From Procopius's Secret History (or Arcana Historia) XII.12-14:

Διὸ δὴ ἐμοί τε καὶ τοῖς πολλοῖς ἠμῶν οὐδεπώποτε ἔδοξαν οὗτοι ἄνθρωποι εἶναι, ἀλλὰ δαίμονες παλαμναῖοί τινες καὶ ὥσπερ οἱ ποιηταὶ λέγουσι βροτολοιγῶ ἤστην…

(Trans. mine)

And thus to me, and to many others of us, they [Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora] never seemed to be humans, but rather to be some sort of murderous demons, and even akin to two of those things that the poets call brotoloigoi

What are those things the poets call brotoloigoi? L&S translate the word as "bane of men" and cite it applied to Arēs, Apollōn, and Erōs, but it doesn't seem like Procopius is comparing Justinian to a deity here: it sounds like some sort of monster instead.

  • Montanari translates it as "deadly for mortals." – Alex B. Jul 28 '18 at 4:11
  • @AlexB. Sorry, I should have specified: the literal meaning (brotos + loigos) makes sense, I'm just curious why Procopius would use it in this way when L&S only list it as a divine epithet. I'm wondering if there's some other usage of it, perhaps to describe the Furies instead of something like Erōs. – Draconis Jul 28 '18 at 4:25

The Diccionario Griego-Español is more complete than Liddell-Scott, but only goes up to epsilon:


funesto para los mortales epít. de Ares Il.5.31, Od.8.115, Hes.Sc.333, Tyrt.1.47, A.Supp.665, Sch.D.T.234.14, Corn.ND 21, de Eros AP 5.180 (Mel.), 12.37 (Diosc.), de Eris, Timo SHell.795, cóm. de un pederasta o fellator Ar.Fr.969.

Ares, Eros, Eris (but in the Supplementum Hellenisticum, so obscure), and as a condemnation of sexual deviancy (but in a fragment of Aristophanes, so again unlikely to be known by Procopius).

I think it's likeliest that Procopius is referring to the Homeric and Hesiodic usage of brotoloigos as an epithet of Ares (which is the usage ascribed to "poets"). The reason he can still use an epithet of Ares to refer to Justinian is simple: as far as any Christian of the time was concerned, the ancient Greek gods were demons. And a comparison of a Christian emperor to Ares would certainly not have been intended as complimentary.

The picture is complicated by Procopius' apparent scepticism towards Christian mores, particularly in the Secret History; but I don't think we need to posit that Procopius is aware of referents of brotoilogos that we are not.

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