1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agathias
AGATHIAS (c. A.D. 536–582), of Myrina in Aeolis, Greek poet and historian. He studied law at Alexandria, completed his training at Constantinople and practised as an advocate (scholasticus) in the courts. Literature, however, was his favourite pursuit. He wrote a number of short love-poems in epic metre, called Daphniaca. He next put together a kind of anthology, containing epigrams by earlier and contemporary poets and himself, under the title of a Cycle of New Epigrams. About a hundred epigrams by Agathias have been preserved in the Greek Anthology and show considerable taste and elegance. After the death of Justinian (565), some of Agathias’s friends persuaded him to write the history of his own times. This work, in five books, begins where Procopius ends, and is the chief authority for the period 552–558. It deals chiefly with the struggles of the Byzantine army, under the command of the eunuch Narses, against the Goths, Vandals; Franks and Persians. The author prides himself on his honesty and impartiality, but he is lacking in judgment and knowledge of facts; the work, however, is valuable from the importance of the events of which it treats. Gibbon contrasts Agathias as “a poet and rhetorician” with Procopius “a statesman and soldier.”
Authorities.—Editio princeps, by B. Vulcanius (1594); in the Bonn Corpus Scriptorum Byz. Hist., by B. G. Niebuhr (1828); in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, lxxxviii.; L. Dindorf, Historici Graeci Minores (1871); W. S. Teuffel, “Agathias von Myrine,” in Philologus (i. 1846); C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (2nd ed. 1897).