The Bible Reloaded: Christian Biography in Late Antiquity
This paper has three goals: to present the rise of Christian biography in Late Antiquity; to summarize relevant research on the problem of hagiography as a new genre, distinct from historiography; and to explore the dynamic and creative use of Biblical models in the lives of late ancient Christians, from Saint Antony to Saint Paul, the First Hermit and to Saint Martin of Tours. Instead of separating history and hagiography, we should learn to read these texts allegorically and appreciate their „magical realism.” Biblical stories not only set an interpretive and symbolic framework for late ancient Christian lives, helping to make sense of past and present, but also demonstrate God’s unceasing activity in history through His saints and His miracles.
Codex–Text–Textual Tradition. Problems and Controversial Questions in the Study of East Slavic Chronicles
As they precede the legal and official “production of documents”, narrative sources play an important role in the reconstruction of the Early Middle Ages – this was typical in the East Slavic territories until the end of the 13th century. That stories about the past were the first to be recorded is partly attributable to the fact that historiography was a means of legitimation for the dynasties in power. Stories about the past also had a message for the present, basically they were a means of propaganda. Dating the pieces of information related in narrative sources – including historiography – and their authenticity are key questions for research. However, the answers are never simple, they are often hypothetical. East Slavic historiography has a couple of peculiarities. First, the language, which is difficult to definite as East Slavic peoples and languages in the middle ages had structures different from what we see today, and also several versions of the written language were in use. Even the very name of the language is subject to debate to this day. Second, Slavic chronicle literature was linked to the Greek Orthodox branch of the Christian world, this is where it borrowed the genres, the style and the chronology from. The numbering of years from the “foundation of the earth” combined with the fact that for Slavic people the year started in March, whereas according to the Byzantine calendar in September, led to dating issues. In the East Slavic territory, historiography followed the territorial changes of the principalities: after the works providing a comprehensive view of the Kievan Rus' a more regional point of view started to dominate. From the 15th century, the dominant view of history became that of the court of the Moscow princes and the ecclesiastical center of Moscow. This is where most of the manuscripts have survived, and these in retrospect described Moscow, as well as those considered its historical predecessors, as having more influence that it actually had. Medieval historiography and the then emerging study of history coexisted in the second half of the 17th century. Opinions about the works of the author (Tatishchev), who was standing on the borderline between the two approaches, vary widely. The paper presents the current views, controversies and directions in the study of the above-mentioned questions, together with the author's critical comments.
The Change of Narration in the Chronicles Relating the History of Medieval Prussia
Comparing two narrative sources written by Peter von Dusburg and Johann von Posilge, respectively, the paper examines how the authors' narrative changed in the chronicle literature relating the history of medieval Prussia. As almost a whole century passed between the birth of Dusburg's Chronica terrae Prussiae and Posilge's Chronik des Landes Preussen, the paper primarily focuses on whether and how the author's narrative changed during this period. In this respect, the comparison of the two works revealed quite a few similarities, and even more differences. Dusburg's Latin chronicle is not a contemporary account of various events, whereas Posilge's German-language work might as well be called a contemporary “diary”. The former relates the history of the Teutonic Order, essentially within the context of salvation history, until the first third of the 14th century, while the second has much more to say about power politics and everyday events. This is why in Posilge's work we can read about epidemics, the weather, shipwrecks, floods, criminal acts and product prices, etc. Both chronicles contain short accounts and anecdotal stories, but we can observe the narrative differences in these as well. Dusburg's stories are related to military-political events, whereas Posilge also has everyday stories to tell. Dusburg's chronicle contains the same amount of events arranged in both chronological and thematic order. Posilge's work begins in medias res, and exclusively follows a chronological order. As a result, the pace of story-telling changes in Dusburg's chronicle, sometimes coming to a standstill due to the occasional interruptions of the narrative, while in Posilge's work it follows the same pace throughout, without any noticeable oscillation.
The Memory of the Ruler: The Autobiography of Charles IV and the Formation of Memory
Autobiographies represent a special group among the sources we can use to study medieval memory, but researchers have to face the fact that very few autobiographies survive from the Middle Ages. Autobiographies by medieval rulers are even more sporadic. One of the most well-known examples of the genre is the Autobiography of Charles IV of Luxemburg (1316-1378). The paper discusses the representation of memory in the Autobiography and endeavors to distinguish three levels of memory: personal, dynastic and royal. The facts not told in the Autobiography are also key to understanding the functioning of memory. The paper discusses in detail the significance of changing the name of the young prince from Wenceslaus to Charles and, in general, the dynastic names as bearers of memory. We can also find examples of consciously constructed memories in the text, such as Charles' naming of important places after his own name (e.g. Monte Carlo, Italy, Karlštejn, Bohemia). The paper presents the process of memorization in a nascent state through the example of the Autobiography of Charles IV of Luxemburg.
Views of Witchcraft: The Origins of Scepticism in the Milanese Franciscan Observant Milieu (1498-1505)
The preaching environment of the Franciscan observant friary of St. Angelo's in Milan offers an opportunity for intriguing observations. The dates indicated in the title are those of the publication of two key texts instrumental in the emergence of a sceptical view concerning the reality of belief in witchcraft: the Rosarium Sermonum by Bernardino Busti, a collection of 80 lenten sermons in two volumes published for the first time in Venice in 1498, and the Questiones lamearum by Samuele Cassini, a polemical tract issued probably at Pavia in 1505. On the basis of these two texts, the paper explores the Franciscan friars' approach towards witchcraft, which the author defines as “pastoral”, and the debate it triggered with the Dominicans who believed in the reality of the phenomenon. To Cassini's direct attack against the inquisitors, the Dominican Vincenzo Dodi replied with his Apologia tellingly subtitled “against the defenders of witches”, published in 1506. The dialectics dividing the friars belonging to the two main Mendicant orders presents renaissance Milan as a central locus of investigation for one of the most challenging intellectual debates of late medieval and early modern culture, through the consideration of sources that have never been adequately considered before.
The technology of cryptography in Hungary around 1700
Sixteenth and seventeenth century ciphered messages are rich information resources of their age. The historian can get close to the attitude of the people involved, to their notion of secret and to the details of their use of technology. What was the relationship of – often civilian – users to the technology they used: did they understand how it worked, did they realize its potentials? How much did they trust that the coded texts will remain secret? To what extent were the people involved in the political and military conflicts aware that their ciphered letters may be deciphered? To what extent were the potentials of a code exploited, to what extent did they endanger the security of information with their carelessness? What typical mistakes did they make and what kind of misunderstandings resulted from these? Were they familiar with the decoding technology of the enemy? Did they make efforts to protect a coding method from being discovered? Did they change their codes often enough? Was any given political player careful enough to use different codes with their different corresponding partners? Who did the ciphering, the head chancellor or the prince himself? And who did the deciphering? Can we reconstruct with the help of the sources what methods were used to break a code? The article offers a systematic analysis of the use of cipher systems and enciphered messages survived from the Hungarian history around 1700.
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