Robin Norris

title.none: Franklin, Anastasius the Persian (Robin Norris)

identifier.other: baj9928.0501.032 05.01.32

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Robin Norris, Southeastern Louisiana University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2005

identifier.citation: Franklin, Carmela Vircillo. The Latin Dossier of Anastasius the Persian: Hagiographic Translations and Transformations. Series: Studies and Texts, vol. 147. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004. Pp. xii, 571. $120.00 0-88844-147-9. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 05.01.32

Franklin, Carmela Vircillo. The Latin Dossier of Anastasius the Persian: Hagiographic Translations and Transformations. Series: Studies and Texts, vol. 147. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004. Pp. xii, 571. $120.00 0-88844-147-9. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Robin Norris
Southeastern Louisiana University

Carmela Vircillo Franklin's title refers not only to her critical editions of the texts comprising the Latin dossier of St. Anastasius; she also traces the growth of this Eastern saint's cult in the West through the development of a dossier in Latin, created in and disseminated from Rome. Throughout her work, Franklin demonstrates "the value of exploring both the cultural and codicological contexts in which hagiographic texts were composed and transmitted" (257). Yet Franklin's editions are themselves noteworthy for several reasons. After surveying over one hundred manuscripts, documented in her "Descriptive List of Manuscripts" which serves as an appendix to the book, Franklin has produced careful editions with thorough notes of ten key texts in Anastasius' Latin dossier. These texts are often highly problematic, including translations into Latin which are sometimes "unintelligible without reference to the original Greek" (55), a factor which makes it very difficult to ascertain whether a translator had access to the Greek original, or was simply following an incredibly slavish translation of it. Moreover, Franklin has corrected the Bollandists' analysis of some texts, discovered others never before published, and attributed authorship of one redaction to the Venerable Bede himself.

At the same time, however, Franklin does not foreground her editions within the volume. The book is structured such that its first chapter contains an account of the historical beginnings of the saint's cult as well as English translations of the original Acta and the Roman Miracle. Chapters two through four discuss the three fundamental texts of the cult of Anastasius. The next three chapters describe the diffusion of the passion throughout Europe. Finally, what Franklin calls "the third part of [her] book" (viii) contains the ten editions, each with its own brief introduction. This approach to controlling such a vast body of material clearly has its merits, but in order to make full use of the resources here, one must look to Part III for the edition translated in chapter one and analyzed in Part II. Finally, for a full description of the manuscripts, one must consult the appended list, which is arranged by city. Franklin herself suggests, "My translations ideally should be read alongside the Latin texts, with reference to the Greek" (29), but this would require the additional use of Flusin's edition as well. The volume will also seem less than user-friendly to those who do not read both Greek and Latin proficiently, as Franklin does not usually offer translations of passages discussed, even when vital to her argument, as in chapter three. Meanwhile, as an Anglo-Saxonist, I was puzzled to note that Franklin quotes the Modern English translation of the Old English Martyrology without giving the Old English itself (224).

Aside from these issues with the book's structure, the contents are quite fascinating. Franklin describes her subject as "perhaps the most richly documented eastern cult first established in Rome during the Byzantine period. Its literary and historical dossier permits us to follow in detail the early development of an oriental cult in the city, its spread in the early Middle Ages, and the diffusion and transformation of hagiographic texts across linguistic, chronological, and geographical borders" (2). St. Anastasius was born Magundat, a Persian soldier and magician, who first became curious about Christianity when he saw the cross paraded as a trophy in his native land. Magundat later traveled to Jerusalem, where he was baptized Anastasius. Inspired by pictorial depictions of the deaths of martyrs, and overcome with the desire to join their ranks by dying for his new-found faith, Anastasius soon left the monastery he had joined. After coming into conflict with magicians and other Persian pagans, he was strangled and then posthumously beheaded in the city now known as Kirkuk in Iraq. Anastasius' body was moved to Jerusalem, and two years later, in 630, the first Acta of the saint was composed there, in Greek, based on an eyewitness account of the saint's death. Franklin's first chapter surveys these historical beginnings of the saint's cult in the East and its development in Rome in the context of seventh- and eighth-century religious controversy. The efficacy of the saint's head as a relic and Anastasius' own inspiration to martyrdom through viewing images of the saints became important evidence in arguments against iconoclasm. Yet the cult was not long-lived in the East, neither in Palestine, nor in Constantinople. Rather, with the emigration of Greek-speaking monks from Palestine, the head of Anastasius was taken to the Greek monastery at Aquas Salvias in Rome, the city which soon became the heart of the cult. An account of a young girl's exorcism which took place at Aquas Salvias was written there in Greek in 713-4, the "Roman Miracle" of the saint.

Having explained the historical background of the legend and the foundation of the saint's cult, this is a salutary juncture for offering the reader full access to the Anastasius-legend by including an English translation at the end of chapter one. However, the reasons for Franklin's reliance on both Greek and Latin sources to produce this translation become clear only in Chapter II: "The First Latin Translation of the Acta S. Anastasii: BHL 410b." The first translation of the Greek Acta into Latin is a text that is interesting precisely because of its slavish imitation of the Greek. After Franklin explores the patterns of error in this ad verbum translation and speculates about the reasons behind this approach, the necessity of referencing the Greek text to fully understand (or translate) BHL 410b becomes obvious. Franklin goes on to argue that the Greek copytext was the volume owned and annotated by Modestus, the patriarch of Jerusalem, or one closely related to it. Moreover, she also believes that this is the copy brought to England by Theodore of Tarsus. Despite her disclaimer of uncertainty--"While we cannot be sure of the exact role that Theodore did play in turning the Passion of St. Anastasius into Latin, we can be fairly certain that it originated in the same circles in which he lived in Rome, and that it was he who brought the knowledge of the Persian to Canterbury and England" (79)--Franklin goes so far as to speculate that Theodore himself may have produced this seventh-century translation of the Acta. Franklin's description of the text in chapter two justifies her recourse to a "hybrid approach" to editing which "can serve as a model for editions of other medieval texts whose transmission cannot be subjected to the rigid requirements of the classic stemma" (268). Her edition of BHL 410b is based on the one extant manuscript witness, the contents of which she describes in the introduction to the edition.

Chapter three discusses the second Latin translation, BHL 411a, composed in Rome in the ninth or tenth century. Franklin notes that what the Bollandists catalogued as BHL 411 is actually an abbreviation of a previously unpublished text, which she has designated 411a. As a two-step translation, Franklin explains, "This technique involves as its first step a literal, in some cases interlinear, translation made by a speaker of the original language, and the second step involves a revision made by a native speaker of the receptor language" (111). The translators at work on this project self-consciously used a very different strategy from that of BHL 410b. A certain Nicolaus praesul created the literal translation, which was rendered ad sensum by Gregorius clericus to create "a new independent work, which is meant to replace, for a purely Latin audience, both the original Greek and the early translation (BHL 410b)" (87). In her edition of BHL 411a, Franklin "attempts to restore the original translation of the Acta of Anastasius as revised by Gregorius clericus; there is no way of course of getting at the text translated by 'Nycolaus praesul' (l. 18)" (299). In chapter three, Franklin offers passages from both the first and second Latin translation (BHL 410b and 411a), as well as the Bollandists' 411 and Flusin's edition of the Greek text, to illustrate that 411a is in fact the source of 411, and that the translators of 411a did in fact rely on a Greek text. Finally, Franklin asserts the likelihood that 411a is indebted to 410b, concluding that "a certain degree of consultation must be assumed unless proven otherwise" (94). The only claim this reader had trouble accepting in this chapter is Franklin's argument that BHL 411a was composed in Rome rather than in Naples, as previously believed. Franklin wants to add this text "to the body of evidence of Greek learning in Rome" (125), but as Franklin herself admits, "the literary conventions and vocabulary ... were quite widespread in central Italy, and cannot be used without other evidence to localize a text within one particular city" (114). While arguing that the text was not necessarily composed in Naples, this very statement could just as easily refer to Rome.

Chapter four turns to the Roman Miracle, BHL 412, which was often paired with Gregorius' translation in the creation of Anastasius' Latin dossier. According to Franklin, "The addition of the Roman Miracle to the text of the Passio was strategic, for the local context of the exorcism would connect the cult of the Persian more closely to the city of Rome, and to the complex at the Aquae Salviae, whose relic, as we have seen, made it an important cult center for both Romans and pilgrims" (151). In terms of translation practice, what is most interesting here is that the translator knew the Latin psalter, but had not been exposed to the Vulgate gospels. The Roman Miracle (BHL 412) is the third text edited, and although it "was not subjected to the radical revisions worked upon the versions of the Passion of St. Anastasius, perhaps because it was not used for liturgical reading," the text still remains "highly unstable" (339).

Chapters five through seven explore the diffusion and evolution of the Latin dossier in Europe, "survey[ing] the continuous development of these texts as a way of illustrating characteristic stages in the metamorphosis of hagiographic works" (152). In chapters five and six, Franklin explores Anastasius' Anglo-Saxon connections. Franklin had already hinted that "it seems quite plausible that this early translation was brought to England by Theodore of Tarsus, who had been a member of a Greek monastic community in Rome--most likely the monastery at Aquas Salvias--before his appointment to the see of Canterbury in 669" (154). Here she concludes "that [Bede] was in possession of a copy of what has come down to us as BHL 410b" (154), and that Bede himself revised this text to create BHL 408, the version of the Anastasius legend which had the greatest diffusion, with fifty manuscript witnesses extant. In chapter six, "The Passio S. Anastasii in Anglo-Saxon England," Franklin explains that Bede's list of works at the end of the Historia Ecclesiastica includes "librum vitae et passionis sancti Anastasii male de greco translatum et peius a quodam inperito emendatum, prout potui, ad sensum correxi" (186). Clearly Bede's "inadequate source" was BHL 410b, but "the identification of BHL 408(p) as Bede's revision is much more complex" (194). Readers of Bede will also be interested to note Franklin's comment in chapter five: "Some small but significant changes are introduced in p, which reflect the redactor's awareness of an inherent conflict between monastic stability and the desire for martyrdom, and his attempt to justify Anastasius's departure from his monastic community" (171). In chapter six, she also explains that "[t]he region of western Germany where the earliest manuscripts of the 408 version were written match the areas where Bede's writings were used from early on, and where the earliest copies of Bede's works have survived, most of them brought to the Continent for the use of Anglo-Saxon missionaries" (208-9). Bede's BHL 408(p) is the fourth text edited. Franklin notes that "the manuscript tradition of this version incorporates corrections and elisions by scribes and hagiographic compliers, who repeatedly attempted to perfect those passages that the original redactor, Bede, ... was unable to clarify, and yet was loath to cut out" (362).

The seventh and final chapter traces the spread of BHL 408 on the continent; "During this process of diffusion, it gave rise to four revisions, each of which circulated in a restricted geographical area, reflecting the increasing localization of hagiographic texts. These are BHL 409, as inventoried by the Bollandists, and the revisions I have identified and named p1, r1, and r2 (= Roman Revision), none of which are included in the BHL inventory" (229). Franklin also edits BHL 410, which is "a direct revision of the early translation (BHL 410b)" (417); she offers "a transcription of the exclusive witness" of the revision p1 (449); she edits the Roman Revision (r2), which "derives from the r-redaction of BHL 408" (469); and finally, Franklin includes editions of the revision BHL 411d and two abbreviated versions of the legend, which she calls Abbreviation A and Abbreviation B. The appendix also contains a chart comparing the contents of the three oldest, complete manuscript witnesses of BHL 408, which Franklin employs to support the anteriority of the p-recension by Bede.

Franklin traces the dissemination of Anastasius' Latin dossier throughout medieval Europe, but the book itself participates in yet another phase of this process by making the passion of this fascinating saint available to a wider audience than ever before. In so doing, Franklin's editions open further avenues for scholarship, and one hopes that other medievalists, or perhaps the author herself, will pick up the thread where Franklin left off. These texts will obviously be of interest to scholars of medieval translation theory and those studying the knowledge of Greek texts in the medieval West, as Franklin herself notes. The volume also serves as an interesting model for the presentation of one saint's legend as it evolves over the centuries. Finally, as this "Persian convert soon became a symbol of the triumph of Christianity and its emperor over the power of paganism and Persia" (4), the text also resonates with our current political situation. Through this saint who died in Iraq, whose cult could not survive in Palestine due to political unrest there, whose legend was eventually stripped of its Eastern details in his reconstruction as a generic medieval martyr, we have a window of opportunity to study medieval orientalism pre-dating Islam, and perhaps to reflect on Western representations of "the power of paganism and Persia" in the twenty-first century.