SENINA T.A. (nun Kassia). Athens Versus Jerusalem? The Attitude Towards Scientific Knowledge in Byzantium


Tatiana A. Senina (nun Kassia)


Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation,

Bolshaya Morskaya St., 67, 190000 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation;

Sociological Institute, RAS,

7-ya Krasnoarmeyskaya St., 25/14, 190005 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

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Abstract. There was a considerable shift towards ‘profane’ Hellenistic knowledge in Byzantium during time as Byzantines refrained themselves from complete rejection of the ‘pagan wisdom’, which characterized the early Christianity, and allowed it as an educative and rhetorical tool against heretics. By the 9th century, Christians didnt need to stand the competition with pagan religion any longer and the interest in Hellenistic culture soared. In the 11th century, intellectuals not only studied Greek and Roman authors but also sometimes used their views as the basis of afterlife explanation of the worldview competing with Orthodox ones. The 14th century witnessed the progress of this approach in praising the ‘theoria of beings’ instead of the mystic ‘theoria of God’, which was put as an ideal of an educated man by Byzantine intellectuals. This was a base for fruitful development of science. The worldview of Byzantine humanists based on ancient culture was in strong opposition to the Church, bringing itself from rigid Orthodoxy to experiments with pagan philosophy and scientific research. The Hesychast discussion that arose soon followed by victory of Palamism created different attitudes as Gregory Palama stated that science is useless and, even more, harmful for piety. George Gemistos Plethon confronted this conservatism by his views, which, however radical, were extension of Byzantine philosophy of previous centuries. The highest arete for Plethon was not a complete refusal of everything mundane for God’s sake but was a sort of scientific and philosophical realization of reality: a man is ‘a spectator at a feast’ of life having the vocation to watch the being. All in all, the Plethon’s credo, being free of Christian paradigm, is a real hymn to reason and science.

Key words: Byzantine history, history of science, Christianity, secularism, humanism.

Citation. Senina T.A. (nun Kassia). Athens Versus Jerusalem? The Attitude Towards Scientific Knowledge in Byzantium. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4, Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2017, vol. 22, no. 5, pp. 192-204 (in Russian). DOI:

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Athens Versus Jerusalem? The Attitude Towards Scientific Knowledge in Byzantium by Senina T.A. (nun Kassia) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. 

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