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date: 17 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

A large body of literature survives from the early Christian period, devoted first to accounts of martyrdom suffered on behalf of the emerging religion and then to lives of exemplary Christian witness. They appeared in every language of the early Christian period, establishing literary traditions that flourished throughout the medieval and Byzantine periods, and even today. These texts have an importance for early Christian studies separate from their role in the cult of saints, and their study has its own scholarly issues. This article addresses these literary concerns, rather than those related to the cult of saints. ‘Hagiography’ is an umbrella term covering writings about holy persons. By the Middle Ages, it was a particular literary form: the ‘Life’, or vita, of a saint, distinct from the martyr's ‘passion’, the account of a martyr's suffering death.

Keywords: martyr passions, saints' lives, martyrdom, early Christian period, hagiography

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