Miracles and Paradoxography in Biblical Reception from Late Antiquity


This research unit is intended to host conversations between texts of biblical reception (broadly conceived) and so-called paradoxography, an ancient genre invested in cataloguing and describing what we moderns would call natural wonders. Thematically, these collections include accounts of animals, plants, rivers, or peoples and their customs. The recently renewed focus in Classics on paradoxography has demonstrated that fascination with marvels impacted many different literary productions, and may, at times, be responsible for the apparent increase in fantastic and super-human motifs in late antique literature. The research unit encourages scholars to engage with paradoxographies and related literature to study the attitudes of authors toward marvellous and paradoxical phenomena, and to reflect on their prospective literary influence. It is our contention that a basic understanding of the genre of paradoxography might in many cases be imperative to locate any miraculous story in its literary context and to put an author’s literary creativity under perspective.


Marvels, Wonders, Miracles, Paradoxography, Reception History


Monika Amsler
University of Bern

Carl Johan Berglund
Åbo Akademi University

Marion Pragt
KU Leuven

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Syracuse 2023 Call for Papers

Ethnography, Paradoxography, and Heresiology: Three Genres in Interaction

By describing what is foreign, strange, and exotic, ancient ethnographers and paradoxographers define what is ordinary, normal, and expected. The same distinction is also the impetus of the heresiological genre, which describes heresies in contrast to a prescribed orthodoxy. Thereby, it appears that heresiology takes up principles from ethnographic and paradoxographical literature in compiling catalogues of strange and aberrant customs. For the 2023 conference, we especially invite papers that explore this interaction between genres. Papers can, for instance, study descriptions of other Christian communities as foreign peoples, depictions of nonstandard liturgies as exotic customs, or angels, demons, or monsters as the instigators of heresies. Papers interacting with paradoxography in other ways are also welcome.