Back to Byzantium: Translation, Legitimacy, and Worlding on the Byzantine Frontier


Sergio La Porta
California State University, Fresno

In the eleventh century, a monk named Grigor from the monastery of St. Step‘anos Ulnec‘i, located in the area between the Sarus and Pyramus Rivers, later known as Zeitun, was disconcerted that he was unable to find a life of the saint or an account of his and his companions’ martyrology in the monastery. Grigor traveled to two Greek monasteries on the Black Mountain and eventually to Constantinople in search of a copy of the vita of St. Step‘anos. With the help of a priest in the imperial capital, Grigor succeeded to find and translate the martyrology of St. Step‘anos and bring it back to his monastic community. This talk will explore the cultural and political significance of Grigor’s search for the martyrology and of his translation of the text which centrally positioned the monastery of St. Step‘anos within larger Mediterranean networks and legitimized its status as a local pilgrimage site.

Sergio La Porta is the Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies and Interim Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at California State University, Fresno. His research interests include medieval Armenian intellectual and social history, philology, and apocalyptic literature. In addition to publishing a study on Armenian commentaries on the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, he has co-edited with B. Crostini, Negotiating Co-existence: Communities, Cultures and ‘Convivencia’ in Byzantine Society, and a volume with K. Bardakjian entitled, The Armenian Apocalyptic Tradition: A Comparative Perspective. Dr. La Porta served as the Editor of the Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies from 2011 to 2019, and co-founded the Fresno Institute for Classical Armenian Translation with Dr. Michael Pifer in 2018.

Ms. W.539, T’oros Roslin Gospels, folio 317v, portrait of John and Prochoros (The Walters Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD), Hromkla, Armenia, 1262 CE
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