Les marchands et les interprètes, des hôtes comme les autres ? Quelques exemples issus des milieux syriaques (IIIe-VIe siècles)

Claire Fauchon-Claudon (ENS de Lyon)

L’objectif de ce billet est d’interroger la distinction entre hôte accueillant et hôte accueilli à travers l’étude de deux groupes de voyageurs orientaux tardo-antiques (IIIe-VIe siècles) amenés à recevoir ou à donner l’hospitalité en raison de leur activité professionnelle : les marchands et les interprètes. Ces acteurs de l’hospitalité sont parfois oubliés ou méconnus, faute de documentation ou d’intérêt de la part des Anciens qui préfèrent se concentrer sur les hôtes de marque issus des élites ou bien – dans un monde de plus en plus christianisé – sur les figures de l’apôtre, de l’évêque, du moine ou du pèlerin. Malgré tout, en filigrane, quelques portraits de marchands et d’interprètes se détachent et interrogent l’historien. À quelle figure d’hôte se rattachent ces professionnels du voyage ? Comment sont-ils considérés par les autres acteurs de l’hospitalité ? Dans quelle mesure les réseaux commerciaux, religieux et politiques se superposent-ils ? De prime abord, doit-on considérer les marchands et les interprètes comme des médiateurs de l’hospitalité et non comme des hôtes à part entière ? Enfin, quel est le rôle, pour les autres acteurs de l’hospitalité (ambassadeur, émissaire, apôtre, pèlerin, saint…), des contacts directs établis en amont par ces catégories de voyageurs ?

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The Silent Voice of the Husband : Hospitality and Gender in the City of Jerusalem

Konstantin Klein (Otto Friedrich Universität Bamberg)

Francisco de Zurbarán, Hl. Hieronymus mit der Hl. Paula Romana und ihrer Tochter, Hl. Eustochium, 1638-1640, National Gallery of Art (c) domaine public

In the last months of 385, the Roman noblewoman Paula boarded a ship at Ostia and sailed first to Cyprus and then to Antioch, from where she continued her journey on to the Holy Land. She would not see her home city of Rome ever again. Her daughter Julia Eustochium was on board with her. Her other children, Paulina, Rufina, and Julius Toxotius stayed behind at the quay. Neither Rufina’s tears nor Toxotius’ little hand reaching out for his mother could move Paula to reconsider her departure : Her love towards God, as her spiritual advisor Jerome wrote, was greater than that towards her children (pietatem in filios pietate in Deum superans)1. It seems that the cooling of Paula’s motherly affections, as described by Jerome, was nothing untypical for aristocratic female ascetics in Late Antiquity : The negligence of parental duties as well as the separation from or the resolving of family bonds appear as recurring themes in the lives of those Roman noblewomen of the fourth and fifth century who left their ancestral homes in order to start a new life in the Holy Land. Paula of Rome, who together with Jerome founded monasteries and hospitals in Bethlehem is just one example. Her contemporary, Melania the Elder had demonstrated a similar self-controlled attitude when breaking off her family bonds in Rome for a higher, religious aim in Jerusalem. Her relative, Paulinus of Nola tried to justify Melania abandoning her son in the early 370s by styling this act as a blessing: “She gave her child love by abandoning him and kept him with her by sending him away2.”

Jerome’s description of Paula’s departure to new pastures and Paulinus’ justification of Melania’s lack of motherly qualities serve as a good starting point to explore the phenomenon on which I would like to touch in this short communication : Both women acted in ways that would have required an explanation for anyone living in the Roman Empire only one century earlier. For a Roman noblewoman of High-Imperial times, both Paula and Melania were not fulfilling gender roles that had been valid for centuries, and it therefore seems worth asking what role gender played in the larger topic of hospitality in the late antique Holy Land. In order to shed light on this question, it is paramount to engage not only with the literary sources praising the Christian deeds of these women, but also to contrast these rather extraordinary examples with what we can only assume to have been the ‘normal’ case: For this, the epigraphic evidence from Jerusalem and its surroundings is highly important. While I will conclude this communication with a short outlook on this material, I have to apologise in advance that the final considerations are very much work in progress. Before we cast a look at the role of gender (and, as we shall see, modesty), it is necessary to give a brief outline of the phenomenon of pilgrimage hospitality in the Holy Land in general.

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  1. Hier., ep. 108,6, cf. Gordini 1961:90–92, and, on the literary motif of holy women renouncing their children and being ‘bad mothers,’ Giardina 2001:193–194. []
  2. Paul. Nol., ep. 29,9. []

Accommodating Female Pilgrims in the Late Antique Holy Land

Marlena Whiting (University of Amsterdam)

From as early as the fourth or fifth centuries AD, we can name as many as a dozen women who undertook pilgrimage to the holy sites of Palestine and Egypt – and can make note of the dozens more nameless ones who are mentioned in the saints’ lives of the times. It is far from surprising that pilgrimage became a popular form of religious expression for Christian women – journeying in search of a cure or divine intervention had been popular among women for centuries, as the fourth century BC cure lists from Epidauros in Greece demonstrate. However, it becomes clear from some objections registered by prominent Church leaders, that the religiously charged environment in which pilgrimage took place did present pious women with obstacles in their quest for their objective. These obstacles presented themselves both on the journey itself and at the destination, and were especially concerned with issues of accommodation.

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L’accueil des enfants en milieu monastique syriaque (Ve-VIIIe siècles)

Florence Jullien (CNRS, UMR 7528 “Mondes iranien et indien”)

Monastère de Mār Yoḥannon, Ṭūr ‘Abdīn. © S. de Courtois (prêt gracieux de l’auteur)

À l’instar des structures monastiques du milieu byzantin, les monastères syriaques (syro-orientaux ou syro-orthodoxes) ont été des lieux d’accueil ouverts à l’instruction des enfants et des jeunes gens. Cette tradition très ancienne a suscité un certain nombre de contraintes aux acteurs de l’hospitalité comme à ses bénéficiaires. Cela explique qu’elle ait été souvent remise en question, discutée, conspuée même, et qu’elle ait pu occasionner des réserves de la part d’une partie de la population monastique.

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The Monastic Paradox: negotiating monastic seclusion and pilgrim hospitality in the Late Antique Near East

Marlena Whiting (University of Amsterdam)

Mosaic from the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha (Heptapegon) in the Galilee (c) Elias Khamis/Manar al-Athar
Mosaic from the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha (Heptapegon) in the Galilee (c) Elias Khamis/Manar al-Athar

There is a paradox within the monastic ideal: on the one hand, monks are meant to withdraw from the world into spiritual and ascetic seclusion; on the other hand, scripture enjoins hospitality on all Christians, to emulate the model of Abraham at Mamre – “for in this way some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). This paradox becomes especially pronounced in the course of the fourth and fifth centuries AD, as monastic communities become custodians of the increasingly popular pilgrim shrines in the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Near East. Some practitioners took this paradox to extremes, such as the stylite saints, who maintained a highly visible seclusion while at the same dispensing advice and blessings to large numbers of visitors. Historical texts, such as saints’ lives or pilgrim accounts, describe the tensions that arise from the paradox. Below I explore the scriptural and pious models for hospitality and charity, and the resulting conflict between monastic seclusion and pilgrim hospitality as described in the sources. I will also look at issues such as different levels of access to public and private space, differentiation between monastic and lay guests, and differentiation by gender.

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