Laiou (ed.),‘Life of St. Mary the Younger’ (1996)
‘Life of St. Mary the Younger’, Angeliki E. Laiou (ed.), Byzantine Saints' Lives in Translation 1 in Holy Women of Byzantium, Ten Saints' Lives in English Translation, Alice-Mary Talbot (ed.) (Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C. 1996) 239-289
The Life of St. Mary the Younger, translated into English and annotated by Angeliki E. Laiou, is a valuable source of the Middle Byzantine period about family ethics and everyday life in the countryside. The Vita, based on earlier texts, is dated probably to the 11th or even 12th c., according to Professor Laiou – and not in the 10th c. as it was believed in the past. Saint Mary (Bizye, † c. 903) was the pious wife of Nikephoros, commander of the area from 896, a cruel person who treaded her with such violence that she died around her thirties.
But this is not only a provincial leading class family story – although that would be of great importance because we don’t here often of what is going on behind closed doors. The anonymous writer gives many details about the members of the family, officers and others, as well as about the situation of East Thrace, i.e. the Constantinopolitan hinterland, during the tragic period of the Bulgarian invasions under Tsar Symeon (893-927): the walled town of Bizye / Vize was captured and destroyed. He also speaks about the clergy and its beliefs, the status of women, the society’s ideas about monastic life and many other issues. In brief, the unknown writer, who originated from Bizye, provides us with a text which enriches our knowledge in social history (or ‘histoire des mentalités’, as Laiou points out).
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