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Barlaam and Ioasaph
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St. John of Damascus (676-749) was a Syrian monk and presbyter. He was born and raised in Damascus and died at the monastery of Mar Saba, southeast of Jerusalem. He was a polymath whose fields of interest and contribution included Law, Theology, Philosophy and Music. He was the Chief Administrator to the ruler of Damascus, wrote works expounding the Christian faith, and wrote hymns which are still in everyday use in Christian Orthodox Monasteries throughout the world. Under the instruction of Cosmas, John made great advances in fields of study such as music, astronomy and theology. According to his biographer, he soon equalled Diophantus in algebra and Euclid in geometry. In spite of his Christian background, his family held an important hereditary public office in the court of the Muslim rulers of Damascus, the Umayyads. John of Damascus succeeded his father in his position upon his death: he was appointed protosymbullus, or chief councilor of Damascus.
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