Fainting fits and their causes: a topos in two Middle Byzantine metaphraseis by Nicetas the Paphlagonian and Nicephorus Ouranos

by Dirk Krausmüller

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Byzantine metaphraseis of older hagiographical literature present modern scholars with a predicament: what is one to do with texts which do not add new episodes to the original stories and which are equally not used by their authors as vehicles of self-expression? This absence of immediately apparent “original” features is without doubt the main reason for the comparative neglect of these texts by modern scholars.1 Detailed comparisons between the contents of the paraphrases and their models remain a desideratum. In this article I will limit the analysis to one of the most distinctive features of Byzantine metaphraseis: the comments made by the authors on the narratives they found in their models.

The importance of such comments has been stressed by Elizabeth Fisher in a recent article on Michael Psellos as a theoretician and practitioner of hagiography.2 In his Encomium of Symeon Metaphrastes Psellos spelt out what he considered essential features for a hagiographical text to be appealing to a contemporary audience. One of these features is the incorporation into the narrative “of various specialised topics”.3 In her article Fisher shows that Psellos did indeed add such passages to his own metaphrasis of the Late Antique Life of Auxentius and gives as an example Psellos’ description of the disease elephantiasis for which he drew on Ancient medical texts.4

Psellos appears to have been unique in making explicit the rules that guided his hagiographical production. However, the practice of inserting set pieces into the narrative of a saint’s life is not an innovation made by Psellos. Comparison with older metaphraseis shows that by the eleventh century it was already well established. In this article I will discuss one such topic: the explanation of how emotional states can lead to unconsciousness. I will look at two hagiographical texts by two authors of the Middle Byzantine period: Nicetas the Paphlagonian and his metaphrasis (BHG 708) of the eighth-century Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Leontius of Rome (BHG 707);5 and Nicephorus Ouranos and his metaphrasis (BHG 1689) of the seventh-century Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain which was probably composed by Arcadius of Cyprus (BHG 1690).6

The older of the two authors, the monk Nicetas the Paphlagonian, was a prominent figure during the reign of Emperor Leo VI (886-912) against whose fourth marriage he was fiercely opposed.7 He was a prolific writer. Most of his works were Encomia on apostles, martyrs and monastic saints.8However, he also wrote long hagiographical narratives: apart from the Life of Gregory of Agrigentum he composed a Life of Patriarch Ignatius and the Acts of the Apostle Andrew which is equally a metaphrasis of an older text.9

Nicephorus Ouranos was an aristocrat who served Emperor Basil II (976-1025) in various functions, finally becoming gouvernor of the province of Antioch on the Orontes.10 From his writings it appears that he was a deeply pious man.11 He imitated his mentor Symeon Metaphrastes by leading the life of a monk in the midst of wordly affairs.12 And like Symeon Metaphrastes, Nicephorus Ouranos was an author of hagiographical texts. Apart from the Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain he wrote a Passio of Theodore the Recruit which is also based on an older model.13

A look at the two metaphraseis of the Life of Gregory of Agrigentum and of the Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain confirms the observations made at the beginning of this article. Neither of the texts contains passages in which the authors speak about themselves in a way that goes beyond the repetition of well-worn topoi.14 As a consequence, we can no longer determine why Nicetas the Paphlagonian undertook his metaphrasis, be it to fulfil a liturgical need or to express his personal piety. As regards Nicephorus Ouranos, I have already mentioned that at one time he was gouvernor of Antioch. Thus, there can be no doubt that he visited the neighbouring Wondrous Mountain and Symeon’s monastery.15 However, in his metaphrasis he does not breathe a word of such a visit.16 Thus, all one can say is that both authors chose saints who, to judge by the extent of their dossiers, appear to have been quite popular in the tenth and eleventh centuries.17

Comparison with the original Lives shows that both authors subjected the text of their models to a thorough revision with the purpose of raising the stylistic level of the narratives.18 In this revision one must certainly see one of the main reasons why they undertook the task: they catered for an audience that since Late Antiquity had become more fastidious and was no longer content with unadorned narratives.19 It seems that their efforts met with the approval of their contemporaries. Despite its great length Nicephorus’ metaphrasis comes down to us in four manuscripts.20 And Nicetas’ text was later included in the Metaphrastic Menologium and consequently enjoyed a very wide distribution.21

Apart from this stylistic overhaul the modifications made by the two authors are quite limited. In both cases they chose to retain the literary genre of their models and did not turn the Lives into Encomia.22 On the whole, they followed the original sequence of episodes.23 Omissions do occur but are not extensive enough to change the character of the narratives.24 As a consequence, scholarly interest has focused on the models and the twometaphraseis have not been looked at as literary texts in their own right.25

However, the two texts are not devoid of original features. I shall now turn to the main topic of this article and discuss two descriptions of the link between excessive emotion and fainting. I shall begin with the Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Leontius and the metaphrasis by Nicetas the Paphlagonian. As already pointed out, the basic features of the narrative are identical both in the original Life and in Nicetas’ metaphrasis: Following a divine calling, Gregory clandestinely leaves his home-town Agrigentum in the company of monks and goes to the Holy Land.26 While Gregory remains there, the monks travel back to Agrigentum where they are invited by the local bishop and by chance overhear the wailing of Gregory’s mother over her lost son.27 They then ask for the reason of her behaviour and are told about Gregory’s life and the circumstances of his disappearance.28 The leader of the monks, Mark, recognises Gregory from the story, discloses his knowledge of the saint and then gives an account of Gregory’s life in the Holy Land.29

In both texts then follows a description of the reaction of the listeners to this unexpected disclosure, first of the people in general and then of Gregory’s parents in particular. I will first juxtapose the description of the people’s reaction in Leontius’ text with the paraphrase in order to give a general idea of how Nicetas changed his model.

Leontius’ Life:

“And having heard, all the multitude of the people, men and women, lifting up their voices and stretching out their hands to heaven shouted the ‘Lord have mercy!’ with many tears.”

kai akousantes hapan to plètos tou laou andrôn te kai gunaikôn èran eis hupsos tèn fôrèn autôn kai tas cheiras eis ton ouranon ekpetasantes ekrazon to kurie eleèson meta dakruôn pollôn. 30

Nicetas’ metaphrasis:

“For all the multitude having been moved by the narrative as if by some bacchanal bound exceedingly sweetly and clap loudly and lift the voice, filling the air with shouting and, through the unexpectedness of the matter, thanking as well as glorifying the name of God. And thus the multitude, making the matter an opportunity for common rejoicing.”

to men gar plètos hapan hoia tini bakcheiai tèi diègèsei kekinèmenoi lian te skirtôsin hèdu kai mega krotousi kai tèn fônèn airousi boès te ton aera plèrountes kai tôi paradoxôi tou pragmatos eucharistountes hama kai to tou theou doxazontes onoma: kai houtô men to plèthos koinèn eufrosunèn to pragma poioumenoi.31

The differences in the treatment of this theme are striking. In the original Life the reaction of the people is described in short and formulaic statements. Nicetas’ metaphrasis is much more elaborate: it spells out and highlights several aspects which are only implied in his model. Whereas in the original the hearing of the story is immediately followed by gesticulating and shouting, Nicetas mentions the internal response which precedes these outer actions. Moreover, he supplies the reasons for such a behaviour: the “paradoxical” character of the story. And finally, to the shouting and clapping in his model he adds references to the movements of the bodies in general, introduces a learned comparison with “Bacchic” madness, and juxtaposes the reaction of the crowd with that of the parents in order to create a climax.

This elaboration is all the more remarkable for the fact that otherwise Nicetas considerably shortened the text of his model. It shows clearly the most distinctive feature of Nicetas’ paraphrase: his penchant for the emotional. This penchant is a common trait of hagiographical texts dating to the tenth century when stark narrative was no longer considered fashionable and the depiction of “emotions” through the use of rhetorical devices became the accepted norm.32

However, the interest of tenth-century hagiographers in emotions was not limited to their description: they were equally interested in the pathology of emotional crises. This will become obvious when we now turn to a comparison of the ways in which the parents’ reaction to the news about Gregory of Agrigentum is described.

Leontius’ Life:

“Chariton and his wife fell to the ground and lay on their faces like the dead. But the monk approached them and gripped them and helped them up.”

ho de Charitôn kai hè gunè autou pesontes chamai epi prosôpon ekeinto hôsei nekroi: proselthôn de ho monachos ekratèsen autous kai ègerein.33

Nicetas’ metaphrasis:

“But the parents of Gregory even almost got beside themselves through the excess of joy and half-dead fell to the earth. For just as lack of measure in sorrow can cause getting beside oneself thus no less also joy, and often danger has arisen from both. Then, having been helped up by Mark and barely having come to their senses, they disbelieved.”

hoi de ge tou Grègoriou pateres mikrou kai eis ekstasin tèi huperbolèi tès hèdonès hèkon kai hèmithnètes eis gèn katepipton: ekstatikon gar hôsper ametria lupès houtôs ouden hètton kai hèdonè kai kindunos pollakis ex amfoterôn epèlthen: eita pros tou Markou dianastantes kai molis heautôn genomenoi dièpistoun.34

Both texts tell the same story: the parents faint and are then helped up by the monk Mark. However, whereas in the original Life the fainting is simply stated and then the narrative immediately continues with the monk helping them up, Nicetas inserts between these two events an etiology of the parents’ reaction: it is explained as the effect of the excessive joy the parents felt about the news. In addition, Nicetas remarks that sorrow can have the same effect. This last comment is no longer immediately relevant to the narrative. With it Nicetas takes his audience away from the specific situation and makes them ponder about a “medical” condition in abstract terms.

In doing so he followed the conventions of hagiographical writing which were predominant at the time. This becomes evident when we now turn to the second metaphrasis, Nicephorus’ Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain.

The seventh-century Life of Symeon is characterised by a great number of healing miracles which are by and large retained in Nicephorus’metaphrasis.35 One of these stories which is found in both versions tells the story of a nobleman from Cappadocia with a festering wound. It runs along the lines which had been set down by the hagiographical tradition. Having been given up by the physicians he comes to Symeon and asks him to be healed. 36 The saint lets him come up to the top of the pillar and tells him that he is healed already. However, the man is so baffled that at first he does not notice the change until Symeon tells him to examine the diseased spot.37 When the man finally realises what has happened he experiences a violent physical reaction. I will again compare the description of this reaction in the original Life with that found in the metaphrasis.

Arcadius’ Life:

“And after having come to his senses and having received the words, having examined and having seen that the suffering had become invisible he was greatly troubled and he bent to fall down on the earth. And the bystanders grabbed him.”

kai en heautôi genomenos kai ton logon dexamenos ereunèsas kai idôn hoti afanes gegone to pathos autou ethroèthè megalôs k ai eklithè tou katapesein epi tèn gèn: kai epelabonto autou hoi parestôtes.38

Nicephorus’ metaphrasis:

“But when having entrusted the examination to his hand he realises that he is without suffering the swelling having been completely smoothed out so that nothing whatsoever indicates it, he is filled with dizziness and vertigo of the kind that is in keeping with nature: which not only an excess of sudden sorrow but also one of joy often naturally effects when through the unexpected nature of the matter it (sc. excess) has contracted the warmth of the heart and abandoned as dead the activities of the body. He then, having been astounded by the unexpectedness of the matter would almost have keeled over if some of those present had not held hands under him.”

hôs de tèi cheiri tèn ereunan epitrepsas egnô heauton apathè tou ogkou pantapasin hupoleanthentos hôs mèden ti oun episèmainein tou kata fusin iliggou plèroutai kai dinès: hoper ou lupès afnidiou monon alla kai charas huperbolè pollakis pefuke dran tôi adokètôi tou pragmatos to tès kardias thermon susteilasa kai nekras hôsper tou sômatos tas energeias apolipousa: ho men oun tôi tou pragmatos paradoxôi kataplageis oligou dein emelle peritrepein ei mè cheiras autôi tines tôn parontôn hupeschon.39

Again the Late Antique original is considerably extended in the Middle Byzantine metaphrasis: Whereas the seventh-century Life simply gives an account of what happened Nicephorus not only elaborates this account but also adds an analysis of the physiological processes that led to the fainting.

The similarities between the passages in Nicetas’ and in Nicephorus’ metaphraseis are obvious: the juxtaposition of the opposite emotions “sorrow (lupè)” and “joy (charan, hèdonè)”, the problem of “excess (huperbolè, ametria)” and the ensuing danger to the human being. Thus, there can be no doubt that both authors employed a common topos which was considered appropriate in this context.

Comparison between the two models shows that the man from Cappadocia and the bystanders in the Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain are engaged in a similar interaction as the parents of the saint and the monk Mark in the Life of Gregory of Agrigentum. This allows us to gain an insight into the craft of a metaphrastes: the mention of fainting in the model acts as the “trigger” for the insertion of the topos which the authors are likely to have memorised during their training.

In making a display of their medical knowledge both authors evidently attempted to arouse the interest of their sophisticated audiences in the same way as Elizabeth Fisher has shown Psellos to have done.40 However, there are also noticeable differences in their presentations of the topos. In this instance Nicephorus shows a greater interest in the more technical aspects of medical pathology when he speaks about the effect of emotions on the flow of blood in the body.

In conclusion, it can be said that while not interfering with the narratives of their models authors of Middle Byzantine metaphraseis nevertheless “updated” their texts and that one of the new features was the insertion of comments on the pathology of emotional states. These comments were clearly topical and part of the panoply which was at the service of all hagiographers who had had a training in rhetoric. In keeping with the tenets of imitation and emulation their aim was not to introduce new features but rather to give traditional features a new twist.

Notes

1 During the last decades scholars have tended to concentrate on the analysis of stylistic changes made by the authors when reworking their models. Cf. especially E. Schiffer, ‘Zur Umarbeitung rhetorischer Texte durch Symeon Metaphrastes’, Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik, 42 (1992), 143-155, and E. Schiffer, ‘Metaphrastic Lives and Earlier metaphráseis of Saints’ Lives’, Metaphrasis. Redactions and Audiences in Middle Byzantine Hagiography, ed. C. Hoegel (KULTs skriftseries No. 50, Oslo, 1996), 22-41. Such an approach yields many interesting insights. However, it does not solve the problem of establishing in what way the contents of these texts may have been relevant to the authors themselves and to their contemporary audiences.

2 E. Fisher, ‘Michael Psellos on the rhetoric of hagiography and the Life of St Auxentius’, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 17 (1993), 43-55.

3 Fisher, ‘Michael Psellos on the rhetoric of hagiography’, 48-49.

4 Fisher, ‘Michael Psellos on the rhetoric of hagiography’, 54.

5 Nicetas the Paphlagonian, ‘Vita et conversatio S. Gregorii episcopi Agrigentini’, PG, 116, 189-261. In Migne this text is published as part of the Metaphrastic Menologium. However, the text also appears under Nicetas’ name. This allows the conclusion that Symeon inserted this text into his collection, cf. A. Ehrhard, Überlieferung und Bestand der hagiographischen und homiletischen Literatur der griechischen Kirche von den Anfängen bis zum Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts. Erster Teil: Die Überlieferung. Vol. II (Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur, 51, Leipzig, 1938), 470, note 6. However, it must be stressed that without a critical edition it cannot be ruled out that Symeon introduced changes into Nicetas’ text. For Nicetas’ model, cf. Leontios Presbyteros von Rom, Das Leben des heiligen Gregorios von Agrigent. Kritische Ausgabe, Übersetzung und Kommentar von A. Berger (Berliner Byzantinistische Arbeiten, 60, Berlin, 1993), esp. 48-53 with a discussion of the eighth/ninth-century date of the Life.

6 Nicephorus’ version is edited as ‘Vita Symeonis stylitae iunioris in monte Mirabili’ in Acta Sanctorum, Maii, V (3rd edition, Paris, Rome, 1868), 310-397, and in PG, 86, 2987-3216. The original Life of Symeon has been edited by P. van den Ven, La vie ancienne de Syméon Stylite le Jeune, I:Introduction et texte grec (Subsidia hagiographica, 32, Brussels, 1962), cf. introduction, 121*-128* about the authorship of Arcadius and the resulting date to the first half of the seventh century. Recently doubts about the coherence of the text have been voiced by P. Speck, ‘Wunderheilige und Bilder. Zur Frage des Beginns der Bilderverehrung’, Varia, III, ed. W. Brandes, S. Kotzabassi, C. Ludwig, P. Speck (Poikila Byzantina, 11, Bonn, 1991), 163-247, esp. 165-193.

7 Nicetas is best known from the Life of Patriarch Euthymius, ed. P. Karlin-Hayter, Vita Euthymii Patriarchae CP. Text, Translation, Introduction and Commentary (Bibliothèque de Byzantion, 3, Brussels, 1970), c. 16, 105-106, and commentary on p. 219. Recently B. Flusin has edited a hagiographical fragment which may come from a Vita of Nicetas the Paphlagonian, cf. B. Flusin, ‘Un fragment inédit de la Vie d’Euthyme le Patriarche? II. Vie d’Euthyme ou Vie de Nicétas?’, Travaux et Mémoires, 10 (1987), 233-260.

8 On Nicetas’ Encomia, cf. Th. Antonopoulou, ‘Homiletic Activity in Constantinople Around 900’, Preacher and Audience. Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine Homiletics, ed. M. B. Cunningham and P. Allen (A New History of the Sermon, 1, Leiden, Boston, Cologne, 1998), 317-345, esp. 331-336, with a list of his writings.

9 The Life of Patriarch Ignatius was edited in PG, 105, 488-574. The “Deeds of the Apostle Andrew” were edited by M. Bonnet, ‘Acta Andreae apostoli cum laudatione contexta’, Analecta Bollandiana, 13 (1894), 309-352.

10 For an overview cf. E. McGeer, ‘Ouranos, Nikephoros’, Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, 3 (1991), 1544-1545. Nicephorus is first mentioned in 979 and appears to have died in the early years of the eleventh century. For his post as gouvernor of Antioch, cf. esp. Catalogue of Byzantine Seals at Dumbarton Oaks and in the Fogg Museum of Art, III, ed. J. Nesbitt, N. Oikonomides (Washington, D. C.), 177, no. 99. 11: Nikephoros Ouranos, magistros and “master” of the Orient (X/XI c.), with bust of the virgin and invocation: Theotoke boèthei tôi sôi doulôi Nikèforôi magistrôi tôi kratounti tès Anatolès tôi Ouranôi. Nicephorus was the author of a treatise on Taktika, cf. E. McGeer, ‘Tradition and Reality in the Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 45 (1991), 139.

11 A strong sense of the own sinfulness is expressed in his “catanyctic alphabet”, ed. A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, ‘Buzantina analekta, I: alfabètos Ouranou magistrou’, Byantinische Zeitschrift, 8 (1899), 66-70.

12 S. G. Mercati, ‘Versi di Niceforo Uranos in morte di Simeone Metafraste’, Analecta Bollandiana, 68 (1950), 126-134, esp. 131, v. 27: tropos monèrès en salôi tôn pragmatôn.

13 F. Halkin, ‘Un opuscule inconnu du magistre Nicéphore Ouranos (La Vie de S. Théodore le Conscrit), Analecta Bollandiana, 80 (1962), 308-324, text, 313-324, cf. the title, p. 313: marturion tou hagiou megalomarturos Theodôrou tou tèrônos suggrafen para Nikèforou magistrou tou Ouranou. ThePassio which is based on the eigth-century anonymous Vita, educatio et miracula of Theodore the Recruit (BHG 1764), was edited by H. Delehaye, Les légendes grecques des saints militaires (Paris, 1909), 183-201, app. V. Vita et miracula (1764).

14 However, it must be stressed that there are cases where authors do use hagiographical texts metaphraseis to present personal concerns. An example is the metaphrasis of the Life of Joseph the Hymnographer by John the Maistor, where the author uses the narrative to propound his view of the immediate retribution of the saints after death, cf. J. Gouillard, ‘Léthargie des âmes et culte des saints: un plaidoyer inédit de Jean diacre et maïstor’, Travaux et mémoires, 8 (1981), 171-186, esp. 180-181.

15 Cf. the comment by H. Delehaye, Les saints stylites (Subsidia hagiographica, 14, Brussels, 1923), lx: “Très peu de traits personnels sont à relever dans cette biographie.”

16 Delehaye, Les saints stylites, lx, assumed autopsy because of the reference to a special feast instituted by the saint, i. e. Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain by Nicephorus Ouranos, c. 115, PG, 86, 3093C: tautèn ho men dedôken entolèn tois episèmoterois tôn adelfôn hètis para tèi monèi kai eis deuro tèreitai. However, this is information that could have been got elsewhere. Another possible reference to local information equally turns out to be inconclusive. In keeping with the interests of the time Nicephorus explains the name Angulas: “After that … the enemy entered into one of the brothers … Isaurian by race, Angulas by name, which they say the lazy is called in the language of the Syrians, I do not know whether called that at the beginning which he became afterwards also through his deeds (or?) having changed the name through the deed later and having fitted the name in accordance with the deeds; having then entered into this one… the enemy stirs up … the whole brotherhood.” Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain by Nicephorus Ouranos, c. 132, PG, 86, 3108D: meta de tauta … ho echthros … hupoduetai tôn adelfôn hena … Isauron to genos Aggoulan tèn prosègorian ho tèi tôn Surôn glôttèi fasi ton oknèron onomazesthai ouk oida eite touto tèn archèn klèthenta ho meta tauta egegonei kai tois ergois (è?) tèn klèsin husteron tèi praxei metabalonta kai katallèlon tois ergois harmosamenon tèn prosègorian: touton toigaroun ho echthros hupodus pasan ektarattei … tèn adelfotèta. This elaboration is not yet found in the seventh-century Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain, ed. Van den Ven, I, c. 123, p. 103, ll. 1-3: meta tauta kinei ho Satanas Aggoulan tina Isauron hena tôn adelfôn kai ektarattei tèn adelfotèta. Taken at face value, it might suggest a knowledge of Syriac. However, as Professor S. Brock has pointed out to me this etymology has no basis in the Syriac language and was wholly made up by Nicephorus. Therefore it cannot be adduced as evidence for first-hand knowledge or access to independent information.

17 For a presentation and discussion of the hagiographical dossier on Gregory of Agrigentum, cf. Berger, Leontios von Rom, 128-140. Interest in theLife of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain for a long time seems to have been limited to his rôle as a witness for icon worship, cf. Speck, ‘Wunderheilige und Bilder’, 194-210. However, with the reconquest of Antioch the monastery returned to the Byzantine “ambit”, the pilgrimage flowered, and a spate of new texts was written (the earliest – and longest – of which seems to have been Nicephorus’ paraphrase). The majority of these texts were edited by J. Bompaire, ‘Abrégés de la vie de saint Syméon Stylite le Jeune’, Ellenika, 13 (1954), 71-110. Among the authors is a John Petrinos who may date to the eleventh to twelfth centuries, cf. Beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur, 638.

18 A comparison of Ouranos’ metaphrasis with the original Life shows that he limited himself to stylistic changes. The new elements are mostly transitions between the episodes, cf. e. g. c. 57, PG, 86, 3040A, and c. 102, 3081C, and interjections to highlight the miraculous (passim).

19 This change in taste was discussed by I. Sevcenko, ‘Levels of Style in Byzantine Prose’, Akten des XVI. Internationalen Byzantinistenkongresses, I/1 (Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik, 31. 1, 1981), 289-312, esp. 301-302 who based his argument on Michael Psellos, Oratio in sanctum Symeonem Metaphrastem, ed. E. Fisher, Opera Hagiographica, pp. 267-288.

20 Delehaye, Les saints stylites, lx, note, 1.

21 See above note 5.

22 Accordingly, in their prefaces they anncounce their intention to tell their stories in a chronological order. Nicetas the Paphlagonian states: “To me then it seems to be a very pleasurable matter and one worth the effort to write up his story from the beginning”, cf. Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Nicephorus the Paphlagonian, c. 1, PG, 116, 189A: emoi men oun hèdiston ti pragma dokei kai spoudès axion ton autou bion anôthen anagrapsasthai, and Nicephorus Ouranos gives an overview of the saint’s biography and then introduces the narrative with the phrase: “However, we must lead back the speech further to the beginning and present … of what kind of parents this kind of man was born”, cf. Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountainby Nicephorus Ouranos, c. 3, 2989B: dei de mikron anôterô ton logon anagagontas hoiôn ho toioutos efu goneôn … parastèsai. This is simply a more elaborate way of introducing a biographical narrative. In his other hagiographical writing, the Life of Theodore the Recruit Nicephorus Ouranos employs a formula which is more similar to the one used by Nicetas: “The speech shall go through this affairs from the beginning right from the birthpangs and the first hair”, cf. Life of Theodore the Recruit by Nicephorus Ouranos, ed. Halkin, c. 1, p. 313: kai ta kat’ auton anôthen ex autès ôdinos kai prôtès trichos ho logos diexietô. The key term in these texts is the adverb anôthen which signals to the audience that the subject matter will be presented in chronological fashion from birth to death.

23 Cf. Delehaye, Les saints stylites, lix-lx. I have not been able to consult E. Müller, Studien zu den Biographien des Styliten Symeon des Jüngeren(Aschaffenburg, 1914), who undertook a comparison of the two versions. For a summary of his observations, cf. H.-G. Beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich (Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft, 12. 2. 1, Munich, 1959), 577: “Seine (sc. des Nikephoros) Arbeit is keine selbständige Leistung, sondern beruht in der Hauptsache auf dem Bios, der Arkadios von Kypros zugeschrieben wird.” As the editor Halkin demonstrated, the same is true for Nicephorus’ metaphrasis of the Vita, educatio et martyrium of Theodore the Recruit, cf. Halkin, ‘Un opuscule inconnu du magistre Nicéphore Ouranos’, p. 310, who juxtaposes two passages from Nicephorus’ text and the Vita, educatio et martyrium and then concludes that the Nicephorus’ text “est donc parallèle à toute la première moitié” of the text edited by Delehaye.

24 Berger, Leontios von Rom, 129, points to the omission in Nicetas’ paraphrase of lengthy speeches and prayers which means that Nicetas’ text is only three quarters of the length of the original Life. In Nicephorus’ paraphrase the shortening is most noticeable in the seemingly endless list of miracles at the end of the Life of Symeon: Between the story of the woman Theosebia, ed. Van den Ven, c. 243, pp. 217-218, which Nicephorus paraphrases in c. 245, p. 3209, and the passage that concludes the series of miracles and achieves the transition to the account of Symeon’s death, ed. Van den Ven, c. 254, pp. 220-221, which appears in Nicephorus’ text as c. 247, pp. 3212-3213, Nicephorus has retained only one miracle story, that of a lame man who gets carried to Symeon by a mule, ed. Van den Ven, c. 249, pp. 219-229, which is adapted in c. 246, pp. 3209-3212, whereas he leaves out two series of short descriptions of miracles which surround this one longer episode, ed. Van den Ven, cc. 244-248, pp. 218-21, and ed. Van den Ven, cc. 250-253, p. 220.

25 Berger, Leontios von Rom, 129, calls Nicetas’ text “eine durchgehende stilistische Überarbeitung” and specifies, 131: “”Seine Bearbeitung erstreckt sich neben der stilistischen Retusche … auf kleinere inhaltliche Korrekturen”, concluding: “Trotzdem folgt er (sc. der Text) aber dabei, obwohl er durchgehend neu formuliert ist, dem Original Satz für Satz.” In the case of the Life of Symeon the observation of a lack of originality led van den Ven to a negative judgement of the quality of the metaphrasis, cf. van den Ven’s statement in the introduction to his edition, Vie de Syméon, I, 11*: “la médiocre paraphrase de Nicéphore Ouranos”.

26 Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Leontius Presbyter, ed. Berger, c. 2, p. 44, l. 23 – c. 18, p. 164, l. 21. Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Nicetas the Paphlagonian, c. 2, p. 189B6 – c. 13, p. 205C10.

27 Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Leontius Presbyter, ed. Berger, c. 18, p. 164, l. 21 – c. 21, p. 167, l. 12. Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Nicetas the Paphlagonian, c. 13, p. 205C10 – c. 16, p. 209B8.

28 Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Leontius Presbyter, ed. Berger, c. 21, p. 167, l. 12 – p. 21, p. 169, l. 40. Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Nicetas the Paphlagonian, c. 17, p. 209B9 – c. 18, p. 212C3.

29 Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Leontius Presbyter, ed. Berger, c. 25, p. 161, l. 1 – c. 25, p. 174, l. 1. Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Nicetas the Paphlagonian, c. 19, p. 212C4 – c. 19, p. 213A10.

30 Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Leontius Presbyter, ed. Berger, c. 25, p. 174, ll. 1-3.

31 Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Nicetas the Paphlagonian, c. 19, p. 213A10-B2.

32 Rosenqvist has studied this phenomenon in his comparison between the “original” ninth-century Life of Philaretus the Merciful and the tenth-century metaphrasis delta which he concludes with the statement that whereas the model was quite matter of fact “there is in d an obvious predelection (sic) for embedding actions in a sentimental mood that is completely alien to Nicetas’ original Life, … the tendency is striking and has a deep impact on the emotional temperature of the Life.” Cf. Rosenqvist, ‘Changing Styles and Changing Mentalities’, Metaphrasis. Redactions and Audiences in Middle Byzantine Hagiography, ed. C. Hoegel (KULTs skriftseries No. 50, Oslo, 1996), 50-51.

33 Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Leontius Presbyter, ed. Berger, c. 26, p. 174, ll. 3-4; plus ll. 4-5.

34 Life of Gregory of Agrigentum by Nicetas the Paphlagonian, c. 20, PG, 116, p. 213B2-7; plus p. 213B8-9. With the phrase hèmithnètes eis gèn katepipton Nicetas alludes to katapesôn ge toi hèmithanès in IV Maccabees. Here one could argue that in his choice he was guided by the similarity between tas cheiras exeteinen eis ton ouranon … meta dakruôn in the context of this passage in IV Maccabees and the previous passage tas cheiras eis ton ouranon ekpetasantes … meta dakruôn pollôn in his model.

35 See above note 24.

36 Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain, ed. van den Ven, I, c. 168, p. 150, ll. 1-19. Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain by Nicephorus Ouranos, c. 180, p. 3152B8-3153A2.

37 Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain, ed. van den Ven, I, c. 168, p. 150, ll. 1-16. Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain by Nicephorus Ouranos, c. 180, p. 3151B8-D7.

38 Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain, ed. van den Ven, I, c. 168, p. 150, ll. 16-19.

39 Life of Symeon of the Wondrous Mountain by Nicephorus Ouranos, c. 180, PG, 86, 3152D7-3153A2.

40 I have not been able to identify the common model although there can be no doubt that such a model exists, cf. e. g. Galen’s treatise Ad Glauconem de medendi methodo, I, c. 15, ed. ed. C. G. Kühn, Claudii Galeni opera omnia, XI (Leipzig, 1826), 48-49: malista de presbutai paschousin auto to leipothumein kai hoi allôs astheneis: kai gar lupèthentes autôn polloi kai charentes kai thumôthentes eleipothumèsan. Like Nicetas and Nicephorus Galen here connects fainting with emotions like joy, sorrow and anger. Moreover, he lists as possible victims the “old” (like Gregory’s parents) and the “ill” (like the man from Cappadocia).


Published in print in Golden Horn, Volume 9 issue 1 (Winter 2001-2002)

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