John Lydus, a retired official at Justinian's court in the mid-sixth century, is an important, neglected source for the study of the fate of the classical legacy in the newly Christianized Roman empire, Byzantium. Torn between devotion to an urban-based intellectual tradition, which had its roots in classical antiquity, and allegiance to a despotic emperor whose policies he knew to be undercutting that tradition, Lydus nevertheless hoped for a restoration.
Lydus' dilemma is representative of the tensions of his age. His intellectual debts were to classical secular antiquity, a body of knowledge which was under attack on a number of fronts. In particular, it was easily confused with paganism. Although a Christian himself, Lydus based his most important arguments on material that was demonstrably pagan, and his political patron was accused of paganism.
Examining his work ("On Portents," "On the Months," and "On Magistracies"), Michael Maas establishes Lydus as a credible witness to the political and cultural milieu in the age of Justinian--at the moment when the state re-historicized itself and its Roman legacy in Christian terms. Within a few generations, addressing antiquity from a non-Christian viewpoint will be unthinkable. But from his place on the edge of a shifting paradigm, Lydus sees, and helps us see the emergence of medieval Byzantium through Roman eyes.