Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Bishop Theophilus preaches
My imaginary Byzantine tale was based somewhat on real history. In 403 AD, a political-religious controversy broke out between Christian factions in the Middle East and the followers of Bishop John Chrysostom in imperial Constantinople. The leader of the Egyptian and Syrian faction was an unpleasant character named Theophilus. He was titled "Pope" as in the ancient Christian world the leader of the orthodox in Egypt had that title as well as the Roman one. The incident I refer to in the book is called the "Synod of the Oak," since it met near a suburb of Constantinople named "The Oak." Pope Theophilus had a gang of monks (see previous posting) who would cause trouble at his command. Theophilus' ambition was to call an imperial-backed synod (meeting of religious leaders) to depose Bishop John, and take power at the capital himself. He managed to do this briefly but after much violence, street riots, and general factional strife, his bid for power was overturned. Yes, religion is politics, no matter what era it's in.
I was doing this picture during the time I was waiting for acceptance or rejection of applications to graduate school. I had done really well as an undergraduate in the field of Greek and Latin Classics and all the schools I applied to accepted me, including Harvard which was the most prestigious and full of family legacy. Some of my professors counseled against going there since the academic politics, culture and atmosphere there were, uh, Byzantine. I went there anyways and true enough my Harvard years were some of the most miserable I ever had.
Ink and watercolor on sketchbook page, 4" x 7", March 22, 1975. Click for a larger view.