Sacred Song from the Byzantine Pulpit: Romanos the Melodist

By R. J. Schork | Go to book overview
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dogmatic point: the devil does not know the future. If he could see what is to come, he would not have killed the Forty, since their death merited not only victory crowns but also eternal life in reopened Paradise (11-13).

The popularity of the relics and the cult of the Forty Martyrs is graphically apparent in the large number of surviving frescoes, icons, ivories, and mosaics which depict their courageous stand. There is a fascinating discussion of the unique realism (and a classicizing element) found in Byzantine portrayals of this subject in a recent work that examines the relationship between art and rhetoric in the Eastern Christian world. 5


NOTES
1.
Trypanis, The Metres of Romanos, 600-608 (58,) and Cantica Dubia, ix, n. 3 (57 and 58).
2.
In Romanos et les origines, 188-89, Grosdidier de Matons discusses the word kuros, which could be a proper name (Kyros), or a title (Lord, Master), or a location (from the ta Kyrou section of the city.).
3.
Krumbacher, Miscellen zu Romanos, 3.78-91. Krumbacher judged that kontakion 57 was, in many details, close to the prose Passio published by von Gebhardt, Acta martyrum selecta, 171-81. For recent discussion of this document, see the report by Karlin-Hayter, Manuscript Tradition of the Passio, 457-59.
4.
I owe this information to a letter (3/1/87) from a colloquium. participant, Professor Oliver Nicholson, Department of Classics, University of Minnesota.
5.
Maguire, Art and Eloquence in Byzantium, 34-42 and figs. 18-28. For magnificent color reproductions of two outstanding icons, see Weitzmann, The Icon, pls. 11 and 4 1. On one (a tenth-century ivory plaque in Berlin), the bathhouse mentioned by Romanos (16.5-6) is prominent; in the other (a thirteenth- or fourteenthcentury miniature mosaic at Dumbarton Oaks), the descending "victory crowns" of the refrain are visible in the sky above the huddled martyrs. There is a brief review of the iconography of these martyrs, mainly in Slavic venues, in Gavrilovic, "The Forty in Art", 190-94.

The Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia I

. Holy martyrs, you did not shudder at the sword-sharp water.I
You wrapped yourselves in the flame of divinity
and bravely faced the numbing waves.

-198-

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