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Helena Revisited: Cross and Myth

Jan Willem Drijvers, University of Groningen, Summer Fellow 2009

I had a fruitful and very stimulating six-week fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks. In the first days of my fellowship, I finished an article entitled “Decline of Political Culture: Ammianus Marcellinus' Characterization of the Reigns of Valentinian and Valens,” to be published (hopefully) in the conference volume Shifting Frontiers in Late Antiquity VⅢ: Shifting Cultural Frontiers (Ashgate). I also wrote an entry on the emperor Julian (361–363) for The Encyclopedia of the Roman Army, ed. Yann Le Bohec, published by Wiley-Blackwell. Finally, I wrote the first draft of an article on my principal project Helena Revisited: Cross and Myth. The first part of the article deals with some new perspectives on Helena's biography, in particular her journey to the Holy Land. The second part discusses two texts on the discovery of the Cross: two Syriac poems and Alexander Monachos’s De inventione crucis. The article also gives attention to a rather peculiar and understudied version of the legend preserved in the Six Books' narratives of Mary's Dormition and Assumption.