The so-called “Dormition” scene in On Divine Names 3.2 has been variously interpreted. The author has the narrator, Dionysius the Areopagite, recall how he once joined a gathering of the apostles at a divine spectacle together with another character named Hierotheus, whom Dionysius presents as his own teacher. The apostles begin to offer hymns, and Hierotheus distinguishes himself with an ecstatic performance. Whether the scene in question actually represents the Dormition of the Virgin is the subject of much controversy. This article avoids that controversy and makes new progress by focusing instead on the depiction of Hierotheus as performer of hymns, and it shows how Dionysius’s account of his teacher is informed by the traditions of late antique festal oratory, particularly the example of the Cappadocian fathers. Hierotheus’s ecstasy is modeled on the self-presentation of rhetors signaling the pathos they experience in response to the subjects of the orations they perform or the texts they read. The early Byzantine reception of Pseudo-Dionysius, notably represented by Andrew of Crete and his three homilies on the Dormition, singles out this aspect of the depiction of Hierotheus’s hymn-singing and reads his performance as that of a festal rhetor engaged in the mediation of pathos.


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pp. 233-253
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