|St. Ted's in there somewhere|
John the Grammarian -- John VII, Patriarch of Constantinople, was smart and brave, but he was an iconoclast and I have little patience for those. He headed up a delegation to Baghdad to propose peace between the Byzantine and Abassid (Muslim) Empires, but there was no peace to be had between the two nations. Nonetheless, he and the Abassid emperor got along very well together since they both respected knowledge, wisdom, and book-learning. After John's former student Emperor Theophilos died, John was deposed from his patriarchate by the imperial widow, Theodora. who wanted an end to the iconodule persecution. The medieval cartoon to the right shows John scrubbing out the image of Christ with a stick and sponge, the same tool soldiers are using to give Jesus vinegar and gall as he hung on the Cross.
|al-Ma'mun gets a haircut|
|John the Grammarian's visit to al-Ma'mun -- an historical event|
You might be wondering why al-Ma'mun and John the Grammarian are included here. In spite of all the plausible saintly stuff (monk, hermit, good bishop) stuff that Theodore did, some biographer wanted to gild that lily. He wrote that Ted went to visit al-Ma'mun, who fell deathly ill and responded to no treatments from his Muslim physicians. Theodore pulled out some dust from the Holy Sepulcher (Christ's tomb) and brewed it up into a tea. The Caliph responded to the treatment, converted to Christianity, and was baptized with the name John. Caliph John then sent Theodore to Constantinople to ask the Byzantine Emperor for a chunk of the True Cross. Naturally, the Emperor posted that right off in a jeweled box, even though the Caliphate was authorizing raids deep into Anatolia, murdering, plundering, and enslaving the folks living there. Of course all the Baghmoms and Baghdads were upset that their caliph just apostatized and cut him to pieces, bringing al-Ma'mun's half-brother, al-Mu'tasim, to the throne.
I don't mind that Theodore's story was embellished -- hell, hagiography would not be half as interesting if they didn't make stuff up. I don't mind that the accounts of Theodore's trip omit any reference to John the Grammarian. He was an iconoclast, so if someone effaces his record, that just chickens roosting at home. But I resent the fictitious conversion of al-Ma'mun. He seems like a complex, intriguing fellow and deserves better than he got in this story. As a sign of respect for him, he is NOT being entered in the canon here, but only because I don't think he would have wanted it.