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Writing ‘True Stories’
Historians and Hagiographers in the Late Antique and Medieval Near East

A. Papaconstantinou, M. Debié, H. Kennedy (eds.)
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XI+230 p., 156 x 234 mm, 2010
ISBN: 978-2-503-52786-4
Languages: English, French
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A new interdisciplinary look on the relations between historiography and hagiography in the multicultural context of the late antique and medieval Middle East.

The papers in this volume examine the interaction between history and hagiography in the late antique and medieval Middle East, exploring the various ways in which the two genres were used and combined to analyse, interpret, and re-create the past. The contributors focus on the circulation of motifs between the two forms of writing and the modifications and adaptations of the initial story that such reuse entailed. Beyond this purely literary question, the retold stories are shown to have been at the centre of a number of cultural, political, and religious strategies, as they were appropriated by different groups, not least by the nascent Muslim community. Writing ‘True Stories’ also foregrounds the importance of some Christian hagiographical motifs in Muslim historiography, where they were creatively adapted and subverted to define early Islamic ideals of piety and charisma.

Table of Contents




 Introduction: Writing True Stories — A View from the West  - CATHERINE CUBITT

 Early Byzantine Historiography and Hagiography as Different Modes of Christian Practice - DEREK KRUEGER

 Creating Local History: Coptic Encomia Celebrating Past Events - GESA SCHENKE

 A Saint and his Biographer in Late Antique Iraq: The History of St George of Izla († 614) by Babai the Great - JOEL WALKER

 Writing History as ‘Histoires’: The Biographical Dimension of East Syriac Historiography - MURIEL DEBIÉ

 Converting the Caliph: A Legendary Motif in Christian Hagiography and Historiography of the Early Islamic Period - ANDRÉ BINGGELI

 ‘He was tall and slender, and his virtues were numerous’: Byzantine Hagiographical Topoi and the Companions of Muhòammad in al-Azdî’s Futûhò al-Shâm - NANCY KHALEK

 ‘Become infidels or we will throw you into the fire’: The Martyrs of Najrân in Early Muslim Historiography, Hagiography, and Qurânic Exegesis - THOMAS SIZGORICH

 Ibn al-Azraq, Saint Marûthâ, and the Foundation of Mayyâfâriqîn (Martyropolis) - HARRY MUNT

 Christian King, Muslim Apostate: Depictions of Jabala ibn al-Ayham in Early Arabic Sources - JULIA BRAY

 Variations on an Egyptian Female Martyr Legend: History, Hagiography, and the Gendered Politics of Arab Religious Identity - STEPHEN J. DAVIS

 Sainthood Achieved: Coptic Patriarch Zacharias according to The History of the Patriarchs - MARK N. SWANSON



"There is much to appreciate in this collective endeavor which fully merited inclusion in Brepols series 'Cultural Encounters'. (...) Writing 'True Stories' must be welcome as a significant contribution that will counter the misunderstandings that are created and maintained by cultural and linguistic differences. It also responds to a growing need to bring together Medievalists, Byzantinists, and Orientalists for an exchange of knowledge and ideas." (S. Efthymiadis, in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2010.12.28)

"The authors of this significant volume move beyond the poetics of historiography to explore the work that history and hagiography are doing in the late ancient and early Islamic periods. The three chapters that focus on Syriac sources make important contributions to the overall project of the book, while also materially advancing our understanding of the Syriac sources. In this respect the volume is exemplary." (Kristian S. Heal, in: Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, 18.1, 2015, p. 283-286)

"Il ressort de cet ensemble d’études un certain nombre de points forts. Pendant les premiers siècles de l’islam, la coupure entre histoire et hagiographie n’était pas tranchée et reflétaient les polémiques religieuses. On relève une appropriation de la culture de l’autre, une connaissance mutuelle et, dans une certaine mesure, une forme de compréhension réciproque. Cet ouvrage témoigne également de l’intérêt qu’il y a de faire dialoguer des spécialistes d’aires religieuses différentes, à l’image des rencontres et publications semblables dans le domaine de la sainteté et des élites religieuses (...)." (Denise Aigle, dans: Bulletin critique des Annales islamologiques, 29, 2014, p. 132-133)


Interest Classification:
Religion (including History of Religion) & Theology
Christian devotion & forms of religious expression
Hagiographical writings & the cult of saints
Medieval & Renaissance History (c.400-1500)
Medieval European history (400-1500) : genres & specific topics
Historiography (historical writings in the period)
Pre-modern (but not ancient) history of other continents & subcontinents
General Mediterranean, incl North Africa & Middle East

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