image with the sign of Myriobiblos

Main Page | Library | Homage | Seminars | Book Reviews





Internet Dept.



Previous Page
Pauline Allen & Bronwen Neil

Introduction to Maximus the Confessor (Excerpt)

From: Maximus the Confessor and his Companions. Documents from Exile, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 8-30.
Published by the kind permission of the authors.

5. Lateran Synod of 649

Preparations for the Lateran Synod must have been already under way during the pontificate of Theodore, given the speed with which it was convened after Martin's accession. Just three months after his election, Martin opened the Synod in October 649 to condemn the Ekthesis and the Typos, a council attended by many Greek monks as well as those from Italy (mostly from suburbicarian Rome), Africa, and Libya. Maximus' name appears in the subscriptions to the Libellus included in the proceedings of the council, as well as the names of two monks called Anastasius (1). Although we have no conclusive proof that he was in attendance, it is likely that he would have wished to keep a low profile, given the hostility that had been engendered against him in the Byzantine court since his vocal protest against the Typos of 647/8. Riedinger has pointed to significant evidence that the proceedings of the council were composed in Greek before the council and were then translated into Latin (2). He suggests that the 'council' was no more than a meeting convoked by Martin to hear and approve the Latin version of the 'proceedings' which had been formulated in the Roman archive (3). These had been written in Greek by Maximus Confessor during the pontificate of Theodore, who spoke Greek himself, but who had died before the 'council' could be staged. There was in fact no real discussion or debate at the council. He further suggests that the Latin translation was made by the Byzantine monks who came to Rome with Maximus (4). Pierres, who earlier identified Canons 10 and n of the Lateran Council as the work of Maximus, and proved that they had been written in Greek originally, also pointed out that twenty-seven of the orthodox and heretical quotations cited during the fifth session of the council had already appeared in Maximus' Tomus Spiritualis (5). It should be remembered, as Alexakis points out (6), that Martin was not accused by the imperial authorities in Constantinople of staging the Lateran Synod of 649. He was charged rather with treason, for conspiring with the exarch Olympius against the emperor in 649. It seems unlikely, however, that the Byzantines would have had the means to find out whether the council had been a genuine synod, given that the only Greek representatives to attend were supporters of Maximus and Martin. Insofar as the council was attended by its signatories and issued twenty canons, it matters little for the validity of its conclusions who wrote the speeches that were presented.

One of the most interesting aspects of the proceedings of the Lateran Synod is its preservation of the largest florilegium of scriptural and patristic authorities ever to be documented at a council (7). This consisted of 123 quotations supporting the dyothelite position, and forty-two monothelite citations, which were condemned in the canons issued at the close of the council (8). The compilation of these largely Greek sources was probably also the work of Maximus (9), although the Latin monks may have contributed the few Latin citations included (10), from Augustine and Ambrose, Leo I, and Hilary. The authenticity of Cyrus' citation of ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite as speaking of one theandric activity (11) was brought into question after Sergius' letter of approval for the Nine Chapters was read aloud. Sergius had misquoted Cyrus' citation by omitting the word 'theandric' (12). Both 'heretics' were taken to task for this at the council, and the 'true' reading, that is, 'a new theandric activity' was affirmed, after comparison with the original Letter to Gaius (13). Theodore of Pharan, Cyrus of Alexandria, and the three patriarchs of Constantinople Sergius, Pyrrhus, and Paul were anathematized together with their writings, and all who followed them (14). The council was to spark an angry reaction from Constantinople, which culminated in the arrest and exile of Martin, Maximus, and his disciples.


1. ACO ser. 2, i. 57, nos. 27,34, and 35.

2. R. Riedinger, 'Die Lateransynode von 649 und Maximos Confessor', in Heinzer-Schönborn, Maximus Confessor, 111-21. The proceedings were designed to appear as if they had been originally conceived in Latin: see ACO ser. 2, i. 54. 35-7 where the Greek monks and presbyters request a Greek translation to be made of the Latin acts.

3. R. Riedinger, 'Griechische Konzilsakten auf dem Wege ins lateinische Mittelalter', Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum 9 (1977), 255-7. See alsoJ.-M. Sansterre, Les moines grecs et orientaux à Rome aux époques byzantine et carolingienne (Brussels: Académie Royale de Belgique, 1980), 117-19. (4) Riedinger,'Die Lateransynode', 119.

5. J. Pierres, Sanctus Maximus Confessor, princeps apologetarum synodi Lateranensis anni 649 (Pars historica), Diss. Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana (Rome, 1940), 12*-14.

6. Alexakis, 20 f.

7. Alexakis, 18.

8. ACO ser. 2, I. 258-314 (dyothelite citations); 320-34 (monothelite citations). See also the Florilegium Dyotheleticum, ibid. 425-36.

9. Riedinger, 'Die Lateransynode', 118.

10. Twenty-seven out of 123 quotations: Alexakis, 18 n. 75 and 20. See also Sansterre, Les Moines, 119 and n. 55.

11. μιᾷ Θεανδρικῇ ἐνεργείᾳ in the seventh chapter of the Pact of Union, read aloud at the Council, ACO ser. 2, i. 134. 19.

12. Utter of Serous to Cyrus (CPG 7605), ACO ser. 2, 1. 136. 37.

13. ACO ser. 2, 1. 140. 34-6; 142. 29-144. 3.

14. Ch. 18, Session 5, ACO ser. 2, 1. 382. 30-384. 27.

Previous Page