Syriac Hagiography: Texts and Beyond
Chapters gathered in Syriac Hagiography: Texts and Beyond explore a wide range of Syriac hagiographical works, while following two complementary methodological approaches, i.e. literary and cultic, or formal and functional. Grouped into three main sections, these contributions reflect three interrelated ways in which we can read Syriac hagiography and further grasp its characteristics: “Texts as Literature” seeks to unfold the mechanisms of their literary composition; “Saints Textualized” offers a different perspective on the role played by hagiographical texts in the invention and/or maintenance of the cult of a particular saint or group of saints; “Beyond the Texts” presents cases in which the historical reality behind the nexus of hagiographical texts and veneration of saints can be observed in greater details.
The article presents a hitherto unstudied specimen of Syriac monastic hagiography, the Life of Mār Yāret the Alexandrian. The author offers an overview of the content of the Life, which is followed by a close examination of the narrative’s intertextual background and analysis of the work’s monastic agenda. Also, he offers some preliminary observations on probable date and milieu of composition and gives a concise survey on the development of the cult of Yāret. In the appendix, the Syriac text of the Life is published for the first time, accompanied by an English translation. According to Minov, the Life was produced during the seventh or eighth century in the region of Bēt ʿArbāyē in Northern Mesopotamia, to promote the cult of a local holy man. The saints’ relics were placed at a small monastic church that functioned as a healing shrine. The narrative of the Life exhibits strong intertextual dependence on the sixth-century Life of Mār Awgēn, the semi-legendary founder of monasticism in Northern Mesopotamia. This contribution enriches our knowledge of Syriac hagiography in medieval Mesopotamia, especially of the corpus of monastic hagiographical works associated with the figure of Awgēn. It also sheds some light on the complex nexus involving textual production of hagiographical narratives and the development of the cult of saints during this littlestudied period.