Miracles and Wonders in Antiquity and Byzantium

University of Cyprus, 16-18 October 2014

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

Tales of miracle and wonder decorate both ancient and Byzantine literature and seem
to have had a great impact upon ancient and Byzantine thought. A strong interest in
the wondrous is already apparent in the works of Homer and Hesiod. However, a
more organized recording of marvels is detected much later, in Herodotus’s time,
when marvelous stories and travel accounts of exotic places and peoples are
increasingly produced. From the era of Alexander and onwards such stories are
recruited by historians and rhetors in an attempt to apotheose the ideal ruler. Between
the third century BC and the third century AD, the genre of paradoxography,
collections of stories relating strange events and phenomena, achieves great
popularity, and influences another new genre, the Hellenistic novel. At about the same
time, a number of stories circulate that relate the miraculous healings of suffering
people who practice incubation in Asclepian temples. Later the practice of incubation
is taken over by Christian pilgrims who are cured by saints. Miraculous healings and
other types of miracles that are associated with a particular Christian shrine become
the material of a new genre, the miracle collection which is cultivated throughout the
Byzantine era. Miracle stories are included in all Byzantine hagiographical genres,
since they constitute the strongest sign of holiness. Miracles and wonders are also
found in profane Byzantine genres, such as chronicles and romances. Despite the fact
that marvel literature enjoyed such a high popularity in antiquity and Byzantium, it
has been mostly dismissed by modern scholars as debased, boring and even
unintelligible, an attitude that has condemned this literature to obscurity.
The conference’s main aims are to bring to light miracle and wonder literature and to
open up new avenues of approach. Topics of exploration may include:

  • Literary Theoretical Approaches
  • Cultural Studies
  • Psychological Approaches
  • Comparative Literary Studies
  • Linguistics

Specialists are invited to submit a thirty-minute paper in English on a relevant topic.
Due to budgetary constraints, the organizers cannot cover the speakers’ travel and
hotel costs. There is no registration fee for participation or attendance. Prospective
speakers are asked to submit by 30 April 2014 a title and a 400-word abstract to
Stavroula Constantinou (konstans@ucy.ac.cy) and Maria Gerolemou
(mariagerolemou@live.de).

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