Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen: 'Waiting to see and know'; Disgust, Fear and Shame in The Miracles of St. Artemios

The sixth-seventh century Constantinopolitan district Oxeia was the epicenter of a healing-cult specializing in diseases of the genitalia. Enclosed in a sarcophagus beneath the altar of the Church of St. John the Forerunner lay the body of St. Artemius, a fourth-century, pro-Arian doux around whose relics gathered predominantly working class, male individuals whose ailments produced an array of responses to and reasons for suffering. As the single body represented the social body and—by extension—the empire, disease, suffering or disfigurement suggest more than singular pain; they reveal theological constructs, attempts to answer for illnesses with theodicy. Disgust for the ailment, fear of infection and shame of the suffering are characteristic in miracle tales, and the response of religion to bodies in pain has been much considered; religious responses to those anxious, ashamed or fearful of pain, contagion, disease or death, less so. Analysis of select passages from the seventh-century Miracles of St. Artemios will consider how the suffering of those stricken with humiliating maladies shapes relationships with their social network, the saint and God through the saint. This paper will employ the new intellectual history theoretical model to initiate conversation about mutable moments in seventh century Byzantium, moments when suffering manifests in isolation or alienation of those who are “waiting to know” if contagion is present and death is looming.

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