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The Polemical Argumentation Against the Bogomils as Found in Michael Psellus’ On the Operation of Daemons

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posted on 2022-10-27, 03:41 authored by Jack Hanrahan-ShirleyJack Hanrahan-Shirley

The fields of Medieval and Byzantine heresiology has often been ignored and/or criticised by modern historians as being incapable of providing anything of interest to historical study due to the characteristics of the genre. This thesis aims to investigate the polemical argumentation that was used by the 11th century Byzantine intellectual Michael Psellus against the Dualistic sect known as the Bogomils found in the heresiological text known as On the Operation of Daemons. Specifically, focus is given to determining the main categories of polemical argumentation that were utilised by the author. Attention is also given to how Psellus integrated the polemics characteristic of Late Antique and Medieval Christian heresiology with genres of classical Hellenistic literature, such as poetry and philosophy, in developing his arguments. Its aims and approach draw upon the revisionist perspective advocated by scholars, such as Averil Cameron, that emphasises analysing heresiological literature through the theological convictions and religious presuppositions of the original author/s. This methodology is in sharp contrast to the approaches of the majority of scholarship since the 19th-20th centuries that has primarily sought to reduce heresiological texts to purely social, political and economic influences. The conclusions reached demonstrate the existence of three overarching categories that have been labelled Traditional arguments, Intellectual arguments and Attacks on Bogomil practices. They also display Psellus’ knowledge of a wide variety of Hellenic literature, such as the writings of the Archaic poet Archilochus of Paros, and how he utilised this classical material in creating his polemics against the Bogomils.


Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1 The Bogomils, Michael Psellus and On the Operation of Daemons -- CHAPTER 2 Byzantine Heresiology Genre & Context -- CHAPTER 3 The Polemics of On the Operation of Daemons -- CHAPTER 4 Conclusions -- BIBLIOGRAPHY


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Research

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, 2021

Department, Centre or School

Department of History and Archaeology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Danijel Dzino


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




92 pages

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