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“Vernacular” Byzantine Hagiography of the Tenth Century: New and Unnoticed Evidence

Sergey Ivanov, National Research University, Moscow, Fellow 2016–2017, Spring

I worked on commentaries to the edition of the Life of St. Niphon that Albrecht Berger and I are preparing for publication. This huge text has never been an object of scholarly attention, not even by such connoisseurs of Byzantine hagiography as Alexander Kazhdan, who insisted that self-flagellation was not practiced by Byzantine saints—but this is exactly what Niphon is described as doing. This intriguing text abounds with realia and toponyms, some well known, some unknown or not localized with any precision. It is also full of hapax legomena and unattested names. The text substantially broadens our knowledge of Byzantine life: it tells us about home chapels and priests, the financial obligations of godparents before godchildren, the dates for grapes-tending. It poses questions not tackled by Byzantine theology: do evil thoughts have roots outside the Devil’s instigations? Why can gluttony become a basis for sainthood? These topics will become entries of my commentary and will enable us to put this Life into proper cultural context. Another thing I worked on was the topography of Constantinople: I updated my guidebook of Byzantine Istanbul that has been recently translated into English and will, I hope, be published soon. Many new books and articles have appeared since it was published in Russian in 2011, so I added new data and introduced new identifications and localizations.