Narrating Martyrdom

BookNarrating Martyrdom

Narrating Martyrdom

Rewriting Late-Antique Virgin Martyrs in Byzantium

Translated Texts for Byzantinists, 9


July 2nd, 2020

Access Token


Other Formats



This book reconceives the rewriting of Byzantine hagiography between the eighth and fourteenth centuries as a skilful initiative in communication and creative freedom, and as a form of authorship. Three men – Makarios (late C13th-C14th), a monk; Constantine Akropolites (d.c.1324), a statesman; and an Anonymous educated wordsmith (c. C9th) – each opted to rewrite the martyrdom of a female virgin saint who suffered and died centuries earlier. Their adaptations, respectively, were of St. Ia of Persia (modern-day Iran), St. Horaiozele of Constantinople, and St. Tatiana of Rome. Ia is described as a victim of the persecutions of the Persian Shahanshah, Shapur II (309–79 C.E), Horaiozele was allegedly a disciple of St Andrew and killed anachronistically under the emperor Decius (249–51 C.E), and Tatiana, we are told, was a deaconess, martyred during the reign of emperor Alexander Severus (222–35 C.E). Makarios, Akropolites, and the Anonymous knowingly tailored their compositions to influence an audience and to foster their individual interests. The implications arising from these studies are far-reaching: this monograph considers the agency of the hagiographer, the instrumental use of the authorial persona and its impact on the audience, and hagiography as a layered discourse. The book also provides the first translations and commentaries of the martyrdoms of these virgin martyrs.

'The three texts are translated into clear English, which is pleasant to read. The notes shed light on several aspects of the stories, notably their lexical richness. Alwis brings three female figures from Byzantine hagiography out of oblivion while creating an original discussion about re-writing not only as a linguistic and rhetorical practice but also a social one. This is a fine study about hagiography as a literary object, drawing on the ancestral strength of story/ narrative as a means of communication.’

Anna Lampadaridi, Revue des Études Byzantines

Translated from French. 

'As first-time translations to English, these texts, and the monograph that introduces them, are valuable additions to the extant research, and provide new insight and perspectives for anyone interested in mediaeval history and hagiography.'
Sissel Undheim, Plekos

Author Information

Anne Alwis is Senior Lecturer in Classical Literature at the University of Kent. She is the author of Celibate Marriages in Late-Antique and Byzantine Studies: The Lives of Saints Julian and Basilissa, Andronikos and Athanasia, and Galaktion and Episteme (Bloomsbury, 2011).