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ASCETIC CHRISTIANITY IN PANNONIAN MARTYR STORIES? Levente Nagy Pannonia had a rich crop of martyrs in the Great Persecution.1 Archaeology and martyrology offer graphic evidence of the strength of Christianity in the province.2 Reconstructing the context of early Christianity in Pannonia, however, is far from easy due to the destruction of the ecclesiastical structure and the lack of sources. This paper argues that passion stories, compiled as late as a century after the persecution, reflect new Christian concerns besides concentrating on martyrdom. Possibly influenced by the fourth-century “ascetic revolution,” the martyrdom narratives of Saint Syneros and Pollio reveal features of the martyr that can be seen as ‘ascetic.’ The Passio Synerotis retroprojects the rise of the “monk” into early fourth-century Sirmium, while the Passio Pollionis praises virginity, defends bodily integrity and extols celibate priesthood. I argue that these texts show the speed with which the martyr merged with the monk. The Monk in the Garden: Temptation and Marriage The Greek monk (monachus) Synerus took up a gardener job in Sirmium.3 One day, in the sixth hour, a married woman walked into the garden. Synerus reminded 1 Special thanks to Marianne Sághy for her invaluable help in refining the argument of this paper. 2  Noël Duval, “Sirmium „ville impériale” ou „capitale?” Corso di cultura sull’arte ravennate e bizantina 26 (1979): 83–84; Miroslav Jeremić, “Adolf Hytrek et les premières fouilles archéologiques à Sirmium,”Starinar 55 (2005): 120–123; Miroslava Mirković, “Kontinuität und Diskontinuitätbei der Entwicklung der Stadt Sirmium ,” in Keszthely-Fenékpuszta im Kontext spätantiker Kontinuitätsforschung zwischen Noricum und Moesia, ed. Heinrich-Tamáska Orsolya. (Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf GmBH, 2011), 87–89; Henrik Hildebrandt, “Early Christianity in Roman Pannonia – facts among fictions?” Studia Patristica 39. Ed. Frances Margaret Young, Mark J. Edwards, and Paul N. Parvis (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2006), 59–64. 3  Passio Synerotis, BHL 7595–7596; Péter Kovács, ed., Die antiken Quellen zu Pannonien in der Spätantike.Teil I: 284-337 n. Chr. (Vienna: Phoibos, 2014), 45–49 (hereafter Kovács, Die antiken Quellen); Levente Nagy, Pannóniai városok, mártírok, ereklyék. Négy szenvedéstörténet helyszínei nyomában [Cities, Martyrs and Relics in i6 p&c 00 book.indb 97 2017.09.20. 16:22 LEVENTE NAGY 98 her that it was inappropriate for a wife to leave her husband’s house so late and walk alone after sunset. At this, the woman denounced him at her husband, a bodyguard of Emperor Galerius. The husband accused Synerus of adultery and had him thrown to prison. Synerus successfully cleared himself from adultery, but when accused of Christianity , he freely admitted the charge: „Upon hearing the holy man’s answer, the governor mused: ’The man must be a Christian if he does not suffer women leaving the house in unbefitting hours.’ So he asked him: ’Who are you?’ He replied without delay: ’I am a Christian.’ ’Where did you hide? How did you avoid sacrificing to the gods?’ ’God saved my body. I was like the foundation stone rejected by the builders. Now, however, the Lord needs me for the building of his house. As he wanted to stand here outright, I am ready to suffer for His name, in order to be in His kingdom together with the saints.” Refusing to sacrifice, Synerus was executed on 22 February 307.4 The shorter Latin version of the Passio Synerotis (version B) is generally dated to the end of the fourth century as the term monachos first appears in papyri dated to 324 or 323,5 and the Latin form monachus spread in the Latin West thanks to Saint Jerome from the mid-370s.6 The figure of the “wandering monk” may seem anachronistic at the beginning of the fourth century. The ascetic revolution, however, reached the Latin West in the second half of the fourth century: urban asceticism was practiced by the Pannonia. Discovering the Topography in Four Pannonian Passion Stories]. (Pécs: Pécsi Történelemtudományért Kulturális Egyesület, 2012), 56–61 (hereafter Nagy, Pannóniai városok). 4 Nagy, Pannóniai városok, 61–66; Hippolyte Delehaye, Les legends hagiographiques.(Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes , 1955), 101–118; Mirja Jarak, “Martyres Pannoniae – The Chronological Position of the Pannonian Martyrs in the Course of Diocletian’s Persecution,” in Westillyricum und Nordostitalien in der spätrömischen Zeit, ed. Rajko Bratož (Ljubljana: Narodnimuzej, 1996), 268...


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