Bekker (1837) and in J. P. Migne, Patrologia graeca, cxxvii.; Aristander and Callithea in R. Hercher’s Scriptores erotici graeci, ii. (1859); “Life of Oppian” in A. Westermann, Vitarum scriptores graeci minores (1845). A long didactic poem in “political” verse (edited by E. Miller in Annuaire de l’assoc. pour l’encouragement des études grecques en France, ix. 1875) is attributed to Manasses or one of his imitators. See also F. Hirsch, Byzantinische Studien (1876); C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897).


  1. “Political” verse or metre is the name given to a kind of verse found as early as the 6th century in proverbs, and characteristic of Byzantine and modern Greek poetry. It takes no account of the quantity of syllables; the scansion depends on accent, and there is always an accent on the last syllable but one. It is specially used of an iambic verse with fifteen syllables, i.e. seven feet and an unaccented syllable over. Byron compares “A captain bold of Halifax who lived in country quarters.” Such facile metres are called “political,” in the sense of “commonplace,” “of the city.” Cf. Gibbon’s Decline and Fall (ed. Bury, 1898), vi. 108; Du Cange, Gloss. med. et infin. lat. (vi. 395), who has an interesting quotation from Leo Allatius. Leo explains “political” as implying that the verses are “scorta et meretrices, quod omnibus sunt obsequiosae et peculiares, et servitutem publicam serviunt.”