both the Eastern and Western traditions of hymnography can be traced.90 In the West, the Christian hymnographic tradition is thought to have begun with Ambrose, whose first hymns were originally published in 386, at the height of his struggle to contain the Arian faction in Milan. These hymns were meant to maintain morale among the Nicene congregation as they held all-night vigils against their opponents.91 Only four of the many hymns attributed to him are unanimously ascribed to Ambrose.92 Their influence spread quickly throughout the West.

In a similar period in the East, Ephrem of Syria was writing liturgical hymns to convey complex theological truths in a simple form that everyone could grasp. In this he was immensely successful. Syriac hymns were in regular use in Theodoret's churches in Cyrrhus.93 This takes us to the development of other, more distinctive, literary productions of the East.

Diverse Christian literatures in the East

Most of the distinctively Christian genres originated not in Latin or Greek, but other languages, or emerged independently there, as did the Syriac tradition of liturgical hymns. This originality could be put down to the geographical and cultural distance from centres of Roman and Greek culture. At the same time, the bilingualism of Syriac culture (Syriac and Greek) must be recognised as an important facilitator ofcultural exchange. For instance, there is evidence that the Greek kontakia associated with the Syrian Romanos the Melodist, and popular in Constantinople from the late fifth to the seventh centuries, were influenced by Ephrem's hymnography.94 As the example of the Odes of Solomon shows, 'Syriac poetry not only formed models for Greek composition, but was also translated directly into Greek.'95

Some of the earliest surviving translations of scripture are the Syriac and Armenian versions of the Gospels. The late fifth-century Armenian history, Patmut'iwn Hayoc' (History of the Armenians) is peppered with hagiographic passages that contain classical topoi appearing for the first time in a Christian milieu, some of which later became topoi of hagiographic literature

90 See the magisterial study by Michael Lattke, Hymnus.

91 Paulinus of Milan, The life of Saint Ambrose 13 (trans. Ramsey, Ambrose, 201).

92 Ramsey, Ambrose, 65; these four are Aeternererumconditor, Iamsurgithoratertia, Deuscreator omnium and Intende qui regis Israel (trans. Ramsey 167-73). Among the most well-known of uncertain attribution are the Exultet and Te Deum.

93 Tompkins, The relations between Theodoret of Cyrrhus and his city and its territory, 134.

94 Tompkins, ibid., 132-3, summarises the evidence for this connection.

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