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Reviewed by:
  • Macrina the Younger, Philosopher of God
  • Julie Ann Smith
Silvas, Anna M., Macrina the Younger, Philosopher of God (Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts, 22), Turnhout, Brepols, 2008; hardback; pp. xiii, 262; 1 map; R.R.P. €60.00; ISBN 9782503523903.

In publishing her book, Macrina the Younger, Philosopher of God, in Brepols' splendid 'Medieval Women, Texts and Contexts' series, Anna M. Silvas has, as she sets out in her Preface, revived the good work of Gregory of Nyssa – that is, making Macrina's life known so that it would not remain 'veiled in silence'. This edition with commentary fulfils Silvas' undertaking beautifully – the quality of the scholarship is in keeping with her earlier volume, Jutta and Hildegard: the Biographical Sources.

Macrina the Younger's place in the early history of monastic life, her leadership of the female and male communities at Annisa and her strong influence on her brothers are well known. However, in bringing together of the writings that pertain to the biography of Macrina and the life at Annisa, Silvas provides a full critical overview and translation of the ancient sources, and an indispensable analysis of the life of the saint. Silvas gleans substantial material for an outline of Macrina's career and family, carefully locating the saint's life both within the textual tradition and against the cultural background of domestic monastic life as practised in Asia Minor in the fourth century. An even richer understanding of the life of the community at Annisa could have been achieved by locating it more explicitly in the principles and praxes of the Small Asketikon – which was so ably edited by Silvas for Oxford (2005).

The translated texts included here provide valuable recognition of Macrina's life and influence. They comprise brief extracts from the works of Basil the [End Page 275] Great, selections from the Epigrams of Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa's Letter 19 ('To a certain John on certain subjects, especially on the way of life and the character of his sister Macrina'), The Life of Macrina and On the Soul and the Resurrection (a dialogue between Macrina and Gregory in which she assumes the role of a teacher).

The brief index is deficient, but the rest of the apparatus is satisfactory. This is an exemplary critical study and an excellent resource – with so many texts pertaining to the life of Macrina gathered in a single edition, in clear and accessible translation, it will most certainly prove valuable to scholars and students alike.

Julie Ann Smith
Department of History
University of Sydney


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