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Writing and Redemption in the Hymns of Romanos the Melodist

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2016

Derek Krueger
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro


The liturgical hymns on the life of Christ composed by the sixth-century Constantinopolitan poet Romanos the Melodist inscribe theologies of literary composition which incorporate writing into the economy of salvation. His dialogues between Jesus and various characters from the gospels habitually insert acts of writing and literary documents into the biblical narrative. Romanos figures Jesus’ death on the cross as an act of self-inscription where Christ signs a ransom for humanity using his body as parchment and his blood as ink. The poet himself signs each of his poems by encrypting some variant of the phrase BY THE HUMBLE ROMANOS into an acrostic that determines the first letter of each stanza. The poet attaches his identity silently to his work, performing the humility he hopes to achieve while assimilating his own writing to Christ’s work of redemption.

Copyright © The Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham 2003

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1. The Greek text of Romanos used here is Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica: Cantica Genuina, edited by Maas, P. and Trypanis, C.A. (Oxford 1963)Google Scholar (hereafter, Romanos, Hymns). The poems are cited by the numbers assigned in this edition, followed by stanza numbers, and occasionally by lines. The English titles of the hymns are those given by Maas and Trypanis. A second excellent edition of the hymns with commentary and French translation was published by Grosdidier de Matons, J., Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 5 vols. (Sources chrétiennes [hereafter SC], 99, 110, 114, 128, 283Google Scholar. Paris 1965-1981). Because the numbering in that edition differs from the Oxford edition, I have supplied the SC hymn number in parentheses at the first citation of each hymn. Elsewhere, references to the edition of Grosdidier de Matons are noted by volume number within that edition (not volume within the SC series) and page. Where possible I have employed the fine translations of Lash, E. (St. Romanos the Melodist, Kontakia: On the Life of Christ, [San Francisco 1995])Google Scholar, occasionally modified. Translations of other hymns are my own except as noted. Worthy of mention are the translations of Schork, R. J. (Sacred Song from the Byzantine Pulpit: Romanos the Melodist [Gainesville 1995])Google Scholar, which are richly poetic and very good at conveying the spirit of the original, although in many cases not strictly literal. The entire corpus of Romanos was also translated by Carpenter, M., Kontakia of Romanos, Byzantine Melodist, 2 vols. (Columbia, Missouri 1970-73)Google Scholar; about these volumes there was much controversy.

Early versions of this essay were read at the University of Manchester, Queen’s University Belfast, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I thank Kate Cooper, Conrad Leyser, and Margaret Mullett for their hospitality and encouragement. I am grateful to Georgia Frank and Gene Rogers for comments on earlier drafts.

2. Romanos, On the Resurrection V (Hymns 28.1 [SC #43]). The language closely resembles Justinian’s 551 Confession of Faith (Chronicon Pascale 1.662). The term ‘oikonomia’ in the sense of ‘the divine plan of salvation history’ was widespread in Greek theological and ecclesiastical discourse. Blum, G., ‘Oikonomia und Theologia: Der Hintergrund einer konfessionellen Differenz zwischen östlichen and westlichen Christentum’, Ostkirchliche Studien 33 (1984) 281301 Google Scholar; Markus, R., ‘Trinitarian Theology and the Economy’, Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 9 (1958) 89102 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Thurn, H., Oikonomia von der frühbyzantinischen Zeit bis zum Bilderstreit. Semasiologische Untersuchungen einer Wortfamilie’ (Munich 1962)Google Scholar.

3. Romanos’s interest in written documentation and bureaucracy was first noted by Hunger, H., ‘Romanos Melodos, Dichter, Prediger, Rhetor — und sein Publikum’, Jahrbuch für Österreichischen Byzantinistik 34 (1984) 1542, esp. 39-42Google Scholar.

4. Romanos, Hymns 18 (SC #24); translation: Lash, Kontakia, 129-138. On the liturgical occasion, see de Matons, Grosdidier, Romanos le Melode: Hymnes, 4:100 Google Scholar; Lash, Kontakia, 128.

5. Mt 27:29; cf. Mk 15:19.

6. See also Romanos, On the Passion of Christ {Hymns 20.22 [SC #36]): ‘Beaten on the head with a reed, he signed the exile of his enemies’.

7. In On the Multiplication of Loaves (Hymns 13.9 [SC #24]) Romanos reflects on Christ’s ‘nourishing the people with words of truth’.

8. Cf. 1 Cor 11:24-25; Mt 26:26-29; Liturgy of St. Basil (ed. Brightman, 328).

9. According to Jerome (De viris illustrious 115), Ephrem served as a deacon of the church in Edessa composing hymns to be performed after the scriptural lections. On Ephrem’s biography, see Brock, S., Saint Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns on Paradise (Crestwood, New York 1990) 825 Google Scholar. For Ephrem’s ideas about the body of Christ, see also Murray, R., Symbols of the Church and Kingdom: A Study in Early Syriac Tradition (Cambridge 1975) 6994 Google Scholar; and Harvey, S.A., ‘Embodiment in Time and Eternity: A Syriac Perspective’, St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 43 (1999) 105130 Google Scholar.

10. See also Brock, St. Ephrem: Hymns on Paradise, 45-49; Brock, S., The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of St. Ephrem the Syrian (Kalamazoo 1992) 3643, 53-66Google Scholar; see also Murray, Symbols, 69-94.

11. Compare Hill, R.C., ‘St. John Chrysostom and the Incarnation of the Word in Scripture’, Compass Theology Review 14 (1980) 3438 Google Scholar.

12. Ephrem, Hymns on Faith 31; text: Beck, E., Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers: Hymnen De Fide (CSCO 154. Louvain 1955) 105108 Google Scholar; translation: Brock, Ephrem: Hymns on Paradise, 45-46).

13. Ephrem, Hymns on Faith 31:2. In the following verse: ‘It is our metaphors that He put on — though He did not literally do so:/ He then took them off — without actually doing so; when wearing them, He was at the same time stripped of them’ (Hymns on Faith 31:3; trans. Brock, Ephrem: Hymns on Paradise, 46).

14. Ephrem, Hymns on Paradise 5.2; text: Beck, E., Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers: Hymnen De Paradiso und Contra Julianum, (CSCO 174. Louvain 1957) 1519 Google Scholar; translation: Brock, Ephrem: Hymns on Paradise, 102.

15. Ephrem, Hymns on Paradise 5.3; trans. Brock, 103.

16. The classic Christian version of this theoretical tradition in the West is represented by Augustine’s De doctrina Christiana. See Jackson, B., ‘The Theory of Signs in Saint Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana ’, Revue des Études Augustiniennes 15 (1969) 949 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; reprinted in Markus, R., ed., Augustine: A Collection of Critical Essays (Garden City, NY 1972) 92147 Google Scholar; and Jordan, M., ‘Words and Word: Incarnation and Signification in Augustine’s De doctrina Christiana ’, Augustinian Studies 11 (1980) 177196 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. In the East, Gregory of Nyssa articulated a less systematic approach in his treatises Against Eunomius; these ideas are well summarised by Mosshammer, A., ‘Disclosing by not Disclosed: Gregory of Nyssa as Deconstructionist’, in Studien zu Gregor von Nyssa und der christlichen Spätantike, ed. Drobner, H. and Klock, C. (Leiden 1990) 99123, esp. 108-112Google Scholar.

17. Ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite, The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 3.3.9; trans. Luibheid, C. in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Work (New York 1987) 219 Google Scholar. See also Barasch, M., Icon: Studies in the History of an Idea (New York 1992) 168172 Google Scholar.

18. Baudrillard, J., Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Glaser, S. (Ann Arbor 1991 Google Scholar; French edition 1981) 1-7.

19. Poststructuralist philosophical and literary theory has contributed to contemporary discourse the concept of logocentrism, the idea that the Western tradition (if such a thing exists), in its yearning for presence, has favoured speech over writing. Yet as Derrida has shown, the written discourse about the primacy of speech reflects an often unacknowledged graphocentrism, an investing of authority (and ultimately divine authority) in the written. See particularly, Derrida, J., Of Grammatology, trans. Spivak, G. (Baltimore 1978 Google Scholar) originally published as De la grammatologie (Paris 1967); and idem, Writing and Difference, trans. A.Bass (Chicago 1978), originally published as L’écriture et la différence (Paris 1967). See also, and perhaps especially, the cogent discussion by Johnson, B., ‘Writing’, in Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Lentricchia, F. and McLaughlin, T., 2nd ed. (Chicago 1995) 3949 Google Scholar.

20. Romanos, Hymns 23 (SC #39).

21. Maas and Trypanis (Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica Genuina, 172) assign the hymn to ‘Friday in Lent’, that is, Good Friday. However Grosdidier de Matons (Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 4.312-319) makes a convincing case that the themes of the poem fit the liturgy for the Elevation of the Cross on September fourteenth, already celebrated in Constantinople in the mid-sixth century.

22. Gospel of Nicodemus 2.10.

23. The positive valuation of the thief within the context of the liturgy gained currency during the course of the sixth century. According to the Historiarum Compendium of Cedrenus (PG 121:748), Justin II introduced the troparion Cenae tuae mysticae into the celebrations of Holy Thursday in 573/4. The text of this hymn translates, ‘At your mystical supper, Son of God, receive me today as a partaker, for I will not betray the sacrament to your enemies, nor give you a kiss like Judas, but like the thief I confess you: remember me Lord in your kingdom’. See Taft, R., The Great Entrance: A History of the Transfer of Gifts and other Preanaphoral Rites of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, 2nd ed. (Orientaba Christiana Analecta 200. Rome 1978) 6870, 487-488Google Scholar (text and translation of this hymn appear on p. 54); and Schattauer, T., ‘The Koinonicon of the Byzantine Liturgy: An Historical Study’, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 49 (1983) 91129, esp. 109-110Google Scholar. I thank Patrick Viscuso for assisting me with these references. The hymn is now an integral part of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (ed. Brightman, 394). Jacob of Serug (c. 450-521) also composed a hymn in which the thief bears a letter written in Christ’s blood to the Cherubim in Paradise. See Johannes B., Glenthøj, ‘The cross and paradise: the robber and the cherub in dialogue’, in In the last days: on Jewish and Christian apocalyptic and its period, ed. Jeppesen, Knud, Nielsen, Kirsten, and Rosendal, Bent (Aarhus 1994), 6077 Google Scholar; Brock, Sebastian, ‘Some aspects of Greek words in Syriac’, Synkretismus im syrisch-persischen Kulturgebiet, ed. Dietrich, A. (Göttingen 1975), 104106 Google Scholar (reprinted in Sebastian Brock, Syriac perspectives on Late Antiquity [London 1984], IV).

24. Romanos, Hymns 23.5; my translation.

25. Romanos, Hymns 23.11; my translation. See the notes to this stanza in de Matons, Grosdidier, Romanos le Méplode: Hymnes, 4:339 Google Scholar.

26. See also Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 4:339nl.

27. For discussion of the sources for Romanos’s biography, see de Matons, J. Grosdidier, Romanos le Mélode et les origines de la poésie religieuse à Byzance (Paris 1977) 159198 Google Scholar. The closely related citations of Romanos in menologia, menaia, and synaxaria may derive from a no longer extant source, possibly as early as the eighth century. See also Schork, Sacred Song, 3-6; and Lash, Kontakia, xxvi-xviii.

28. The anonymous hymn acclaims him as ‘from the race of Hebrews’. The text appears in Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 167-170, and its implications receive balanced treatment on 180-181; see also the discussions in Schork, Sacred Song, 5; and Maas and Trypanis, Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica Genuina, xvi n1.

29. Later traditions also associate him with the Church of the Virgin at Blachernae; see Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 164-5. On Romanos as the singer of his own hymns, see also Hunger, ‘Romanos Melodes’, 16.

30. Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 161-2; English translations of accounts from the menologia are available in Schork, Sacred Song, 4; and Lash, Kontakia, xxvii.

31. The Syriac origins of the kontakton have been convincingly demonstrated by Brock, S., ‘From Ephrem to Romanos’, Studia Patristica 20 (1989) 139151 Google Scholar; reprinted in Brock, , From Ephrem to Romanos: Interactions between Syriac and Greek in Late Antiquity (Aldershot 1999), IV Google Scholar. See also Halleux,, ‘Héllenisme et syrianité de Romanos le Mélode’, Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique 73 (1978) 632641 Google Scholar; Petersen, W., The Diatessaron and Ephrem Syrus as Sources of Romanos the Melodist, CSCO 475 (Louvain 1985)Google Scholar; and the excellent essay by Van Rompay, L., ‘Romanos le Mélode: Un poète syrien à Constantinople#x2019;, in Early Christian Poetry: A Collection of Essays, edited by den Boeft, J. and Hilhorst, A. (Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 22. Leiden 1993) 283296 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For additional perspective on dialogue hymns see Brock, , ‘Dialogue Hymns of the Syriac Churches’, Sobornost: Eastern Churches Review 5:2 (1983) 3545 Google Scholar; and Brock, , ‘Syriac Dispute Poems: The Various Types’, in Dispute Poems and Dialogues in the Ancient and Mediaeval Near East: Forms and Types of Literary Debates in Semitic and Related Literatures, ed. Reinink, G. and Vanstiphout, H., Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 42 (Leuven 1991) 109119 Google Scholar; reprinted in Brock, From Ephrem to Romanos, VII. On the implications of the performance of these hymns for the formation of piety, see Harvey, S., ‘2000 NAPS Presidential Address: Spoken Words, Voiced Silence: Biblical Women in Syriac Tradition’, JECS 9 (2001) 105131 Google Scholar.

32. A.Louth, (in Lash, Kontakia, xvi), points to Romanos’s ‘liturgical story-telling’: ‘In each case, an event, as related in the Scriptures and celebrated in the Liturgy, is retold in such a way as to enable those who hear it to enter into it.’ On the dialogic qualities of the hymn Mary at the Cross (Hymns 19 [SC #35]), see Dubrov, G., ‘A Dialogue with Death: Ritual Lament and the Threnos Theotokou of Romanos Melodos’, GRBS 35 (1994) 385405 Google Scholar.

33. For this mechanism, see the penitential Prayer of Romanos (Hymns 56, prelude and strophe 1; SC #55), in which the poet desires to form himself to the models provided by the repentant tax collector and harlot. For this as a liturgical mode, consider the precommunion Cenae Tuae prayer (see note 23).

34. Alexander Lingas (personal correspondence, 19 December 2000) explains current usage: ‘The prologue and the first oikos of the kontakion for the day are recited after the Gospel of orthros…but not directly after. They occur after ode 6 of the kanon (which itself follows Psalm 50 and the litany)’. Furthermore, ‘The usual manner of performance is that one of the cantors will recite the kontakion [prologue] and the oikos from the choir stalls or cantor’s stand (psalterion). In many places it is customary that he intones the refrain, which is repeated by the other cantors’. See also Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 98-108; Louth, in Lash, Kontakia. xvi; Schork, Sacred Song, 6. On larger questions of Byzantine liturgical chant forms see Dalmais, I.-H., ‘Tropaire, Kontakion, Canon: Les élélements constitutifs de l’hymnographie byzantine’, in Liturgie und Dichtung: Ein interdisziplinäres Kompendium I: Historische Präsentation, edited by Becker, H. and Kaczynski, R. (St. Ottilien 1983) 421434 Google Scholar.

35. Lingas, A., ‘The Liturgical Place of the Kontakion in Constantinople’, in Liturgy, Architecture, and Art in the Byzantine World: Papers of the XVIII International Byzantine Congress (Moscow, 8-15 August 1991) and other Essays Dedicated to the Memory of Fr. John Meyendorff, ed. Akentiev, C. (St. Petersburg 1995) 5057 Google Scholar (with relevant additional bibliography); Grosdidier de Matons, J., ‘Liturgie et Hymnographie: Kontakion et Canon’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 34/35 (1980-1981) 3143 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; idem, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 3:45-46; idem, ‘Aux origines de l’hymnographie byzantine: Romanos le Mélode et le Kontakion’, in Liturgie und Dichtung, ed. Becker and Kaczynski, 435-463, esp. 443. So also Schork, Sacred Song, 86. For the place of the hymns of Romanos in the urban vigils in the mid-seventh century, see Miracles of Artemios 18. On the so-called ‘cathedral vigil’, see also the excellent overview in Taft, R., The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West: The Origins of the Divine Office and its Meaning for Today, 2nd. ed. (Collegeville, Minn., 1993) 165190 Google Scholar.

36. Romanos, Hymns 11.1 (SC #22); my translation.

37. See also Hunger, ‘Romanos Melodos’, 17-22, on the dramatic aspects of these works, including the use of irony. Harvey, ‘2000 NAPS Presidential Address: Spoken Words, Voiced Silence’.

38. Romanos, Hymns 11.2. On the language of comedy and tragedy, see de Matons, Grosdidier, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 3:57 Google Scholar.

39. Maas and Trypanis, Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica Genuina, xi n1.

40. On the form and meter of the kontakia see Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 3-47; Lash, Kontakia, xxviii-xxxi; Schork, Sacred Song, 6-8.

41. See C.Thodberg, ‘Kontakion’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music. See also Raasted, J., ‘Zum Melodie des Kontakions’ ‘H παρθένος σήμερον’, Cahiers de l’Institut du Moyen-Age Grec et Latin 59 (1989) 233246 Google Scholar; idem, ‘Kontakion Melodies in Oral and Written Tradition’, in The Study of Medieval Chant: Paths and Bridges, East and West: In Honor of Kenneth Levy, ed. P. Jeffery (Woodbridge, 2001) 273-281.

42. On the lay audience see Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 286, 303; Hunger, ‘Romanos Melodes’, 36.

43. For appreciation of Romanos’s language and style see Hunger, ‘Romanos Melodes’, 30-36.

44. Romanos sometimes spells ΤΑΠΕΙΝΟΤ as the homophone ΤΑΠΙΝΟΤ. See Krumbacher, K., ‘Die Akrostichis in der griechischen Kirchenpoesie’, Sitzungsberichte der philos.-philol. und der histor. Klasse der K. Bayer. Akad. d. Wiss. 2 (1903) 551692 Google Scholar.

45. See Schork, Sacred Song, 198n2; Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 188-89.

46. Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 42-45; Schork, Sacred Song, 8; Lash, Kontakia, 29.

47. See also Pss. 9-10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, and 145.

48. Taft, The Liturgy of the Hours, 41, 177, 280; based on Basil, Ep, 207.3. It is unclear at what point Lamentations became a fixture of vigils during Holy Week.

49. On the acrostics in Lamentations as ascetic, see Gottwald, N., Studies in the Book of Lamentations, rev. ed. (London 1962) 2332 Google Scholar; and Boer, R., Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: The Bible and Popular Culture (London 1999) 124-5Google Scholar.

50. See Graf, ‘Akrostichis’, in Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. A. Pauly and G.Wissowa; H.Gärtner, ‘Akrostichon’, Der Neue Pauly: Enzyklopädie der Antike, ed. Cancik, H. and Schneider, H.; Courtney, E., ‘Greek and Latin Acrostichs’, Philologus 134 (1990) 313 Google Scholar.

51. See Theognis (sixth century BCE) (ed. D. Young [Leipzig 1961]), lines 19-30. For discussion see Ford, A., ‘The Seal of Theognis: The Politics of Authorship in Archaic Greece’, in Theognis of Megara: Poetry and the Polis, ed. Figueira, T. and Nagy, G. (Baltimore 1985) 8295 Google Scholar.

52. Courtney, ‘Greek and Latin Acrostics’, 8.

53. Nicander, , Theriaca (ed. Gow, A. and Scholfield, A. [Cambridge 1953]) 345353 Google Scholar; the poem has 958 lines. See also Nicander, Alexipharmaca 266-274, where there may be another attempt at an acrostic. Courtney, ‘Greek and Latin Acrostics’, 12.

54. Nicander, Theriaca 957-8; see also Alexipharmaca 629-30.

55. Courtney, ‘Greek and Latin Acrostics’, 9.

56. The spurious works attributed in their acrostics to Romanos were published by Maas, P. and Trypanis, C., Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica: Cantica Dubia (Berlin 1970)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57. See Fleischer, E., ‘Piyyut’, Encyclopaedia Judaica 13:573602 Google Scholar, and ‘Acrostics: Post-Biblical’, Encyclopaedia Judaica 2.230-231. The terms OVÛ (piyyut), liturgical poem, and ļ\PQ (paytan), liturgical poet, are derived from the Greek ποιητης, and thus from the same root as the English words ‘poet’ and ‘poem’. See Yalahom, J., ‘ Piyyût as Poetry’, in The Synagogue in Late Antiquity, ed. Levine, L. (Philadelphia 1987) 111126 Google Scholar. Piyyutim were composed in a context of Jewish and Christian interaction: see W. Van Bekkum, ‘Anti-Christian Polemics in Hebrew Liturgical Poetry (Piyyut) of the Sixth and Seventh Centuries’, in Early Christian Poetry, edited by Boeft and Hilhorst, 297-308.

58. Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 43. These early Byzantine works are difficult to date; some may be earlier than or contemporary to Romanos, but the consensus is that most are later.

59. For editions and translations of these poems, see MacCoull, L., Dioscorus of Aphrodito: His Work and his World (Berkeley 1988) 68, 81, 103, 105, 107, 111Google Scholar.

60. P. Rein. II 82 and P. Lond. Lit. 98; MacCoull, Dioscorus, 68-72; see also Fournet, J.-L., Hellénisme dans l’Égypte du Vie siècle: La bibliothèque de l’œuvre de Dioscore d’ Aphrodité (Cairo 1999) 1:378-380Google Scholar (text and translation), 2:475-486 (commentary).

61. This has been decisively resolved by Fournet, , Hellénisme, 2:475477 Google Scholar; against Kuehn, C., ‘Dioskoros of Aphrodito and Romanos the Melodist’, Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 27 (1990) 103107 Google Scholar, which attempted to identify the recipient of Dioscorus’s poem with Romanos the Melodist. (R.Schork also proposed this identification in a paper presented at the Sixteenth Annual Byzantine Studies Conference, Baltimore, 26-28 October 1990.) I thank Leslie MacCoull for helping me sort this problem out and for directing me to the work of Fournet.

62. Or: ‘his lowliest servant’. ΤΩ ΘΕΙΟΤΑΤΩ KAI ΕΥΣΕΒΕΣΤΑΤΩ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙ ΗΜΩΝ ΙΟΤΣΤΙΝΙΑΝΩ ΑΓΑΠΗΤΟΣ О ΕΛΑΧΙΣΤΟΣ ΔΙΑΚΟΝΟΣ. Agapetos, Ekthesis, PG 86.1:1163-83. A partial English translation appears in Barker, E., ‘‘Social and Poltical Thought in Byzantium (Oxford 1957) 5463 Google Scholar. See also Cameron, Procopius, 252-253; Henry, P., ‘A Mirror for Justinian: The Ekthesis of Agapetus Diaconus’, GRBS 8 (1967) 281308 Google Scholar.

63. The epithet έλαχείστου (sic) appears in the hymn On Symeon the Stylite, spuriously attributed and ascribed to Romanos. See Maas and Trypanis, Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica: Cantica Dubia, 71-78, and the editors’ comments, xi, 197.

64. That Romanos was not a monk is inferred from his hymn On Life in the Monastery (O. 55) which views the monastery from the outside looking in.

65. See Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines, 44.

66. On authorial humility, see Krueger, D., ‘Hagiography as an Ascetic Practice in the Early Christian East’, Journal of Religion 79 (1999) 216232 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Valantasis, Compare R., ‘Constructions of Power in Asceticism’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 63 (1995) 797 Google Scholar. The case of the many poems attributed in their acrostics to Romanos, but composed by others, underlines the possibility for using the acrostics to enact humility. The issue is not so much that these later authors forged Romanos’s signature, but rather that in their copying of his meters and probably also his tunes, they submitted to the same discipline, modeling themselves, and not merely their works, on the saintly poet. On the forgers reuse of Romanos’s meters see Maas and Trypanis, Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica: Cantica Dubia, xii. Explicitly attributing works to another enacted the very essence of humility: not claiming agency in one’s good actions.

67. For other aspects of Romanos’s final stanzas see Barkhuizen, J., ‘Romanos Melodos and the Composition of his Hymns: Prooimion and Final Strophe’, Hellenika 40 (1989) 6277 Google Scholar.

68. Romanos, Hymns 29.24 (SC #40).

69. Romanos, Hymns 34.24 (SC #50).

70. See Philippians 2:8. ‘He humbled himself [έταπείνωσεν έαυτον] and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’. On the significance of the call to tapeinōsis for the formation of writers’ identities, see Krueger, ‘Hagiography as an Ascetic Practice’.

71. Romanos, Hymns 8 (SC #20); translation, Lash, Kontakia, 51-58.

72. Romanos, Hymns 8.5; translation Lash, modified.

73. The wording also recalls Ps 103:15 (LXX 102:15): ‘As for man his days are like grass (ανθρωπος, ώσει χόρτος α’ι ήμεραι αύτου)’.

74. In this and other aspects, the hymn On the Leper is closely related to the hymn On the Woman with the Issue of Blood (Romanos, Hymns 12 [SC #23]). See the remarks introducing that hymn in de Matons, Grosdidier, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 3: 7983 Google Scholar.

75. See Lampe and LSJ, s.v. бєпаіс.

76. See also Lash, Kontakia, 54nl4. The relevant stanza is quoted below.

77. de Matons, Compare Grosdidier, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 2:373n2Google Scholar. Schork’s English translation (Sacred Song, 73) alters the ‘two words’ to ‘three’ in order to convey this sense: ‘He framed the gist of his prayer in three words:/ “If you wish, you can completely cure me, Lord.’” Emphasis in original.

78. The wording of this line disrupts the meter and is insecure. See the apparatus in Maas and Trypanis, Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica Genuina, 63. de Matons, Grosdidier (Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 2:379n9)Google Scholar suggests that the invocation of the Virgin is a later insertion.

79. See ODB s.v. deesis.

80. See Schork, Sacred Song, 70; also de Matons, Grosdidier, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 2:371nlGoogle Scholar.

81. Romanos, Hymns 8.10; translation Lash, slightly modified.

82. See the essays collected in The Uses of Literacy in Early Medieval Europe, ed. McKitterick, R. (Cambridge 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

83. Thus read both the Maas and Trypanis and the Grosdidier de Matons editions, meaning that the speaker has the request written on his soul, presumably by Faith. But the reading is uncertain, and the text survives only in one manuscript with a number of textual problems; could Romanos have written #νεγραμμένος, rendering the line, ‘I have written the request on the paper of my soul’, reading εχω as an auxiliary verb with the perfect middle participle? Even more curious: Does Romanos hear a pun in the words ‘paper’ (χάρτηο; 8.10.8) and ‘grass’ (χόρτος; 8.5.4)?

84. For interesting comparanda in the West, see Curruthers’s, M. remarks on ‘compunction’ in Latin monastic texts (The Craft of Thought: Meditation, Rhetoric, and the Making of Images, 400-1200 [Cambridge 1998], 96, 101, 198)Google Scholar. In the twelfth century, Bernard of Clairvaux (Ad clericos 15.28; quoted in Curruthers, Craft of Thought, 96) compared the work of compunctio, with its over tones of puncturing and wounding, to the indelible marking of parchment.

85. Romanos, Hymns 14; SC #26.

86. Romanos, Hymns, 30, prelude 1 (SC #46); translations Lash, Kontakia, 183-191.

87. Romanos, Hymns, 30, prelude 2. Romanos also compares Thomas’s hand to Moses’ hand at the burning bush, matter that has contacted the divine presence, yet not been consumed (Hymns 30.2).

88. ύπογράφω and ύπογραφή became, in late antiquity, standard terms for signing and signature; see Lampe s.vv.

89. Romanos’s typological exploration of the connexion between the wound in Christ’s side, flowing with life-giving water, and the side of the first Adam, out of which came Eve, have been discussed by Reichmuth, R., Typology in the Genuine Kontakia of Romanos the Melodist (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1975) 3841 Google Scholar.

90. Compare Lash, Kontakia, 256-7.

91. On the textual problems with this strophe, see Maas and Trypanis, Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica Genuina, 241, and de Matons, Grosdidier, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 5:6061 Google Scholar.

92. See LSJ, s.v. άπτω. For another example of a Christian poet punning on these two senses of άπτόμενος, see Gregory of Nazianzus, On Silence at the Time of Fasting (Poems 2.1.34) lines 99-104. Here Gregory compares his own ‘impure touching upon [άπτόμενο£] the pure Trinity’ in literary composition to two biblical instances of impure touching: the sons of Aaron who died after handling the sacrifice (Lev 10:1-2) and Uzzah’s fatal touching of the holy ark (2 Sam 6:6-7). For text and translation, see Gregory of Nazianzus, Autobiographical Poems, translated and edited by Carolinne While (Cambridge, 1996) 173.

93. Romanos also puns on ψηλαφών and φωνη in his hymn On Jacob and Esau (Hymns 42.9.3-4, [SC #4]), although here he contrasts the different information conveyed by touch and sound: Isaac thinks he is touching Esau, but he hears the voice of Jacob (compare Gen 27:22).

94. Romanos, Hymns 5 (SC #16); translated by Lash, Kontakia, 39-47.

95. For baptism as illumination see Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 40, a discourse on Baptism preached in Constantinople on January 6, 381.

96. For interpretations of this hymn, see Louth’s introduction to Lash, Kontakia, xvii-xx; and Grosdidiers de Matons, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 2:229-232.

97. See Lampe, s.v. σημείωσις.

98. Also, ‘Do not hesitate, baptise me. Just lend me your right hand./ I dwell in your spirit and I possess you wholly./ Why then do you not stretch out your palm to me?/ I am within you and outside you. Why do you flee from me? (Ps 139:6-16)/ Stand your ground and grasp/ the unapproachable Light’ (5.9).

99. See Lampe, s.vv. ζωγραφέω (2d) and ζωγράφος.

100. Ps.-Dionysius, Celestial Hierarchy 13.4; trans. Luibheid, 180.

101. On the textual problems with this and the preceding line, see de Matons, Grosdidier, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 2:256-7Google Scholar.

102. Ps.-Dionysius, Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 2.2.6, 5.1.6.

103. On deacons’ humility, see Ps.-Dionysius, Ecclesiastical Hierarchy 5.3.7-8.

104. See MacCormack, S., Art and Ceremony in Late Antiquity (Berkeley 1981) 6778, 150-58, 240-266Google Scholar; Brown, P., Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Madison 1992) 154157 Google Scholar.

105. Maas, M., John Lydus and the Roman Past: Antiquarianism and Politics in the age of Justinian (London 1992) 16 Google Scholar. Cameron, A., Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Berkeley 1991) 194, 204Google Scholar; Cameron, A., Procopius and the Sixth Century (Berkeley 1985) 254 Google Scholar (although Romanos was not a deacon of Hagia Sophia).

106. For a complex portrait of power and culture in the reign of Justinian, see Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire, 189-221.

107. Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire, 19. See with caution Downey, G., ‘Julian and Justinian and the Unity of Faith and Culture’, Church History 28 (1959) 339-49CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

108. Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire, 198-99.

109. Schork (Sacred Song, 6) is rightly cautious regarding Romanos’s possible connexion to the imperial family. Nevertheless the poet’s familiarity with court ceremony is obvious. See for example his hymn On the Entry into Jerusalem (Hymns 16; SC #32); and Topping, E., ‘Romanos, On the Entry into Jerusalem: A Basilikos Logos, Byzantion 47 (1977) 6591 Google Scholar, who sees this poem as dating from the early part of Romanos’s career. For a catalogue of Romanos’s use of imperial vocabulary, including images of kingship, see Barkhuizen, J., ‘Christ as Metaphor in the Hymns of Romanos the Melodist [part 1]’, Acta Patrística et Byzantina 2 (1991) 115 Google Scholar. For a catalogue of medical language, itself a discourse of power and subjection, see Barkhuizen, , ‘Christ as Metaphor in the Hymns of Romanos the Melodist (Part 2)’, Acta Patristica et Byzantina 3 (1992) 114 Google Scholar.

110. Hunger, ‘Romanos Melodos’, 39-42.

111. Romanos, Hymns 54 (SC #54); translated by Schork, Sacred Song, 184-195.

112. On the Nika riots see Cameron, A., Circus Factions: Blues and Greens at Rome and Byzantium (Oxford 1976) esp. 277-80Google Scholar; Bury, J., ‘The Nika Riot’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 17 (1897) 92119 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Precisely which earthquakes Romanos had in mind is unclear; see de Matons, Grosdidiers, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 5:462464 Google Scholar. See also Topping, E., ‘On Earthquakes and Fires: Romanos’ Encomium to Justinian’, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 71 (1978) 2235 Google Scholar.

113. Romanos, Hymns 54:13, trans., Schork, Sacred Song, 190.

114. Maas and Trypanis (Sancti Romani Melodi Cantica Genuina, xix) proposed that the poem was composed for the dedication of the new church on 27 December 537, but see de Matons, Grosdidier, Romanos le Mélode: Hymnes, 5:457459 Google Scholar.

115. The Miracles of Saint Artemios 18. Grosdidiers de Matons (‘Aux origines de l’hymnographie byzantine’, 447) posited that the legends of Romanos preserved in Middle Byzantine service books derived from an eighth-century source.

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