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Epiphanies of the Saints in Late Antique Greek Literature

The aim of this project is to investigate the cultural conditions of literary representations of epiphanies of Christian saints in Late Antiquity, between the 5th and 7th centuries. Greek-language literary sources of the time show epiphanies, or posthumous apparitions of saints, as a mass phenomenon in the Eastern Roman Empire. A particularly important genre, providing extremely rich material for the study of this phenomenon, are the so-called miracula – collections of accounts of miracles. The emergence of the genre was closely related to the appearance of shrines dedicated to holy martyrs, which usually also contained their relics. These shrines were famous for various kinds of miracles, most often healings or deliverances from evil spirits, which attracted crowds of people wishing to receive a cure from an illness or rescue in other misfortunes. The stories of those who had experienced a miracle were then meticulously written down. Thus were formed collections of accounts of the miracles of Saint Tecla, Saint Artemios, Menas, Saints Cyrus and John, or Cosimo and Damian. These collections and, in addition, other hagiographical texts of the period, in which scattered references to apparitions can be found, will be used for the study of the reconstruction of the religious mentality of that time, which shaped ideas about the posthumous activity of saints on earth. Thus, the cultural context and its influence on the way of thinking, views, and beliefs of the people of late antiquity about the interference of saints in their lives will be taken into account. The research will focus on the liminal construction of the figure of the saint, clearly visible in the source texts, situating him between the human and the divine worlds, and the specific features of character and appearance, attributes and qualities resulting from this borderline position. The fascinating amalgam of superhuman powers combined with very human emotions, as well as – sometimes quite peculiar – sense of humor, the ability to appear in disguise, the tendency to issue enigmatic commands, or, finally, the unclear bodily status of the apparitions of the late antique saints enables us to gain insight into the mentality and religious imagination of that era. The issue described above has not been exhaustively investigated so far, yet it constitutes an important aspect of one of the most important religious phenomena in the world of late antiquity, namely the cult of saints. The results of this study will therefore fill a significant gap in the study of the cult of saints and allow us to better understand it.