That the Life of St Pankratios of Taormina has only attracted the attention of an editor some thirteen centuries after its composition is perhaps not surprising in view of its inordinate length and the verbosity and repetitiveness of the narrative in which the few episodes of interest are embedded, but it is nevertheless regrettable, given the considerable interest the text has for the Byzantinist.
The Life of St Pankratios was known to scholars as early as the seventeenth century through the efforts of Gaetani, who summarized it in his Vitae Sanctorum Siculorum (1657). The seminal modern study is that of Veselovskii (1896), which remains the most comprehensive study of the work. More recently, Patlagean (1964) has published an important, if controversial article which offers an analysis of our text, and Van Esbroeck and Zanetti (1988) have made an important study of it. A number of other scholars have commented on individual aspects of the Life, but have not given consideration to the work as a whole.
An editio princeps usually needs no apology. In the case of the Life of St Pankratios, the publication of an edition is certainly justified. It is a product of a critical period of Sicilian history, within which it provides us with evidence from a local perspective concerning a considerable range of subjects. It is not, however, an historical text, and its value as a source needs to be assessed in the light of an understanding of the nature and peculiar qualities of the text as a whole. If the Life of St Pankratios is to take its place in discussions of novelistic hagiography and the Byzantine understanding of the past, a complete text needs to be available. The study of the fate of the text, as reflected in the manuscript tradition and in its use by later authors, extends our knowledge of Sicilian and iconodule literary history. Finally, a critical edition of the Greek text is essential for the study of the Old Slavonic and Georgian translations.
As this is the editio princeps, I have addressed myself mainly to the basic problems of establishing the textual tradition, the date and the provenance of the text, and in addition have attempted to comment briefly on some of the significant aspects of the Life, while realizing that many solutions to the text’s problems remain undiscovered.
I have many acknowledgments to make. The present edition began as a D. Phil. thesis at Oxford. I was privileged to have Prof. Cyril Mango as my supervisor, and owe him the greatest gratitude for his direction of my research on this ‘very mysterious text’. In the course of two years spent at Harvard, I benefited greatly from the advice and breadth of scholarship of Prof. Ihor Ševčenko. The examiners of the thesis, Prof. Robert Browning and Dr Sebastian Brock, both offered helpful criticism. The thesis was written during the tenure of scholarships from the University of Melbourne, a Junior Fellowship of the Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies and a Visiting Fellowship at Harvard University. Support for travel and research has come from the University of Oxford, the Craven Fund, Balliol College and the University of Melbourne. Microfilms of manuscripts were supplied by the relevant libraries and by the Patriarchal Institute in Thessalonica and the Istituta per la Patologia del Libro, Rome. A number of Byzantinists and experts in other fields have contributed help and advice, in particular, Dr Mary Cunningham, Dr Jeffrey Featherstone, Dr Sophia Georgiopoulou, Prof. H.L. Kessler, Dr Marlia Mango, Dr Margaret Mullett, Princess Elizabeth Obolensky, Prof. Salvatore Pricoco, Mrs Margaret Riddle, Dr Nancy Ševčenko, Miss Janise Sibly, Fr. Michel van Esbroeck, S.J., Prof. Vera von Falkenhausen, Dr Mary Whitby and Dr Michael Whitby, and Mrs Susan Hockey and Mrs Catherine Griffin of the Oxford University Computing Service. Dr Ken McKay selflessly offered his superb philological expertise and saved me from innumerable errors by correcting my final draft. John Burke has given invaluable help with the computer, and I would like to thank the editorial board of AABS, Dr Brian Croke, Elizabeth Jeffreys, Dr Ann Moffatt, and Mr Roger Scott for their contribution to bringing this project to fruition. My final acknowledgement is of my family, especially my father and mother, who have always encouraged my work, my husband Nicholas, who has shown great forbearance and created precious time for me, and my daughters Caterina and Eugenia, whose births occasioned the leave from teaching responsibilities which enabled me to complete the translation.
University of Melbourne