Addressed to Photius’ uncle Tarsius, the Myriobiblon or Bibliotheca is a collection of 279 short book reviews written by the ninth century Byzantine Patriarch Photius. Some reviews simply instruct Tarsius to read a certain book, while others go into more detail about the author’s style and the nature and subject of book’s argument. Photius’ reviews include both pagan and Christian works, and examine titles written as early as the fifth century and as late as Photius’ own day, the ninth century. Roughly half of the titles discussed no longer survive. The historical value of this book is enormous—it serves as independent verification for other important resources and it demonstrates that the early to middle medieval era was an age of great literary production and consumption.
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Photius was the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople from AD 858 to 867 and later from 877 to 886. He was well educated and had intended to be a scholar and politician, but he held the office of patriarch of Constantinople for most of his public life. Though his appointment was controversial, Photius filled the office ably. Today he is ranked with St. John Chrysostom as one of the Byzantine church’s greatest patriarchs. The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes him as “St. Photius the Great.” He played a vital role in converting the Slavs to Christianity, and he was a leading intellectual in the ninth–century renaissance.