Institute for Balkan Studies
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Basic Philosophical Texts in Medieval Serbia
Abstract: Medieval Serbian philosophy took shape mostly through the process of translating Byzantine texts and revising the Slavic translations. Apart from the Aristotelian terminological tradition, introduced via the translation of Damascene’s Dialectic, there also was, under the influence of the Corpus Areopagiticum and ascetic literature, notably of John Climacus’ Ladder, another strain of thought originating from Christian Platonism. Damascene’s philosophical chapters, or Dialectic, translated into medieval Serbian in the third quarter of the fourteenth century, not only shows the high standards of translation technique developed in Serbian monastic scriptoria, but testifies to a highly educated readership interested in such a complex theologico-philosophical text with its nuanced terminology. A new theological debate about the impossibility of knowing God led to Gregory Palamas’ complex text, The Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. Philosophical texts were frequently copied and much worked on in medieval Serbia, but it is difficult to infer about the actual scope of their influence on the formation and articulation of the worldview of medieval society. As a result of their demanding theoretical complexity, the study of philosophy was restricted to quite narrow monastic, court and urban circles. However, the strongest aspect of the influence of Byzantine thought on medieval society was the liturgy as the central social event of the community. It was through the liturgy that the wording of the translated texts influenced the life of medieval Serbian society.
Keywords: medieval Serbian philosophical legacy, Byzantine philosophy, terminology, translation schools, medieval Serbian society, liturgy