Hagiography from the ‘Dark Age’ to the Age of Symeon Metaphrastes (Eighth–Tenth Centuries)

Authored by: Stephanos Efthymiadis

The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754650331
eBook ISBN: 9781315612799
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043966


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The hagiography produced between two cultural borderlines in Byzantine history, namely the literary and artistic eclipse of the years ca. 650–800 sometimes known as the Byzantine ‘Dark Age’ and the composition of such collections as the Metaphrastic Menologion and the Synaxarion of Constantinople, is largely coterminous with that produced in the age of Iconoclasm and the period immediately after Iconoclasm. 1 1

For an overview of the hagiographical writing of this period, see Loparev, ‘Vizantijskie žitija sviatyh VIII–IX vekov’; da Costa-Louillet, ‘Saints de Constantinople aux VIIIe, IXe, Xe siècles’; Beck, Kirche, 557–82; ŠevČenko, ‘L’agiografia bizantina dal IV al IX secolo’; ŠevČenko, ‘Hagiography’; Patlagean, ‘Sainteté et pouvoir’; Rydén, ‘Byzantine Hagiography in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries: Literary Aspects’; Rydén, ‘New Forms of Hagiography’, 537–51; Efthymiadis, ‘The Byzantine Hagiographer and his Audience in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries’; Brubaker and Haldon, ‘Hagiography and Related Writing’, in Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era (ca. 680–850), 199–232; and Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit, Prolegomena, 52–146. See also Papadakis, ‘Hagiography in Relation to Iconoclasm’, GOTR 14 (1969), 159–80; Huxley, ‘Hagiography and the First Byzantine Iconoclasm’; and Dummer, ‘Zum Reflex des Bilderstreites in der byzantinischen Hagiographie’.

The period from 730 to 843 and the years thereafter saw the emergence of a considerable number of new saints whose achievements were extolled in nearly 100 extant biographies, Enkomia and Translations of relics. 2 2

The latter are not always immediately identifiable as hagiography from their titles. There are a number of examples headed simply Funeral Oration or Catechesis or with a dual designation such as vita with enkomion (βίος σὺν ἐγκωμίῳ) and so on.

Yet this large number of texts only partly accounts for the full range of hagiography produced from the eighth to the tenth centuries. On the one hand, the Synaxarion of Constantinople and some of the hymnography of this period celebrate saints who may have inspired fully-fledged biographies, now lost; on the other hand, new saints were far from having a monopoly over the new hagiography. Much neglected by Byzantinists, mostly because of their low historical value and imprecise dating, texts praising the Early Christian martyrs represent a high proportion of the overall output of this period. But in a fair quantitative and critical assessment of ninth- and tenth-century hagiography, they must certainly receive their share of attention, all the more so if they point to the development of a certain cult and/or form part of the literary œuvre of a significant author.

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