Chapter

Making Sense of Tradition: Regendering Legendary Narratives

in The Perfect Servant

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2004 | ISBN: 9780226720159
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226720166 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226720166.003.0005
Making Sense of Tradition: Regendering Legendary Narratives

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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This chapter discusses Daniel, who was one of Byzantium's biblical heroes and a eunuch, and explores the assumption that the eunuch, as a distinctively gendered individual, became a normal part of Byzantine society. It illustrates how Byzantine culture rewrote the legends and stories about some of its most important figures—the prophet Daniel and the emperors Justinian and Constantine. Daniel was regarded as one of the precursors of Christ himself and was one of the most important figures in Greek Orthodoxy. Constantine and Justinian were the great leaders who founded, organized, and sustained the Byzantine Empire and whose achievements were legendary. The reconfiguration of Daniel and the invention of eunuch servants and agents for Justinian and Constantine tell us a great deal about both the court and about gender assumptions in middle-period Byzantium. The invented court eunuch, an intimate servant and advisor of the emperor is indicative of the growing distance between the emperor, with his semimagical or spiritual power, and the empire over which he ruled. The eunuch himself was highly placed, constructive, and an essential mediator between the emperor and the ordinary world that the emperor wished to reshape.

Keywords: Daniel; legendary narratives; Biblical heroes; Byzantine society; Constantine; Justinian

Chapter.  9191 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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