At first sight, Byzantine chapter collections appear to lack any thematic coherence. An observation that tends to be accepted by the scarce secondary literature on this topic. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that learned Byzantines limited themselves to jotting down short paragraphs in random order. In this paper, I will take a closer look at the ‘Capita Gnostica’ of Maximus the Confessor, a collection of 100 philosophical and theological chapters. I will argue that the dialectic between pleasure/ἡδονή and pain/ὀδύνη seems to serve as a structuring leitmotiv.
‘Flowers,’ according to such medical tracts as Hildegard of Bingen’s ‘Causes and Cures’, refers to women’s menses, a natural event indicating sound health and fertility, yet also occasioning pleasure and pain. This study juxtaposes representations in stories, treatises and records, iconography, and other sources to exemplify how and why menstrual health forms a significant theme not only for secular nubile girls and mature women but also for those vowed to chastity. In these representations, the pleasure of lovemaking or confirming womanly fertility may be celebrated, but coitus, pregnancy, and childbirth may also conflict with a secular or religious community’s expectations.
In this paper, we present the different expressions of hedone – pleasure (physical, social, cultural, and spiritual), which are recorded in the 10-volumed Menologii (Lives of Saints) which were written by St Symeon the ‘Translator’ in the 10th century AD. We selected examples, we investigate the main sources from which the author drew his material in order to state the data and we examine if these statements reflect the social reality and contribute to the understanding of the religious-cultural customs and traditions of that era. We also present the main expressions of ‘odyne’ (grief, sorrow, pain – social, carnal, or spiritual), which is often related to the hedone (pleasure), as St Maxim the Confessor declares.