The Byzantine passion play Christus Patiens (Christ Suffering) is a cento: composed of quotations and borrowings from other sources, it takes Euripides' tragedies as its main source for reworking the passion narrative. The genre, popular with Christian authors who usually transformed classical epics, enacts cultural exchange between canonical pagan literature and biblical narrative. Traditionally transmitted as the work of Gregory of Nazianzus, this drama showcases the tensions inherent in this reuse of Greek tragedy which threaten to collapse the original texts under the weight of their new meaning - or vice versa. While the afterlives of Classical texts, especially Greek tragedy, have been increasingly well explored, the scant attention afforded Christus Patiens has largely consisted of debating the disputed date and authorship. At the same time, scrutiny lavished on Virgilian centonic technique provides a helpful spring-board. This article focuses on the four tragedies most plundered in Christus Patiens: Rhesus, Medea, Hippolytus and Bacchae. It concentrates on interpreting the protagonist, Mary the Mother of God, through key passages which borrow most heavily from these plays. These stretch centonic conventions by almost exclusively reworking contiguous lines featuring the tragic mothers Medea, Agave and Musa; yet Mary is otherwise created from multiple conflicting voices. Analysis of these passages as frames for the cento author's own compositions and in the context of the prologue's invitation to identify specific Euripidean reworkings suggests that the author playfully flirts with creating a narrative of fragmentation through clashes between centonic form, tragic sources and Christian subject.
This article investigates the scope and meaning of ancient Greek personal religion as an additional dimension -besides official (polis) religion – in which the ancient Greek religious experience articulates itself. I show how 'personal religion' is a rather broad and amorphous scholarly category for a number of religious beliefs and practices that, in reflecting individual engagement with the supernatural, do not fit into our conception of polis religion. At the same time, I argue that personal religion should not be seen simply as that which is not official Greek religion. Nor is personal religion simply 'private' religion, oikos religion or the religion of those who had no voice in the sphere of politics (metics, women). Rather, 'personal religion' combines aspects of public and private. It is a productive category of scholarly research insofar as it helps us to appreciate the whole spectrum of ways individuals in the ancient Greek city received and (if necessary) altered culturally given religious beliefs and practices. Indeed, the examples discussed in this paper reveal a very Greek conversation about the question of what should count as a religious sign and who was to determine its meaning.
Scholars remain far from reaching agreement about the structure of Middle Platonist commentaries on Plato's dialogues: some take them to have been running line-by-line commentaries, while others believe that Middle Platonist commentaries were mainly specialist works. In this paper I propose a fresh and comprehensive analysis of extant sources in order to show that both views, while shedding light on important features of this literary genre in Middle Platonism, should be supplemented in order to draw a more complex picture. Extant sources suggest that the Middle Platonist commentaries were characterized by a set of features which shaped a specific conception of the literary genre: they were lemmatic and followed the development of a dialogue in its progression, yet at the same time they applied a thematic focus and hence admitted a substantial degree of selectivity.