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7-08-2015, 20:09

Laws, typika and saints’ lives

Imperial laws were systematised by Justinian. His Institutes and Digest are available in translation, as are several important later legal texts or decrees, including the Book of the eparch issued under Leo VI’s auspices and the novellae of tenth-century emperors on peasant landholdings.20 The concept of legislation informed works of administrative regulation such as the Book of the eparch, and these in turn shade into detailed administrative prescriptions or treatises, such as two texts for tax-collectors.21 Regulations governing church life were issued by church councils and patriarchs as well as by individual emperors, and the acts of the ecumenical councils are available in translation.22 Collections of the rules and regulations issued in the medieval period by Byzantine churchmen and specialists in church law – canonists – have not received English translations.23 However, the regulations for monasteries’ administration and liturgical observances, typika, are well served by translators. Together with the surviving order for the liturgy prescribed for the monastery of Theotokos Evergetis in Constantinople, they set out in varying degrees of detail what founders envisaged for their monasteries.24 Considering the broad cross-section of laypersons concerned with monks and monasteries during the middle Byzantine empire and beyond,25 the typika are of great historical importance. They present a spectrum of spiritual aspirations that were widely respected, if seldom fully attained, among the Byzantines. So, in their way, do the Lives of saints, with due allowance made for their authorial agendas, literary genres, frequent aversion to specifics of place and time, and conceptions of truth other than the literal or earthly. The Lives were widely appreciated for their transcendent spiritual examples and instruction, and were intended to convey a higher reality than life as actually lived. But one should note that some give details of persons and events verifiable from other sources, and the very desire of the hagiographer to make the case for his (or her) subject could entail reference to their actual situations and the problems they faced. For example, in his Life of Lazaros, a stylite for forty years onMountGalesion, the contemporary authorGregory the Cellarer gives evidence of hostility towards his hero among members of the church hierarchy, ‘and even within his own monastic community’. The Life also makes ‘important allusions to historical events and personages in the world outside the monastery’, and offers an at least plausible portrayal of men, women and everyday country matters in eleventh-century Asia Minor.

 

 

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