paper 2 for classics

paper 2 for classics - Alexandra Williams Kaldellis...

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Alexandra Williams Kaldellis Classics 226 3 March 2008 The Role of Religion in Byzantine Family Life Byzantium is commonly known as a severely religious state, with images of austerely robed monks and elaborate, sprawling churches coming to mind when Byzantium is mentioned. But how much of a role did religion play for the average Byzantine? For the average family, Orthodox Christianity was observed on holidays and through traditions such as births, baptisms, marriages, and funerals, but for women, piety was held in the utmost regard. Lives of female saints, both real and fictitious, were read by all as instructions on how to live as a devout Orthodox Christian. However for women, extreme religious zealotry was regarded as a most important virtue, and one of the highest compliments a woman could receive is on her religious devotion. In Byzantine family life, religion was the thread that held society together. The elderly and exiled spent their years in monasteries, and great orations were spoken at funerals in praise of the dead. Michael Psellos’s Encomium for his mother extols her virtues and what a reverent woman she was. In Kaldellis’s book Mothers and Sons, Fathers and Daughters, he states the Encomium “effectively canonizes Psellos’s mother… [pronouncing] her both a saint and a martyr” (33). In his speech, Psellos illustrates the extreme virtuosity of his mother, saying “the majority of people feared her and held her in awe, but even her parents…revered her and regarded her as a living law” (66). Virtue was the most important trait for a woman to have, for
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her beauty, personality, and entire character revolved around it. Psellos describes his mother
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paper 2 for classics - Alexandra Williams Kaldellis...

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