New Edition and Translation of Popular Byzantine Narratives

A new publication, Saints at the Limits: Seven Byzantine Popular Legends, edited and translated by Stratis Papaioannou, has appeared in the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library series of the Harvard University Press. 

This is a collection of medieval tales of Byzantine saints, including some rejected by the Church, translated into English for the first time. The legends collected in this volume, despite sometimes being viewed with suspicion by the Church, fascinated Christians during the Middle Ages—as related cults, multiple retellings, and contemporary translations attest. Their protagonists span the entire spectrum of Byzantine society, including foreigners, soldiers, ascetics, lustful women, beggars, and the sons and daughters of rulers. They travel to exotic lands, perform outlandish miracles, suffer extraordinary violence, reject family ties, save cities, destroy absolute rulers, and discover the divine. Some saints, like Markos the Athenian, are forgotten nowadays; others, like Saint George the Great Martyr, still command a wide appeal. Each, however, negotiates the limits of Byzantine imagination: the borders that separate the powerful from the outcasts, the real from the imaginary, the human from the beyond human.

These stories, edited in Greek and translated into English here for the first time, continue to resonate with readers seeking to understand universal human fears and desires in their Byzantine guise.