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Death In Byzantium

Back from our annual summer research trip. Discovered this article on death and dying during Byzantium. Low and behold, the ascetics were outliving all of civilization through..."The Athos Diet": intermittent fasting, plant protein, and walking!


"In a letter to Tsar Symeon of Bulgaria, Patriarch Nicholas I made this observation: “Human life is unstable. It is not only the old, such as myself, who are taken by death. Many who are in their prime fall to death’s sickle.”Old for the Byzantines meant fifty to sixty years of age, with seventy and beyond being regarded as extreme old age, but, because of the high rate of infant mortality, it has been calculated that the average life expectancy in Byzantium was about thirty-five years.'’ Of the major imperial families, the Macedonians averaged a life span of fifty-nine years, although Basil II lived to seventy-two, his brother Constantine VIII to seventy, and his niece Theodora to seventy-six; the Komnenoi averaged sixty-one years, and the Palaiologoi sixty.'* Andronikos II lived to the age of seventy-two and his great-grandson Manuel to seventy-five. Literary figures and scholars seem to have lived long lives, many attaining the biblical three score and ten (Psalm 90 [89]:10), and some, like Demetrios Kydones, hypochondriac though he was, living well beyond that. Monastic saints, who professed to despise this life, seem to have clung to it longer than others, many living into their eighties and nineties, and the hermits outlasted all of them, with St. Antony supposedly dying at 105 years of age and St. Paul, the first hermit, at 113."


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