- Hagiography and the cult of saints
- Greek and Syriac Christianity
- Byzantine history
I have recently submitted my doctoral thesis, which focuses on the eastern Roman empire in the sixth and seventh centuries, and in particular on the cult of Symeon Stylites the Younger, an influential but little-studied holy man who lived in the sixth century near Antioch-on-the-Orontes. It analyses the various extant materials associated with his cult, including the sermons attributed to the stylite, and the hagiographic Lives of both Symeon and his mother Martha, to show its evolution from the saint’s lifetime into the period after his death when he was memorialised by his disciples. I argue that the troubled development of the cult reflects the crisis which the disasters that hit the eastern Roman empire in this period caused for holy men and their hagiographers, as they struggled to explain their failure to protect the empire and its inhabitants. My thesis is thus focused on the intersection between saints and society; between hagiography and history. I am particularly keen to show that historical and literary approaches to hagiography should be viewed as complementary, and indeed mutually co-dependent, rather than antithetical, as has often been assumed.
I am now moving forward a millennium to work as a Research Associate, with a specialisation in Syriac, on the ERC-funded project ‘Stories of Survival: Recovering the Connected Histories of Eastern Christianity in the Early Modern World’. The project aims to explore diverse aspects of the little-studied Christian communities of the Ottoman Empire from c.1500 to c.1750. As well as working on a database of eastern Christian sources with the other members of the project team, I will be investigating the development of the cult of saints within the eastern churches in this period.
This is not to say that I have lost my interest in late antiquity! I have published an article on the Life of Martha in the Journal of Early Christian Studies, and hope soon to convert my thesis into a monograph. I am also working on a translation with commentary of the Lives of both Symeon and Martha for Liverpool University Press’s Translated Texts for Historians series.