Author: Dr. Nikolai Lipatov-Chicherin
Nottingham, UK and St. Petersburg, Russia
The article provides analysis and translation of the unpublished Encomium on the Bishop who was his Predecessor, which survives only in two manuscripts under the name of St. Basil the Great. Internal evidence of the text rules out this attribution. Numerous thematic and verbal parallels with Oration 43 by Gregory of Nazianzus suggest that Basil is not the author but the subject of the encomium. If this identification is correct, then the speaker must be Helladius, who succeeded Basil as metropolitan of Caesarea. Gregory’s oration responds to the encomium by re-interpreting its images, vastly expanding the scope and demonstrating rhetorical superiority. This relationship matches the chronological sequence of the two orations: Gregory spoke at the third anniversary of Basil’s death, whereas the encomium was delivered soon after the burial of the preacher’s predecessor. Helladius was known for his difficult relations with both Basil’s brother Gregory of Nyssa and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus, apparently due to competition for the position of Basil’s spiritual heir after his death. Authorship of Helladius would match these circumstances precisely, as the encomium is openly aiming at establishing credentials of the speaker versus unnamed rivals closely connected to the deceased. In addition the text provides a unique example of an unedited transcript of a funerary speech, whereas virtually all other surviving texts of such speeches result from substantial revision for publication purposes.
Keywords: Funerary Speech, Question of Succession