Shifting history from literature in the Miracles of St Menas
Ein Vortrag von Prof. Dr. Przemysław Piwowarczyk (Katowice)
The Miracles of Saint Menas constitute probably the most complicated miracle cluster of late antiquity. They came to us in many languages, in collections that differ in the number and sequence of the narratives. The most ancient tradition is represented by the Coptic MSS preserved in two relatively independent lines, and the Greek MSS. The texts are only partially identified and edited. In the first part, I present the structure and state of preservation and edition of the Miracles in different Christian traditions. I also put forward arguments for a date of the original collection to the late sixth century, as well as for the place of composition in the St Menas sanctuary. The miracles represent the patchwork literary composition sharing the whole narrative units, imagery, and vocabulary with the other miracle collections of the eastern Mediterranean. There is only little surprise when it refers to the purely religious strata of narration. However, it becomes more confusing when we look at the common motifs in the background of the main plot, in the details referring to the pilgrimage and life of sanctuary itself. Thus, in the second part, I present the organization of the sanctuary and the pilgrimage logistics as they appear in the St. Menas’s miracles. After that, I contrast it against similar sets of data distilled from three other collections of miracles preserved in Coptic and originated in the Egyptian pilgrimage centres of St. Phoebammon in Theodosioupolis, St. Kolluthos in Lykopolis, and St. Claudius in Pohe. To that, I add analysis of the Coptic miracles of St. George, much earlier than their counterpart in Greek. Their action takes place in Palestine, so we may expect that they would differ from Egyptian sanctuaries which is not the case. Concluding my talk, I aim to distinguish between the literary topoi of pilgrimage and economy in the Coptic miracle narratives and historically reliable data relevant for Abū Mīnā sanctuary.