Cover: Holy Women of Byzantium: Ten Saints’ Lives in English Translation, from Harvard University PressCover: Holy Women of Byzantium in PAPERBACK

Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Saints Lives 1

Holy Women of Byzantium

Ten Saints’ Lives in English Translation

Edited by Alice-Mary Talbot

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$18.50 • £16.95 • €16.95

ISBN 9780884022480

Publication Date: 01/01/1996


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The ten holy women whose biographies are presented here represent a wide variety of Byzantine female saints: nuns who disguised themselves in male monastic garb; a repentant harlot who withdrew to the desert for forty-seven years of self-imposed isolation; a nun who escaped from Arab captivity to spend thirty-five years as a hermit on the abandoned island of Paros; a wonder-working abbess who slew a dragon; widows who found refuge in the ascetic life of the convent; married laywomen and a queen abused by their husbands.

The careers of these holy women demonstrate some of the divergent paths to sanctification in Byzantium, including mortification of the body, unquestioning obedience to a superior, repentance, acts of charity, prophecy, and miracle-working. At the same time, the texts of the Lives reveal the Byzantine ambivalence toward women, reflecting a paradox of civilization that simultaneously denigrated women as daughters of Eve and elevated Mary as the Mother of God and the instrument of man’s salvation.

These vitae, ranging from the fifth to the thirteenth centuries, also supplement traditional narrative histories by providing information on such aspects of Byzantine civilization as the impact of Arab and Bulgarian raids, iconoclasm, the monastic routine in convents, everyday family life and household management, and a smallpox epidemic in Thessalonike.

This collection of sacred biographies is the initial volume in a new Dumbarton Oaks series, Byzantine Saints’ Lives in Translation. The vitae selected for the series are rendered into English for the first time and are fully annotated.

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