Thursday, 7 February 2019
Andreas Westergren: The City of the Saint: The Monks of Syria in the Late Antique Polis
In Theodoret of Cyrrhus’ (383-ca460CE) History of the Monks of Syria, the ascetics withdraw to perform strange feats of mortification, the Stylite being only the most obvious example. However, as scholars increasingly have realized, these stories reflect not only specific realities but also the wishes of their versatile author, a bishop trying to defend his place in the scheme of things (cf. Gaşpar and Schor). Although the saints are depicted as leaving the world in the first part of the story, they return in the latter part - if nothing else as powerful relics. In this presentation, a few civic interventions by monks will be considered in light of the biographical distinction between virtue and deed and the panegyric of a city. In the end, I will suggest that these narratives reflect ancient myths of civic origins related especially to Antioch.