Malalas, The Secret History, and Justinian’s Propaganda

Malalas, The Secret History, and Justinian’s Propaganda

By Roger D. Scott

Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 39 (1985)

Introduction: The hostile description of the Emperor Justinian I in Procopius’ Secret History is well known. The bland but generally favorable account of the same Emperor in the eighteenth and final book of Malalas’ Chronographia has received rather less attention. There Malalas gives us a jumbled mass of information with no apparent attempt at imposing any kind of order, other than chronological, on the material. We are told of the Emperor acting as sponsor at the baptism of barbarian kings, providing largesse for cities struck by earthquake, and conducting occasional persecutions of pagans, heretics, homosexuals, and astrologers, not to mention citizens who rioted at the horse races. Malalas also gives us rather brief and generally uninformative accounts of the Emperor’s campaigns against Persians, Saracens, Huns, Vandals, and others. In short, it is a jumbled but favorable account of the sorts of things that any decent emperor should be doing.

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