The Seven Sages at Sea

Framed Narrative Systems in the Pre-Modern Mediterranean

In: Philological Encounters
Karla Mallette University of Michigan

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This essay studies the transmission of framed narratives in the medieval Mediterranean, focusing on a narrative tradition that was at once immensely popular, particularly complex, and poorly documented: the Seven Sages of Rome (known as the Book of Sindbad in the Eastern Mediterranean). Using the scholarship of political geographers and political scientists on territoriality, frontiers, and the ‘New Medievalism,’ and two theories borrowed from mathematics—fuzzy sets and game theory, the essay examines one story from the Seven Sages in particular: the last tale told in the western versions of the work, known as ‘Vaticinium.’ The essay contributes to the development of a scholarly methodology able to describe transmission histories so complex that previous philological studies have had difficulty accounting for them in their entirety.

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