Until a few years ago over 12,000 titles on the lifework of Cyril and Methodius figured on bibliographies as scientific and popular scientific literature and fiction. In 1980 Angelika Hoffer and Michael Margaritoff published a study in German, afterwards translated in Bulgarian (in the magazines 'Douhovna Kultura' and 'Plamuk') on the passage in the longer life of Constantine Cyril the Philosopher in which Constantine declared at the feast with the Khazar khan in the town of Sarkel that the ultimate goal of his life was to search for and attain his grandfather's honour. The preceptor answered thus the question as to what his rank was so that he would be seated as his rank became.

The two authors treat this passage in the life as a documentary trace not used till now to establish the nationality of the Slav-Bulgarian preceptor and enlightener. They make such a comprehensive and fruitful analysis that deserves recognition as a 'new voice' in the sea of scientific and popular scientific writings on Cyril and Methodius. This is so because usually scholars dealing with the question of Cyril and Methodius since the 19th century, especially theologically-Christian oriented scholars, believed and wrote that this episode in the vita of Constantine the Philosopher echoed the biblical motif of the original sin of Adam who was expelled from Paradise and of his descendants' pursuit to regain the bliss of Paradise lost. As a matter of fact the latest Bulgarian publication of the vita in Volume III of the Complete Works of Clement of Ohrid (Sofia, 1973) gives the same interpretation of the text.

The interpretation of Hoffer and Margaritoff takes its own way and is built upon the historical situation in Byzantium and Bulgaria in the latter half of the 8th and first half of the 9th century when a battle was waged almost nonstop to consolidate the Bulgarian state. Victory and defeat alternated for the two belligerent sides in that battle. Under such circumstances Bulgarian Slavs and Byzantines often left their native places to settle in the neighbour country and some of them even to get highly placed positions in the state.

The Thessalonian drungarios Leo, the father of Cyril and Methodius, must have been one of those. His sons, however, though born in a Byzantine cultural and social milieu and influenced by it, remembered their ethnic origin and invented the new Slavonic script on such motives. The longer life of Constantine the Philosopher contains a hint of the ultimate goal of his life. Circa 850, when Constantine graduated from the Magnaura School the logothete Theoctistus proposed to marry him to his rich goddaughter whose name he did not mention and thus make him a relative. But Constantine refused because he did not want to become a strategus through this marriage; he believed he could become rich by knowledge in the search for 'my grandfather's honour and wealth', i.e. in the work to enlighten the Slavs in their native language.

Angelika Hoffer and Michael Margaritoff make a contribution to modern Cyrillo-Methodian studies parallel in and independent of the treatment of the passage in the longer life of Constantine Cyril the Philosopher in some studies of Bulgarian literary and historical science published since 1969.


Konstantin Mechev




Source: Agelika Hoffer von Sulmthal & Michael Margaritoff. Of the Slav Apostles Constantine and Methodius. Hamburg: Gesamthersellung Alsterdruck E. Schlecht, 1980.