Info

works were the writings of Maximos the Confessor and the lives of saints.40 A fourteenth-century Vita offers a vignette of family life in Thessalonike. The paterfamilias used to pray every night in the family chapel which doubled as his children's bedroom. Thus prepared he would then go to the local monastery for morning services.41

For families of the middle and upper classes who had access to books, devotional reading in the home was a common pursuit. The psalter was the primer of the Byzantine child; for example, Psellos's daughter Styliane, after learning her letters, 'went onto study the "Psalms of David" and while learningthem she was able ...to form perfect speech'.42 The future St Symeon the Theologian decided upon his monastic vocation after discovering a copy of the Spiritual Ladder of John Klimax in his parents' house and reading it assiduously.43 The young Alexios, who was destined to become Patriarch Athanasios I of Constantinople, spent his childhood reading the Old and New Testaments, instead of playing games, and was inspired to leave home for his uncle's monastery after reading the Vita of St Alypios the Stylite.44

Children might also be imbued with sacred lore through the storytelling of their mothers; thus Theodote, the mother of Michael Psellos, lulled him to sleep not with fairytales but with stories about holy children from the Old Testament, such as Isaac's narrow escape from sacrifice by his father Abraham and Isaac's later blessing of his son Jacob.45 Children may also have learned the stories of saints through sermons and painted images. Representations of the lives of saints were included in church decoration as well as on icons intended for public and private devotion. In a society with a high degree of illiteracy, these visual texts played an important role in transmitting church dogma and biography to the vast majority of the Byzantine populace, whether in towns or in the countryside, and taught the common people the tenets of Orthodoxy. Children might even incorporate elements of Christian ritual into their play, imitating the censing of deacons and the liturgical practice of priests.46

40 Ibid., v, ix, 3; ed. Leib, 11, 38.2-18; ed. Reinsch, 165-6; ibid., xii, iii, 2; ed. Leib, 111, 60.5-12; ed. Reinsch, 364-5.

41 Vita of Germanos Maroules, in Tsames, OiAodsou KwvaTaVTivoundAsws, 105.

42 Sathas, MsaaiwviKi) BfAiod^Kr, v, 65.17-21; Kyriakis, 'Medieval society', 85.

43 I. Hausherr and G. Horn, Ungrand mystique byzantin:vie de Symeon le Nouveau Theologien (949-1022) par Nicetas Stethatos [OCA 14] (Rome: Pontificium institutum studiorum orientalium, 1928), §6,12.21-2.

44 A. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, 'Zhitija dvukh' Vselenskikh' patriarkhov XIV v., svv. Afanasiia I i Isidora I', Zapiski Istoriko-Filologischeskago Fakul'teta Imperatorskago S.-Peterburgskago Universiteta 76 (1905), 3-4.

45 U. Criscuolo, MichelePsello. Autobiografia:encomioperlamadre(Naples: M. D'Auria editore, 1989), §8, 101.458-65.

46 Tsames, OiAodsou KwvaTaVTivoundAsrxis, 334.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment