Book Series Fabulae, vol. 1

Narrating Power and Authority in Late Antique and Medieval Hagiography across East and West

Ghazzal Dabiri (ed)

  • Pages: 217 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:3 col.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2021

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59065-3
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59066-0
  • E-book
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Explores the multifaceted representation of power and authority in a variety of late antique and medieval hagiographical narratives.


“In all, the collection adopts disparate perspectives on its chosen topic, crossing eras, lands, cultures, and religions, facilitating contrast and comparison. As such it is to be commended.” (Patrick Ball, in Parergon, 40/1, 2023, p. 251)


Ghazzal Dabiri is an Iranist who specializes in narratives of kingship, kinship, and sainthood. She received her PhD from UCLA and has held positions at various institutions including Columbia University and currently University of Maryland. A Fulbright Scholar, she also held a European Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at Ghent University.


This collection of essays explores the multifaceted representation of power and authority in a variety of late antique and medieval hagiographical narratives (Lives, Martyr Acts, oneiric and miraculous accounts). The narratives under analysis, written in some of the major languages of the Islamicate world and the Christian East and Christian West — Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Greek, Latin, Middle Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Persian — prominently feature a diverse range of historical and fictional figures from a wide cross-section of society — from female lay saints in Italy and Zoroastrians in Sasanian and Islamic Iran to apostles and bishops and emperors and caliphs. Each chapter investigates how power and authority were narrated from above (courts/saints) and below (saints/laity) and, by extension, navigated in various communities. As each chapter delves into the specific literary and social scene of a particular time, place, or hagiographer, the volume as a whole offers a broad view; it brings to the fore important shared literary and social historical aspects such as the possible itineraries of popular narratives and motifs across Eurasia and commonly held notions in the religio-political thought worlds of hagiographers and their communities. Through close readings and varied analyses, this collection contributes to the burgeoning interest in reading hagiography as literature while it offers new perspectives on the social and religious history of late antique and medieval communities.


List of Illustrations, Abbreviations, Notes on Transliteration

Introduction — GHAZZAL DABIRI

Part 1. Saints at the Courts of Rulers

Between Emperor and Caliph: The Representation of Power Relations in the Life of John of Damascus — PETROS TSAGKAROPOULOS

The Caliph, the Jew, and the Bishop: Power and Religious Controversy in the Georgian Life of John of Edessa — DAMIEN LABADIE

Whose Dream Comes True? Negotiation of Primacy in the ‘Legend of Theodosius and Theophilus’ — MARIA CONTERNO

Part 2. Authority at the Cross-Sections of Society

Getting Naked for God: Social and Juridical Implications of Renouncing Female Vanities in the Vitae of Mystics of Medieval Italy — FEDERICA BOLDRINI

Zoroaster’s Legend in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages — CARLO G. CERETI

Who’s the Authority Around Here? Zoroastrians as Sites of Negotiation in ʿAṭṭār’s Taẕkirat al-Awliyā’ and Ilāhīnāmah — GHAZZAL DABIRI

Part 3. Mapping the Terrain of Power

Two Churches, Two saints, One Island: The Narrative Construction of a Conflict between Tamasos and Salamis (Cyprus) through Heracleides and Barnabas — MAÏEUL ROUQUETTE

Strangers in a Strange Land: Alienation, Authority, and Powerlessness in Georgian Hagiography (Tenth–Eleventh c.) — NIKOLOZ ALEKSIDZE

State Power, Hagiography, and the Social Shape of the Past: Re-Reading the Gesta Martyrum Romanorum — JASON MORALEE

Part 4. Negotiating Power and Authority

Disguising Himself or Describing the Other? Muslim-Christian Encounters and Narratives of Sarı Saltuk in Ottoman Times — SIBEL KOCAER

Power and Prophecy in Late Antique Hagiography: The Life of Saint Daniel the Stylite — FABRIZIO PETORELLA

The Accommodating Queen: The Miracles of the Virgin Mary in the Legenda Aurea — JEREMIAH A. LASQUETY-REYES