Saturday, 11 April 2015

Rocco Borgognoni: Making Justinian’s Wars ‘Holy’: The reception of Procopius in Evagrius’ Ecclesiasical History

The paper aims at investigating how Procopius’ narration of wars fought under Justinian was included a few decades after publication by Evagrius Scholasticus in his Ecclesiastical History. Mainly through juxtaposition of selected passages with relevant additions, Evagrius, in fact, reshaped Procopius’ history to give the wars new meaning according to his own biographical experience and the canons of the literary genre of ecclesiastical history. Thus he offered a different interpretation, where religion acquired centrality and divine intervention arose to be one of the main engines in human vicissitudes. As for Vandalic war, Evagrius stressed more than Procopius the religious grounds for the Byzantine attack against Arian Vandals who were persecuting Orthodox Romans. Visions, such as that of the martyr Cyprian or Justinian’s dream, gave the war the appearance of a rightful and vengeful enterprise against wicked barbarians. On the contrary, the Gothic war is narrated without mentioning those matters of faith that, according to Procopius, Byzantines and Ostrogoths intermittently resorted to as an excuse. Nevertheless, the fact that Evagrius autonomously related how the Virgin appeared to the general Narses to point out the opportune moment for fighting gives the entire war waged by Byzantines a strong divine endorsement. Unlike previous wars, Evagrius had direct experience of the Persian war and the region in which it was fought, and by implementing Procopius’ narration with personal memories he highlighted Syria as a victim of impious misdeeds of King Chosroes, but which was also partly redeemed by its Christian relics and miracles.

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