ROUGH DRAFT – DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION © 2011 WILLIAM R. CARAHER
Liminal Time and Liminal Space in the Middle Byzantine Hagiography of Greeceand the AegeanWilliam CaraherUniversity of North DakotaDelivered at the International Anchoritic Society ConferenceSeptember 16-18, 2011University of North DakotaGrand Forks, NDMy paper today will look at four relatively understudied saints’ lives datingfrom the Middle Byzantine Aegean World: Ay. Ioannis "O Xenos", Os. Theodorosof Kythera, Ay. Theoktiste of Lesvos, and Ay. Nikonas "O Metanoeite". Eachof these texts - which I regard as more or less typical of the genre - dealswith a saint who goes off into the wilderness. During their time in thewilderness, these saints all encounter ruined buildings around which thesaints have mystical, ascetic, or otherwise religious experiences. I'd liketo argue today that the presence of ruined buildings suggests that thewilderness was not just a place, but also (at least in the context of thehagiography of the Middle Byzantine Aegean) a time. The wilderness not onlymarked out the limits of civilization and population, but also the limits ofthe present and its connection with lived and experienced time.This argument will draw upon work done over the last 30 years on time in boththe field of anthropology and archaeology. Anthropologists like JohannesFabian have made it clear that it is impossible to think of space withouttime and time without space. Archaeologists (and I am a field archaeologistas well) have long recognized that interlacing of time and space in thepractice of stratigraphic excavation and the lively debates surrounding thelimits of concepts like "formation processes" for understanding therelationship between archaeological evidence and past behaviors. Like theircolleagues in anthropology, archaeologists have increasing recognized thattime scale, periodization schemes, and chronology play vital roles inestablishing the relationship of the researcher to the evidence upon whichtheir arguments are based. Critiques of time, most recently by post-colonialtheorists, have emphasized that the relationships framed by time are notvalue free and carry with them deep seated assumptions about human nature,social structure, economies, politics, and even culture.The four Middle Byzantine saints' lives that I will analyze here will notprovide the final word on the limits of the present in Byzantium. Theirprovenience in the politically, administratively, and militarily unstableworld of the early Middle Byzantine Aegean provides a distinct backdropagainst which to reflect on how space and time intersect to frame the limitsof the present.
Theodore of Kythera
The Life of St. Theodore of Kythera most likely dates to the very early 10
century, and it was likely written in the significant provincial city ofMonemvasia in the southeastern Peloponnesus. The life tells the story of St.Theodore who fled from his marriage to become a monk. After a suitable periodof training in Rome, and a time as an anchorite in Monemvasia, he and acompanion chose to engage their ascetic vocation more rigorously on theisland of Kythera off the south coast of the Peloponnesus. The island, the