Chapter 4. Greek Wonders: Classical Models for Christian Miracle Collections [1]

Introduction: Mistaking Content for Form

The question of whether classical literature had a formative influence on the genre of the Christian miracle collection in late antiquity was left unaddressed by André-Jean Festugière’s well known selection of translations, Collections grecques de miracles: Sainte Thècle, Saints Côme et Damien, Saints Cyr et Jean (extraits), Saint Georges—traduits et annotés (1971). Likewise, Natalio Fernández Marcos found the similarity of content between Sophronius’ collection of saints Cyrus and John and Asclepian ἰάματα suggestive enough to preclude any further inquiry in his Los Thaumata de Sofronio: Contrabución al estudio de la incubatio christiana (1975). [2] By contrast, the four main sections of Chapter Four will argue that the standard scholarship on late antique miracle collections has tended to confuse the form of these writings and their content and by doing so has failed to explain adequately the literary history of Christian miracle collections in Greek. In particular, a false sense of security with Asclepian healing has predominated, which has in turn hindered further investigation of the significance of the Christian collections for late antique literary history. {172|173}
This association between Christian miracle collections and Asclepian ἰάματα is made on the background of what seems to have been genuine cultural continuity in the realm of faith healing, between the ancient world and the early Christian. Thus, while Fernández Marcos did not pursue the links between Christian miracle collections and classical literature (including the ἰάματα) as regards the form of these texts, he did produce one of the most thorough and important studies to date of religious continuity in the ancient world. Other scholars have taken this type of analysis even further, linking Greco-Roman and Christian cultural institutions through meta-concepts such as “dreams” and “imagination.” The leading study of this type has been Patricia Cox Miller’s Dreams in Late Antiquity, in which she exposes the broad overlays of cultural creativity among Greco-Roman pagans (or polytheists) and Christians from the second to fifth centuries. As regards healing, Cox Miller has insisted, like Fernández Marcos, on the unity of cultural practice during this period. In fact, she has pointed to the cult of Saint Thekla as the preeminent example of the continuity of the practice of incubation from the ancient world:
The most spectacular instance of the Christian appropriation of Asclepius is found in the mid-fifth century in the cult of Saint Thecla in Seleucia . . . She healed by appearing in dreams to the sick who were sleeping in her church. Proficient in the application of miraculous medicine, Thekla wore the mantle of Asclepius, now in the guise of a female saint. The conviction that dreams can heal was too deeply embedded in the cultural imagination for it to succumb to the vagaries of religious rivalry. In the figure of Thekla, oneiric aspirations to health lived on.
This statement represents, therefore, a broader conclusion on the development of culture within the history of late antiquity, a conclusion which emphasizes the similarities of cultural institutions and deemphasizes the distinctions between those institutions. [3]
The argument of the present chapter takes a different approach to the textual material which has survived from late antiquity. In particular, while Asclepian healing miracles do appear at a socio-cultural level to have much in {173|174} common with the “christianized” practice of incubation, the literary form of the miracle collection as employed in the fifth-century AD Miracles of Thekla can be shown to work on a different model. Namely, the form of the Miracles shares most of its salient characteristics, not with Asclepian ἰάματα, but with ancient literary collections and miscellanies, and particularly with the ancient genre of paradoxography.
Paradoxography was understood to be a sub-genre of history writing in antiquity and took a peculiar view on the value of historical information, a view which is expressed partly through its form and partly through what we can glean from ancient writers about the theory of paradoxography. This view corresponds, in its essential aspects, to what the poet and playwright Louis MacNeice called “the drunkenness of things being various.” [4] More specifically, the view highlights what was seen in antiquity to be a typically Herodotean style of history writing, in which anthropological and (eventually) supernatural phenomena are reported in an episodic style that has little or no overarching narrative. This is, of course, a very simplistic view of Herodotean narrative which ignores the complex structure of his Histories (see pp. 113–120 above). Nevertheless, the ancient paradoxographers saw themselves as Herodotus’ heirs and they did so particularly in comparison with the more overtly political narratives of Thucydides, Polybius, and others.
When Asclepian ἰάματα are looked at carefully, they do not meet the demands of the genre of paradoxography, and paradoxographers generally eschewed the inclusion of healing miracles among their παράδοξα and θαύματα. What one sees in late antiquity, however, is a significant recycling of the paradoxographical form of literature—often considered to be an essentially “popular” mode of writing—but with different content. As I will show, the literary influence of the New Testament is partly the cause of this. Late antique Christian miracle collectors were thus filling old wine skins with new wine. What this convergence means for literary history is that these later writers were more sophisticated in adopting, manipulating, and re-presenting received literary forms than has previously been acknowledged. In addition, it means that any analysis of Christian miracle collections which remains solely on the socio-cultural level is ignoring a great deal of evidence which can bring out the character of the period and the nature of Christian interaction with the Greco-Roman and early Christian past.
To support this thesis, I will offer evidence from the earliest Greek Christian miracle collection to have survived, the Miracles of Thekla. Like {174|175} the literary history of ancient paraphrase presented in Chapter Two, the present chapter will attempt to situate the Miracles in a literary historical context primarily for the sake of interpreting the text more accurately and more completely and, broadly speaking, for understanding the development of Christian literature in late antiquity and Byzantium. The close analysis of the Miracles made in Chapter Three above is based on the conviction that the form of the collection has much to do with the material being presented. To read the Life and Miracles primarily as a source text for social history, or for the sake of displaying the continuity of cultural and religious practice, is no doubt profitable—and the present study builds on previous work in those areas—but scholars of late antiquity are increasingly aware that research of those sorts does some injustice to literary works as they stand. Moreover, late antique and Byzantine writers’ preoccupation with form has been recently identified as an important explanandum for the discipline to move forward alongside contemporary critical and theoretical issues. [5] I intend in this chapter, therefore, to contribute to a more holistic reading of the Miracles of Thekla by situating the text within a plausible literary history. From this literary history, conclusions can be drawn about the Miracles’ contribution to the history of Thekla’s cult and, more generally, to the religious thought and literature of late antiquity.

The Heirs of Herodotus: Paradoxography as Literary Tradition

Paradoxography from Callimachus to Damascius

First attested in the third century BC, paradoxography was closely associated with the ethnographic current of ancient historical writing and was, consequently, associated with Herodotus and somewhat at odds with the political history of Thucydides and Xenophon. [6] Emilio Gabba’s statement that paradoxography was “a strand of literary activity of the greatest importance” in the ancient world is justified by two opposing testimonia: 1) Thucydides tellingly distances himself from proto-paradoxographical writing, which he criticizes for its lack of historical discernment (1.29); and 2) despite {175|176} Thucydides’ protest, the fragments that have survived suggest a vast quantity of paradoxographical literature from the third century onwards. [7]
For the paradoxographers, θαύματα (“wonders”) were discrete instances of strange and notable natural phenomena which on their own required no historical explanation. Accordingly, these writers organized their stories into individual segments with no collective thesis or unifying narrative. Sometimes they would order the segments alphabetically or by region, or group them into thematic books, but normally the discrete units follow no pattern at all. The earliest paradoxographer on record is Callimachus of Cyrene (3rd century BC), poet and librarian of the Museum of Alexandria. In addition to his erudite poetry and the Πίνακες—the famous 120-volume catalogue of all books on the shelves of the Museum—Callimachus also wrote a Συναγωγή θαυμάτων τῶν εἰς ἅπασαν τὴν γῆν κατὰ τόπους (Collection of Wonders from the Whole Earth Arranged by Locality). [8] This book dealt with such esoteric (yet characteristically authenticated) data as “Megasthenes, the author of a treatise on India, reports that there are trees which grow in the Indian Ocean.” [9] The Collection of Wonders was only one of Callimachus’ many antiquarian books; others, such as the Πίνακες and his Ἐθνικαὶ ὀνομασίαι (Local Nomenclature), were similar reference books, no doubt inspired by having all of Greek literature under one roof in Alexandria. [10] While notably preeminent in the history of paradoxographical literature, Callimachus was only the first of many writers to collect arcane and marvelous stories in this way.
In the late third century BC Antigonus (perhaps of Carystus) wrote his own Συναγωγή ἱστοριῶν παραδόξων (Collection of Marvelous Researches) which paraphrased and synthesized Callimachus’ Collection and replaced the geographical order with a topical arrangement. [11] He seems also to have added {176|177} significantly to the collection, citing weighty ancient writers, such as Ctesias (late 5th century BC), Theopompus of Chios (c. 378–320), and Theophrastus (c. 371–287) in support of his remarkable stories. Two typical examples of Antigonus’ collection read as follows:
The same writer [i.e. Theophrastus] says concerning stones: the one that is found among the Bottiaioi in Thrace, when hit by the sun fire ignites from it. In that place the stones perform the function of coal, but they endure incorruptibly, and even if someone extinguishes them, as has been attempted, they retain the same energy. [12]
The Ichneumon [weasel], when he sees the asp snake, does not make an attempt on it before calling others to help; and they plaster themselves with mud [as a defense] against the bites and stings; [this is why,] having wetted their bodies, they roll around in the dust. [13]
This juxtaposition of authenticated celestial and geological knowledge with observed habits of the animal kingdom is a defining characteristic of Hellenistic paradoxography.
Yet, despite their rhetoric of natural observation, the primary organizing principle for Callimachus, Antigonus, and the many later paradoxographers is ultimately the compiler’s own reading. This bookish, encyclopedic style has led Guido Schepens to comment that “the guided tour around the wonders of the world . . . was essentially a tour within the walls of the library.” [14] In this case the library is not a metaphor but a tangible place in Alexandria which seems to have served as the catalyst for paradoxography as a literary endeavor. Callimachus’ model proved valuable on a number of counts: first, the form of the collection, resembling the library itself, gathered in one place knowledge that had previously been disparately located; second, the short notices of natural wonders were easily digestible; and third, the material was entertaining and immediately engaged the reader without the added weight of historiographical gravitas. In addition, the open-endedness of these early, paradigmatic collections offered {177|178} inspiration for further accumulation of θαύματα and παράδοξα, as seen in the case of Antigonus. To cite Christian Jacob on this point: “Such collections were open structures, inviting elaboration each time they were read. They were a response to intellectual curiosity as well as a certain aesthetic pleasure. They juxtaposed a brevity of formulation with an infinite possibility of expansion.” [15] Paradoxography in its Hellenistic form is, therefore, a system of organization and one with its skeleton exposed: it provides immediate and easily referenced access to otherwise hidden, or effectively lost, knowledge and it offers a textual site for extension, epitomization, and reorganization by its eschewing of the fixed boundaries of traditional narrative.
Early paradoxographies like those by Callimachus and Antigonus appear from the surviving fragments to be mainly pseudo-scientific works in terms of their content: the stories are about bizarre plants, geographical formations, and the like. Gradually, however, the content became more fluid, including social customs and sexual oddities. Phlegon of Tralles, a paradoxographer of the second century AD, records a number of stories about the supernatural in his collection of thirty-five marvels. [16] Many of these stories involve ghosts or grotesque accounts of human malformation, such as the following example:
A child was brought to Nero that had four heads and a proportionate number of limbs when the Archon at Athens was Thrasyllus and the consuls in Rome were Publius Petronius Turpilianus and Caesennius Paetus. [17]
The historiographical tone of this selection is belied by its fantastic subject matter; nevertheless, it shows how these collections could present material of different levels of believability through the same narrative structure and style. The tendency for paradoxographers to write other collections on different topics is exemplified also by Phlegon, who wrote in addition to his paradoxography Περὶ τῶν παρὰ Ῥωμαίοις ἑορτῶν (On The Festivals of the Romans), Περὶ τῶν ἐν Ῥώμῃ τόπων καὶ ὧν ἐπικέκληται ὀνομάτων (A Topography and Onomasticon of Rome), Περὶ μακροβίων (On Long-Lived Persons), and Ὀλυμπιάδαι (Olympiads). [18] The first two of these works are now lost, but {178|179} the last two survive (the Olympiads only in fragments). [19] As William Hansen has remarked, “linearly organized collections of information on different themes is probably a fair description of Phlegon’s literary output.” [20]
Thus, it seems clear that throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods paradoxographers maintained a self-conscious literary tradition which corresponded to a broader interest in the form of the collection. Exponents of this tradition retained as their modus operandi the related processes of “excerpting” (ἐκλογή) and “arrangement” (συναγωγή), with a particular emphasis on the authority of their textual sources. [21] While many of the later paradoxographers are known only through fragments or their titles, their literary tradition appears to have continued until at least the sixth century AD when Damascius, head of the Academy at Athens and the author of the Life of Isidore, wrote a paradoxography of his own. [22] According to Photius—who elsewhere applauded Damascius’ style and grouped him (as a novelist) alongside Lucian, Achilles Tatius, and Heliodorus—this work contained 372 marvels, arranged in four books according to their kind: fictional stories (παράδοξα ποιήματα), histories of gods (παράδοξα περὶ δαιμονίων διηγμάτων), ghost stories (παράδοξα διήγματα περὶ τῶν μετὰ θάνατον ἐπιφαινομένων ψυχῶν), and natural wonders (παράδοξα φύσεις). Regrettably, Damascius’ text is now lost, but its very composition (if Photius can be trusted) shows that paradoxography was a vibrant and lasting literary form which proved amenable to many different types of marvel. [23] It is a significant comment on taste that the cross-fertilization of the novel and paradoxography in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, evident in the very “Second Sophistic” writers cited by Photius, continued to be felt in ninth century Byzantium.

Literary collections in the Roman Empire

The genre of paradoxography is only the most specific outworking of a pervasive trend towards collection in later classical literature which finds its best surviving exponents writing under the Roman empire of c. 200. This trend was certainly influenced by the paradoxographical (and other) collections {179|180} pioneered by scholars such as Callimachus and Antigonus. However, it finds its expression in genres, such as the natural encyclopedia and the miscellany, which are related to paradoxography but less specifically defined in terms of their content. These two genres in particular find important exemplars in both Greek and Latin from Pliny the Elder (AD 23/4–79) and Aulus Gellius (125/8–after 180) to John Stobaius (c. 500) and Stephanus of Byzantium (6th cent.).
Indicative of the popularity of this literature in the ancient world is a passage from Gellius’ preface to his Latin Attic Nights (c. 180) where he names the titles of a number of collections similar to his own: [24]
And since, as I have said, I began to amuse myself by assembling these notes during the long winter nights which I spent on a country-place in the land of Attica, I have therefore given them the title of Attic Nights, making no attempt to imitate the witty captions which many other writers of both languages have devised for works of the kind. For since they had laboriously gathered varied, manifold, and as it were indiscriminate learning, they therefore invented ingenious titles also, to correspond to that idea. Thus some called their books “the Muses” (Musarum), others “Woods” (Silvarum), one used the title “Athena’s Mantle” (Πέπλον), another “the Horn of Amaltheia” (Ἀμαλθείας κέρας), still another “Honeycomb” (Κηρία), several “Meads” (Λειμῶνας), one “Fruits of my Reading” (Lectionis suae), another “Gleanings from Early Writers” (Antiquarum lectionum), another “the Nosegay” (Ἀνθηρῶν), still another “Discoveries” (Εὑρημάτων). Some have used the name “Torches” (Λύχνους), others “Tapestry” (Στρωματεῖς), others “Repertory” (Πανδέκτας), others “Helicon” (Ἑλικῶνα), “Problems” (Προβλήματα), “Handbooks” (Ἐγχειρίδια), and “Daggers” (Παραξιφίδας). One man called his book “Memorabilia” (Memoriales), one “Principia” (Πραγματικά), one “Incidentals” (Πάρεργα), another “Instructions” (Διδασκαλικά). Other titles are “Natural History” (Historiae naturalis), “Universal History” (Παντοδαπῆς ἱστορίας), “the Field” (Pratum), “the Fruit-Basket” (Πάγκαρπον), or “Topics” (Τόπων). Many have termed their notes “Miscellanies” (Coniectanea), some “Moral Epistles” (Epistularum moralium), “Questions in Epistolary Form” (Epistolarum quaestionum), or “Miscellaneous Queries” (Confusarum), and there are some other titles that are exceedingly witty and redolent of {180|181} extreme refinement. But I, bearing in mind my limitations, gave my work off-hand, without premeditation, and indeed almost in rustic fashion, the caption of Attic Nights, derived merely from the time and place of my winter’s vigils; I thus fall as far short of all other writers in the dignity too even of my title, as I do in care and in elegance of style. [25]
Many of the titles that Gellius’ mentions are known to have been famous works in his time: for example, the Παντοδαπὴ ἱστορία of Favorinus and the Pratum of Suetonius. [26] More to the point, however, in this passage Gellius is associating himself with a wide range of literature and speaks directly to the popularity of various kinds of collections in this period. Yet he intends to dissociate his own book from the above titles because of their pretentiousness—“Attic Nights” is a more “rustic” title than the others. Moreover, just following this passage he criticizes collections that are too capacious, pointing out that his book does not go into too great of depth but is meant merely to inspire study in its readers (ad alendum studium, preface 16).
Gellius’ argument, therefore, is that the Attic Nights intentionally falls short of comprehensiveness—taking him neatly out of competition with Pliny the Elder—yet it is selective enough so as to point the reader in worthwhile directions. Gellius is keen to carve out of a specific literary niche for himself, but, amongst works that seem so similar to his, his positioning only emphasizes how competitive the market for topical collections must have been in the late second century. [27] Moreover, at a later point in the Attic Nights Gellius expresses openly his enthusiasm for paradoxographical collections:
When I was returning from Greece to Italy and had come to Brundisium, after disembarking I was strolling about in that famous port . . . There I saw some bundles of books exposed for sale (fasces librorum venalium expositos), and I at once eagerly hurried to them. Now, all those books were in Greek, filled with marvelous tales, things unheard of, incredible (libri Graeci miraculorum fabularumque pleni); but the writers were ancient and of no mean authority: Aristeas of Proconnesus, Isigonus of Nicea, Ctesias and Onesicritus, {181|182} Philostephanus and Hegesias. The volumes themselves, however, were filthy from long neglect, in bad condition and unsightly (habitu aspectuque taetro). Nevertheless, I drew near and asked their price; then, attracted by their extraordinary and unexpected cheapness, I bought a large number of them for a small sum, and ran through all of them hastily in the course of the next two nights. As I read, I culled from them, and noted down, some things that were remarkable (mirabilia) and for the most part unmentioned by our native writers (scriptoribus fere nostris intemptata); these I have inserted here and there in these notes (his commentariis), so that whoever shall read them may not be found to be wholly ignorant and ἀνήκοος, or “uninstructed,” when hearing tales of that kind . . . These and many other stories of the kind I read; but when writing them down, I was seized with disgust for such worthless writings (tenuit nos non idonae scripturae taedium), which contribute nothing to the enrichment or profit of life . . . [28]
There are a number of points that could be noted in this passage, not least of which is its fascinating description of the book trade in Brindisi. However, for our purposes, most important is Gellius’ citation of six ancient authors of renown, all of whom were read in the late classical period as belonging to the paradoxographical and antiquarian fold. Aristeas (of Proconnesus) was a semi-legendary historian whose Arimaspea Herodotus relied upon for his description of the Scyths but who also reported stories of magical feats, including his own disappearance and reappearance two hundred forty years later. [29] Ctesias (of Cnidus) was a doctor at the court of Artaxerxes II in the late fifth century BC who wrote a history of the Persians, made up mainly of romantic stories, and was considered a fabulist even in antiquity. [30] Onesicritus (of Astypalaea) was a pupil of Diogenes the Cynic and wrote an encomium on Alexander the Great, a text reputed by ancient readers to be fictionalized but which described geographical and ethnographic features of India. [31] Hegesias (of Magnesia) also wrote on Alexander in the third century BC and was maligned as an “Asianist” by later Atticists. [32] Philostephanus (of Cyrene) was a pupil of Callimachus and the writer of an antiquarian handbook (Ὑπομνήματα; {182|183} Memoirs) as well as various works of geography. [33] Finally, Isigonus (of Nicea) was a well known paradoxographer who wrote his Ἀπιστα (Unbelievable Things) in two books sometime in the first century BC or AD: he seems to have known Varro in Latin and is cited by Pliny the Elder. [34] Several fragments of Isigonus survive in later paradoxographies, especially the anonymous late second-century Paradoxographus Florentinus. [35] As Gellius says in the passage quoted above, these writers were “of no mean authority” even though their works were miraculorum fabularumque pleni. His initial enthusiasm for their wonders, however, eventually subsided, and he became filled with disgust (tenuit nos non idonae scripturae taedium) when he examined their content in earnest.
I would suggest Gellius’ aversion here to paradoxographical stories is something of a red herring. [36] The process he describes of culling (carpere) and noting down (notare) the parts that most interested him seems typical of both paradoxography and the miscellany, as well as many of the works noted by title in his preface. Other well known writers can be associated with the methods of literary collections, such as the Christian writer Clement of Alexandria, who also wrote a Στρωματεῖς or “Patchwork” (c. 200–202)—a title mentioned by Gellius (preface 7) and employed by Plutarch in a lost work (Eusebius Evangelical Preparation 1.7). [37] Clement’s Στρωματεῖς is more thoroughly organized than the paradoxographies or the Attic Nights but it nevertheless retains the desultory style that its title suggests. As Clement remarks on the character of his text:
There is a promise, not to give a full interpretation of the secrets—far from it—but simply to offer a reminder, either when we forget, or to prevent us from forgetting in the first place. I am very well {183|184} aware of how many things have passed away into oblivion in a long lapse of time through not being written down. This is why I have tried to reduce the effect of my weak memory, by providing myself with a systematic exposition in chapters as a salutary aide-mémoire; it has necessarily taken this sketchy form. [38]
Clement considers his work a depository of select information, the truth of which, as he says elsewhere, appears differently in different places (1.15.1). There is also a sense in which the Στρωματεῖς is a work that has an open structure, like paradoxography, and could continue to be added to or adjusted later, by Clement even by someone else. [39] This may be the reason the book has no definite ending, and Photius records that the Στρωματεῖς has seven books, when in fact the work has come down to us in eight without any clear evidence of tampering. [40] Thus, the form of the collection served similar purposes for Clement as it did for the Hellenistic and Roman paradoxographers, and all these collections together share literary characteristics, even though the content was quite different between them.
In fact, the early third century AD was especially fruitful for collections of various sorts, and several of them have survived more or less intact. Athenaeus’ voluminous Δειπνοσοφιστής (The Sophist at Dinner) and Aelian’s Ποικίλη ἱστορία (Historical Miscellany; Varia historia) and Περὶ ζῴων ἰδιότητος (On the Characteristics of Animals) are important Greek miscellanies all written around AD 200. [41] Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis historia (Natural History; AD 77) has already been mentioned as a touchstone for Gellius, but we know it also served as a sourcebook for other Latin miscellanists from this later period, such as Solinus, whose Collectanea rerum memorabilium (Miscellany of Memorable Things; also c. 200) is made up chiefly of excerpts from Pliny as well as from Pomponius Mela, the famous geographer who wrote the De chorographia (On the Description of Countries; AD 43–44). [42] Likewise, Diogenes Laertius’ Βίοι καὶ γνώμαι τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ εὐδοκιμήσαντοι (Lives and Opinions of Eminent {184|185} Philosophers; c. 200) and Philostratus’ Βίοι σοφιστῶν (Lives of the Sophists; c. 230–238), while not technically miscellanies, certainly would have derived some benefit from readers’ acquaintance with the collective form: they both exploit earlier writings and collections and string together short narratives about the numerous intellectuals they describe. [43] Similarly, several lexica are known to have been produced in this period which collect together arcane linguistic knowledge and present it in a (more or less) readable format. Pollux of Naucratis’ Ὀνομαστικόν (Vocabulary), Phrynichus’ Σοφιστικὴ προπαρασκευή (Sophistic Preparation) and Ἐκλογὴ ῥημάτων καὶ ὀνομάτων Ἀττικών (Selection of Attic Verbs and Nouns), Moeris’ Ἀττικιστής (Attic Lexicon), Herodian’s Περὶ μονήρους λέξεως (On Anomalous Words), and Pseudo-Herodian’s Φιλέταιρος all date from the late second and early third centuries, though some are better preserved than others. [44] The authors of these Second Sophistic instrumenta studiorum (among others) all share with the paradoxographers a taste for order, economy, and esoteric knowledge. Their various productions also share a similar literary form, which further links them, with paradoxography, to a post-Callimachean impulse to collect, organize, and publish.

Late antique collections, chronographies, and anthologies

This substantial tradition of collection, represented by various types of writing, did not cease after the high water mark of c. 200 but it continued through late antiquity into the sixth century and from there became institutionalized in the medieval world, both East and West. Moreover, in its distinctly late antique forms, it seems to have served as the basis or inspiration for Byzantine encyclopedism in the ninth through eleventh centuries, and many Latin collections were used in the West as teaching tools for monastic communities. These later literary phenomena fall outside the purview of the present survey, which only discusses the high points of a very rich and wide-ranging literary movement up to the time of the Life and Miracles of Thekla in the mid fifth century. {185|186}
To begin where the last section left off, a comprehensive prosopography of the grammarians from the period AD 250–600 has been made by Robert Kaster (1988:233–440), a study which shows in its 281 entries that the grammatikos vocation in late antiquity was vibrant, attractive, and integral to late antique society. While not all of the individuals he describes wrote treatises on Greek or Latin grammar, many of them did. Most of the extant texts are collections of grammatical and often lexical information, certainly more structured than a paradoxography, but nevertheless firmly within the Hellenistic and Roman tradition of compilation. Most of these grammarians are dated in Kaster’s prosopography to the fourth and fifth centuries, but one significant example from the third, who shows the continuity of this tradition, is the grammarian Lupercus of Berytus (born or flourished before AD 268/70). [45] According to the Suda he wrote (among other things) a treatise in three books Περὶ τοῦ ἄν (On the Particle ἄν), an Ἀττικαὶ λέξεις (Attic Vocabulary), a Τέχνη γραμματική (Manual of Grammar), and a work in thirteen books Περὶ γενῶν ἀρρενικῶν θηλυκῶν καὶ οὐδετέρων (On the Male, Female, and Neuter Genders)—“in (all of?) which he is more esteemed than Herodian,” in the words of the Suda. [46] While none of these works has survived, the testimony of their titles, as well as Lupercus’ reputation in Byzantium, suggests that the form of these writings was comparable to Herodian’s Περὶ μονήρους λέξεως or other productions from the second and early third century. Lupercus is an important example, therefore, of the continuity of the grammatical side of literary collections, which was recognized in Byzantium, and presumably in his own time as well, as influenced by or perhaps competing with the earlier generations of grammarians. In fact, were Lupercus’ texts extant, it would not be a surprise to find in them citations of earlier grammatical and lexical collections nor (and more to the point) excerpts and epitomations of previously collected material.
Less structured than these instrumenta studiorum were the miscellanies, which grew up in the same post-Hellenistic environment of the high Roman empire, as seen in the cases of Aelian and Athenaeus above. To take an important example, also from the third century, the Κεστοί (Charms) of Sextus Julius Africanus (c. 180–250) was an encyclopedic miscellany in fourteen (some witnesses say twenty-four) books containing entries on natural history, military science, magic, and various other subjects. [47] According {186|187} to Syncellus’s ninth-century Chronicle, Africanus dedicated the Κεστοί to Alexander Severus. [48] The work survives now only in fragments, but Photius records (not unexpectedly) that the Κεστοί was recycled in later compilations, and in particular as a source for Vindanius Anatolius of Berytus’ collection of agricultural pursuits. [49] He also names as sources for Vindanius the writings of Apuleius and Florentius and the παράδοξα of Diophanes, thereby indicating similar material between the Κεστοί and paradoxographical collections. [50] The Κεστοί is also cited in Fulgentius’ Mitologiae (c. 500), a compendium of allegorical interpretations of various classical myths. [51] Fulgentius, interestingly, calls Africanus “a professor of medicine,” a reputation which preceded him in Byzantium as well—according to Francis Thee, Africanus is also cited in at least two Byzantine medical collections, the Hippiatrica Graece and the Geoponica. [52] Zosimus Panopolitanus (c. 300) also cites Africanus as an authority in his treatise Περὶ τοῦ ὅτι πάντα περὶ μιᾶς βαφῆς ἡ τέχνη λελάληκεν (On All that the Craft has Said on Unique Dyeing). [53] All of this evidence suggests that the Κεστοί easily crossed boundaries of scholarship and literary genres, and its reception-history reinforces the picture of the fragments which have survived: namely, that Africanus’ miscellany was a repository of many types of information, often paradoxographical or magical in character, and had an open structure which allowed easy quotation and reference. Like Callimachus’ paradoxography, therefore, the Κεστοί was a touchstone text which could be endlessly invoked and recycled.
Julius Africanus is best known in modern scholarship as a key contributor to the early development of the chronographic tradition in late antique and medieval literature. [54] Another of his collections, the famous, five-book Χρονογραφίαι (now lost) was potentially (though not certainly) influential on Eusebius of Caesarea’s Χρονογραφία and Χρονικοὶ κανόνες (Chronological {187|188} Tables; c. 325) and subsequently on Jerome’s updated translation of the Κανόνες (Chronicon; c. 380). [55] From the few fragments that survive, Africanus’ Χρονογραφίαι seems to have been organized in a very basic chronological pattern with collected tables of the Greek and Oriental rulers from the time of Adam, listed not synchronically according to each year but separately and diachronically (thus not a “universal” chronicle in the Eusebian sense). [56] In Africanus, therefore, we see a combination of collective genres, the miscellany and the chronicle, each arranged according to their own principles but similarly easily referenced and aiming at something like comprehensiveness. Of course, the fragmentary state of both works prevents a close analysis of their literary forms, but we know that Africanus was acquainted with Origen’s school at Alexandria, and he would thus already have at hand a model for compilation in Clement’s Στρωματεῖς. [57] Moreover, that the early tradition of the chronicle was bound up with the Christian appropriation of the classical miscellany form is further exemplified by the abbreviated universal history that Clement presents in section 1.21 of the Στρωματεῖς itself. [58]
Origen, in fact, proves to be an important link between Africanus and later Christian writers in this tradition. [59] Not only was his physical library at the catechetical school of Caesarea passed on to Eusebius via Eusebius’ mentor Pamphilus, but he too wrote a Στρωματεῖς, which is unfortunately now lost. [60] More importantly, Origen’s interest in scholarship on the Bible—exemplified by voluminous commentaries and the innovative Hexapla—serves to highlight the literary historical connections between Clement, Julius Africanus, {188|189} Eusebius, and Jerome. [61] While, on one hand, all of these writers were direct inheritors of a Hellenistic Jewish tradition of scholarship on the Bible and “Universal History,” they nevertheless sought out distinct literary technologies through which to convey the received information. One product of their interest, as argued here, was an appropriation of the Hellenistic and Roman tradition of the collection. Cited as evidence are the miscellanies by Clement and Africanus; the latter’s Χρονογραφίαι, Eusebius’ Χρονικοὶ κανόνες, and Jerome’s translation and extension; likewise, Eusebius’ collection of martyr acts, the Martyrs of Palestine, and Jerome’s De viris illustribus—the latter explicitly taking its impetus from Suetonius’ own biographical compendium De viris illustribus. [62] In addition, collective biography also shows its influence in Eusebius’ mini-biographies (often substantiated by authoritative sources) from his Ecclesiastical History (e.g. Theophilus of Antioch, 4.24). And finally, further evidence is Eusebius’ study of biblical topography in Palestine, the Περὶ τῶν τοπικῶν ὀνομάτων τῶν ἐν τῇ θείᾳ γραφῇ (Biblical Onomasticon), which has numerous predecessors in the literary history of Hellenistic and Roman geography, such as Pollux, mentioned above. [63] All in all, the scholars connected in various ways with the biblical studies tradition represented by Alexandria’s Christian legacy and Origen’s school at Caesarea produced a sizable corpus of collective writing, employing various versions of the form for different purposes. Some texts were, of course, more thoroughly edited and arranged than others, but the appropriation of the collective form exemplified by writers of the Hellenistic period and the Second Sophistic is clear enough.
However, collections of classical literature in the Hellenistic model continued to be produced, despite what might seem to be a dominant tradition of biblical studies during the fourth century. For instance, Julius Obsequens composed a collection of divine portents from Livy in the fourth or fifth century, organized according to consulships from 190–12 BC (that which is extant). [64] A typical entry reads like the following: {189|190}
Cn. Domitio C. Fannio coss. [632 auc/122 BC]
In foro Vassanio androgynus natus in mare delatus est. In Gallia tres soles et tres lunae visae. Vitulus biceps natus. Bubo in Capitolio visus. Aetnae incendio Catina consumpta. Sallyes et Allobroges devicti. [65]
Gnaeus Domitius and Gaius Fannius consuls.
In the forum at Vassanium a hermaphrodite was born and subsequently driven away in the sea. In Gaul three suns and three moons were seen. A calf was born with two heads. An owl was seen on the Capitoline. Catina was consumed by the fire of Mt. Etna. The Sallyes and Allobroges were conquered.
This excerpt demonstrates Obsequens’ persistent interest in paranormal births, but also evident is his propensity for epitomization, economy of expression, entertainment, and arrangement. In these aspects his text resembles, for example, Phlegon of Tralles’ paradoxography, which deals with portents in much the same way, offering no historical explanation or interpretation but instead assuming that the salacious and miraculous material (gleaned from an ancient, authoritative writer) will stand on its own. [66] Obsequens’ interest in chronology is also significant, especially in the context of its popularity among Christian writers of the period. But, once again, Phlegon of Tralles shows a propensity for this brand of collecting as well, in his work called the Olympiads, fragments of which include tabular lists of athletic champions, Pythian oracles decreed at the games, as well as (not unlike Obsequens) world events arranged according to Olympic year. [67] Indeed, a fascinating conjunction of the legacy of chronography, paradoxography, and the miscellany is found in George Syncellus’ Chronicle, who cites Phlegon, Africanus, and Eusebius to authenticate a point of New Testament reporting: according to Syncellus, they all three independently corroborate the testimony of the Gospels that the sky went black at Jesus’ crucifixion (e.g. Matthew 27:45). [68]
Zosimus of Panopolis, the alchemist, has already been mentioned as a witness to the Africanus’ Κεστοί. His own Ὑπομνήματα γνήσια περὶ ὀργάνων καὶ καμίνων (Genuine Notes on Implements and Kilns; c. 300) has come down to us {190|191} as the most significant alchemical collection of the period. [69] The Ὑπομνήματα deals primarily with “the role of alchemy in the process of spiritual purification” and he has been associated by modern scholars with the treatises contained in the multifarious corpus called the “Hermetica” or simply “Hermes Trismegistus,” after its eponymous divine author. [70] Interestingly, Zosimus organized his collection alphabetically (κατὰ στοιχεῖον), if his Suda entry can be trusted. [71] He was not the first to do this, but alphabetical arrangement is not nearly as common in the ancient world as one might assume. [72] One of the first alphabetical collectors, also a writer on alchemy, was Bolos Mendesios (“the Democritean”; 2nd cent. BC), whose literary corpus contains a wide variety of magical and paradoxographical texts. According to the Suda he wrote Περὶ τῶν ἐκ τῆς ἀναγνώσεως τῶν ἱστοριῶν εἰς ἐπίστασιν ἡμᾶς ἀγόντων (On Matters from [our reading around in] History that Compel Us to Make Inquiries), Περὶ θαυμασίων (On Wonders), Φυσικά δυναμερά (Potent Spells), Περὶ συπαθειῶν καὶ ἀντιπαθειῶν λίθων κατὰ στοιχεῖον (On the Sympathies and Antipathies of Stones in Alphabetical Order), and Περὶ σημείων τῶν ἐξ ἡλίου καὶ σεληνής καὶ ἄρκτου καὶ λύχνου καὶ ἴριδος (On Portents from the Sun, Moon, Ursa Major, the “Lamp,” and the Lunar Rainbow). [73] Bolos’ corpus thus exemplifies many of the common topics investigated by the collectors mentioned above (paradoxography, chronology, astronomy, etc.) and serves as an early example of the alchemical collection tradition. In fact, many sections of alchemical collections put together in late antiquity, such as the Kyranides—which also claims Hermes Trismegistus as its author—have been traced back to Bolos. [74] As Bolos’ example attests, the recycling of alchemical work in late antiquity became commonplace—work which was divorced from its original author and assigned to a divinity, in a catch-all manner. The received material became, in its individual pieces, building blocks for larger and more comprehensive corpora. As in the case of Damascius’ paradoxography mentioned above—and {191|192} as with medical and magical literature in general—alchemical and Hermetic textbooks were large compositions which could accommodate multiple topics impinging on one central theme. [75] Because of this literary characteristic, the collections also tended to grow in size during late antiquity as they were manipulated and added onto, and as the methods of compilation became more widely dispersed.
Alchemical and medical writings served also as a paradigm for Christian writers, who played on their titles and form but substituted different content, as part of their literary polemics against heresy. [76] Thus Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 315–403) wrote his Πανάριον (Medicine Chest) in the late fourth century, in which he collected numerous types of exotic heresies, many of which were gleaned from earlier collections such as the Ἔλεγχος καὶ ἀνατροπὴ τῆς ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως (Adversus Haereses; Against Heresies) of Irenaeus of Lyon (c. 130–c. 200), and the Ἔλεγχος κατὰ πάσων αἱρέσων (Refutation of All Heresies; or the Φιλοσοφύμενα) and the (lost) Σύνταγμα πρὸς ἁπάσας τὰς αἱρέσεις (Treatise Against All the Heresies) of Hippolytus (c. 170–c. 236). [77] Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393–466) continued this literary tradition—which became institutionalized in Byzantium—with his own Ἐπιτομὴ αἱρετικῆς κακομυθίας (Compendium of Heretical Myths), distinguished from the earlier collections in that it replaced the genealogical system of arrangement with a topical one. [78] {192|193}
What has not been sufficiently emphasized in scholarship on heresiological catalogues is that both Epiphanius and Theodoret were the authors of other collections, several of which are non-heresiological in nature. Epiphanius, of instance, wrote a short work On Weights and Measures, which tries to define what biblical words for weights and measures mean in contemporary terms. [79] The text is comprised of a list of the biblical words, each accompanied by a short description of its value for contemporary readers and, in some versions, a description of the relationships between the terms. Epiphanius also wrote a treatise on the twelve stones in the breastplate of Aaron (De xii gemmis), an idiosyncratic work (and surviving complete only in a Georgian translation) but one which ties him again to the tradition of biblical scholarship and also to the large corpus of ancient mineralogical writing. [80] Much of this writing in antiquity took the form of collections like Epiphanius’, and it is not hard to believe he was acquainted with that literary tradition. [81]
In 447 or 448 AD, just prior to the completion of the Life and Miracles of Thekla (c. 470), Theodoret published the final edition of his Eranistes, which takes the form of a dialogue between “Orthodoxos” and “Eranistes,” Theodoret’s own position being argued by the former. [82] The work consists of {193|194} three dialogues, each of which is followed by a section of florilegia. The florilegia are theological quotations that defend the argument of Orthodoxos and are taken from authoritative writers (all bishops) from Ignatius of Antioch to John Chrysostom. [83] Cyril of Alexandria had previously used the technique of florilegia in his disputes with Nestorius, subsequently influencing a whole generation of theological and polemical writers and inaugurating what would become a standard form of theological argumentation in Byzantium. [84] The florilegia in the Eranistes, therefore, stand at the beginning of a literary tradition of collecting the wisdom of the biblical, and especially patristic, writers for contemporary theological concerns. As a compendium of easily referenced and authoritative information, the Eranistes shares essential elements of late antique collections across the board. Moreover, it shares this form—that of the collective florilegia, not of the dialogue—with another of Theodoret’s literary collections, the Θεραπευτικὴ ἑλληνικῶν παθημάτων (Remedy for Hellenic Maladies), which is a systematic compendium containing self-standing entries on topics of metaphysics and moral philosophy. [85] And, as with Eusebius a century or more earlier, one could even associate the biographical Historia Religiosa (History of the Monks of Syria) with Theodoret’s more academic collections: particularly in that the Historia Religiosa collects together short biographies of famous Syrian monastics with little to unify them except the overall theme announced by his title. [86] Again, like parts of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Theodoret’s mini-biographies are often substantiated by documentary accounts and historiographical autopsy, are easily referenced, and are even entertaining.
On the basis of the broad literary corpora of Epiphanius and Theodoret—two of the most virulent heresiologists of late antiquity—it could be said that the technique of literary compilation was not a tool of “christianization,” as argued by Hervé Inglebert, as much it was simply a common means of literary expression, shared by writers of different religious commitments. [87] In fact, {194|195} what is most distinctive of the catalogue or compilation form in late antiquity is that it was not religiously affiliated at all, but was suitable for scientific, medical, scholarly textbooks, as well as (when the occasion arose) polemical and religious discourse.

Paradoxography as exemplar of collection

The literary history of Hellenistic, Roman, and late antique literary collections is rich and important, principally because it reveals a substratum of ancient literature that is rarely talked about on its own. Instead, these texts are usually mined by scholars for the otherwise lost information they contain about the ancient world. The present chapter, however, is designed neither to present its own comprehensive catalogue of ancient collections nor to argue that treating collections as sourcebooks for philology and social history is bad scholarly practice. Rather, I have tried to offer only a glimpse of the broad literary historical context within which the fifth-century Miracles of Thekla is best situated.
Further, within that broad field of late ancient literary collections, I have suggested that the genre of paradoxography, which originated in the Museum library of Hellenistic Alexandria but which continued until the sixth century, is the best single candidate for the origins of the form of the Miracles of Thekla, out of all the collective works surveyed above. There are several reasons for this. The intimate relationship between the paradoxographies of Callimachus and Antigonus shows an awareness of an understood generic tradition. Likewise, the many citations by later paradoxographers of these early figures is evidence of the continuity and reception of this tradition—as is, in particular, the association of paradoxography with Herodotus and the ethnographic strain of ancient history writing. That Herodotus is invoked at the beginning of the Miracles as a figure for emulatio comes as much less of a surprise when the paradoxographical tradition is evoked as a context for the collection (see pp. 113–120 above).
Additionally, the vocabulary for paradoxography remains very consistent over time, and it is shared by the Miracles of Thekla. As I will show in the {195|196} next section, the terms the author of the Miracles of Thekla uses for Thekla’s supernatural activities are θαύματα and παράδοξα, not ἰάματα as in Asclepian inscriptions, nor σημεῖa and τέρατα as in the New Testament. I am ready to admit that the semantic range of θαύματα and παράδοξα has been extended from the Hellenistic and early Roman world by the time of the fifth century. But I would suggest that the genre of the paradoxography has also been extended, so as to cover healing miracles as well as natural wonders. θαύματα and παράδοξα always retain the sense of “something extraordinary” throughout their long usage, but even by the time of Phlegon of Tralles, these words are able to describe portentous births of mutant humans and stories about ghosts—in addition to the natural wonders of Hellenistic tradition. Moreover, only about half of Thekla’s miracles are actually about healing—this fact of the text has been underappreciated. Many of her θαύματα are displays of divine or supernatural power, often with consequences for the natural elements (see pp. 123–146 above). I would submit that the flexibility in late antiquity of θαύματα and παράδοξα, and therefore of paradoxography as a genre, is exemplified foremost by the variety of “wonder” that one reads in the Miracles of Thekla.
The final reason for considering paradoxography as the specific example of collection most worthy of associating with the Miracles is that other types of collections tended to grow more and more technical during late antiquity. [88] Paradoxography, however, does not exhibit this trend, nor does Thekla’s Miracles. Both paradoxography and the Miracles of Thekla are more casual in their approach to collection, arranging their material with no real structure or overarching argument. In this sense both paradoxography and the Miracles show genuine affinity with the genre of the classical miscellany. Aelian’s Ποικίλη ἱστορία and Julius Africanus’ Κεστοί both stand out as essential comparanda for the rise of the Christian miracle collection.
It is never wise to reduce the author’s choice of literary form to a question of origins. Reductionism of this sort denies the value of differences, even small ones, between his text and the tradition, differences which can often be an indispensable guide to the creative success and discursive practices of a given author. Nevertheless, in order to achieve an understanding of that success (or failure) one must be able to measure somewhat precisely the distance from forebears and competing authors. Genre, while easily fetishized in scholar- {196|197} ship, is a necessary tool of literary history and analysis. Fortunately, the genre of “the collection” as described (more synchronically than diachronically) in this chapter is broad enough to allow the Miracles to have multiple sources for comparison within one literary field.
As argued here the genre of paradoxography offers a number of points of correspondence with the Miracles. In fact, the correspondence is sufficient enough to suggest that the author of the Miracles was familiar with the paradoxographical tradition and its internal identifiers and literary characteristics. At this point, it is necessary to explain how the text relates to its traditional dialogue partner, the Asclepian ἰάματα.

Asclepian Iamata, “Priestly Redaction,” and Aelius Aristides

The terminology of wonder

As illustrated in the previous section, the historical trend over time within the tradition of paradoxography was away from technical pseudo-science and towards the fantastic and supernatural—“teratology” in its specialized definition. The increasing interest in portents is exemplified by Phlegon of Tralles in the second century AD, who was one of the first of several authors to incorporate sensational stories into his collection. Other later exemplars were Damascius, who included “Ghost Stories” (παράδοξα διήγματα περὶ τῶν μετὰ θάνατον ἐπιφαινομένων ψυχῶν) as one of four sections in his paradoxography (according to Photius) and John Lydus, whose De ostentis comprised a concise but thorough collection of earthquakes and celestial phenomena for the purpose of predicting the future. What had essentially changed about paradoxography by the sixth century was its interest in the divine and supernatural. Callimachus in the third century BC had been chiefly interested in those natural phenomena which went against what one expected from nature—παράδοξον, after all, means “contrary to expectation”—but there is nothing especially supernatural about the Hellenistic paradoxographies which have survived. By contrast, Lydus called his work on celestial phenomena Περὶ διοσημειῶν (On Divine Portents), indicating a changed sense of their relationship to natural expectations. One now expected to be surprised from above or outside nature, rather than perplexed within it.
The term “teratology” comes from the Greek τέρας (or τέρατα in the plural) and in antiquity was applied in its various Greek forms (τεραταλογέω, τεραταλογία, τεραταλόγος) to writers or writings which displayed a penchant for the paranormal. Thus in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana the word {197|198} τεραταλόγος is used as an Egyptian slander against the Greeks, in parallel with μυθολόγος, and emphasizes a stereotypical addiction to fantasy. [89] Τέρας in its root meaning of “wonder” or “portent” goes back to Homer but retains, through the Hellenistic period, a separate existence from παράδοξα and θαύματα. [90] The word appears frequently in the New Testament, where it is often used for the “signs” or “portents” that vouchsafed the ministries of Jesus and the apostles. [91] Even more familiar from this literature, perhaps, is the term σημεῖον (or σημεῖα), with which τέρας is often paired. For instance, in Peter’s speech at Pentecost in Acts 2:
You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power (δυνάμεσι), wonders (τέρασι), and signs (σεμείοις) that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know.
and then again, just following Peter’s speech:
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs (τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα) were being done by the apostles.
2.43 [92]
This exact language is shared by paradoxography in the Roman period, and many scholars have connected the Gospels and Acts to a paradoxographical literary milieu. [93]
However, despite this evidence of shared vocabulary, many of the New Testament τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα are miracles of healing, indicating a disjunction of content with the paradoxographers. Paradoxography, as shown above, never included healing miracles. It veered increasingly towards the paranormal but never arrived in the realm of physical healings. Instead, these were the domain {198|199} of what some scholars have labeled “aretalogy.” According to a standard view, the best surviving examples of aretalogy are the inscribed cures (ἰάματα) performed by the god Asclepius, especially at his pilgrimage and healing shrines, such as Epidaurus and Pergamon. [94] These inscriptions were set up on votive stones (στήλαι) of various sizes, beginning from the fourth century BC, within the sanctuary area (τέμενος) of Asclepius’ temple. The inscribed στήλαι were post-healing offerings, paid for by grateful recipients; though the stories they tell, of their ailments and healings, are communicated through the skills of paid artisans, who inscribed the stones on site. [95]
The cultic context would therefore lend itself to be compared to Christian miracle collections such as the Miracles of Thekla, since cult and text go together in both cases. Yet, there are several problems with this association. First, the terminology of the Miracles is very much in the paradoxographical tradition. Second, no collections of ἰάματα have survived in textual form; rather, they seem meant only to be read on site and were not distributed. [96] Third, the literary style of the inscriptions on the στήλαι is not high, but the Miracles, on the other hand, is written in educated Attic Greek. Finally, only about half of Thekla’s θαύματα are miracles of healing, and many are wonders of divine power, some even highlighting her divine control over the natural elements. Given all of these difficulties, it is safe to say that the literary relationship between the ἰάματα and the Miracles is a very complicated one, if there is one at all. It is also the case that the problem has never been addressed in any detail in the scholarship—instead, as mentioned above, an association between Asclepius and Thekla has been more or less assumed on the basis of these texts (but without close analysis). What follows below is therefore a provisional attempt to understand the thorny overlap between paradoxography, Asclepian ἰάματα, the New Testament, and early Christian miracles. {199|200}

Thekla’s miracles between paradoxography and Asclepian votives

It is important to consider first the way the Miracles of Thekla signals and employs its own form in order to identify as much as possible the formal consciousness of its author. This analysis will suggest some ways in which he has passed over other genres and adopted a method of organization that most resembles paradoxography. It will also point out how the experience of healing can be described in multiple ways, even among Asclepian “aretalogies”: the spectrum of miracle telling in the ancient world was a broad one. [97]
First, in terms of vocabulary, the author of the LM does use σημεῖa and τέρατα, known from the New Testament, and ἰάματα, the key term of Asclepeian aretalogies. However, σημεῖa and τέρατα are mainly confined to the first half of his text, the Life of Thekla, and are used in reference only to the deeds of Jesus and the apostles. [98] Thekla herself does not work any miracles in the Life until she has already arrived in Seleukeia at the end of that text, and those miracles (θαύματα) are designed to “lead everyone to faith” (potentially an allusion to the σημεῖa of divine power in Acts). [99] Moreover, it is only after her mystical disappearance into the ground and her adoption of a spiritual, ghost-like nature that Thekla actually begins to perform healings (ἰάματα) in the Asclepian style: that is, through incubation and dreams. [100] Thus, there are three stages represented in the vocabulary of the Life—pre-arrival at Seleukeia (σημεῖa), in Seleukeia (θαύματα), and post-disappearance (ἰάματα). One could therefore postulate, within the Life itself, a development of vocabulary which imitates the development of Thekla’s career: she begins by working “portentious” signs imitative of Jesus and the apostles but culminates in healings of physical ailments imitative of Asclepius. However, once the reader gets to the Miracles, something unexpected happens. Instead of continuing this aware- {200|201} ness of ἰάματα signaled at the end of the Life, the author instead reverts to calling all of Thekla’s miracles (including the ones of healing) θαύματα and παράδοξα—precisely at the point when she is at the height of her career as a divine healer.
Compare, for instance, the use of ἰάματα at Life 28.11–12, “[In the place where she disappeared] Thekla dispenses fountains of healings (πηγὰς ἰαμάτων) for every suffering and every sickness,” with θαύματα at Mir. 4.14, “Of such a kind were the wonders (θάυματα) of the martyr against the daimones.” Likewise, compare the use of παράδοξον at Mir. 15.43–44, where it is used synonymously with θαῦμα: “In this way the island of Cyprus was filled with this miracle (θαύματος), and our city Seleukeia was not ignorant of the marvel (τὸ παράδοξον).” [101] This use of terminology thus highlights from the start that Thekla’s miracles are not necessarily, nor perhaps primarily, conceived of in terms of physical healing. Additionally, the adjectives ἄπιστος, ἴδιος, and ξένος, which are used often in traditional paradoxography to refer to the wonders themselves, are used throughout the LM in relation to outsiders, or perceived outsiders, such as of Paul by the persecuting citizens of Iconium (e.g. Life 3.50). Admittedly, the valence of these words in the Life and Miracles is different from their use in the paradoxographies (except ἴδιον at Mir. 36.26); nevertheless, they testify to a persistent interest in concepts such as “foreign” and “disbelief” which the paradoxographers associated with Herodotus. [102] In the end, therefore, the author of Miracles, though clearly aware of the terminology of classical healing, as he showed at the end of the Life, prefers instead the terminology of natural wonders and historiography. And it should be noted by contrast that the healings described in Asclepian inscriptions are always called ἰάματα and never παράδοξα. [103]
An even more significant point of comparison is the fact the Asclepian inscriptions retain their own unique formulae, which do not correspond to the formulae of natural wonders and do not even agree among themselves. In fact, it is difficult to point to one inscription as typical of the Asclepian corpus as a whole. For instance, on the same stele (α) at Epidaurus can be found the following two inscriptions: {201|202}
Once a man came as a suppliant to the god who was so blind in one eye that, while he still had the eyelids of that eye, there was nothing within them and they were completely empty. Some of the people in the sanctuary were laughing at his simple-mindedness in thinking that he could be made to see, having absolutely nothing, not even the beginnings of an eye, but only the socket. Then in his sleep, a vision appeared to him. It seemed that the god boiled some drug, and then drew apart his eyelids and poured it in. When day came he departed with both eyes. [104]
Nicanor, lame. When he was sitting down, being awake, some boy grabbed his crutch and ran away. Getting up he ran after him and from this became well. [105]
Almost nothing unites the formulae of these two Asclepian inscriptions except the basic transition from sick to well. They share neither a cultic terminology nor a style of narration. Whereas the god appears and acts in the first, he is completely absent in the second. The first is several sentences long and includes a personal vision; the second is very brief and secondhand. In the first, a radical cure is needed to heal a blind man whose infirmity is noted even by other suppliants; in the second, we are left in doubt as to whether Nicanor was even really lame to begin with. An interesting fact should be noted about this juxtaposition: the accepted discourse of the healing shrine was clearly loose enough to allow this broad variation in inscriptional texts. Nevertheless, this brief comparison suggests that Asclepian ἰάματα, at least in their inscribed form, were not internally consistent enough to serve as a model for the formulaic narration that we find in Thekla’s Miracles.
To press the point a little further, the latest inscription from an Asclepian shrine has been dated to the fourth century, and that is on a stele from Athens, not from Pergamon or from Cilician Aigai. [106] The latter is by far the closest shrine to Seleukeia at around 200 km but it has thus far yielded no inscriptions at all. [107] It is therefore likely that the author of the Life and Miracles had {202|203} never seen an ancient Asclepian votive inscription in situ, unless he had traveled widely and was acquainted with much older inscriptions. This is despite his awareness of the shrines’ existence and their popularity throughout the world. Thus, at the beginning of the Miracles he writes:
The spokesmen and servants of the prophecies (χρησμολόγων) of the demons, the interpreters of Pythian portents (τερατευμάτων)—I am speaking of those of the chattering Zeus at Dodona [in Epirus], and of the Pythian Apollo at Delphi, and also of the one who makes his divinations (τὰς μαντείας) beside the waters of Kastalia [i.e. Parnassus = Delphi], and of Asclepius, either in Pergamum, Epidaurus, or nearby Aigai. They have put into writing, at many times and about many people, oracular responses and remedies for sufferings. Some are myths (μῦθοι), fictions (πλάσματα), and the ingenious inventions (κομψεύματα) of those who wrote them down, who desired to confer upon demons a certain energy, strength, and foreknowledge. Others are plausible responses (πιθανά) and are often nearly authentic prophecies, but are full of much ambiguity and equivocation, so that those who receive their prophecies are without fail overcome by perplexity (ἀπορίας), and they are not able to make use of the oracles they received, or, in making use of them, they perish utterly (συναπολομένους ἄρδην) in these same oracles (θεσπίσμασι) and divinations (μαντεύμασι). For in puzzles (αἰνίγμασι) and riddles (γρίφοις) lies all the distinction (φιλοτιμία) of the oracles (τῶν χρησμῶν). [108]
Mir. preface 23–38
The author’s knowledge of pagan religion is thus limited to the following facts: it is demonic, it is deceptive (even to the most earnest of suppliants), there are certain sites in the world where it flourishes, and the oracles’ honor is undeserved. With regard to the last point, the author shows by reference to the story of Croesus, which he places just after the quotation above, that he has gleaned much of his knowledge from Herodotus, who also highlights {203|204} the instability of oracular pronouncements. If anything, the connection between the LM and pagan religion is historiographical and literary historical, not coming directly from Asclepian religion but instead through the lens of Herodotus and his successors (see pp. 113–130 above).
Given this situation, one might reasonably expect to see the paradoxographical form serving as a model for the narrative style of Thekla’s Miracles, and this expectation is proved true by the text. As noted above, θαύματα and παράδοξα are normally narrated by the classical paradoxographies in discrete chapters and they do not connect to an overarching theme or progression: they effectively serve as a theme unto themselves. Likewise, in the Miracles, there is little or no narrative development between these isolated stories. Once the author has achieved his rewriting of Thekla’s early history in the Life, and established Thekla’s revised character as a spiritual being who works physical healings, the story of Thekla has finished. The Miracles, then, are individual glimpses of that already established character from the very end of the Life, but nothing ties them together in the Miracles beyond Thekla herself.
The most significant narrative features shared between paradoxography and Thekla’s Miracles are the rhetoric and organization of the individual miracle units. First, they share a simple, patterned, paratactic order that repeats itself in each story. After a brief introduction naming the source of the story or giving some reason for mentioning it, there follows a narrative (of varying length); this narrative without fail ends abruptly after its climax; and there sometimes follows a very brief conclusion. A typical short example from paradoxography is provided by Phlegon of Tralles:
The same authors relate that in the land of the Lapiths a daughter was born to King Elatos and named Kainis. After Poseidon had had sexual intercourse with her and promised to fulfill any wish for her, she asked that he change her into a man and render her invulnerable. Poseidon granted her request, and her name was changed to Kaineus. [109]
This pattern of short introduction, story ending abruptly with its climax, and very short conclusion—here, the changing of the name—is repeated throughout paradoxographical texts and fragments and is also characteristic of the Miracles of Thekla.
Asclepian inscriptions, by contrast, exhibit much more variety in the telling and do not follow this pattern. I have already quoted two distinctly {204|205} different examples from stele α at Epidaurus. [110] Consider also the latest Asclepian stele found by archaeologists, dated to the fourth century AD, from Athens:
Δεινὰ παθὼν καὶ πολλά
ἰ]δὼν σωθεὶς ἀνέθηκεν
ἐπὶ Θεοφίλου ἱερέω[ς
Ἀσκληπιῶι ’Υγι[είαι
Εὐρυμέδων ‘Ηγεμάχου. [111]
Hegemachos, son of Krataimenes of Lamptra to Asclepius. Having suffered many terrible ills and seen many visions, [and] having been saved, Eurumedon, son of Hegemachos, dedicated [this] to Asclepius [and] Hygieia, under the priest Theophilus. [112]
By contrast, paradoxographical tales and Thekla’s Miracles are both almost always told in the third person. The only first person examples are in the case of autopsy or, at two points in the Miracles, when the author himself is healed. [113] However, as in the inscription just quoted, Asclepian ἰάματα are usually in the first person. They are temple votives offered in gratitude by individuals for their own healing—and one cannot always expect a description of what the suffering and visions actually were! [114] This is in contrast to paradoxography and Thekla’s Miracles which always describe the salient details, even if heavily abbreviated. (A good example of this habit is Phlegon’s notice on Kainis {205|206} /Kaineus quoted above.) Therefore, to reemphasize the point, paradoxography and the Miracles almost always behave in a standard historiographical manner; the ἰάματα almost never.
An important exception to this rule should be noted, however. If ever the third person is used in the Asclepian inscriptions it shows coincident evidence of what Lynn LiDonnici has termed “priestly redaction.” [115] Priestly redaction is actually not much different in conception from what is going on in the paradoxographies and Thekla’s Miracles: some of the Asclepian texts themselves attest to a prior collecting process (though they still do not exhibit any extra-inscriptional distribution). Redaction in this context means a loose unity of stories—collected orally or from earlier stelai—based on a central theme or style of narration, such as “action at distance,” as LiDonnici describes tales 1–5 on stele β at Epidaurus. [116] However, it is difficult to prove priestly redaction because the texts do not exhibit nearly the level of unity one would expect in such cases. LiDonnici sums up the problem as follows:
It seems improbable that a project as important as the composition of the most visible and important literary statement of the sanctuary “self-definition” would have been deliberately conducted in a manner haphazard and careless enough to account for the inconsistencies in the preserved Iamata inscriptions. A model of one-time redaction requires us to envision not only a general “free-for-all” in terms of rephrasing, selection, and arrangement; but in terms of change and variety in letter size, format, and layout on the finished stelai as well. [117]
She argues instead for a collective process that went through several stages and cycles, perhaps initially coincident with the reorganization of the temple complex in the early third century BC but continuing on for some time. The record of smaller stelai not included in these larger redactional projects could have come from earlier stages, or they could instead be contemporary with the priestly redaction, sometimes accepting the (impenetrable) ideology represented by the collections but sometimes indicating separate, individual artisanal agendas of language and description. In the end it would prove impossible to determine exactly which literary evidence belongs to which stage in the redaction process. More importantly for our purposes, LiDonnici’s {206|207} analysis underlines the hazards of ascribing to any one inscriptional center a clear statement of the prescribed literary form of Asclepian religion. Further, it should be remembered that the majority of Asclepian stelai retain a naive, immediate tone suggesting that there was little mediation between the recipient of Asclepius’ favor and the text that has survived.

Aelius Aristides and his diary

While Asclepian stelai (“aretalogies” to some) are the most direct route into what scholarship has identified as standard Asclepian healing in the ancient world, there are other examples of this phenomenon which differ significantly in form from the inscriptions. Most notable among these are the Ἱεροὶ λόγοι (Sacred Tales) of the orator and author Aelius Aristides (AD 117–c. 181). [118] In the sense that the Ἱεροὶ λόγοι are an attempt to narrate multiple experiences of divine healing within a precise literary form, they can be said to be similar to the Miracles of Thekla. [119] However, the similarity extends only this far, since both the content of the Ἱεροὶ λόγοι and their specific form—which has few ancient parallels before or after—attest to an idiosyncratic organization of religious and medical knowledge. [120]
For the most part, the Ἱεροὶ λόγοι take the form of a diary, in which Aelius describes the ailments he suffered and the cures prescribed by Asclepius for that day. In the preface he explains his choice of form, claiming that it would be “impossible” for him “to speak or write” about his all experiences since they are so many. For this reason he has previously demurred in the face of pressure {207|208} from his friends to do so. Instead, he now offers “to speak like Homer’s Helen,” who in Book Four of the Odyssey did not tell of all the “toils of stouthearted Odysseus” but rather concentrates on one deed alone. [121] For Aelius, the experience of Asclepius was so ever-present that any attempt at collection would be mere pretension. An alternative for him is the form of a daily diary:
For each of our days, as well as our nights, has a story, if someone, who was present at them, wished either to record the events or to narrate the providence of the god, wherein he revealed some things openly in his own presence and others by the sending of dreams, as far as it was possible to obtain sleep. But this was rare, due to the tempests of my body. In view of this, I decided to submit to the god, truly as to a doctor, and to do in silence whatever he wishes. [122]
There is, of course, a sense in which Aelius’ programmatic statements are very similar to those of a collector. His refusal to present a comprehensive catalogue is a rhetorical commonplace, employed by no less than the Miracles of Thekla. The author of the latter writes:
For this reason, without too much thought and toil, we compiled (συνελεξάμεθα) her miracles that happened here and there and we published them (ἐξεθέμεθα) in a little prose composition (διὰ μικροῦ συγγράμματος)—not every miracle, nor even the majority of them, but just the smallest number, and only those that happened in our day and in a little before us.
Mir. preface 8–13
Only Pliny the Elder was confident enough to assert that his collection encompassed the whole world (see p. 215 below). Instead, most writers of catalogues use comprehensiveness as a foil: a logical impossibility which all readers can understand is the ideal but which is humanly speaking unreachable, especially when one is dealing with the divine.
The resulting diary-catalogue of Asclepius’ radical prescriptions to Aelius seems very incongruous with the Epidaurian stelai. By the same token, in his study of Aelius’ devotion to the god, Charles Behr sets out three different types of physical healing practiced in the ancient world: 1) the god operates on the patient directly in a dream (e.g. most of the stelai); 2) the god prescribes a cure in a dream, which the recipient then has to perform in real life; 3) ancient {208|209} physicians, who called themselves the “Sons of Asclepius” (Asklepiades), perform the surgery or offer prescriptions themselves in real life. [123] Aelius’ Sacred Tales generally fall into the second type, dream prescriptions, which included (in his rather extreme case) harsh regimens of freezing cold baths and physical evacuations of various sorts. The nature of his diary entries are, therefore, necessarily distinct from the stelai: he narrates the dream, as they often do as well, but he also describes his own efforts at carrying out the task set for him. Further, his entries over time elucidate the development of his relationship to the god, and frequent flashbacks to earlier stages of his spiritual journey, as well to previous ailments, punctuate the story, which by the end one has realized is an important literary endeavor in its own right.
Consequently, the dissociation between inscriptional evidence and Aelius’ Sacred Tales is a necessary one, based on 1) the nature of the healing being described, 2) Aelius’ idiosyncratic picture of his physical well-being, and 3) the literary aspirations and effects of the text itself. This last element of the distinction is an important comparandum for the Miracles of Thekla since the imposition of the collector’s literary vision is very much at the forefront of both texts, and it is this important aspect of miracle collecting which I shall take up in the next section. For now it is enough to acknowledge that Aelius’ natural distance from the inscribed ἰάματα, which are ostensibly reporting very similar phenomena from the same cultic contexts, is instructive for a cautionary reading of healing texts. Not only is his diary distinct from the collective form of the Miracles, but it also differs significantly within the broader corpus of Asclepian texts.

Text, cult, and cultural continuity

Even a brief analysis of the ἰάματα and Aelius Aristides’ Ἱεροὶ λόγοι demonstrates the variety of textual responses to this cult in the ancient world. There was certainly no one accepted way of writing about Asclepius. Given this fact alone it would be difficult to postulate a simple imitation or appropriation of Asclepian healing by Christian writers.
As I have tried to argue, the texts from which we learn about these divine figures do not share an overarching textual form. This should give us {209|210} pause, since the content of these texts could potentially be responding to genre requirements, and producing in the process false resemblances to our modern eyes. In addition, there is no reason to think that the organization of religious knowledge—especially in a collective form like the Miracles—is not responding to intra-religious and societal needs more than to meta-movements like the spurious concept of “christianization.” Moreover, the similarity between Asclepius and Thekla is hardly borne out in the narrative handling of the Miracles, and there are a number of instances where Thekla seems to be completely outside the matrix of Asclepian thought: for instance, when she is seen struggling with the natural elements (see p. 140 above). At these times she has much more in common with the Gospels’ visions of Jesus than with Asclepius, and the author’s declaration in the preface to the Life that he is following in the footsteps of Luke the Evangelist begins to look more and more plausible (see pp. 18–21 above).
There is no doubt that the figure of Asclepius was important to both the Gospels and late antique Christian biography—though the relationship of the former pair is much more difficult to assess. Why, however, must we see Thekla as a christianized Asclepius? And what would “christianized” mean in the context of cultic texts anyway? I suggest instead that, while looking to Asclepius for the answers can be instructive, an over-reliance on the Asclepius-Thekla association is ultimately injurious to the literature as it has survived. The search for links between the two healers requires trying to read past their textual particularities, and there is no doubt that such a search has prevented the LM from being set in its proper literary historical context.

Conclusion: Archives and the Semiology of Collecting

In the preceding sections of Chapter Four, I have explored the ways in which language and form provide indicators for the literary historical setting of the Miracles of Thekla. In this regard, the Miracles presents itself as sharing many more features with the classical genre of paradoxography than with texts about Asclepian healing, even though culturally speaking there seems to have been an important overlap in the larger continuity of religious and medical practice. I have also attempted to set paradoxography in an overarching collection movement, beginning more or less with Callimachus but extending back in its ethnographic and comparative-religious interests to Herodotus, and perhaps even to the Odyssey, in the perception of later collectors.
There are, however, a number of theoretical points which have not yet been addressed in the provisional literary history and brief analysis presented {210|211} above. First among these is the question of the author’s unique vision for his collection. How is it intellectually possible for a miracle collector in late antiquity to present a collection that shares more in common with the literary tradition of Hellenistic and Roman collections (broadly speaking) than with his own immediate interests in the community for which he is writing? This is a particularly important question for cultic literature since the Asclepian texts and the Miracles of Thekla are the most tangible evidences of underlying cultic practices.
In attempting to answer this question, it may be instructive to consider an early and explicit account of the collecting process in late antiquity, an account which frames one of the first Christian miracle collections to have survived in Latin. [124] In Book 22 of the City of God, Augustine tells of a prominent lady of Carthage, who had been personally healed by the relics of Saint Stephen. However, when she refused to publicize this miracle, Augustine chastised her for what he perceived to be apathy, ingratitude, and a neglected opportunity for evangelism:
When I heard this story I was full of wrath that in that city, when that woman, certainly no obscure person, was concerned, so great a miracle was so unknown. Indeed, I thought she should be admonished, if not rebuked. When she answered that she had not failed to tell about it, I asked the women who happened to be with her then, and were very close friends, whether they had known the story before. They answered that they had never heard of it. “Well,” I said, “that’s the way you tell about it—so that not even these women who are your best friends hear about it!” And since I had questioned her only briefly, I made her relate the whole story from beginning to end just as it took place, while the women listened and marveled greatly (multumque mirantibus) and glorified God. [125]
The woman’s status in the city made her silence all the more unpalatable for Augustine. If the people of Carthage could be offered a vision of aristocratic devotion and gratitude, not to mention the important lesson that God’s favor depends not on human distinction but falls upon the rich and poor alike, faith {211|212} would be confirmed and the gospel could be further proved true (and publicly). Augustine, however, unwittingly reveals in this ethical vignette an important discontinuity between religious practice and religious literature: the values of private recipient and public writer are distinct.
With this story in mind, it could be said that the Asclepian inscriptions at Epidaurus and elsewhere are all the more unique because of their immediacy. It is very surprising, in fact, not to find much more “priestly redaction” than has survived—and, instead, to find that which has survived in such a muddled and inconsistent state. For miracles of healing to have achieved the unity of book form at all requires the transfer of the miracles’ essence from personal experience to authorial agenda. Knowing this, the ancient sick, like the prominent matron of Carthage, were less willing to divulge their stories than the literature often suggests.
This is no less true today than it was in fifth-century North Africa, as Candace Slater has shown in her study Trail of Miracles (1986), where she transcribes and analyzes stories of miracles attributed to the Brazilian priest Padre Cícero. In her experience, female residents of Joazeiro, Padre Cícero’s pilgrimage site in northeastern Brazil, were often reluctant to tell the local priests about the healings Cícero had done on their behalf. She describes their uneasiness with men in a story-telling context:
For the purposes of this study it was helpful to be a woman. First, my sex assured me a certain degree of trust. “I wouldn’t tell Saint Peter the things I am telling you,” an old woman once confided. It would have been difficult, if not impossible, for a man to walk in and strike up a conversation. [126]
An instructive diffidence is shared by Augustine’s reluctant Carthaginian and Slater’s old woman. The experience of healing was a private matter, and the healed have every reason to want to keep these experiences to themselves. One could understand, especially at a bustling pilgrimage site like Joazeiro or Seleukeia, where the normalization or domestication of miracle narratives was constantly at work, that a believing resident—vis-à-vis the pilgrims—would consider their individual experience to be a personal treasure. Unwilling to have the local priest spend that treasure on more propaganda, even if it could promote the welfare of the community, the resident instead keeps the story secret. {212|213}
Given such an important window on the pitfalls of the miracle collecting process, is this then the matrix through which we are to understand all Christian miracle collections? Should we assume that only the runt of the litter, so to speak, is represented in the texts, and that the unique, individual, or even the most authentic miracle stories have been lost to time, more precious to the recipient than the fame of publication? These rhetorical questions may not be far from the truth, especially if Slater’s experience could be taken to be in any way normative for miracle collecting across the board. Nevertheless, Slater repeatedly highlights the fact that clear narrative distinctions can be drawn between resident and pilgrim miracles, demonstrating that perhaps some of the more individualized stories may be getting through the net.
In fact, the distinction is a stark one: miracles shared by both pilgrims and residents at Joazeiro are almost always miracles of vengeance and divine power; by contrast, the miracles told primarily by residents most often concern personal healing and show a wider variety in the telling. [127] Additionally, in specific cases it can be shown that there is literary influence from the Gospels at work in these tales—not a surprising event, perhaps, but important for discerning certain miracles from others. [128] In sum, the Joazeiro miracle stories reflect multiple perspectives, all recorded by Slater orally and in situ. Her research method thus offers an unparalleled opportunity to isolate different spheres of miracle telling from one another, and she has, in addition, traced the effects of overlap and interaction between these spheres, showing how both draw on shared ideas about the past, sacred space, and pilgrimage to produce their narratives.
The primary difference, however, between Slater’s research into the miracles worked by Padre Cícero and Thekla’s Miracles is the state of the collection. Slater heard the miracles first hand, and produced a collection herself, making theoretical notes as she went. Moreover, she was able to elicit from reluctant women tales that, she insists, would not have been told otherwise. The Miracles of Thekla is, by contrast, a text, and the collection process which produced it has been completely shrouded from us. Augustine’s picture, therefore, may be a better model for the Miracles, especially given the shared late antique context: the collector is a redactor, whose external interests—whether for the publicity of the cult, or as evidence of supernatural activity—dominate the project. This authorial enthusiasm naturally limits the kind of miracle he may find, since {213|214} many pilgrims or residents may not be at all sympathetic. There is very little a modern interpreter can do with ancient texts to produce (in good conscience) the individual, anthropological familiarity that is so arresting in Slater’s book. Such is the impasse one faces when attempting to analyze a miracle collection. Do these represent what is actually going on at the site? If so, which miracles are more authentic than the others? Is it possible to penetrate the vision of the redactor even for a moment?
All is not lost, however. Certain miracle collections, such as that of the Miracles of Saint Artemios (7th century), seem to short-circuit such questions in their very telling. [129] That collection in particular retains an immediacy, even a naiveté, which cannot but represent to a great degree the actual words of the miracle recipients on site. [130] Moreover, the Miracles of Artemios boldly claims its own performance space: each Saturday evening an all night vigil was held at the church of the John the Baptist (“the Forerunner”) in Constantinople, during which (besides the liturgy itself) the hymns of Romanos (“the humble”) were sung and miracle stories were presumably also read aloud. [131]
Yet, the Miracles of Thekla is a very different text. Written in the uniform language of educated Greek, it is difficult to imagine it being read aloud at an all night vigil before an uneducated audience. The register of Greek is simply too high. Additionally, the text never mentions any specific context for reception. On the contrary, all indications point to a very literary-minded author and one who is writing solely for his literate peers. Thus, dissociating the Miracles of Thekla from its literary character proves almost impossible, and Augustine’s discussion of the collection process, from the collector’s point of view, is most helpful in warning modern readers not to take these miracles as transparent views of Seleukeian society in the fifth century. In fact, we have no a priori guarantees that the collector of Thekla’s Miracles was not even less successful than Augustine at wrenching authentic stories away from reluctant recipients. Instead, its anonymous author may be offering us very heavily revised versions of miracles circulating at the shrine.
My close analysis of the Miracles in Chapter Three above attempted to nuance considerably this harsh judgment, and I have suggested that, as in Slater’s experience with the Padre Cícero miracles, the influence of the Gospels on the author is an important link between private experience and literary narrative. There is obviously a certain amount normalization, but that {214|215} process always includes liturgical and communal elements of belief. And the fact that both Joazeiro and Seleukeia were major pilgrimage centers in their regions allows them to be more readily compared with one another, over North Africa, which, according to Augustine himself, had not yet achieved the fame of other places at the time of the writing Book 22 of the City of God (AD 426–427). [132] Augustine’s treatment of the Carthaginian matron comes in the context of his trying to promote the newly founded shrine of Saint Stephen. This background may explain Augustine’s intensive approach to miracle gathering, and could thereby make his testimony unrepresentative of other, long-standing centers.
For now, it is only necessary to note a few literary characteristics arising from the collective form in writing, which may help in understanding the organization of Thekla’s Miracles and its effects on the reader in late antiquity. The fact that the Miracles might be called “literary” (for many synonymous with “impenetrable”) does not automatically sequester it from the kind of anthropological or sociological analysis which has been attempted before with this material. Yet, as highlighted above, the various attempts to establish firm connections between Asclepius and Thekla required scholars to look beyond the texts, simply because the texts themselves prove to be so different from one another. What would happen, instead, if one considered the collective form to be integral to the religious and cultural vision at the heart of the miracle stories? What if collection itself was a source of cultural meaning? Further, perhaps the unity of collective writing in antiquity can provide a locus for explaining the similarities and differences between different religious literatures.
This is, of course, the argument underlying the survey of collective literature above, and it finds proponents among theoretical writers who have dealt with categorization and archival texts in other cultures and historical circumstances. A classic analysis of the pre-modern tendency towards encyclopedism is that of Michel Foucault in the second chapter of The Order of Things (1989 [1970]). Foucault argues that encyclopedias and collections in the sixteenth century (and presumably before) depended on an idea of proportional corre- {215|216} lation between the sign (the encyclopedia entry) and the thing signified (the natural phenomenon itself). [133] In this way, alchemical and magical collections, as much as natural histories, mimic in the world in their totality and point to hidden natural sympathies through their incessant juxtaposition of unexpected (and wondrous) catalogue entries. While he argues wrongly (ignoring the late antique and Byzantine evidence) that alphabetization is necessarily an arbitrary method of organization—and thus modern, and antithetical to a semiology of resemblance—he nevertheless has identified one central factor in ancient collections as a group: all collectors exhibit a complicit affirmation of the value of comprehensiveness, which is based not on the system of organization itself but upon a cosmological view of the comprehensiveness of the world. One could add that Pliny the Elder was preeminent in this regard, being one of the only collectors to claim imitatio explicitly—but presumably the others took it for granted. [134]
In the sense that human experience of the macrocosmic world is made up of infinite microcosms, catalogue entries could be added ad infinitum. There is no limit to the size of the collection, simply because there is no limit to the iterations of the natural world. This may explain the gargantuan collections that were written throughout late antiquity: for example, Stephanus of Byzantium’s Ἐθνικά in sixty volumes, which almost instantly, and perhaps even under his own direction, went into an abridged one-volume version. These collections were, therefore, much more about the future than the past, since they were by nature open-ended literary constructions. As Jacques Derrida has noted in his book Archive Fever (1996:68):
How can we think about this fatal repetition, about repetition in general in its relationship to memory and the archive? It is easy to perceive, if not to interpret, the necessity of such a relationship, at least if one associates the archive, as naturally one is always tempted to do, with repetition, and repetition with the past. But it {216|217} is the future that is at issue here, and the archive as an irreducible experience of the future.
Derrida isolates here the indeterminate character of the collection, or the “archive” as he calls it. The metaphor of the intellectual storehouse, on this basis, is deceptively simple in its appeal to antiquity and to the antiquarian enterprise. In reality, the archive is a sophisticated attempt to place a stamp on the future; the collection is an arbiter or gatekeeper of knowledge for coming generations.
The collection is not, however, simply a play for literary immortality; it is more complicated in its literary aims and effects. On one hand the archive destroys what it is trying to memorialize. It does this by never capturing it in its completeness, or never capturing all the iterations of the subject. In this way “archivization” is generally characteristic of Derrida’s concept of “inscription”: no matter what the individual circumstances, whenever something is written down, some of its meaning as a thought or as speech necessarily escapes; and this “seepage” of content and meaning can be seen as one of the archive’s defining characteristics. On the other hand—and this is what Derrida tries to point out in Archive Fever—the archive also always refuses to signify that which it does contain; by its nature it leaves the door open to a future increase of data and to becoming a larger and different sort of archive, in essence, to reinventing itself and to offering itself to conflicting interpretations and meanings. Thus, on the surface the archive appears to signify, because it is a collection, but it ultimately refuses to, because of its necessary indeterminacy. In Derrida’s (typically poetic) wording, “it grasps without grasping, comprehends without taking” (1996:58).
Likewise, the author of a modern day paradoxography, Jorge Luis Borges in his fantastical collection The Book of Imaginary Beings (2002 [1970]:12)—very much inspired by the ancient tradition—has also insisted (almost in parody) on the open-endedness of collective writing:
A book of this kind is unavoidably incomplete; each new edition forms the basis of future editions, which themselves may grow on endlessly. We invite the eventual reader in Columbia or Paraguay to send us the names, accurate descriptions, and most conspicuous traits of their local monsters.
Borges’ knowing characterization of mythological collecting thus winds its way through remarkable and wondrous beasts: everything from the familiar Greek centaur, to medieval Trolls and Valkyries, to “Jewish Demons,” to the {217|218} South-African “Hochigan,” and even up to “an animal imagined by Kafka” and “an animal imagined by C. S. Lewis.” Despite this comprehensive variety, Borges acknowledges at the outset, so conversant as he is with the genre, that any given iteration of the Book of Imaginary Beings is only ephemeral and that reader-response is critical to the collection’s form and future value. In fact, the book has already been through several revised editions and translations since it was first published in Spanish in 1957.
When looked at through this lens, the Miracles of Thekla exhibits very similar characteristics. For instance, at the very end of the Miracles Thekla is invoked as the insurer of the future success of the collection. In his epilogue to the Miracles the author prays:
Further, it is for you [Thekla] to work now this further miracle after the others: to receive (δέξασθαι) these small and feeble [tales], offered to you from small and feeble hands, and to show them (δεῖξαι) to be great and miraculous (θαυμαστά).
Mir. epilogue 8–11
There is no doubt that this is a rhetorical topos; dedicating a hagiographical work to the saint it describes is quite common in this period. [135] However, I would argue that there is never such a thing as “mere rhetoric,” especially in a text that betrays so much self-consciousness in terms of style and form. Rhetoric is always “performative” as much as it is “constative,” in J. L. Austin’s well known formulation (Austin 1975). Scholars of Byzantine history have, of course, always struggled with this aspect of post-classical Greek literature: it appears, like Byzantine icons, to be so formalized and so reliant on rhetorical topoi that creativity, or imagination, is lost in the process. Few today, however, would continue to argue such a limited position for Byzantine visual art, yet hesitations about engaging the creative, or simply literary, side of Byzantine texts still linger on. [136] I would argue, therefore, that the author of the Miracles is saying something very important about the collection as a work of literature. There is an open-endedness about the miracle collection which belies its status as archive: the narrator recognizes that reception (and successful reception) is secondary to collection and cannot be accomplished by the archive itself. By {218|219} leaving the reception of the collection open to the saint’s influence and power, the text reveals a self-consciousness about its own literary form.
Thus, in the concluding passage from the same epilogue—the final passage from the work as a whole—its narrator involves his own career in the dissemination of Thekla’s literary tradition:
Along with these things, Virgin [Thekla], grant that I may been seen once again on the holy step of the holy Bema of this very church, pronouncing that which is customary [i.e. Scripture] as well as pronouncing on many other topics, on which one habitually speaks in churches: and especially concerning you, the most beautiful first-fruit of the church, after the apostles alone, or even among the apostles themselves. [Grant also] that I may be seen again to bring to harvest (κομιζομένους) that which I am accustomed to harvest, namely, the persuasion (πειθώ) of my listeners, respect (αἰδώ), the progress (προκοπήν) of the congregation, and the increase of faith and piety (τῆς εὐσεβείας). For, as you know, I was confident of the supremacy of that gift of teaching which came because of you (διὰ σέ), and that it is also because of you (διὰ σέ) that applause and acclamation has come to me, as well as having a reputation among the orators, who are as many as they are amazing (θαυμασίοις). [137]
Mir. epilogue 31–41
Derek Krueger is right to see this passage in terms of the narrator’s appropriation of Thekla’s patronage for his own position in literate society; in Krueger’s terms there is a “performance” of holiness going on in this passage which should be linked to the author’s political outsider/insider dichotomy that he has set up elsewhere in the text, especially with regard to the bishop Basil. [138]
However, I would argue that much more integral to a literary reading of the Miracles is the central image of time which the narrator is constructing here, of the past expression of Thekla’s deeds and the future expression of them. He places this dedication between these two timeframes: as he says, he was once accustomed to “harvest” or “recover” (κομίζω) Thekla’s deeds in public and he hopes to do so again. As in the passage quoted above, the literary project that he is technically at the point of completing is thus actually inde- {219|220} terminate. Therefore, instead of interpreting this passage via the hermeneutic of patronage, I would like to highlight the cognitive issue of reception and see this conclusive prayer as an affirmation of the literary character (and, indeed, achievement) of the LM as a whole. The invocation that is supposedly “performed” in this passage—in terms of Thekla as patroness—is actually much more than that. The invocation is instead an evocation which represents an attempt to take account of Thekla’s entire personal history, as just recounted over two volumes of text. At the end of the Life Thekla descended into the earth still alive only to take on a spiritual, haunting presence that continues to work miracles and will do so forever: that moment in the text defines the transition from one volume to another and at the same time defines the transition from ancient (literary) history to the indeterminate present/future, to the reception of his own collection. The unique history that he has constructed for Thekla in this way becomes a metaphor for the text as a whole; the two parts of Thekla’s actual career represent and are represented by the two separate literary forms. {220|}


[ back ] 1. This chapter is an expansion and revision of a communication delivered at the Fourteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies in Oxford (Johnson 2003).
[ back ] 2. The word ἰάματα (literally “remedies” or “healings”) is used by scholars as a shorthand for a wide range of votive inscriptions carved and set up for display at ancient Mediterranean healing shrines dedicated to the Greek god Asclepius, principally at Pergamon and Epidaurus (Herzog 1931; LiDonnici 1995; Girone 1998). These texts exhibit significant variations between sites and periods, to the degree that it proves difficult to regard those which have survived as a standardized genre. Nevertheless, the standard shorthand term ἰάματα will be used in this chapter with reference to the corpus as a whole, unless otherwise specified. In addition, the compositional structure of these texts (however various they may be) often betrays literary characteristics, as Lynn LiDonnici has shown (1995:20–39). On that basis, it is reasonable to compare their literary character to that of Thekla’s Miracles.
[ back ] 3. The word “guise” in Cox Miller’s formulation is precisely the metaphor which obscures the complex relationship between form and content in religious literature from this period.
[ back ] 4. Quotation taken from Peter Green, TLS October 3, 2003.
[ back ] 5. I am thinking particularly of recent work by Averil Cameron on the nature of late antique heresiology (2003a; 2003b)
[ back ] 6. The major studies of ancient paradoxography are Ziegler 1949; Giannini 1963, 1964, and now Schepens and Delcroix (1996); the standard critical text of the paradoxographers is Giannini 1966, which collects all the fragments and cross-references those that appear in later collections. The term παραδοξογράφος is a Byzantine coinage: Tzetzes Histories 2.35.154, ed. Leone 1968:49; cf. Schepens and Delcroix 1996:381.
[ back ] 7. Gabba 1983:14; Ziegler 1949:1139. Ephorus (c. 405–330 BC), Aristotle (384–322), and Theopompus of Chios (c. 378–320) all have paradoxographical fragments attached to their names. However, Ziegler 1949:1140 is convinced that these are pseudepigraphical collections written after Callimachus, and Giannini 1966:222–313 concordantly labels Ephorus’ Παράδοξα and Theopompus’ Θαυμάσια as opera dubia; Pseudo-Aristotle’s Περὶ θαυμασίων ἀκουσμάτων is printed as a complete, but pseudepigraphical, collection.
[ back ] 8. See Giannini 1966:15–20 for the testimonia; and Jacob and Polignac 2000:92–95 for analysis and historical context. The title of Callimachus’ text (from the Suda) is somewhat corrupted: Schepens and Delcroix 1996:395nn68–69.
[ back ] 9. Jacob and Polignac 2000:92–93.
[ back ] 10. On the library of Alexandria, its history, and book collections, see Robert Barnes 2000.
[ back ] 11. On paradoxographical organization, see Schepens and Delcroix 1996:394–399 and Hansen 1996:5. For a study of Antigonus’ technique of collection, see Jacob 1983. It should be noted that there were a number of writers named “Antigonus” from the Hellenistic period on: Antigonus the paradoxographer, Antigonus the biographer, Antigonus the historian of art and sculptor, Antigonus the poet and the author of the Περὶ λέξεως. Willamowitz 1881 famously identified them all as the same Antigonus of Carystus on Euboea. Since that study the fragments have been often reorganized, and the traditional identification is consequently much less secure. See now the critical text of Antigonus the biographer by Dorandi 1999:xi–xxxii, with full bibliography. Another recent critical text of note is Musso 1985, which contains the paradoxography only.
[ back ] 12. Text, Giannini 1966:104.
[ back ] 13. Text, Giannini 1966:50.
[ back ] 14. Schepens and Delcroix 1996:382–399.
[ back ] 15. Jacob and Polignac 2000:93.
[ back ] 16. Text, Giannini 1966:169–219; English translation, Hansen 1996 and Hansen 1998:249–258 (selections). See also Ziegler 1949:1157–1159; Giannini 1964:129–130; Schepens and Delcroix 1996:430–432.
[ back ] 17. Trans. Hansen 1998:256.
[ back ] 18. Titles: Suda Φ.527 (Φλέγων, Τραλλιανός). In the Suda entry, Phlegon’s On Long-Lived Persons is coupled with the Book of Marvels as one work; this goes against the manuscript tradition, which prints them as separate compositions (Hansen 1996:17–18).
[ back ] 19. See FGrHist 257 for all the remains of Phlegon’s other works. Hansen 1996 includes a translation of Long-Lived Persons and the two most substantial fragments of Olympiads.
[ back ] 20. Hansen 1996:17.
[ back ] 21. Schepens and Delcroix 1996:382–389.
[ back ] 22. For Damascius and the Life of Isidore (or the Philosophical History), see now Athanassiadi 1999.
[ back ] 23. For Photius’ notice on Damascius’ paradoxography, see Bibliotheca cod. 130, ed. Henry 1959–1977:2.104; for his notice on the Life of Isidore, see codd. 181 and 242, ed. Henry 1959–1977:2.189–192 and 6.8–56.
[ back ] 24. The standard critical text of Gellius is Marshall 1990; see also the classic (newly revised) study of Holford-Strevens 2003.
[ back ] 25. Attic Nights preface 4–10, ed. Marshall 1990:1–2; trans. Rolfe 1946–1952:2.xxvii–xxxi. Many of the titles Gellius mentions here are known from other passages in the Attic Nights or from entries in Photius’ Bibliotheca or the Suda.
[ back ] 26. On Favorinus, see OCD 590; on Suetonius’ Pratum, an influential collection of his opuscula, see Schmidt 1994.
[ back ] 27. On Gellius’ rhetorical self-positioning, see Holford-Strevens 2003:28–29, 34–35, 38, 165.
[ back ] 28. Attic Nights 9.4.1–4, ed. Marshall 1990:1.1–12; trans. Rolfe 1946–52:2.161–167.
[ back ] 29. See Bolton 1962 with testimonia at 207–214.
[ back ] 30. OCD 411–412.
[ back ] 31. OCD 1068.
[ back ] 32. OCD 674.
[ back ] 33. OCD 1171.
[ back ] 34. Ziegler 1949:1155–1156.
[ back ] 35. Giannini 1964:135–136; 1966:146–148; Ziegler 1949:1161–1162; Schepens and Delcroix 1996:426–428.
[ back ] 36. Contra Schepens and Delcroix 1996:424, it does not follow that Gellius’ apparent distaste for paradoxography is indicative of the genre’s decline; if anything this vignette suggests a much broader circulation of these texts than one might assume (that is, if the story is not fictionalized to begin with: Schepens and Delcroix 1996:421–422).
[ back ] 37. The full title of Clement’s work is A Patchwork of Notes (ὑπομνήματα) of Revealed Knowledge in Accordance with the True Philosophy. His use of ὑπομνήματα, while standard Greek, also recalls collections by Hellenistic writers such as Philostephanus and Parthenius of Nicea; for various uses of the term as a literary title, see Lightfoot 1999:217–222. On commentarii, the closest Latin equivalent to ὑπομνήματα—as used by Suetonius in his De grammaticis et rhetoribus (“On Grammarians and Rhetors”)—see Kaster 1995:101, 145. Commentarii is also used by Gellius in the passage from Book Nine quoted above, as well as by Augustine in Book 22 of the City of God with reference to miracle stories from Hippo and Carthage (on which see pp. 210–215 below).
[ back ] 38. Clement of Alexandria Stromateis 1.14.2 , trans. Ferguson 1991:32.
[ back ] 39. There is, of course, a large scholarly bibliography devoted to Clement’s writings; I would point in particular to the recent study of Emmett 2001, who situates him with regard to the rhetorical climate of the Second Sophistic.
[ back ] 40. See Ferguson 1991:11–12, who suggests that the work is unfinished.
[ back ] 41. For Athenaeus, see now Braund and Wilkins 2000; along with the critical texts of Kaibel 1887–1890 and Peppink 1936–1939 (the Epitome only); and see the translation of Gulick 1927–1941. For Aelian, see Philostratus Lives of the Sophists 2.31; along with the critical texts of Dilts 1974 (Ποικίλη ἱστορία) and Hercher 1864 (Περὶ ζῴων ἰδιότητος); and the Loeb translations of Wilson 1997 and Scholfield 1958–1959, respectively.
[ back ] 42. OCD 1218.
[ back ] 43. It should be noted that Diogenes Laertius’ and Philostratus’ texts are arranged more or less chronologically and thus retain something of an overall narrative, guided by the progress of time. As such, they would perhaps be less open to extension or manipulation than the paradoxographers or miscellanists. Compare, however, the following statement on Diogenes Laertius from OCD 475: “In 10.138 Diogenes speaks of giving the finishing touch to his entire work; but the book is such a tissue of quotations industriously compiled, mostly from secondary sources, that it could have been expanded indefinitely.”
[ back ] 44. For Pollux, see Bethe 1967. For Phrynichus, see de Borries 1911 (Σοφιστικὴ προπαρασκευή) and Fischer 1974 (Ἐκλογή). For Moeris, see Dirk Hansen 1998. For Herodian see Lentz 1965. For the Φιλέταιρος, see Dain 1954.
[ back ] 45. Kaster 1988:305, no. 91.
[ back ] 46. Suda Λ.691 (Λούπερκος), ed. Adler 1933:2.285.
[ back ] 47. ODCC 913. The fragments of the Κεστοί have been critically edited and published with a French translation (Vieillefond 1970). See also the study of Thee 1984 on the magical content of the Κεστοί, with an English translation of the fragments. (Note that the bibliography on Africanus at OCD 778 is out of date and deceptively incomplete: the PG text is no longer standard for any of Africanus’ surviving writings.)
[ back ] 48. Syncellus refers to the book as having nine volumes; he must have known an epitome instead of the full text (ed. Mosshammer 1984:439).
[ back ] 49. Photius Bibliotheca cod. 163, ed. Henry 1959–1977:2.134.
[ back ] 50. On paradoxographical and astronomical works ascribed to Apuleius (c. 125–c. 170 AD), see Harrison 2000:29, 37.
[ back ] 51. For Fulgentius and grammatical discourse in late antiquity, see Hays 2002.
[ back ] 52. Thee 1984:29–30, 59–62 (with appropriate reservations about the Geoponica’s authenticity).
[ back ] 53. CAG 2.169, lines 7–8; see Vieillefond 1970:313.
[ back ] 54. For Africanus’ role in this tradition, see Gelzer 1880–1898, Mosshammer 1979:146–157, and Croke 1982. Both Gelzer and Mosshammer argue that Africanus’ direct influence on Eusebius was minimal; though both Africanus and Eusebius were hugely influential on the Byzantine tradition (Croke 1990).
[ back ] 55. See Helm and Treu 1984 for the critical text of Jerome’s translation; for Eusebius’ (mostly lost) text, see now Burgess 1999. Eusebius’ Χρονογραφία appears to have been the first volume, or at least a preparatory work, of the Κανόνες. It survives (nearly) complete only in an Armenian translation (Karst 1911), but many excerpts can be found in later chronicles. In form it appears much more in the style of Africanus, including separate lists for each nation rather than amalgamating them synchronically according to Olympiadic, accession, or consular dates: see Burgess 1999:31n11.
[ back ] 56. Croke 1982:196. Interestingly, Eusebius disagreed with Africanus’ willingness to discuss Paradise and antediluvian chronology, deciding instead to begin his Canons with Abraham (Mosshammer 1979:148). Africanus was himself unwilling to discuss the events of the first day of creation, so did not write his chronology ab origine mundi but rather ab anno Adam (Adler 1989:46).
[ back ] 57. On Africanus’ Letter to Origen and Origen’s response, see Harl and de Lange 1983:471–573.
[ back ] 58. For a detailed literary history of the chronicle tradition up to and including early Byzantium (i.e. Malalas, Theophanes, and Syncellus), see Adler 1989, Mosshammer 1979, and Croke 1990a; 1990b; and now 2001 (chapter 5).
[ back ] 59. On Origen’s school of Caesarea as an important conduit of chronological information for Byzantine chroniclers like Malalas, see Croke 1990b.
[ back ] 60. Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 6.24.3; Jerome Letters 33.4; 70.4; Nautin 1977:293–302.
[ back ] 61. See the forthcoming book on Origen’s contribution to biblical scholarship by Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams.
[ back ] 62. Jerome (De viris illustribus preface) cites “[Suetonius] Tranquillus” as the model for his collection (ad cuius nos exemplum vis provocare). Suetonius’ De viris illustribus now only survives in one part, De grammaticis et rhetoribus: see Kaster 1995. The narratives of his biographies of Roman emperors were much longer and of a different style yet were themselves published as one collective work, the De vita Caesarum (AD 117): see Wallace-Hadrill 1995:1–2 and passim. Richardson (1896) is the standard critical text of Jerome’s collection; see also the recent Italian translation and commentary by Ceresa-Gastaldo 1988.
[ back ] 63. For Eusebius’ Onomasticon, see Klostermann 1902.
[ back ] 64. A critical text of Obsequens can be found at Rossbach 1910:149–181; see also the study of Schmidt 1968.
[ back ] 65. Obsequens 32 [92], ed. Rossbach 1910:162.
[ back ] 66. Hansen 1996:18 on Phlegon.
[ back ] 67. Text, FGrHist 257, fragments F.1–34; English translation (fragments F.1 and F.12 only), Hansen 1996:58–62.
[ back ] 68. Syncellus, ed. Mosshammer 1984:391, 394. The historicity of this event is also emphasized by Origen and the late antique Neoplatonist John Philoponus (Jeffreys 1990:190). John Malalas also quotes Phlegon and Eusebius on this point: 10.14, ed. Thurn 2000:181–182.
[ back ] 69. Critical text, French translation, and detailed introduction: Mertens 1995.
[ back ] 70. Fowden 1986:120–126; Festugière 1944–1954:1.260–282. The Hermetica, or the works attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, do not seem to have been collected in the form we have them today until the eleventh century, though the individual treatises were obviously circulating much earlier than that, and forty excerpts (of varying length) were included by John Stobaius (c. 500) in his Anthology (Copenhaver 1992:xlii). Garth Fowden (1986:3–4), however, notes that philosophical (as opposed to “technical”) Hermetica did in fact circulate on their own in antiquity, as a comment by Cyril of Alexandria attests: “the man who put together at Athens the fifteen so-called Hermaic books” (Against Julian 1.548bc).
[ back ] 71. Suda Ζ.168 (Ζώσιμος, Ἀλεξανδρεύς). See Mertens 1995:xcvii–ci.
[ back ] 72. On alphabetization, see Keaney 1973.
[ back ] 73. Suda Β.482 (Βῶλος, Μενδήσιος). See Festugière 1944–1954:1.197–200.
[ back ] 74. Copenhaver 1992:xxxiv–xxxv; Festugière 1944–1954:1.201–216.
[ back ] 75. The similarity between magical, medical, and alchemical writing is illustrated by shared titles in the Byzantine literary catalogues, but the cross-pollination of thought and argument in these occult fields can be seen as early as the Hellenistic period; Festugière 1944–1954:1.189: “La connexion entre les diverses branches de l’occultisme est bien antérieure à la Renaissance ou même au Moyen Age. Elle remonte à la période hellénistique.”
[ back ] 76. Rebecca Lyman has argued that the choice of the form of the medical handbook is evidence of an intra-Christian “assertion of theological authority” by Epiphanius of Salamis (2000:154–155). While the compendium certainly holds natural rhetorical value, one should be aware that this form increased in popularity in all areas of literary production during late antiquity. Therefore, Epiphanius’ Panarion (e.g.) could very well be seen as a typical product of late antique literature, at least much as an idiosyncratic (or just individual) response to the exigencies of the orthodoxy/heresy debates of the time.
[ back ] 77. On the nature of Christian heresiological writing in late antiquity and Byzantium, see now Averil Cameron 2003a, with full bibliography; and Averil Cameron 2003b on the categorization of Jews in heresiology. See the critical text of Irenaeus’ Adversus Haereses (with the Latin versions) in Rousseau and Doutreleau 1965–1982. The standard critical text of Hippolytus’ Refutation of All Heresies is Wendland 1916; Marcovich 1986 is more recent and has a complete apparatus, but the text contains several editorial conjectures. For Hippolytus’ complicated literary corpus and reception history, see Loi 1977; and on the famous statue, now in the Vatican library, which ascribes (in a later inscription) various works to Hippolytus, see Guarducci 1977. For the remains of Hippolytus’ lost Σύνταγμα see PG 10.868–869, where the full title is given in a citation by the Chronicon Paschale.
[ back ] 78. Averil Cameron 2003a:478, citing Sillet 2000. Text of the Ἐπιτομὴ αἱρετικῆς κακομυθίας at PG 83.336–556. It should be noted, however, that Theodoret had literary precedent for this arrangement in the ἐπιτομή of heretical opinions which Hippolytus included at the end of his Ἔλεγχος κατὰ πάσων αἱρέσων (10.9–29, ed. Wendland 1916:268–284): “But in addition we will first set forth in epitome (ἐπιτομῇ) the [opinions] of the heresiarchs, so that the opinions of all being thereby easy to discern, we may display the Truth as clear and easy to discern also” (10.8, trans. Legge 1921:2.153). These summaries are presented just in front of a statement on the true faith which closes the book (10.30–34, ed. Wendland 1916:285–293). This presentation—i.e. heretical compendium + closing statement of orthodoxy—also appears in Epiphanius and Theodoret (Averil Cameron 2003a:477–478), a literary alignment which further illustrates the long tradition of heresiology, and the importance of Hippolytus as a literary model.
[ back ] 79. The Syriac version of this text is understood to be the oldest surviving (Dean 1935); the original Greek survives only in fragments (CPG 2, no. 3746); there are also versions in Armenian (Stone and Ervine 2000:78–81, 103–108) and Georgian (van Esbroeck 1984), both of which show different attempts at rendering biblical values in contemporary terms. On Weights and Measures contains other treatises on popular themes in ancient biblical scholarship, such as the names of the translators of the Septuagint: “Indeed, the work contains much material that has no relation to weights or measures, and it could much more appropriately be called a Bible handbook” (Dean 1935:3).
[ back ] 80. For textual information on the De xii gemmis see CPG 2, no. 3748.
[ back ] 81. Admittedly, the ancient “lapidary” tradition lacks Epiphanius’ biblical focus. For mineralogical writing in the ancient world, see OCD s.v. “mineralogy”; for late antique “lapidaries” (writers of semi-mystical collections on gems), see Halleux and Schamp 1985: “les lapidaires sont toujours des compilations” (xvi).
[ back ] 82. Text, Ettlinger 1975; English translation, Ettlinger 2003. The name Eranistes is thought to come from ἐρανισάμενοι (“collectors”) and describes those who would weave together various opinions, just as one sews scraps of cloth together (Eranistes 61.21–62.7): see Ettlinger 1975:5n2.
[ back ] 83. Interestingly, Theodoret also includes substantial quotations from condemned heretics, Apollinarius and Eusebius of Emesa; for the role of these quotations in the Eranistes, see Ettlinger 1975:25–26.
[ back ] 84. On Cyril’s importance for this tradition, see the references at Ettlinger 1975:24n2. See also Averil Cameron 1990: “The doctrinal polemics which raged throughout the period [of Iconoclasm], especially in its later phase, focused a tendency already in existence to codify views of the past into competing sets of approved and authoritative versions” (207). In the sense that Theodoret and Cyril were on opposing sides of the Council of Ephesus (and after), this tendency was in existence by the early fifth century.
[ back ] 85. Critical text and French translation, Canivet 2000–2001.
[ back ] 86. Critical text and French Translation, Canivet 1977–1979; English translation, Price 1985.
[ back ] 87. See Inglebert 2001a. While I am resistant to Inglebert’s unqualified invocation of “christianization” in explaining the rise of heresiology, I have no disagreement with the following statement: “La conversion au christianisme se traduisit dans l’Antiquité tardive non tant par le passage d’une culture à l’autre, que par la réorientation de l’ancienne culture dans un sens chrétien” (2001a: 125). However, it still remains to be worked out what this means in a broader literary historical sense. While he has begun this project with an important study (Inglebert 2001b), he has not sought to explain the pervasive influence of the compendium form across religious, linguistic, and cultural boundaries.
[ back ] 88. For instance, one sees in the sixth century (not covered in the present study) an increased usage of alphabetization: e.g. in Stephanus’ Ἐθνικά or in the epitome of Harpocration’s Lexicon (Keaney 1973). One also sees, either an intense thoroughness on the part of the collector (Stobaius and Stephanus), or an increased specialization in his chosen topics (John Lydus), the latter trend perhaps mimicking the specialization of grammatical writers of all periods.
[ back ] 89. Life of Apollonius 3.32. The Miracles, in fact, also employs this stereotype in its programmatic introduction (Mir. preface).
[ back ] 90. LSJ s.v. “τεραταλογέω.”
[ back ] 91. For the interactions of τέρας, σημεῖον, and δύναμις in the New Testament, TDNT s.v. “τέρας” (8.113–126, esp. 124–125; article by K. H. Rengstorf). For the word τέρας in classical literature, see Stein 1909.
[ back ] 92. Trans. NRSV; τέρατα καὶ σημεῖα: Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; John 4:48; Acts 2:19; 2:22; 2:43, 4:30, 6:8, 7:36, 15:12; Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4. On miracles in Luke-Acts, see Kee 1980:194–220. See also Achtemeier 1970 for the miracle collections underlying the Gospel of Mark.
[ back ] 93. On the literary relationships between the Gospels, ancient biography, the Greek Novel, aretalogy, and paradoxography, see Burridge 1992, Wills 1997, Beck 1996 (cf. Merkelbach 1994), and the classic studies of Reitzenstein 1906, Weinreich 1909, and Söder 1932.
[ back ] 94. On aretalogy, see Chaniotis 1988:19–23; in relation to New Testament scholarship, see Smith 1971 and references. Winkler 1985:235–238 rightly emphasizes the division between an aretalogus, who told stories and “miracles” (ἀρεταί) of the gods for entertainment (Suetonius Augustus 74; Juvenal 15.16; Ausonius Letters 13), and the genre ἀρεταλογία, for which there is little evidence in ancient literature: “what we are describing is an activity and an ability . . . rather than a formal religious office or a genre with fixed rules of style and content” (236–237; cf. Reitzenstein 1906). As something less than a genre, such flexibility contrasts even more with the accepted, paratactic structure of paradoxography and Thekla’s Miracles. On the title aretalogus, see Aly 1935 and Smith 1971:174–176.
[ back ] 95. On the stelai see LiDonnici 1995—Epidaurus only, but with analysis—and Girone 1998—all the inscriptions, no analysis.
[ back ] 96. Some aretalogies may have circulated in a form similar to paradoxography; however, the evidence is not certain and none of these texts has survived. Smith 1971:177n27 lists ancient testimonies to written (not inscribed) aretalogical collections.
[ back ] 97. As an aspect of ancient and late antique religion, this breadth of representation could potentially illustrate a wide diversity of practice. But it certainly means that we should be careful about associating too closely the social practices of cults across different cultures and practices of writing. Nevertheless, as I will emphasize in the next section, the striking unity of collective forms in the post-classical world provides a space for investigating junctions and disjunctions between religious literatures.
[ back ] 98. Τέρατα and σημεῖα: e.g. Life 26.25 (cf. Miracles preface 24).
[ back ] 99. Life 28.5–6: καὶ διὰ τῶν θαυμάτων μάλιστα πάντας ἐναγαγοῦσα πρὸς τὴν πίστιν.
[ back ] 100. This is by way of contrast to other contemporary versions of her sojourn at Seleukeia, which have her healing the sick during her lifetime (see LB 1.271–272 and Appendix 1 below). On incubation at Asclepius shrines, a practice still understood only in its general outlines, see the classic studies of Deubner 1900 and Hamilton 1906; and now Dorati and Guidorizzi 1996; see also shorter studies by Fernández Marcos 1975:23–86; Edelstein and Edelstein 1998 [1945]:2.145–158; and Dodds 1951:110–121.
[ back ] 101. The latter miracle concerns a Cypriot boat full of pilgrims coming to her festival. Thekla saves the boat from crashing on the rocks of the Isaurian mainland in the midst of a surprise thunderstorm; see p. 140 above.
[ back ] 102. For these concepts in Herodotus see Rosalind Thomas 2000. The word ἄπιστος does occur on an Epidaurian stele as an epithet of a skeptic who is subsequently himself healed (α.32; LiDonnici 1995:86).
[ back ] 103. For ἰάματα in Asclepian inscriptions, see LiDonnici 1995:84 (α.2), 88 (α.35), and 144–155 for her “glossary”; see also Girone 1998:79 (3.1.2).
[ back ] 104. Stele α.9, ed. and trans. LiDonnici 1995:92–93.
[ back ] 105. Stele α.16, ed. and trans. LiDonnici 1995:96–97.
[ back ] 106. Girone 1998:36–38.
[ back ] 107. Inscribed votives were not standard at every shrine; e.g. Epidaurus appears to have been the only predominately “textual” site from mainland Greece (LiDonnici 1995:42). For the shrine at Cilician Aigai, which was famously destroyed by Constantine in 326 and perhaps restored by Julian (“at the expense of the bishop”), see Edelstein and Edelstein 1998 [1945]:1.196, 418–421; and for the archaeology, see Hild and Hellenkemper 1990:1.160–164.
[ back ] 108. All of the representations of pagan religion in the LM are formulaic; they are literary appropriations of earlier Christian polemic and should not be read transparently as representing active Christian-pagan conflict at Seleukeia in the fifth century. (Cf. Dagron 1978: “Le paganisme, ses dieux, ses adaptes, reviennent comme un thème constant dans les Miracles, prouvant que la victoire officielle du christianisme n’a pas entraîné la suppression immédiate de toute dévotion et de toute culte anciens.” [80]) Theodoret’s claim that some locals still worshipped Asclepius in secret appears less formulaic than the Life and Miracles (Edelstein and Edelstein 1998 [1945]:1.10–12).
[ back ] 109. Phlegon of Tralles Book of Marvels 5.1–3; ed. Giannini 1966:198; trans. Hansen 1996:38.
[ back ] 110. For further intra-inscriptional comparison, see the elaborate Epidaurian inscription at Girone 1998:58–70 (2.4, an account of healing by prescription) and one of the smaller ones from Tiber Island in Rome, such as at Girone 1998:154–156 (5.1, dedication of a votive).
[ back ] 111. 1.2, ed. Girone 1998:36–38.
[ back ] 112. As Girone notes, the translation could read differently: “Hegemachos, son of Krataimenes of Lamptra to Asclepius. [Who], having suffered many terrible ills and seen many visions, [and] having been saved, dedicated [this] to Asclepius [and] Hygieia, under the priest Theophilus. [And] Eurumedon, son of Hegemachos.” But this reading means that Eurumedon is syntactically dissociated from what comes before (Girone 1998:37n20).
[ back ] 113. Mir. 12 and 41. This proves to be a special case in which the author is further solidifying the image of Thekla as literary patron which he has developed elsewhere: see pp. 160–169 above.
[ back ] 114. Maria Girone comments on this inscription, “ma l’insistenza sull’estrema gravità dei mali e su un’intensa attività onirica (lines 5–6: δεινὰ παθὼν καὶ πολλὰ ἰδὼν) è di chiara marca aretalogica” (1998:36).
[ back ] 115. For “priestly redaction,” “artisan composition,” and a unifying “Asclepian theology” found in one series of inscriptions at Epidaurus, see LiDonnici 1995:64–69.
[ back ] 116. LiDonnici 1995:67; texts and English translation, LiDonnici 1995:101–105.
[ back ] 117. LiDonnici 1995:66.
[ back ] 118. Text, Keil 1898 vol. 2; English translation, Behr 1981. Edelstein and Edelstein 1998 [1945]:2.143 make the point that before the Epidaurian stelai had been discovered Aelius was the main source for scholarship on temple medicine. Once Epidaurus was excavated, however, and the findings published, certain scholarly intuitions about the delusional nature of Greek temple medicine were given free rein: “The Epidaurian tablets were published [in 1883]. They seemed unrestrictedly to confirm the verdict of the skeptical scientists. It was now obvious to all that these so-called cures had been trickery and mere fraud.” In contrast to this latter conclusion, Edelstein and Edelstein proceed to explain incubational healing more convincingly than anyone before them and they do it precisely by trying to understand Asclepius’ role in ancient medicine and cult religion (1998 [1945]:2.145–180).
[ back ] 119. On healing pilgrimage among Asclepian devotees in the second century AD, see Petsalis-Diomidis 2001.
[ back ] 120. On the literary form of the Ἱεροὶ λόγοι, see Weiss 1998:17–30, where Aristides’ text is associated with the ancient genre of ἐφημερίδες (diaries/memoirs); examples of this genre may include the (tendentious) journal written by Alexander’s chief secretary, Eumenes (OCD 528), or the travelogue written by Hadrian on his tour of the provinces, or even the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Philostratus links Aelius’ Ἱεροὶ λόγοι to the ἐφημερίδες explicitly at Lives of the Sophists 2.9 [581] (Weiss 1998:19).
[ back ] 121. Odyssey 4.241.
[ back ] 122. Orations 27.1.3–4, trans. Behr 1981:2.278.
[ back ] 123. Behr 1968:35–40. Edelstein and Edelstein 1998 [1945]:2.169–180 point out that the number of operations doctors could perform competently was so small, and the operations themselves so expensive, that it was natural for many people to seek out Asclepius’ help, and often, especially when the need was severe. On the relationship between physicians and religious/magical medicine in the ancient world, see Edelstein 1968:205–246.
[ back ] 124. I am of course not unaware of Paulinus of Nola’s (353/5–431) important verse miracle collection on Saint Felix, the Natalicia, which has been interpreted to great effect in Peter Brown’s The Cult of the Saints (1981: chapter 3); see also the English translation of these poems in Walsh 1975. However, I am concentrating here on the early prose collections, which I believe exhibit important unifying characteristics, particularly the shared rhetoric of collecting.
[ back ] 125. Augustine City of God 22.8, ed. Dombart and Kalb 1981:2.571; trans. Green et al. 1957–1972:7.223.
[ back ] 126. Slater 1986:15–16.
[ back ] 127. Slater 1986:88–97 (both residents and pilgrims); 97–100 (residents). Miracles told primarily by pilgrims have a heightened dramatic element, including dialogues and the journey of pilgrimage (100–103).
[ back ] 128. E.g. miracle no. 23, a raising from the dead à la Lazarus (Slater 1986:99).
[ back ] 129. Crisafulli and Nesbitt (1997). Cf. Déroche 1993.
[ back ] 130. Crisafulli and Nesbitt 1997:27.
[ back ] 131. Vigil: Crisafulli and Nesbitt 1997: “general index,” s.v. “all-night-vigil of the Forerunner”; hymns of Romanos: 114–115; miracle stories: 27.
[ back ] 132. Augustine City of God 22.8; trans. Green et al. 1957–1972:239: “It is not yet two years that the relics [of Saint Stephen] have been in Hippo Regius, and though I am certain that there are many miraculous events of which no report has been published, those published at the time of my writing have almost reached the number of seventy. But at Calama the relics were earlier in existence and reports are published more frequently, so that their number is far greater.” He goes on to describe how he has encouraged other colonies—including Uzali, which had a shrine “before any other city”—to begin publicizing their own miracles, even if it was against their custom.
[ back ] 133. Foucault 1989 [1970]:17–44, esp. 25: “By means of this interplay, the world remains identical; resemblances continue to be what they are, and to resemble one another. The same remains the same, riveted onto itself.”
[ back ] 134. I have not attempted a survey of work on Pliny the Elder, since his Latin Natural History falls outside of this study’s purview. However, I would like to point to two recent studies which take up the question of form in Pliny’s catalogue: Carey 2003 and Murphy 2004. They both cite the survey Encyclopedism from Pliny to Borges by Anna Sigridur Arnar (1990), a catalogue of a 1990 exhibit at the University of Chicago Library (a catalogue which, incidentally, only deals with western material and ignores Byzantium altogether). On Pliny’s claim to imitatio, see Carey 2003:passim, esp. 19: “Through this relationship between structure and content, a particularly literary presentation of the world can appear directly to reflect the world itself.”
[ back ] 135. E.g. Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of Euthymius Dedication [6.20].
[ back ] 136. E.g. Kazhdan 1999, where the desperate need for a new literary history of Byzantium is invoked in the preface (1–5). However, Kazhdan’s History opens with a chapter that reinforces many old prejudices about Byzantine literature: the first chapter is tellingly titled “Farewell to Historicity,” suggesting that Byzantine texts can only be evaluated on the basis of their commitment (or lack thereof) to realistic description (19–35).
[ back ] 137. The repetition of διὰ σέ in this passage is perhaps reminiscent of Life 26, where Thekla uses the phrase διὰ σοῦ multiple times in succession during her speech to Paul at Myra. If an allusion is intended, then the author is asking for Thekla to grant something like apostolic succession (διαδοχή) on the model of her relationship with the Apostle Paul.
[ back ] 138. See Krueger 2004:79–92; and p. 164 above.