Contents final issue of Golden Horn: volume 9, issue 1 (Winter 2001-2002)

Editorial (Volume 9, issue 1, Winter 2001-2002, final issue)


In looking through this new issue of Golden Horn, I noticed that the O.B.O. (Independent Byzantinists Council) celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2001. Contributors to this issue, who are (automatically) a member of the O.B.O., often discuss the phenomenon of the networks that exist consisting of Byzantinists of different backgrounds. They do not all have academic jobs as Byzantinists, and those who do, feel the urge to tread — every now and then — outside the world of the university.

Golden Horn hopes to be a platform for publications for people from that network. Although we are a small paper journal, everyone who is within reach of internet can read Golden Horn. Our website visitors surveys have shown us this.

We welcome Dirk Krausmüller with again an intriguing article about metaphraseis of Saints’ Lives. Also,we pay attention to Armenia, because of the1700th anniversary of the Armenian apostolic church. We wish you a pleasant time reading Golden Horn.


Bij het doorlezen van deze Gouden Hoorn viel mij op dat het O.B.O. (Onafhankelijk Byzantinologen Overleg) in 2001 tien jaar bestond. Medewerkers aan dit nummer, die ook (automatisch) lid zijn van het O.B.O., discussieren vaak onderling over het fenomeen dat er netwerken (om dat woord maar eens te noemen) in de wereld bestaan van in Byzantium geïnteresseerden van zeer uiteenlopende achtergronden. Vaak zijn ze geen Byzantinologen die aan een universiteit verbonden zijn, en soms zijn ze dat wel, maar voelen ze de drang om buiten dat nauwe wereldje van de universiteit te treden.

Gouden Hoorn hoopt een deel van dat netwerk een plaats te geven om te publiceren, mits het ons interesseert en het redelijk is. Op papier zijn wij klein, maar via internet kan iedereen die binnen het bereik van een computer is, Gouden Hoorn lezen.

Wij verwelkomen Dirk Krausmüller met wederom een intrigerend artikel over metafrasen van heiligenlevens. Verder aandacht voor Armenië vanwege het 1700-jarig bestaan van de Armeense apostolische kerk. Wij wensen u veel leesplezier met deze Gouden Hoorn.

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

by Dirk Krausmüller

This article uses a transliteration in Latin characters for Greek text. There is also a Unicode-encoded version of this article which uses Greek characters for Greek text. [no longer available online]

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.


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)

Books: the Life of the Blessed and Holy Syncletica

reviewed by Annabelle Parker

The Life of the Blessed & Holy Syncletica, by Pseudo-Athanasius, Part two: A Study of the Life, by Mary Schaffer. – Toronto: Peregrina Publishing, 2001.- 167 pp., ills., select bibliography and notes.
ISBN 0-020669-68-9 (part two)

This study is what has since long been missing among those who are interested in the rather obscure Life of Syncletica of Alexandria, a virgin whose life was written somewhere halfway the fifth century.

In 1995 the English translation the Life and Regimen of the Blessed and Holy Teacher Syncletica by Pseudo-Athanasius1 was published by Peregrina Publishing (Toronto), and this volume is the study that accompanies the translation. Mary Schaffer originally ‘submitted it in partial fulfillment of a Master’s degree in Theology at St. John’s University, Minnesota’ as a thesis. This ‘slight modification’ of the text discusses the dating of the Vita (from the mid-fifth century), the authorship (‘someone lettered in Greek, most possibly dwelling in the environs of Alexandria’), audience and purpose (women, more in general: anyone who is sincerely eager for growth in the spiritual life’), subject (Syncletica’s biography framing her teachings) and genre of this text (bios and politeia, biography and regimen).

Then the author continues exploring the context of the Vita Syncleticae. For example, compared to other similar ascetical writings, we find no mention of a mentor for the young Syncletica, neither is there direct mention of ‘Mary, Mother of Christ, as Model for Virginity’.

Form and content of the Vita are commented upon with an interesting opinion of Schaffer: whereas others, like Elizabeth Castelli2, who commented upon the text as being ‘not presented as a coherent argument but rather as something of a haphazard collection of statements with Syncletica expounding upon a variety of topics’ (p. 36), Schaffer instead writes that ‘closer reading reveals form and content of the work to be harmonious. I would like to suggest that the Vita Syncleticae is quite carefully and deliberately crafted, and that its shape and use of language function to convey its message’ (p. 36-37). On p. 60 the author illustrates her argument by drawing a schema for the text in which Christ is the innermost of four concentric circles. The outer circle consists of Prologue and Epilogue, the second of Syncletica’s early life and Passion, the third cycle contains her teachings, and finally we come to Christ in the middle. All parts of the Vita are thus interconnected.

Before concluding, Mary Schaffer discusses the theological approach of Syncletica in her life as an ascete. Syncletica bases herself thoroughly on Scriptures. First in her teachings, Syncetica understands that she comes on this quest for spiritual knowledge via Grace. Evil features after that, discussed in the forms of ‘logismoi’ or ‘thoughts’. Later on Syncletica discusses at length Free Will. Schaffer concludes about Syncletica’s thoughts on this topic: ‘human will is both free and dwells in grace’ (p. 83). Prayer and Voluntary Poverty are later discussed by the author. Many notes and a select bibliography, in which I regret to say Odilia Bernard’s excellent French translation has not been included3, round off this careful study of Syncletica’s life.

Furthermore, Schaffer’s study of the Vita Syncleticae strikes me — being a long-time student of this text4 — as sympathetic towards its subject, written by someone who has read the text over and over again very carefully, noticing the contexts and deeper meaning of the form within the text. The author honestly admits that she has primarily studied the translation by Elizabeth Bryson Bongie, and not the Greek text (p. 37), but I think she has made clear to me the existence of layers underneath the sometimes stern-sounding text. The meaning of the text has come alive, not in the least through Schaffer’s inspiring and personal conclusions like ‘Syncletica could have a great deal to teach us about finding holiness in the process of aging or in states of debility. The amma could help us to understand the importance of dying and death in our life and our need to face it boldly. She might dare us to shape each day deliberately, certain in our hope that life is eternal.’


1 Transl. with notes by Elizabeth Bryson Bongie, 85 p., ISBN 0-920669-46-8.

2 Elizabeth A. Castelli, ‘Mortifying the Body, Curing the Soul: Beyond Ascetic Dualism in The Life of Saint Syncletica’, Differences 4: 2 (1992) 134-153. Castelli also made the first English translation of the VS: ‘Pseudo-Athanasius, The Life and Activity of the Holy and Blessed Teacher Syncletica’ inAscetic Behavior in Greco-Roman Antiquity, a Sourcebook, ed. V.L. Wimbush, Mineapolis, 1990 (Studies in Antiquity and Christianity), pp. 265-311.

3 O. Bernard, Vie de Sainte Synclétique (Spiritualité Orientale 9), Bellefontaine, 1972.

4 A.S.E. Parker, ‘The Vita Syncleticae: Its Manuscripts, Ascetical Teachings and Its Use in Monastic Sources’, Studia Patristica 30 (1997), 231-234, idem, ‘The Vita Syncleticae in the Synagoge: the citations of Synkletike of Alexandria used by Paul of Evergetis’, in Work and Worship at the Theotokos Evergetis 1050-1200, ed. Margaret Mullett and Anthony Kirby, Belfast: 1997, 143-151, and forthcoming a Dutch translation of the VS, published by Abdij Bethlehem, Bonheiden (B.).

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

Byz-Niz (Vol. 9, issue 1)

Symposia, Conferences

The 36th S.P.B.S. Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, ‘Was Byzantium Orthodox?’

Durham, 23-25 March 2002

The subject is to be ‘Was Byzantium Orthodox?’ and will explore why the Byzantine Empire set such store by Orthodoxy, how this was defined, by whom, how it was expressed, both in terms of doctrine, and in terms of liturgy and art, and the implications of this concern/process for those who lived in Byzantine society and those whom the Byzantines encountered.

Three areas in particular will be explored: ‘Orthodoxy as Imperial Policy’, ‘Orthodoxy and the Other’, and ‘Orthodoxy in Liturgy and Art’. The complete programme has yet to be finalized, and the Symposiarch, Prof Andrew Louth (, or at the Department of Theology, Abbey House, Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RS), welcomes suggestions both for lectures and communications.

The Seventh Annual UCLA Graduate Late Antiquity Conference

Los Angeles, 6 April 2002

This conference is intended to bring together scholars of diverse interests to present and discuss a range of issues surrounding the transformation of the Classical world into the Latin Medieval West, Byzantium and the Islamic world. The conference serves as a wonderful opportunity to gain feedback from peers in a wide variety of fields. Additionally, it is our hope that the conference will provide the chance for graduate students to gain experience presenting professional papers.

Presenters are invited to expand upon the notion of “Late Antique.” Students of Archaeology, Art History, Classics, History, Near Eastern Studies, Religious Studies and related fields are strongly encouraged to submit abstracts.

E-mail: (Scott McDonough)

Mail Address:
Seventh Annual Graduate Late Antiquity Conference
c/o The UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Box 951485
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1485


Realities in the Arts of the Medieval Mediterranean, 800-1500

Dumbarton Oaks, 26-28 April 2002

The Early Christian Book

Washington D.C., 6-9 June 2002

The Catholic University of America, presented by the Center for the Study of Early Christianity.

Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church

Melbourne, Australia, 10th -13th July 2002

A conference exploring the development of christianity in the ancient world presented by the Centre for Early Christian Studies, Australian Catholic University, St. Patrick’s Campus, Melbourne, Australia

Follow the links through “Conferences” and then click on the icon for “Liturgy and Life”. Access to registration forms and all other information concerning the conference can be found there.

Prayer and Spirituality Conference Convenor
c/o Centre for Early Christian Studies
Australian Catholic University, St. Patrick’s Campus
Locked Bag 4115,
Fitzroy 3065, Victoria

Telephone: + 61 3 9953 3141; Fax: + 61 3 9953 3765

Medicine and inter-cultural exchanges: Byzantium, the Arabic World, the Ottoman Empire

Istanbul, Turkey, 1 – 6 September 2002

Congress of the International Society for the History of Medicine. Its main topics will be, among others, “Medieval medicine”, “Medicine in the Near East through history” and “The relation between Turkish medicine and the medicine of Eastern and Western Worlds”.


2006: International Congress of Byzantine Studies

Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies (U.K.):

The 2006 International Congress of Byzantine Studies will be held in the United Kingdom. Preparations are already underway. The organisation of the Congress will be coordinated by Professor Anthony Bryer of the University of Birmingham.

Nieuw Instituut voor samenwerking / New Institute for cooperation

AHRB Centre for Byzantine Cultural History

Director M.E. Mullett
Associate Directors Mr James Crow, Dr Liz James
Assistant Director Dr R.H. Jordan

This new centre is designed to bring together textual scholars with art historians and archaeologists to develop a new generation of scholars who will write the new cultural history of Byzantium. The aim is to unite the strengths of three universities, the expertise of Sussex in art history, the long tradition of Byzantine archaeology at Newcastle, and the literary interests of Belfast to enable resources to be maximised for the benefit of the subject. The Centre will be housed in the new institute of Byzantine Studies at QUB, a free-standing unit of the Faculty of Humanities.

The centre is project-based, bringing together resources to enhance the Evergetis and Networks Projects (Belfast) and the Constantinople Project (Newcastle) and enabling the Colour project (Sussex) and the Skylitzes project (with Melbourne). The Gender project will run during the life of the AHRB Centre. There will be one conference, one colloquium and two day schools per year, the publications of the projects, a journal, and a general Byzantine World book for Routledge. We look forward to welcoming the SPBS to the Spring Symposium in 2005. We welcome undergraduate, MA and research students and new collaborations; we hope to be able to facilitate new interactions with other centres in UK and on the island of Ireland.

Inquiries to M. E. Mullett:

Verdeeld en heilig: onredelijkheid en rede rond Jeruzalem

door André de Raaij

Centraal in de nieuwste verwikkelingen in Israël/Palestina, en naar het lijkt een van de grootste obstakels voor een vredesverdrag zijn de aanspraken op het heilige Jeruzalem. De drie verwante monotheïstische godsdiensten beschouwen de stad alle drie als onontkoombaar heilige stad, hetgeen blijkbaar staatkundige consequenties moet hebben. De Britse historicus Bernard Wasserstein publiceerde onlangs Divided Jerusalem: the struggle for the holy city (Yale University Press), waarin hij de wisselvalligheden van deze geschiedenis volgt. Een poging tot samenvatting van zijn betoog.

Na de opstand en de verwoesting van de Tempel werd het joden verboden in Jeruzalem te wonen. Misschien zijn er in Palestina wel joden blijven wonen in deze periode, maar in ieder geval niet in Jeruzalem. Er kwamen wel pelgrims. Pas na de eerste verovering door de Arabieren in 638 kwamen er weer joden wonen – bronnen getuigen van armenzorg vanuit Egypte, Syrië en Sicilië. Onder het kruisvaardersbewind werden zij uit de stad geweerd (1099-1260). Na de Arabische herovering bleef hun positie precair, door de houding van de christenen. Pas de verovering door de Ottomanen in 1516 maakte een einde aan de onzekerheid van een voortbestaande gemeenschap. Hoe belangrijk Jeruzalem ook mag zijn in de joodse religie, wonen in de stad leek niet belangrijk. Het hemelse Jeruzalem was belangrijker dan die middelgrote wereldse stad. In de Ottomaanse tijd kwam de joodse bevolking zeker niet boven de tien procent. Safed was het belangrijkste joodse centrum in Palestina gedurende het grootste deel van het afgelopen millennium.

Ook na de opkomst van het zionisme werd aan het bezit van deze stad voor een op te richten joodse staat weinig of geen belang gehecht. Jeruzalem stond voor obscurantisme, religiositeit en viezige armoede, en er is nog niet veel veranderd in dit opzicht wat betreft de joodse bevolking.

Door de genocide (1939-1945) is het verzet tegen het zionisme uit orthodox-joodse hoek grotendeels weggevallen, maar de liefde voor het aardse Jeruzalem bleef op zijn minst dubbelzinnig. Pas de verovering van de oude stad in 1967 maakte van het staatkundige bezit van de stad voor Israël een belangrijke kwestie.

De kerkvader Hieronymus, die in Bethlehem stierf in 420, vond dat het onontbeerlijk was voor het ware christendom om daar te komen waar Zijn voeten hebben gestaan en de sporen van de geboorte, het Kruis en het lijden te zien. Zijn tijdgenoot Gregorius van Nyssa vond daarentegen volstrekt niet dat een pelgrimstocht naar Jeruzalem bij de vereiste goede daden voor een christen hoorde. Voor de vierde eeuw was er in het geheel geen sprake van dergelijke pelgrimstochten. Eusebius van Caearea vindt het heiligverklaren van Jeruzalem een dwaling, ontleend aan de joden. Eusebius, bisschop van Jeruzalem in de vierde eeuw, vond evenwel dat de stad de bron van al het goede was. Na de bekering van Constantijn wordt het uitwissen van joodse en “heidense” sporen belangrijk: de Heilig-Grafkerk wordt opgericht op de plaats van een aan Aphrodite gewijde tempel. Constantijns moeder, Helena, bepaalde waar alles gebeurd moest zijn bij haar bezoek aan de stad, waarmee de heiligheid van Jeruzalem in christelijke kring wordt vastgelegd. Egeria’s verslag van haar pelgrimstocht (eind vierde eeuw) wordt tot op heden gelezen.1

Tot de kruisvaarderstijd was de meerderheid van de bevolking van de stad ongetwijfeld christelijk. Het schrikbewind tegen moslims en joden dat door de kruisvaarders werd ingesteld – overigens na een massamoord die ook de christelijke inwoners niet ontzag – leidde tot opdeling van de stad tussen denominaties en het afschaffen van het oosters-orthodoxe patriarchaat van Jeruzalem. De val van 1244 was het einde van de mogelijkheid tot politieke beheersing van Jeruzalem door christenen. Moslims moesten zelfs het beheer van de Heilig-Grafkerk en de Geboortekerk regelen vanwege de voortgaande ruzies tussen de kerkrichtingen. Het hemels Jeruzalem werd (weer) het belangrijkst, maar een reis naar Jeruzalem blijft een pelgrimstocht vanuit christelijk standpunt.

De traditie rond de profeet Mohammed wil dat bidden voor de profeet in Jeruzalem een plaats in het hiernamaals verzekert. Umar evenwel, de tweede kalief, vond de gedachte aan pelgimsreizen naar Jeruzalem voor moslims verachtelijk en laakbaar. De heiligheid van Jeruzalem voor moslims is gebaseerd op de traditie van de “nachtelijke reis” van Mohammed, van Mekka naar Jeuzalem, vanwaar hij naar de zevende hemel oprees. Op deze plaats is de “verre moskee”, de Rotskoepel, opgericht, onder het kalifaat van Abd al-Malik bin Marwan (685-705). De gangbare interpretatie van het motief achter de oprichting van deze gedenkkoepel is in de eerste plaats gebaseerd op concurrentie, met Mekka in de eerste plaats, maar ook met de christelijke kerken in Jeruzalem en elders in Groot-Syrië. De Arabische naam Al-Quds (Het Heilige) voor Jeruzalem komt pas in de tiende eeuw op. Maar het echte idee van een heilige plaats, die men in bezit moet hebben, komt ironischerwijze op nadat de stad door de kruisvaarders is ingenomen. In deze tijd komt een vorm van tegen elkaar opbieden in ijver (jihad) voor de herovering van de stad. In 1187 vindt deze herovering plaats, onder Saladdin. In 1229 evenwel kon de stad gemakkelijk bij verdrag onder soevereiniteit van keizer Frederik II geplaatst worden. De vestingwerken werden gesloopt, de stad was onverdedigbaar geworden en werd regelmatig geplunderd door nomaden. Pas onder de Mamelukken (1260) wordt de orde hersteld.

Het islamitische karakter van de stad werd in de hieropvolgende tijd bevestigd. Maar de tolerantie ten aanzien van andere godsdiensten bleef bestaan, in tegenstelling tot onder de kruisvaarders. De verdeling van de stad in een islamitisch, een Armeens, een ander-christelijk en een joods deel die zeker tot 1967 nog gold, is onder de Mamelukken ingesteld. Blijkbaar was het geen bezwaar de heilige stad te verdelen. En in feite bestaat de verdeling voor wat de oude stad betreft nog steeds voort. En er zouden geen religieuze overwegingen moeten zijn om tot een vergelijk te komen met betrekking tot een ver- of gedeelde soeveriniteit met betrekking tot Jeruzalem. Wasserstein spreekt van trahison des clercs als het gaat over het opstoken van gevoelens met betrekking tot religieuze rechten: de rede en daarmee de redelijkheid zou moeten overwinnen – maar dan heeft hij het over het begin van de 21ste eeuw, een tijd waarin naar hij terecht schrijft de rede ver te zoeken lijkt.


1 Zie bijvoorbeeld F. Ledegang, Als pelgrim naar het Heilige Land. De pelgrimage van Egeria in de vierde eeuw, Kampen: Kok, 1991 (Christelijke Bronnen 4).

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

Armenië: drie tentoonstellingen in Nederland

door Annabelle Parker

(English summary below)

Dit jaar wordt gevierd dat de Armeniërs in 301, 1700 jaar geleden, bekeerd werden tot het christendom. Grigor de Verlichter (ca 240-332) zou toen koning Trdat III bekeerd hebben door een wonder: hij genas de koning van een ziekte die hij kreeg, nadat hij een groep christelijke maagden had laten vermoorden. In 314 werd Grigor de eerste paus (catholicos) van de Armeniërs.

De drie tentoonstellingen die vanwege dit feit georganiseerd zijn omhelsen de late Bronstijd (15de tot 10de eeuw voor Christus) in het Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden in Leiden, de Middeleeuwse miniaturen in het Catharijneconvent in Utrecht, en hedendaagse Armeniërs in de Lakenhal in Leiden, waar een expositie van vier Armeense kunstenaars uit de diaspora is georganiseerd.

De Middeleeuwse handschriften en miniaturen zijn een ware schat om te zien. Ik vroeg me af waarom deze handschriften nooit ter sprake kwamen bij de studie Mediaevistiek en Byzantinologie. Waarschijnlijk omdat het voor ons in Nederland een onbekend gebied is. Toch vreemd, te meer omdat er sinds de zeventiende eeuw Armeniërs gevestigd waren in Amsterdam. Zelfs de vierde-eeuwse Servatius van Maastricht zou van Armeense afkomst zijn geweest…

Ik las op diverse opschriften dat de handgeschreven boeken worden beschouwd als zeer waardevol, bijna heilig (de bijbel wordt in het Armeens ‘de adem van God’ genoemd). Een ander interessant detail is dat de handschriften door de afschrijver worden ondertekend, waarbij ook de opdrachtgever en illustrator vermeld staan, en details over onder welke omstandigheden het boek geschreven is. Sommige illuminaties geven op heel directe wijze een scène weer: een dronken bruidegom op de bruiloft van Kana bijvoorbeeld, in 1392 door Tserun gemaakt.

Aan het begin van de tentoonstelling is een video die de bezoeker veel bijbrengt over de geschiedenis van de Armeniërs. Er zijn enkele relieken in Armenië bewaard die zeer oud zijn. Zo is er een stuk van het originele kruis in een kostbare reliekenhouder bewaard, en een stuk van de arm van Johannes de Doper. Ik was verbaasd dat deze onvervangbare relieken tentoongesteld waren.

De tentoonstelling in het Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden in Leiden heeft ook een leerzame video, en topstuk is een huifkar uit de vijftiende eeuw voor Christus, gebruikt als grafwagen, en teruggevonden in het Sevanmeer in 1956. De kar werd dit jaar in Leiden gerestaureerd door Hans Piena.

De tentoonstelling over hedendaagse Armeense kunstenaars uit de diaspora laat werken zien van Krikor Momdjian, die o.a een ontroerend schilderij maakte, geheten ‘Uitzicht op Woubrugge’; een video van Atom Egoyan, cineast die in Canada opgroeide, getiteld ‘A portrait of Arshile’; Sonia Balassanian die in Perzië opgroeide en o.a. video gebruikt als medium om rituele handelingen weer te geven; Linda Ganjian combineert droom en werkelijkheid over Armenië in een fotoserie ‘Mother Armenia in Present-Day Yerevan’.

Over alle drie de tentoonstellingen is een informatief nummer van het tijdschrift Artissage verschenen.

Armenia: three expositions in the Netherlands

This year we celebrate the fact that 1700 years ago, christianity became the state religion for the Armenians. Gregory the Illuminator (c. 240-332) converted king Tiridates III, after having cured him from a disease he received after he had ordered the killing of a group of christian virgins.

Three exhibitions were organised to celebrate this: National Museum for Antiquities, Leiden: ‘Armenia: Hidden Wealth from the Mountains’, showing artefacts from the Middle Bronze Age. Highlighted is a wooden funerary car from the 15th century B.C., found in 1956 in the Sevan Lake, and restored this year in Leiden.

Catharijneconvent, Utrecht: ‘Armenia. Medieval Miniatures from the Christian East’, showing beautiful manuscripts (the Bible is called the ‘breath of God’ in Armenian) and some very old relics (a piece of the original cross and a piece of the hand of St John the Baptist).

Municipal Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden: ‘Armenia: Four Contemporary Artists from the Diaspora’. Shows works of Sonia Balassanian (Iran, lives in New York), Krikor Momdjian (Lebanon, lives in Woubrugge), Atom Egoyan (Egypt, lives in Toronto), and Linda Ganjian (USA, lives in New York). Works include a touching painting by Momdjian with a view of Woubrugge and the Ararat, a video by Egoyan called ‘A portrait of Arshile’, photos of Balassanian reflecting ritual acts, and Ganjian’s photo-work on dream and reality called ‘Mother Armenia in Present-Day Yerevan’.


Armenië, theme issue of Artissage. Contains articles about all exhibitions, with many illustrations. All articles in Dutch with English translation.
Fl. 12,50 = € 5,70. ISSN 1434-5986.

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

Medewerkers/Contributors – Volume 9, issue 1 (winter 2001-2002)

Volume 9, issue 1 (winter 2001-2002)

Dirk Krausmüller is a Research Fellow in Byzantine Cultural History at the AHRB Centre for Byzantine Cultural History for 2001. Last year he completed his PhD thesis Saints’ Lives and Typika: the Constantinopolitan Monastery of Panagiou in the Eleventh Century, at Queen’s University Belfast.

Annabelle Parker is co-founder/editor of Golden Horn. She finished her M.A. in Byzantine/Medieval Studies at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in 1992, focussing on the Desert Fathers/-Mothers. She is marketing manager at Edita KNAW. In her spare time she works on a critical edition of the Vita Syncleticae.

André de Raaij is a social historian (University of Amsterdam) whose interests involve currents in religious anarchism in The Netherlands and elsewhere. He is one of the founders of Golden Horn.