In Her Own Words: The Life and Poetry of Aelia Eudocia

  Sowers, Brian P. 2020. In Her Own Words: The Life and Poetry of Aelia Eudocia. Hellenic Studies Series 80. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

2. The Homeric Cento: Paraphrasing the Bible

Eudocia is better known for her Homeric cento than for her Antiochene euergetism or her ekphrastic poem from Hammat Gader. This chapter examines Eudocia’s Homeric cento alongside her prefatory poem that explains how and why she paraphrased the Bible with lines from the Iliad and Odyssey . After briefly introducing centos as a poetic form, I contextualize Eudocia’s poetic agenda against those of Faltonia Betitia Proba and Decimus Magnus Ausonius. Proba’s preface to her Vergilian cento and Ausonius’ prefatory letter to his Cento Nuptialis provide contrasting perspectives about cento aesthetics and the literary communities interested in reading and writing them. Frequently treated as the ancient model for the ideal(ized) cento, Ausonius’ paratextual epistle is particularly constructive to read against Eudocia’s preface and the Christian cento tradition. Because the Homeric biblical centos have a convoluted textual history, including four different recensions and multiple manuscript traditions, this chapter focuses primarily on Eudocia’s paratextual reflections on redacting a cento. It concludes with a reading of a single episode from Eudocia’s cento that illustrates how she critically interpreted the Bible by paraphrasing it.
A cento is a patchwork poem composed of reconstituted whole or half lines from a preexisting poet, typically Homer or Vergil. While there are early “proto-centos” from the classical period, most centos date to late antiquity, a period characterized by textual literariness, a “relationship with the written word.” [ 1 ] As a result of its inherent dynamism, late antique literature, including centos, crosses traditional generic boundaries, both in form and function. Metrically epic, Vergilian and Homeric centos frequently blur these lines—epic epithalamia, gospel epics, epic tragedies, tragic gospels, and mythological epyllia all survive. Of the sixteen extant Latin centos, four are Christian in content, while the remaining twelve cover a wide range of non-religious topics, from Greco-Roman mythology to baking bread. [ 2 ] Fewer Greek centos survive. In addition to the longer Christian centos associated with Eudocia, most Greek centos are found in the Palatine Anthology or within earlier literature. [ 3 ] Cento poets were as geographically diverse as their subject matter; Gaul, Italy, Constantinople, and North Africa all produced at least one. This geographical diversity suggests that the appeal of centos was not limited to isolated parts of the Mediterranean.
Several decades ago, scholars treated centos as relatively obscure—unknown, unread, and unappreciated, little more than parlor tricks. [ 4 ] For that reason, centos and cento poets were cited as representative examples of cultural decadence or decline, popular contemporary models for late antiquity in general. Within the past few decades, however, classical scholars have engaged postmodern theories that have helped develop critical methodologies less focused on poetic aesthetics. These emerging methodologies, particularly useful when studying late antique literature, have resulted in a proliferation of scholarship on Greek and Latin centos. [ 5 ] Only within the past twenty years, two dozen critical editions and monographs on cento poetry have been published by Italian, French, German, Spanish, and Anglophone authors. [ 6 ] To date, most scholarly attention has focused on producing critical editions, translations, and analyses about cento compositional techniques, along with several studies on individual centos or cento “traditions,” such as secular or Christian centos. [ 7 ]
Of this scholarship, Scott McGill’s Virgil Recomposed: The Mythological and Secular Centos in Antiquity marks a watershed moment. In McGill’s view, the particular appeal of centos lies in their intrinsic allusiveness, which he situates within the Latin ludic tradition. [ 8 ] Taking a slightly different approach, Karla Pollmann identifies two overarching yet divergent types of centos: serious (exegetical) ones, such as the Christian biblical paraphrases written by Proba and Eudocia, and parodic ones, such as Ausonius’ Cento Nuptialis . [ 9 ] Seeing this use of “parodic” as indistinct, Marco Formisano and Christiana Sogno define parody as the process of recontextualizing an “object so as to make it serve tasks contrary to its original tasks.” [ 10 ] Therefore, by the very nature of its composition, every cento, regardless of content, is parodic. Formisano and Sogno’s use of parody to describe a cento’s composition unifies seemingly disparate poems (serious and ludic, Christian and pagan), an approach that frees modern readers to appreciate each cento within the context of its author’s literary aims.
One unanswered, perhaps unanswerable, question about cento poetics is how readers should resolve a cento’s “intertextual overload,” inevitable with any poem literally composed out of another author’s words. [ 11 ] Working within this unlimited allusive potential, modern interpreters invariably select lines or hemistiches they deem most interesting or useful. Selection is akin to interpretation, and modern cento scholars, who readily admit that their analysis cannot be exhaustive, are restricted by their own selectivity. As a result, many interpretations highlight fruitful and obvious allusions, at the expense of those less obvious or relevant, and spoliate the centos as much as centos themselves spoliate the classical past. [ 12 ] Exploring every potential allusion, while possible, risks obscuring more than clarifying. Reading centos, therefore, becomes a delicate balancing act to find the sweet spot between their intertextual limitlessness and limitations.

Proba and the Christian Cento Tradition

Eudocia certainly was not the first to use the cento form to paraphrase the Bible. In addition to having in hand the Homeric cento written by Patricius, which she essentially rewrites, Eudocia also had a Latin model in the Vergilian cento of Faltonia Betitia Proba. [ 13 ] Little is known about Proba or her poetry beyond her Vergilian cento, a 694-line paraphrase of select scenes from Genesis (creation and fall) and the Gospels (Jesus’ birth, ministry, execution, and resurrection). [ 14 ] Her overall literary agenda can be deduced from paratextual remarks within the cento itself, especially in her preface ( Cento 1–23), where she apologizes for the graphic and violent content of her previous epics. [ 15 ] This recusatio serves double duty as a captatio benevolentiae and situates Proba’s cento within her late antique milieu. [ 16 ] For instance, by gesturing to Lucan ( Civil War 1.225) within her apology, Proba rhetorically distances her cento from Roman political or heroic epic and, through her allusively charged preface, rejects imperial violence and embraces religious peace ( Cento 9–12). [ 17 ]
To give her poem a definitively Christian quality, Proba invokes God and asks him to receive her divine poem. [ 18 ] As addressee of and inspiration for her cento, God replaces the classical Muse, a substitution that transforms the cento into a sacred hymn sung in praise of the pious feats of Christ ( pia munera Christi ). [ 19 ] Proba here follows an emerging Christian epic tradition begun by Juvencus, the first Latin poet to paraphrase the Bible in epic meter. [ 20 ] Early Christian poetry’s dependence on the classical epic tradition belies Proba and Juvencus’ rhetorical posture against it. The influence of Vergil and other epic poets on Juvencus is well attested, and literally every line of Proba’s poem derives from and points back to the very tradition she explicitly rejects. [ 21 ] That being said, both Proba and Juvencus mark for their readers that their poems will be different.
These attempts to rhetorically distance herself from the secular epic tradition notwithstanding, Proba admits that her cento fuses Vergil with new, biblical content. [ 22 ] As poet-prophet ( vatis ), Proba is divinely inspired to perform the cento and reveal mysteries ( arcana ), yet Vergil also actively participates in the performance ( vergilium cecinisse loquar pia munera Christi ). [ 23 ] The cento, along with its message, here becomes a duet sung by both Proba and Vergil, centuries removed and with unequal airtime. [ 24 ] Within the remainder of the preface ( Cento 24–55), the repetition of first-person singular markers foregrounds Proba as soloist and seemingly relegates Vergil to backup singer, although the increased use of Vergilian lines gives him the loudest voice. By the end of the preface, we are firmly in the world of cento poetry, with every line of Proba’s prophetic song coming directly from Vergil’s mouth. This performative duet underscores the intersection between cento and source text. For Proba, cento poetics is not intertextually neutral—her source text and its original author are inextricably bound to her new product, no matter how divinely inspired or focused on peace and love she claims it to be. [ 25 ]
The wider Christian community more generally had mixed reactions to Proba’s poem and centos. In his epistle to Paulinus of Nola, Jerome lists cento poets as an example of irresponsible biblical exegetes. [ 26 ] Jerome’s concern over proper biblical exegesis and his use of centos within that discussion are part of a long-standing Christian tradition found also in Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (1.9.4). [ 27 ] Unlike Irenaeus, who cites a previously unattested Homeric cento on Heracles, Jerome’s example, both its original Vergilian lines and its new biblical contexts, identically correspond to Proba’s cento and strongly suggest that he has her in mind, without explicitly naming her. [ 28 ] Influenced by the polemical writings of Irenaeus and Jerome, among others, the late antique and medieval church generally viewed centos with suspicion, which in turn influenced their modern reception. On the other hand, Proba and the Christian Vergilian cento tradition provided Eudocia with a pre-existing conceptual framework around issues of divine inspiration and the cento poet’s relationship with the classical past. It is within a slightly modified version of this conceptual framework that Eudocia situates her (and Patricius’) cento.

Ausonius and the Cento Legacy

In addition to being influenced by the Christian cento tradition, Eudocia’s reflections on cento aesthetics and compositional techniques evince an awareness of other ancient metaliterary theories on writing centos, especially Decimus Magnus Ausonius’ preface to the Cento Nuptialis (hereafter the PCN ), which, in my view, complements Eudocia’s explicit metapoetic agenda. Ausonius’ literary corpus is as diverse as his various careers—he served as grammarian in Bordeaux, imperial tutor to the young Gratian, and held imperial posts, even rising to the consulship in 379 CE. [ 29 ] Among his poems is the Cento Nuptialis , a 131-line Vergilian epithalamic cento introduced by a lengthy prefatory epistle, through which, as is his habit, Ausonius commissions a trusted friend with the task of critically evaluating his newest poem. He also wrote a prose digression that precedes the cento’s sexually explicit conclusion, as well as a prose postscript to preemptively defend himself from the charge of sexual impropriety. Because the PCN contains the most complete ancient discussion of cento poetics, it has been used from the time of Erasmus as a type of cento primer. [ 30 ] In my view, because Ausonius’ prefaces, including the PCN , advance his immediate literary agenda and are not primarily guides for aspiring poets, modern readers are cautioned about over-extrapolating details within them. On the other hand, since Eudocia echoes cento aesthetics expressed in the PCN , the comparison of Eudocia and Ausonius, despite their obvious differences, is constructive.
Ausonius’ prefaces often take the form of epistolary communications to amici , with whom he shares his newest works. [ 31 ] From the surviving prefaces and epistles, a pattern emerges that suggests a carefully constructed literary etiquette shared between Ausonius and his friends. Because these prefaces elaborate on the shared responsibilities of authors and recipients, they provide valuable information about late antique literary amicitia , specifically the ways in which Ausonius’ coterie wrote, edited, and circulated their writings, often by situating their literary activities within the Roman tradition of docta studia . [ 32 ] Despite some variation, the following pattern emerges. In a letter to a trusted friend, Ausonius (1) insists that the attached poem is worthless. Nonetheless, he invites this friend (2) to read the poem and (3) to edit or to evaluate it. In a moment of lighthearted reversal, Ausonius (4) challenges his friend to join in the poetic process, either by writing a similar poem or by un-writing his poem. Of all Ausonius’ prefatory correspondences, the PCN adheres most closely to this pattern.
Ausonius addresses the PCN to Axius Paulus, a trusted literary friend and recipient of two poems and seven epistles. [ 33 ] Beyond his typical self-deprecations and insistence that the cento is worthless and written hastily, Ausonius claims that he only composed it because the emperor, Valentinian, compelled him. [ 34 ] While there is enough evidence to suspect that Valentinian was bookish enough to compose a cento had he wanted to, this reference about him in the PCN is likely a carefully constructed fiction. [ 35 ] Ausonius frequently invents poetic contexts that wrong-foot his addressees or himself and reinforce the ludic persona that he wears and forces members of his coterie to wear in turn. [ 36 ] In this metaliterary fiction, Ausonius expresses anxiety about being publicly challenged to a poetic competition by Valentinian. As client to the imperial family and court poet, he depends on Valentinian’s support. He must, therefore, accept the challenge and perform well, but not so well that he upstages Valentinian or offends him. [ 37 ]
Ausonius is also aware of the critical gaze of the imperial court—the anonymous others ( aliorum ) present for his performance. He mentions elsewhere that drinking parties, social gatherings, and getaways to country villas provide ideal occasions for composing and reciting ludic poetry. [ 38 ] Such recitations may include playful banter and agonistic ribbing among friends, but only friends within his carefully curated literary circle. The hostile terms that Ausonius uses for the unknown judges in the PCN position them outside his coterie, trusted to provide supportive critiques of preliminary drafts of his poems. As outsiders, the unpredictable and uncontrollable reactions of these hostile onlookers elicit further anxiety. [ 39 ] In this regard, Ausonius constructs his idealized literary community on models advanced by Pliny the Younger and other imperial literary elites. [ 40 ]
Despite repeatedly insisting that he is an ill-equipped teacher and novice cento poet, Ausonius spends over half of the PCN outlining in detail the compositional rules and aesthetics of writing centos. Above all, he insists, an ideal cento draws from various Vergilian contexts and joins two half-lines into a single line or joins a hemistich with one-and-a-half consecutive lines into two lines. [ 41 ] Half-lines refer to line segments, divided at all epic caesurae. Using two consecutive lines marks an inferior cento, while using three is utterly ridiculous ( merae nugae ). [ 42 ] Although Ausonius never explicitly permits cento poets to use single whole lines, the practice was evidently quite common: 37 percent of the Cento Nuptialis and 28 percent of Vergilian centos consist of non-sequential, whole Virgilian lines. [ 43 ]
Throughout the PCN , Ausonius describes centos as a game, a ludus . The force of this ludic language is two-fold. On the one hand, as ludus, the cento fits within Ausonius’ wider poetic persona as ludic poet, a gesture to the golden age of Latin poetry, particularly that of Catullus, Horace, and Ovid. [ 44 ] On the other hand, Ausonius applies this ludic imagery to the method of composing centos, especially when he compares centos to a geometric puzzle designed by Archimedes, the stomachion . [ 45 ] According to Ausonius, a regulation stomachion set consists of fourteen bones of fourteen different geometric shapes re-arranged into various shapes, ranging from elephants to tankards. Similar to the stomachion player, Ausonius has rearranged Vergil’s lines to create an epithalamium that, if composed well, does not reveal its constituent pieces. [ 46 ] In other words, accomplished cento poets so adroitly depict an epithalamic Vergil or Homeric Jesus that their audiences forget that they are reading lines from Homer or Vergil, just as one sees an elephant in the stomachion and forgets that it is built from individual bones.
Ausonius insists that the challenge inherent to composing poems from isolated line segments is to conceal their seams, joints, and original Vergilian contexts. While this objective may be attractive in theory, it is impossible in practice, especially within a literary culture that prioritized memorizing the “best authors,” particularly Homer and Vergil. [ 47 ] In fact, its intertextual engagement with well-known texts is part of a cento’s appeal, similar to other late antique paraphrases and epitomes. [ 48 ] To appreciate its hyper-allusiveness, a cento’s ideal audience must have been equally learned, “full-knowing readers” adept at recognizing the “intertextual noddings, winks, and gestures” literally built into every line on the page. [ 49 ]

Eudocia’s Homeric Cento

This brief treatment of Proba and Ausonius’ paratextual comments about their centos anchors Eudocia’s cento within its wider context and allows us to contrast her poetic agenda with theirs. What sets Eudocia’s cento apart from theirs is the convoluted nature of the Homeric centos. In her verse preface, Eudocia claims that she received and edited a preexisting cento, and we know that this revised cento was redacted at least twice in the following centuries. [ 50 ] The Homeric cento manuscript tradition reflects these multiple redactions, resulting in at least three surviving versions. [ 51 ] The longest version is 2,354 lines and is attributed to Eudocia. [ 52 ] The second version is 1,948 lines, whereas the third version, itself revised three times, is 622, 653, and 738 lines. [ 53 ] Because Rocco Schembra carefully isolates these individual redaction moments, I use his editions. [ 54 ] In this section, I focus on Eudocia’s surviving paratextual comments, which allow us to set her literary agenda and cento aesthetics against those of Proba and Ausonius. In the final section of this chapter, I provide a reading of one episode from her cento that illustrates how Eudocia exegetically paraphrases the biblical text with Homer’s words.
As was popular in late antiquity, Eudocia introduces her cento with a preface, in this case a thirty-eight-line hexameter poem that contextualizes her project within the decision to revise Patricius’ Christian cento. Eudocia also sketches her aesthetics for the ideal cento and apologizes for her own poetic deficiencies: [ 55 ]

        ἥδε μὲν ἱστορίη θεοτερπέος ἐστὶν ἀοιδῆς.
        Πατρίκιος δ᾽, ὃς τήνδε σοφῶς ἀνεγράψατο βίβλον,
        ἔστι μὲν ἀενάοιο διαμπερὲς ἄξιος αἴνου,
        οὕνεκα δὴ πάμπρωτος ἐμήσατο κύδιμον ἔργον.
5      ἀλλ᾽ ἔμπης οὐ πάγχυ ἐτήτυμα πάντ᾽ ἀγόρευεν·
        οὐδὲ μὲν ἁρμονίην ἐπέων ἐφύλαξεν ἅπασαν,
        οὐδὲ μόνων ἐπέων ἐμνήσατο κεῖνος ἀείδων,
        ὁππόσα χάλκεον ἦτορ ἀμεμφέος εἶπεν Ὁμήρου.

        ἀλλ᾽ ἐγὼ ἡμιτέλεστον ἀγακλεὲς ὡς ἴδον ἔργον
10    Πατρικίου, σελίδας ἱερὰς μετὰ χεῖρα λαβοῦσα,
        ὅσσα μὲν ἐν βίβλοισιν ἔπη πέλεν οὐ κατὰ κόσμον,
        πάντ᾽ ἄμυδις κείνοιο σοφῆς ἐξείρυσα βίβλου·
        ὅσσα δ᾽ ἐκεῖνος ἔλειπεν, ἐγὼ πάλιν ἐν σελίδεσσι
        γράψα καὶ ἁρμονίην ἱεροῖς ἐπέεσσιν ἔδωκα.

15    εἰ δέ τις αἰτιόῳτο καὶ ἡμέας ἐς ψόγον ἕλκοι,
        δοιάδες οὕνεκα πολλαὶ ἀρίζηλον κατὰ βίβλον
        εἰσὶν Ὁμηρείων τ᾽ ἐπέων πόλλ᾿ οὐ θέμις ἐστίν,
        ἴστω τοῦθ᾽, ὅτι πάντες ὑποδρ᾽ ἠστῆρες ἀνάγκης.

        εἰ δέ τις ὑμνοπόλοιο σαόφρονα Τατιανοῖο
20    μολπὴν εἰσαΐων σφετέρην τέρψειεν ἀκουήν,
        δοιάδας οὕνεκα κεῖνος Ὁμηρείων ἀπὸ βίβλων
        οὔ ποτε συγχεύας σφετέρῃ ἐνεθήκατο δέλτῳ,
        οὐ ξένον, οὕνεκα κεῖνος Ὁμηρείης ἀπὸ μολπῆς,
        κεῖνων δ᾽ ἐξ ἐπέων σφετέρην ποίησεν ἀοιδὴν
25    Τρώων τ Ἀργείων τε κακὴν ἐνέπουσαν ἀϋτὴν,
        ὥς τε πόλιν Πριάμοιο διέπραθον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν,
        αὐτὴν Τροίαν ἔχουσαν ἐν ἀργαλέῳ τε κυδοιμῷ
        μαρναμένους αὐτούς τε θεούς, αὐτούς τε καὶ ἄνδρας,
        οὕς ποτε χαλκεόφωνος ἀνὴρ ἀΰτησεν Ὅμηρος.

30    Πατρίκιος δ᾽, ὃς τῆνδε σοφὴν ἀνεγράψατο δέλτον,
        ἀντὶ μὲν Ἀργεῖων στρατιῆς γένος εἶπεν Ἑβραίων,
        ἀντὶ δὲ δαιμονίης τε καὶ ἀντιθέοιο φάλαγγος
        ἀθανάτους ἤεισε καὶ υἱέα καὶ γενετῆρα.

        ἀλλ᾽ ἔμπης ξυνὸς μὲν ἔφυ πόνος ἀμφοτέροισι,
35    Πατρικίῳ κἀμοί καὶ θηλυτέρῃ περ ἐούσῃ·
        κεῖνος δ᾽ ἤρατο μοῦνος ἐν ἀνθρώποις μέγα κῦδος.
        ὃς πάμπρωτος ἐπήξατο κλεινὸν ἕδος γε δόμοιο
        καλὴν ἐξανάγων φήμην βροτέοιο γενέθλης.

        This is the account of a God-honoring poem.
        Patricius prudently authored this book
        and is forever worthy of eternal praise,
        because he first planned this glorious project.
5      But he did not tell everything truthfully—
        neither did he preserve the complete harmony of the verses
        nor, while singing, did he remember only verses
        sung by the brazen heart of blameless Homer.

        When I saw Patricius’ glorious yet half-finished project,
10    I took his holy pages in hand and,
        whatever verses were defective
        I ripped out of his clever book,
        and whatever he had neglected I
        wrote back into the text and gave harmony to his holy verses.

15    But if someone were to blame or censure us,
        because our remarkable book contains many double lines
        and sequential Homeric verses are not customary,
        know this—all humans are slaves to necessity.

        But if one hears the poet Tatian’s wise song
20    and his ears tingle with delight,
        because Tatian never mingled double lines
        from the Homeric texts into his book—
        which is not remarkable, since, by picking up with the Homeric song,
        Tatian made from those very verses his own ballad
25    that recounts the wretched cry of the Trojans and Argives,
        when the sons of the Achaeans destroyed the city of Priam,
        and contains Troy and, in a grievous din,
        those fighting, both the very same gods and men,
        of whom, once upon a time, the brazen-voiced man, Homer, sang…

30    But Patricius, who wrote this clever book,
        recounted the race of Hebrews instead of the Argive army.
        In lieu of the demonic and sacrilegious battle array,
        he sang about the immortal Son and Father.

        Nevertheless, this is a collaborative project by both
35    Patricius and me, despite the fact that I am a woman.
        He alone received great honor among men,
        because he first laid the illustrious foundation of the house
        by spreading the good news for the mortal race.

Throughout the preface, Eudocia contrasts the oral and written qualities of cento poetics. As a textual object, she claims to have seen (ἴδον, line 9) Patricius’ book (βίβλον, lines 2, 11, and 12; compare with lines 16 and 21), which warranted substantial revision in her estimation. Her equally textual editorial task was two-fold: to remove everything not in order and to add everything omitted. This decidedly bookish compositional and redactional process more closely resembles Ausonius’ language than Proba’s. [ 56 ] Even if Proba had composed her cento first, her paratextual remarks emphasize orality over textuality. Also similar to Ausonius, Eudocia competes with a predecessor whose work she surpasses or, at least, improves upon. To be fair, in the PCN, Valentinian orally performs his cento and Ausonius expresses anxiety over audience members present during his own recitation, whereas Eudocia competes with Patricius simply through the words on the page. From her self-perceived ability to outdo Patricius, Eudocia puts her mark on his incomplete (ἡμιτέλεστον, 9) text, which she, as redactor, has taken in hand (σελίδας ἱερὰς μετὰ χεῖρα λαβοῦσα, 10). This dependence on another poet, other than Homer and Vergil, further distinguishes Eudocia’s cento from Ausonius and Proba’s.
This final point leads to a rather remarkable rhetorical feature of Eudocia’s preface: her concern over inadvertently depriving Patricius, as progenitor of the Homeric cento, of honor. [ 57 ] Because Patricius first undertook the project, he deserves credit or, in her words, eternal fame (line 3), which she partially secures by naming him four times (in lines 2, 10, 30, and 35) while never once naming herself. [ 58 ] This emphasis on Patricius’ name is even more striking when we compare Eudocia’s preface to a surviving prose summary of his cento, which only names him once. [ 59 ] Its deficiencies notwithstanding, Eudocia describes Patricius or his cento as σοφῶς or σοφός three times (lines 2, 12, and 30). In line 12, σοφός comes at the very moment she removes lines from his poem. Reading this σοφός proleptically only further complicates similar language elsewhere and conflicts with her complimentary and deferential posture. Even when she describes their “remixed” cento as a collaborative project and willingly shares the blame for its remaining deficiencies, she insists that Patricius alone should receive credit (line 36).
Moreover, by emphasizing the performative qualities of Patricius and Tatian’s centos, Eudocia implies that late antique centos were orally and aurally experienced. Beginning in the opening line of the preface, she describes Patricius’ cento as a song (ἀοιδῆς, line 1) that he sings (ἀείδων, line 7) and orally delivers (ἀγόρευεν, line 5). His cento here mirrors the Homeric epics itself, explicitly sung by Homer (line 8), and parallels Proba’s Vergilian duet and Valentinian’s public recitation in the PCN . Additionally, Eudocia uses similar oral and textual language when she compares her cento to Tatian’s. In a moment of self-critical anxiety, Eudocia fears that her audience will be more pleased by hearing Tatian’s cento (σφετέρην τέρψειεν ἀκουήν, line 20), despite explicitly referring to his cento and the Homeric epics as textual objects (lines 21–22).
Compared to similar paratextual comments made by Ausonius and Proba, Eudocia’s blend of oral and textual imagery suggests that centos were first composed and then performed to appreciative and learned audiences during fairly predictable “reading events.” [ 60 ] Considering reading in antiquity was done aloud in certain (but not all) circumstances, Eudocia’s references to singing centos and their positive (or negative) aural effects on listeners should be balanced with her visual and material language (seeing, book, pages) as evidence for multiple, complementary reading events. [ 61 ] Given this equal emphasis on the written and spoken word and on visual and oral perception, centos were likely read/composed in private and performed in public. Such public recitations varied from large gatherings to more intimate audiences of trusted friends, comparable to those advocated by Ausonius. Smaller reading events with select friends blurred the line between vocalized reading and public recitation; such hybrid events explain why Eudocia and Ausonius describe centos as performed textual poems. Therefore, after Eudocia likely read her cento to a trusted circle of literary friends, her cento was recited during subsequent events to literati beyond her circle. In this regard, the literary etiquette of Homeric and Vergilian centos, at least in terms of composition and circulation, generally is consistent with late antique intellectual habits. [ 62 ]
Eudocia provides additional information about her idealized reading community, when she worries that her audience will unfavorably compare her cento to Tatian’s. [ 63 ] Although Tatian’s Homeric cento no longer survives, it was widely appreciated in late antiquity, as demonstrated by its inclusion by Libanius in his classroom. [ 64 ] Through her reference to Tatian, Eudocia suggests that her idealized reader is familiar with the classical greats, especially Homer, and with more recent popular works. [ 65 ] That this recent work is also a secular poem—Tatian picks up where the Iliad ends—tells us about the contours of Eudocia’s reading community and its interest in both classically and biblically themed poetry. Her engagement with Patricius’ cento and her interest in preserving his reputation as the first Christian cento poet (at least in Greek) reinforces this image of a literary circle invested in the full range of Greek poetry.
Not only is Eudocia’s ideal audience familiar with ancient and modern poets (from their perspective), classical and biblical alike, it is also familiar enough with Tatian’s cento, written about half a century earlier, to critique her poem based on their reading of his. By suspecting that her ideal readership will compare her cento with his, Eudocia projects onto them a critical engagement indistinguishable from her own, in as much as she read, critiqued, and revised Patricius’ cento. This argument assumes, of course, that Eudocia’s circle, similar to Ausonius’, shares well-defined expectations about literary criticism, including criticism of poetry composed and circulated within the coterie. Details within the preface support this image of a well-defined and critically engaged circle. For instance, when Eudocia defends her decision to revise Patricius’ cento and preemptively apologizes for potential future criticisms leveled against her own cento, she advances four distinct yet interrelated literary concerns about cento poetics: its truthfulness (line 5), its harmony (lines 6 and 14), its adherence to a source text (lines 8–9), and its use of double lines (lines 16–17). Taken collectively, these concerns reveal critical aesthetics about early Christian poetry, particularly centos, assumed by Eudocia and likely shared by her ideal audience.
The distinction between truth and falsehood, developed quite early in Greek literary criticism, was expressed rather succinctly by Pindar in Olympian 1 (lines 27–29): “Yes, wonders are many, but then too, I think, in men’s talk, stories (μῦθοι) are embellished beyond the true account (ἀληθῆ λόγον) and deceive by means of elaborate lies (ψεύδεσι).” [ 66 ] According to Pindar, yet with obvious echoes in Plato and later critics of poetry, mythology is not intrinsically deceptive, but stories embellished (δεδαιδαλμένοι) beyond a true account should be considered false. [ 67 ] In other words, poetic truth depends on carefully selecting (κρίνω) what material to include. [ 68 ] The Alexandrian librarians and ancient literary critics—named after the cognate κρίσις—exemplify this process by preserving those portions of texts that they decide are true and by omitting whatever does not pass muster. [ 69 ] Eudocia’s concern with Patricius’ honesty positions her as reader-redactor within this ancient critical tradition dating back at least to the Alexandrian library. Accordingly, she evaluates Patricius’ cento based on the amount of unsuitable or false material contained within. [ 70 ] Similar to Pindar’s esteem for unembellished μῦθοι, Eudocia takes an embellished cento and creates a more truthful account. [ 71 ]
Where exactly had Patricius gone astray? Had he included heresiological theology or episodes not found in the prose gospels available to her? While these are possibilities, Eudocia also might have simply considered certain missing episodes essential to any paraphrase of the Bible. [ 72 ] In fact, since she is thought to have modeled her cento on Proba’s, Eudocia might have added the accounts of the Creation and the Fall of Man, as well as the (non-biblical) episode in which God decides to redeem humanity through the incarnation. [ 73 ] While Proba dedicates nearly half of her cento to Genesis, Eudocia’s inclusion of some material from the Old Testament ( Cento 1–205) may be a type of gesture to Proba. Interestingly, this added material likely influenced John Milton twelve centuries later. [ 74 ]
To further complicate matters, Eudocia’s line ἐτήτυμα πάντ᾽ ἀγόρευεν echoes Odyssey 1.174 (compare with Odyssey 1.179) where Athena, disguised as Mentes, visits the young Telemachus to encourage him to leave Ithaca in search of his father. After hosting the disguised Athena, Telemachus inquires about his/her identity and his/her relationship with Odysseus. Despite her fabricated background story, Athena provides some accurate information about Odysseus, specifically that he remains alive but is unwillingly delayed on Calypso’s island. This complicated episode blends divine deception with the truth and, when read against Eudocia’s critique of Patricius’ cento, opens multiple interpretative possibilities. For instance, this allusion can undermine Eudocia’s assessment or can be a playful gesture for a learned audience expected to recognize the line’s Homeric context. On the other hand, its recognizably Homeric language may simply add rhetorical authority to Eudocia’s critical assessment or may be a veiled criticism of the deceptive Homeric gods, in contrast to the truthful Christian God. If Eudocia is being playful or ironic here, her similarity to Ausonius should not be overlooked.
Her second critique, that Patricius failed to maintain (ἐφύλαξεν) harmony (ἁρμονίην) in his verses, has more direct parallels in Ausonius’ PCN . The earliest known usages of ἁρμονία and its cognates refer to the process of combining multiple objects. [ 75 ] In the fourth century BCE, Aristotle defines ἁρμονία as a combination and composition of opposites (κρᾶσιν καὶ σύνθεσιν ἐναντίων). [ 76 ] Ausonius expresses a similar idea when he says that cento hemistiches should be seamlessly and undetectably conjoined, despite their diverse contexts ( sensus diversi ut congruant, adoptiva quae sunt ut cognata videantur ). [ 77 ] More than merely an aesthetic, this process of combining disparate and unrelated elements aptly describes cento composition. Even if Ausonius never uses the word harmony, his attempt to prevent his “densely packed pieces” from being seen suggests that harmony—κρᾶσις καὶ σύνθεσις ἐναντίων—is a constant concern.
Finally, Patricius did not limit himself to Homeric material. As mimetic songs that imitate through citation, centos are expected to use only Homer or Vergil—any elaboration or inclusion of original material deviates from its particular mode of composition. Admittedly, Ausonius never explicitly forbids the use of original lines but implies this when he describes centos as half-line or one-and-a-half-lines units. Based on the Cento Nuptialis, whose 131 lines contain no original material, Ausonius practices what Eudocia preaches. [ 78 ] Patricius, in contrast, had incorporated original material in his cento and perhaps had used biblical names. Adding biblical names would have been particularly tempting for Christian cento poets, who otherwise had to rely on Homeric/Vergilian periphrases. In Eudocia’s view, however, any non-Homeric material compromised the integrity of the entire project and needed to be removed.
Following her justification as cento critic and redactor, Eudocia apologizes for her role as cento poet. Seemingly more earnest than Ausonius with his self-deprecating dissimulations, Eudocia openly points out the flaws in her cento, particularly the presence of δοιάδες. The majority scholarly view, recently supported by Rocco Schembra, argues that δοιάδες refers to double meanings in the text. [ 79 ] Schembra even provides a few examples of such double meanings. [ 80 ] Mark Usher, in contrast, argues that δοιάδες likely refers to sequential lines, an interpretation supported by an apologetic epigraph for Eudocia’s revision, preserved in the Neapolitanus manuscript: [ 81 ]

ἀπολογία Εὐδοκίας λαμπροτάτης τῆς καὶ τὸν παρόντα ὁμηροκεντρῶνα τὸν συντεθέντα παρὰ Πατρικίου τινὸς ἐπισκόπου διορθωσαμένης, ὑπέρ τε τοῦ αὐτὸν ταύτην διορθῶσαι, καὶ ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἐν μὲν τῷ ὁμηροκεντρῶνι, ὃν Τατιανὸς ἐκ τοῦ Ὁμήρου τὰ μεθ᾽ Ὅμηρον ἔγραψε δύο στίχους ἐφεξῆς κειμένους ὁμηρικοὺς μὴ εὑρίσκεσθαι· ἐν τούτῳ δὲ πολὺ τὸ τοιοῦτον εἶναι.
This is the apology of Eudocia, the splendid woman who corrected the present Homeric cento composed by a certain bishop, Patricius; the apology is about her editing him, and about the fact that two successive Homeric lines are never found next to each other in the Homeric cento, which Tatian composed on a post-Homeric theme using verses taken from Homer; whereas, in this poem of hers, [she says] there is much of this sort of thing. [ 82 ]
According to this epigram, at least one reader of Eudocia’s preface interpreted δοιάδες as sequential lines (δύο στίχους ἐφεξῆς), an interpretation that sets Eudocia in conversation with Ausonius. Even if Eudocia did not have a copy of Ausonius’ Cento in hand, she shares his aesthetics about ideal centos. This suggests that the “rules” for composing centos found in the PCN were widely known within late antique literary circles from the Latin West to the Greek East. Of course, it is important to remember that Ausonius himself breaks his own rules on occasion. If the first recension of the Homeric centos is Eudocia’s, then her anxiety about double lines is understandable. The first recension depends heavily on sequential lines and strings together as many as seven lines in a row. [ 83 ] For modern readers more familiar with Latin centos, particularly those of Proba and Ausonius, Eudocia’s use of sequential lines gives the effect that one is reading block quotes from Homer. This proliferation of block quotes also explains why Ludwich never completed his edition of the Homeric centos. [ 84 ] On the other hand, because Eudocia is aware of this feature in her cento and apologizes for it, modern readers can appreciate how this unique compositional style adds intertextual texture, depth, and complexity to her poem.
Despite this deficiency, Eudocia also describes her co-authored cento in positive terms—a poem pleasing to God (θεοτερπέος, line 1). Like Proba’s Christianized improvement on Vergil and unlike Ausonius’ ludic debasement of Vergil, Eudocia adopts an austere and reverent approach that she assumes is shared by her ideal audience. More than a poetic tour de force or parlor game to entertain fellow literary elites, her cento is godly entertainment, in that it both honors God and is inspired by God. Its Christian content makes the cento doubly deserving. Instead of rehashing the Trojan War—the very material that Tatian covered—Patricius selects honorable topics: the Hebrew people, God, and his Son. As a versified Bible, the cento becomes, at least partially, divinely inspired and its pages holy (ἱεράς, lines 10 and 14). Unlike Proba’s preface and the wider tradition associated with her cento that foreground Vergil’s active role, Eudocia emphasizes how biblical her cento is. [ 85 ] On the other hand, Eudocia and Proba distance their poems from the violence of war and heroic epic more generally. As a result, Homer recedes into the background of Eudocia’s paratextual remarks, while a heavenly afterlife emerges to the foreground. That eternity is at stake is evident when she bestows everlasting praise on Patricius’ poem (line 3). This claim further blurs the line between Bible and cento and more subtly secures Patricius’ (and, by association, Eudocia’s) place in heaven. [ 86 ] Undoubtedly hyperbolic, this eternal imagery underscores the stark contrast in the literary aims of biblical and secular cento poets, their shared aesthetics and methods of composition notwithstanding.
Eudocia’s interest in paraphrasing the Bible with Homer’s words has broader theological implications beyond her concern with Trinitarian-sounding topics (Son and Father, line 33). On the one hand, a versified Bible necessitates some deviation from its biblical source, regardless of her claims as paraphrast. Homeric paraphrases, including biblical centos, are intertextually complex and exegetically rich poems; their intentional blending of biblical and Homeric ideas necessarily diverges from the rather strict vocabulary of fifth-century orthodox theology. [ 87 ] Moreover, considering its overabundance of sequential Homeric lines that further conflate biblical and epic passages, Eudocia’s cento produces hybrid characters, first and foremost a Homeric Jesus.
In his treatment of the Life and Miracles of Thecla , a late antique paraphrastic expansion of the second-century Acts of Paul and Thecla , Scott Johnson suggests that rewriting and revising preexisting narratives was one early Christian strategy to alleviate potentially complicated theological issues and to curb rival, frequently heretical, theologies. [ 88 ] Although theological concerns are evident in the Homeric cento, particularly in those sections that emphasize Jesus’ dual, divine-human nature, it is not explicitly or primarily anti-heretical. Rather, by retelling a pre-existing story in new and relevant ways, what Johnson calls a “backward looking forward,” Eudocia “consolidates the past and reinterprets it for a contemporary culture and literary concerns.” [ 89 ] The rigid poetic form inherent to centos makes them a unique method of “backward looking forward.” [ 90 ] Each interpretation, rereading, and misreading—inevitable in any paraphrase—equally influences the new telling, as well as the original version. What sets centos apart from other late antique paraphrases, including The Life and Miracles of Thecla, The Acts of Peter , and the Codex Bezae manuscript of the book of Acts , is the role of ἀνάγκη (line 18). Its unique manner of composition compels the cento poet to engage both texts (Homer and the Bible) with a high degree of interpretational freedom. As a result, Homer or Vergil always lurks in the cento’s shadows, eager to assist or hinder in countless ways.
This intertextual overload necessitates active readers who must make sense of a cento’s two-fold Homeric and biblical allusiveness to understand not only the cento itself but also its source text(s). [ 91 ] In other words, Eudocia’s Homeric Jesus has the allusive potential to simultaneously affect one’s interpretation of her cento, the Homeric epics, and the Bible. This allusive double/triple duty takes on a proselytizing tone, implied when Patricius is described as the one who “brings forth good news for the mortal race” (line 38) but made more explicit in the cento’s opening lines:

Κέκλυτε, μυρία φῦλα περικτιόνων ἀνθρώπων,
ὅσσοι νῦν βροτοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες,
ἠμὲν ὅσοι ναίουσι πρὸς ἠῶ τ᾽ ἠέλιόν τε
ἠδ᾽ ὅσσοι μετόπισθε ποτὶ ζόφον ἠερόεντα,
ὄφρ᾽ εὖ γινώσκοιτ᾽ ἠμὲν θεὸν ἠδὲ καὶ ἄνδρα,
ὃς πᾶσι θνητοῖσι καὶ ἀθανάτοισιν ἀνάσσων.

Listen, you countless races of world-wide humans,
as many mortals as are now eating grain upon the earth,
as many as dwell facing the dawn and sun,
and as many as dwell on the other side facing the western shade,
so that you may know him who is God and man,
who rules over all mortals and immortals.

The cento’s persuasive aim is clear: proper engagement with it results in knowledge of the one who is God and man (θεὸν ἠδὲ καὶ ἄνδρα). A recurring circumlocution for Jesus in the cento, θεὸν ἠδὲ καὶ ἄνδρα, is the closest Homeric clause to express Jesus’ dual nature, a theological matter of great concern in the fifth century. On the other hand, because it does not specify Jesus’ humanity and divinity, θεὸν ἠδὲ καὶ ἄνδρα is equally ambiguous and can be reconciled in competing Trinitarian factions, without explicitly offending any. Eudocia carefully situates her cento within the context of late antique theology and emphasizes her explicitly didactic and proselytizing goals.
This focus on a receptive audience marks a shift in the epic proem tradition modeled on Homer and Hesiod and their emphasis on divine inspiration. [ 92 ] Unlike Proba’s proem and its explicit engagement with her Vergilian original, Eudocia claims to speak entirely on her own authority. On the one hand, she speaks in the first person singular (εἴπω, με). On the other hand, her message comes from within her, whatever her heart (θυμός) bids. Such an internal inspiration, a veiled allusion to the Holy Spirit, provides an alternative poetic source to the classical Muse. [ 93 ] Since the Holy Spirit has inspired her story, Eudocia only requires a receptive audience.

Case Study: The Samaritan Woman at the Well

In this section, I examine the episode of the Samaritan woman as a representative example of how Eudocia simultaneously paraphrases and interprets the biblical narrative, all while adding Homeric allusive potential. [ 94 ] Because this biblical episode comes only from the Johannine tradition (John 4:4–42) and is not found in the three synoptic Gospels, we can read Eudocia’s version alongside a single source, without first reconciling multiple gospel accounts of the same episode. For that reason, Eudocia’s engagement with the Bible is more apparent.
In John 4, while returning to Galilee from Judea on the shortest possible route, Jesus and his disciples stop at a well (originally dug by the patriarch Jacob) outside the Samaritan town of Sychar (4:5). The disciples leave Jesus at the well and continue on to the town to buy food. Shortly after they depart, Jesus meets a woman who has come to draw water from the well. Breaking with cultural norms, he asks this unnamed Samaritan woman for some water (4:7). She responds with shock, less at his specific request than his choice to speak with her at all. Ever mysterious, Jesus proceeds to engage the woman in a parabolic conversation about his own living water, characterized as a divine gift, which permanently quenches the thirst of all who drink it (4:10). Eager for this magical water, the Samaritan woman asks Jesus for some. Shifting the conversation again, Jesus tells the woman to call her husband and, upon hearing that she is not married, prophetically reveals than she has lived with multiple men out of wedlock (4:17–18). She responds to this by asking him about the religious sanctuary on Mount Gerizim and its rivalry with the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus explains to her that true worship is in spirit, not in a specific locale (4:23–24). Perhaps beginning to understand, she mentions the eventual coming of the Messiah, prompting Jesus’ revelation that he is the Messiah (4:25–26). While the Samaritan women returns to proselytize the townspeople, Jesus has a parallel conversation with his disciples about the type of food he requires, which he equates with harvesting people (4:32–38). Prompted by the woman’s insistence that Jesus predicted her sexual history, a crowd comes out to see Jesus for themselves (4:39–40). Impressed, they invite Jesus to stay with them, and many come to believe in him after a two-day visit (4:41–42).
A few salient themes emerge from this episode. First, despite its various digressions about Samaritan-Jewish religious practices and its metaphors of food and water, the episode is ultimately about Jesus’ identity, his inclusion of religiously marginalized groups, and their eventual belief in him. [ 95 ] By the end of Jesus’ brief stay in Sychar, his metaphors of food and water recede into the background, and the story focuses on the townspeople, who through the woman’s testimony and their own experiences follow Jesus. In this way, the narrative culminates with an explicitly identified Messianic Jesus marked by his inclusivity, especially of those traditionally on the social fringes of first-century Judaism. As his first followers, these marginalized individuals become idealized disciple types, set in contrast to Jesus’ religious rivals, especially the Pharisees. [ 96 ]
At 106 lines, Eudocia’s version of the Samaritan woman episode is approximately the same length as her biblical model, although she makes a few substantial revisions—entire sections have been omitted, including the digression on Samaritan-Jewish worship, while other details have been added, such as the woman’s evangelical speech to the townspeople. [ 97 ] In this way, the cento narrator presents a new version of a familiar story by emphasizing certain details while minimizing or omitting others. This narrative revision results in a more philosophically and theologically sophisticated account that actively expands the role of secondary characters and transforms them into primary agents. Compared to the account in the Gospel of John, the account of Eudocia’s unnamed woman more persuasively convinces the townspeople about Jesus and directly leads to their conversion. Accordingly, she surpasses John’s Samaritan woman as an ideal disciple type, not only through her eager conversion but also through her more eager conversion of others.
Equally striking is Eudocia’s omission of the twelve disciples. Present in the previous episode (especially Cento 1047–1048) yet absent throughout Jesus’ interaction with the unnamed woman, the disciples return in the following episode ( Cento 1183) to help Jesus distribute his miraculous bread and fish. In some ways, this focus on Jesus at the exclusion of his disciples mirrors the gospel account. For instance, the disciples are never explicitly mentioned as traveling with Jesus (John 4:4–6), and all verbs are singular, although one can safely infer that they are with him. Since the disciples in Eudocia’s version are not present to ask Jesus why he is talking with an unknown woman, he never tells them the story about his divine food, a parallel to the divine water offered to the woman. By removing the disciples and highlighting Jesus’ interaction with the woman, Eudocia replaces their conversation about divine food with entirely new material: an evangelistic speech by the woman to the townspeople.
In addition to augmenting and minimizing the role each biblical character plays in her revised episode, Eudocia also changes the story’s geographic setting in ways that profoundly alter its socio-cultural implications. For his part, the gospel narrator underscores exact Judean-Samaritan features of the story: Jesus is traveling from one predominantly Jewish region to another and chooses to pass through Samaria. Sychar is explicitly marked as a Samaritan town and the unnamed woman explicitly Samaritan. These details have exegetical force useful for first-century Christians who define their communities’ relationship with Judaism and other Mediterranean religious traditions. [ 98 ] While hotly contested in the first century, the religious distinctions between Samaritan and Jewish traditions were hardly relevant to late antique Christianity. [ 99 ]
Eudocia elides over these outdated Samaritan-Jewish details to make her content relevant to her late antique audience and, in the process, transforms a story originally about breaking down first-century socio-political boundaries into a more universal conversion narrative. Because the rhetorical force of Jesus’ request for water depends on the now-omitted ethnic identity of the woman, Eudocia downplays the living water metaphor and focuses instead on sexual ethics. By structuring their conversation as a ring composition (A, B, A’), a common Homeric pattern, she gives Jesus’ words epic authority but also underscores his concern with the woman’s sexuality. For instance, when Jesus first addresses the woman, he begins by criticizing her for not speaking with him (1064–1065), then prophetically reveals her sexual history (1066–1068), and finally concludes with a second criticism about her unwillingness to talk (1069–1071). This structural pattern juxtaposes the woman’s sexual ethics with her disinterest in speaking with Jesus.
Through this emphasis on sexuality, Eudocia’s late antique Jesus deviates from his first-century archetype. In John 4, Jesus’ words contain little criticism or shame, and whatever they imply is culturally dependent on Judeo-Samaritan sexual mores. In other words, the topic of marriage serves as a narrative pretext for Jesus’ revelation as prophet. After this recognition scene, the woman’s sexuality is forgotten until she narrates these same events to the townspeople, where she also emphasizes Jesus’ identity, not her sexuality. Eudocia’s construction of idealized sexual behavior, in contrast, reflects a more developed Christian theology of the body, one not found in early Christian literature (see Didache 2.2). [ 100 ] The sexual mores of the first two generations of Christianity generally are modeled on first-century Judaism, with which Christianity was still closely associated. As a result, the sexual ethics found in the Pauline epistles and the Didache focus on sexual acts, whereas second-century Christian communities evince a more complex sexual ethic focused on marital status. [ 101 ] As two illustrative examples, women in the Shepherd of Hermas and the Acts of Paul and Thecla choose to remain virgins, an incipient form of ascetic sexuality developed more fully in the fourth and fifth centuries. [ 102 ]
In order to situate her idealized sexual behavior vis-à-vis marriage and to prevent any confusion, Eudocia interjects the following explanatory clause about the unnamed woman: ἡ δ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἠρνεῖτο στυγερὸν γάμον οὔτε τελεύτα (but she neither rejected marriage as something disdainful nor brought it about). [ 103 ] Through this gloss, Eudocia advances two acceptable options for the woman: rejection of marriage (celibacy) or legal marriage, a choice that further distinguishes early Christianity from other ancient Mediterranean religions, including Judaism. [ 104 ] While celibacy and marriage were protected by late antique law, most early Church writers prioritize celibacy over marriage. [ 105 ] Because the woman at the well chose neither acceptable option, she finds herself in a sexually (and, by association, morally) liminal middle ground. That she has any choice reflects a decidedly late antique understanding of female virtue, one entirely foreign to the author of the Gospel of John.
Alongside these revised and updated sexual ethics, Eudocia offsets the omission of the Jewish-Samaritan religious controversy and the water metaphor by expanding other theological details. Without these elaborations, Jesus’ interaction with the woman—what had been twenty-three biblical verses—would only comprise approximately ten Homeric lines. One such expanded detail is the metaphor of Jesus as divine gift (τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ, John 4:10), which Eudocia conflates with the themes of celibacy and marriage. By interweaving imagery of sexuality and gift giving, particularly nuptial dowries, Eudocia subtly gestures toward the spiritual marriage between Jesus and the local townspeople. This conflation of sexuality and divine munificence thematically underpins the story and distinguishes it from its biblical template. [ 106 ]
The most straightforward interpretation about the gift of God (τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ) in John 4:10 is that it represents the living water offered to the Samaritan woman. Shortly after this episode (John 7:37–38), Jesus implies that he is the water or its source. [ 107 ] The gospel narrator (John 7:39) clarifies this potentially confusing statement by explaining that Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit, imparted on the disciples after his ascension. Influenced by these and other passages, early Christians symbolically described a convert’s inclusion into their community with water and washing imagery, with the ritual of baptism the most obvious of these washing metaphors. In John 4, however, Jesus talks about drinking water, not bathing in it. Paired with the food that he mentions later to his disciples, this potable water has Eucharistic implications. While early Christian communities developed symbolic language for baptism and the Eucharist, they also used comparably symbolic language about Jesus’ relationship with the Church, one of the most popular being that of a wedding. [ 108 ] This metaphor originates from nuptial imagery found in early Christian texts, including the Gospel of John. [ 109 ]
By omitting the water/baptism imagery from her version, Eudocia reworks Jesus’ reference to the gift of God into an allusion about nuptial gifts and a dowry. [ 110 ] As a result, the characters within the episode, especially the unnamed woman, become part of a spiritual bridal party, although Eudocia reverses and bends their gender identities. [ 111 ] For instance, when the woman initiates gift giving ( Cento 1094–1096) through the promise of civic generosity, food, drink, and gifts (δωτίνῃσι), her behavior is fairly unremarkable. She is simply being a good host. When she continues to bless the “man” who would lead Jesus into marriage and weigh him down with a dowry ( Cento 1097–1098), her behavior becomes more exegetically and intertextually fertile. On the one hand, this reversal of expected gender roles situates Jesus as bride in search of a groom. More common in medieval than late antique literature, depictions of Jesus as a maternal woman are theological explanations about Jesus’ own complex identities, including God, human, and Sophia (always a feminine personification). [ 112 ] Such gender blending, however, is less common in Christian nuptial imagery, where the Church or individual Christian is most often imagined as the bride of Christ. Moreover, by describing Jesus as a guest laden with gifts, possibly wedding gifts, Eudocia conflates the Christian imagery of Jesus as incarnate Savior of the World (John 4:42) with the Greek mythological trope of a god disguised as a human and hosted by unwitting people. [ 113 ]
Eudocia further complicates the marital and sexual undertones of this episode by drawing from Homeric hospitality scenes that are equally charged with sexual tension. Most line clusters (three or more sequential lines) and 60 of the 106 total lines come from Odyssey 6, 8, 17, and 23. In these books, the wayward Odysseus is hosted either in the palace of Alcinous by Nausicaa and the Phaeacians or in his own house by Telemachus and Penelope. [ 114 ] Since the words spoken by the unnamed woman depend so heavily on these Homeric contexts, her relationship with Jesus and her relationship with the townspeople become intertextually convoluted. For instance, when the woman blesses Jesus’ future husband, her words come from Odysseus’ blessing of Nausicaa, a story full of marital anxiety and sexual tension. Marital expectations burst at the seams, as Athena, Nausicaa, Odysseus, and Alcinous each allude to Nausicaa’s eventual nuptials. In context, the sexual tensions between Odysseus and Nausicaa threaten to further delay Odysseus’ nostos (homecoming)—he had just spent seven years as a type of husband to Calypso. Equally dangerous, Odysseus could decide to bring Nausicaa home with him as a rival spouse to Penelope, a type of decision that partly robs Agamemnon of his nostos. Both threats (delay or breakdown of marriages) are recurring themes in the Odyssey .
Although Eudocia opens these intertextual comparisons between the unnamed woman and Nausicaa or Penelope, modern readers must make sense of these allusions and their associated sexual tensions. In the Odyssey , Nausicaa and Penelope are subjected to intense scrutiny about their marital status and sexual availability, which potentially complicate Eudocia’s use of them as female templates. For instance, Nausicaa’s words: καὶ δ᾽ ἄλλην νεμεσῶ ἥ τις τοιαῦτά γε ῥεζοι· ἥ τ᾽ ἀέκητι φίλων πατρὸς καὶ μητρὸς ἐόντων, ἀνδράσι μίσγηται πρίν γ᾽ ἀμφάδιον γάμον ἐλθεῖν (And I would disprove of another girl doing such a thing, namely, without the goodwill of her dear father and mother, associating with a man before publicly marrying, Odyssey 6.286–288) are themselves a projection of this type of sexual scrutiny. In context, Nausicaa has just imagined what her fellow Phaeacians would say if they saw her traveling with Odysseus into the city. She fears they will gossip about her sexual propriety and concludes by saying that she would criticize other women for doing the same. Eudocia creatively adapts Nausicaa’s disapproval into the content of Jesus’ criticism of the unnamed woman. On the one hand, this situates Jesus as a new Odysseus, displaced and wayward, suffering a type of death and resurrection on the path toward his nostos. [ 115 ] The unnamed woman is not quite Nausicaa, however, but represents the object of Nausicaa’s projected criticism, a “bizarro Nausicaa,” the female type Nausicaa successfully avoids.
This revision of Nausicaa’s character makes the nuptial imagery within the scene even more striking. Nausicaa’s appeal as an ideal feminine type is defined by her social decorum: her willingness to do the family’s laundry, her commitment to assist the naked Odysseus, her awareness of the scandals associated with public appearances with unknown men. This notion of familial duty, more similar to the Jesus in the Gospel of John (see John 4:34, 6:38) than to the Samaritan woman or to Eudocia’s unnamed woman, is reflected in the cento, when the woman offers Jesus the dowry, thereby transforming him into Nausicaa or a Nausicaa-Odysseus hybrid. In this reading of Eudocia’s allusion to Odyssey 6, she does not provide an epic model for the unnamed woman. Rather, she contrasts the woman’s character with an imagined scenario conceptualized and vocalized by Nausicaa. At the same time, since the intertext is hypothetical or imagined, Eudocia underscores the unnamed woman’s agency for change and the potential for conversion. In as much as Nausicaa can avoid the slanderous gossip of the Phaeacian townspeople, so can the unnamed woman turn to Jesus as the one true, ideal spouse.
To further complicate Jesus’ criticism, Eudocia explains the unnamed woman’s behavior with the aforementioned line: ἡ δ᾽ οὕτ᾽ ἠρνεῖτο στυγερὸν γάμον οὔτε τελεύτα ( Odyssey 24.126). If we read this gloss through the biblical account, it makes perfect sense—the woman was sexually involved with men outside the confines of a legal marriage. When read in its Homeric context, however, it opens a variety of interpretive vectors. This line comes from a speech given by the ghost of Amphimedon to the ghost of Agamemnon about Penelope’s strategic delay in choosing a suitor to replace Odysseus, including her plan to weave a burial shroud for Laertes during the day, only to unravel it at night. Her delay in choosing a husband both preserves her marriage with Odysseus, as seen in the test of the marriage bed in Odyssey 23, and saves Telemachus’ life. On the other hand, from the perspective of the Homeric speaker, Amphimedon, Penelope’s delay was decidedly negative and directly led to his death.
Like the Nausicaa material ( Odyssey 6.286–288), this reference to Penelope only makes sense from a limited perspective, one predicated on a thorough familiarity with the Homeric epics. While subject to intense scrutiny over her marital status and sexuality, Penelope emerges as the prudent defender of the household, the female equivalent to Odysseus. Her deceptive weaving of the shroud reinforces her role as Odysseus’ spouse. In other words, Penelope (and Nausicaa) are not like the unnamed woman in Eudocia’s cento. When read against their Homeric contexts, these cento lines augment Eudocia’s scene. From Amphimedon’s perspective, Penelope’s seeming ambivalence marks her as sexually and morally dubious, but, from the perspective of the entire Odyssey , Penelope is endowed with agency and the responsibility of defending her house from the arrogant suitors until Odysseus returns. This same potential is available to the unnamed woman. In other words, Jesus’ Homeric words underscore the woman’s current moral state but open the possibility for a different reality.


This chapter opens by contextualizing Eudocia’s Homeric cento as one of nearly two dozen late antique centos, Greek and Latin, Christian and secular. The last few decades have seen an explosion of scholarship on these cento, including four critical editions and two commentaries dedicated only to Eudocia’s Homeric cento and its tradition. My focus on this chapter has been to compare Eudocia’s prefatory remarks to similar prefaces by Faltonia Betitia Proba and Decimus Magnus Ausonius. As the earliest surviving Christian cento poet in either Greek or Latin, Proba makes for a useful comparison for Eudocia. That Eudocia is thought to have had a copy of Proba’s Vergilian cento and used it as a model for her own makes the comparison even more apt. Proba’s preface, I argue, treats Vergil’s content (violence, war, gods) as unsuitable to her new topic: the creation, fall, and redemption of humanity. As cento poet, Proba sings alongside Vergil, whose words she appropriates to tell a new message, one she implies was hidden within his epic but now requires divine inspiration to bring to light. For that reason, Proba recognizes that centos are intertextually complex poetic modes that conflate original authors/texts within new poems.
Ausonius assumes something similar in his light-hearted preface addressed to Paulus. In this preface, Ausonius apologizes, as is his habit when circulating poetry among friends, for debasing Vergil with such bankrupt metal, and he invites Paulus as learned friend and critic to assess whether his worthless cento passes muster. Within this epistle teeming with Ausonius’ usual self-deprecations and dissimulations, he provides the best surviving theory for cento poetics. For that reason, his PCN has been treated as the standard for ancient centos, especially his rules that Vergilian lines can be divided and stitched together at all epic caesurae and that one must avoid using two or more sequential Vergilian lines, although he himself breaks this rule three times over the course of his Cento Nuptialis . Finally, Ausonius provides the metaphor of the game ( ludus ) for centos and provides as an analogy Archimedes’ game, the stomachion .
Eudocia’s thirty-eight-line preface reflects concerns expressed by both Proba and Ausonius. What sets Eudocia’s cento apart from theirs is her revision of a previous cento written by Patricius. Like Proba, Eudocia treats biblical centos as divinely inspired texts and, in so doing, blurs the line between cento and Bible. For that reason, she criticizes Patricius for not telling the biblical story accurately and harmoniously, mistakes which force her to revise his cento by removing its deficiencies and adding new, more appropriate material. Even with her improvements, their new cento still contains sequential lines, a deficiency Eudocia admits and justifies as a product of their Christian content. By comparing her cento with Tatian’s fourth-century cento, Eudocia suggests that her ideal audience would be familiar with it. In my view, we can infer from this that Eudocia’s circle, similar to Ausonius’, consists of fellow poets, familiar with the classics and more contemporary poems, which they use to critique poems written by members of their own coterie. As a result, the contours of Eudocia’s poetic circle and their shared literary habits come into sharper focus.
The final section of this chapter analyzes Eudocia’s version of the Samaritan woman at the well episode from John 4. In my view, Eudocia exegetically updates this story by first removing the Samaritan-Jewish material, which would have made little sense to a fifth-century audience, and by replacing this cultural context with a general conversion narrative. The unnamed woman, therefore, becomes the ideal type of female convert, one who not only believes in Jesus but also returns to her hometown to persuade others to believe in him. The speeches that she makes expand the biblical account, give the unnamed woman more agency, and center her as the main character in the story, arguably as a model for similar fifth-century Christians.
On the other hand, Eudocia’s Homeric content opens intertextual vectors beyond her control and can only be interpreted by her readers, ancient or modern. In my reading, I focus on Eudocia’s use of hospitality scenes from the Odyssey, scenes which conflate Jesus’ metaphor of the gift of God into a type of wedding present or dowry. While still serving Christian ends and supporting the theology of the spiritual wedding between Christ as groom marrying his bride, the Church, the cento episode reverses gender roles and depicts Jesus as the bride. At the same time, Jesus’ critique of the woman’s sexual past uses Homeric lines said by or about Nausicaa and Penelope, characters in the Odyssey defined by their sexuality and their relationship with male characters. Eudocia’s engagement with Nausicaa and Penelope is oblique and indirect, in that she uses lines that are either hypothetical or distorted by the limited perspective of characters within the story itself. In this way, despite her sexual past, the unnamed woman has the potential to emerge after her conversion as a redeemed Nausicaa or Penelope, the Homeric feminine ideal. Eudocia’s engagement with the feminine ideal continues in her next poem and the subject of the next chapter: her Martyrdom of Cyprian .


[ back ] 1. Formisano 2007. Formisano and Sogno 2010 suggest that centos are representative, not poetic outliers, of late antique literature. See also Elsner 2017:177–182.
[ back ] 2. The four Christian centos are Faltonia Betitia Proba’s Cento Probae (Petschenig 1888; Schenkl 1888:568–609; Clark and Hatch 1981; Badini and Rizzi 2011; Sineri 2011; Schottenius Cullhed 2015), Pomponius’ Versus ad Gratiam Domini (Schenkl 1888:609–615; Arcidiacono 2011), De Verbi Incarnatione (Schenkl 1888:615–620), and De Ecclesia , perhaps by Mavortius (Schenkl 1888:621–627; Damico 2010). The secular centos include Hosidius Geta’s Medea (Lamacchia 1958; Rondholz 2012), Luxurius’ Epithalamium Fridi (Baehrens 1882:237–240; Happ 1986), Mavortius’ Iudicium Paridis (Baehrens 1882:198), De Panificio (Baehrens 1882:191), De Alea (Baehrens 1882:192–197), Narcissus (Baehrens 1882:197; Elsner 2017:182–183), Hippodamia (Beahrens 1882:199–205; Paolucci 2006), Hercules et Antaeus (Baehrens 1882:205), Progne et Philomela (Baehrens 1882:206), Europa (Baehrens 1882:207), Alcesta (Baehrens 1882:208), and Ausonius’ Cento Nuptialis (Green 1999). McGill 2005 is the standard treatment on Latin secular centos.
[ back ] 3. These include Aristophanes, Lucian, Arius, Diogenes Laertius, and Irenaeus (Salanitro 1997:2326–2328). See also Palatine Anthology 9.381, 382, 361; ABV 7; SEG 51.1735 (Jonnes 2001). Domínguez 2010 provides an exhaustive treatment of the Greek centos.
[ back ] 4. Compare the dismissive comments in Crusius 1899; Evelyn-White 1919:xvi–xvii; Schelkle 1954; Macklin Smith 1976:266–267; Salanitro 1997.
[ back ] 5. Bažil 2009:17–19; Formisano and Sogno 2010; Hinds 2014.
[ back ] 6. More complete bibliographies can be found in McGill 2005; Paolucci 2006; Schembra 2006; Schembra 2007a; Schembra 2007b; Bažil 2009; Harich-Schwarzbauer 2009; Damico 2010; Domínguez 2010; Formisano and Sogno 2010; Arcidiacono 2011; Badini and Rizzi 2011; Sandnes 2011, Sineri 2011; Malamud 2012; Rondholz 2012; Hinds 2014; Schottenius Cullhed 2015.
[ back ] 7. Compare Usher 1998; McGill 2005; Rondholz 2012; Schottenius Cullhed 2015. For the relationship between centos and ancient Christian poetry more generally, see Wilken 1967; Roberts 1985; Roberts 1989b; Roberts 1993; Green 2006.
[ back ] 8. McGill 2005.
[ back ] 9. Pollmann 2004:79–80.
[ back ] 10. Formisano and Sogno 2010. See also Bright 1984:80–81.
[ back ] 11. Hinds 2014:182. See also Formisano and Sogno 2010; Schottenius Cullhed 2010:44; Dykes 2011:33–34.
[ back ] 12. Elsner 2004; Liverani 2011; Agosti 2014b:160–162.
[ back ] 13. I follow Stevenson 2005:64–71, 532–535, and Cameron 2011:327–337, who attribute authorship of the Vergilian Christian cento to Faltonia Betitia Proba and not to her granddaughter. Shanzer 1986, Shanzer 1994, and Barnes 2006, by arguing that Proba the cento poet is the granddaughter of Faltonia Betitia Proba, thus move the date of the cento’s composition back some forty years. The confusion between the two dates back at least to the fifteenth century. See Badini and Rizzi 2011:13–19; Sineri 2011:20–26; Schottenius Cullhed 2014:206.
[ back ] 14. External evidence is limited to a few comments made by Isidore of Seville ( De viris illustribus 22; Etymologiarum (De originibus) 1.39.26), not including notices appended to her cento (Clark and Hatch 1981:97–98; Schottenius Cullhed 2015:61).
[ back ] 15. This cento is frequently assumed to have been an epic in honor of Constantius II’s victory over Magnentius in 353 CE. See Schottenius Cullhed 2015:114–117 for the complete history and bibliography. There is a parallel here between Proba and Eudocia, in that they are both said to have composed historical/military epics earlier in their literary career.
[ back ] 16. Schottenius Cullhed 2015:117–118.
[ back ] 17. Green 1997:550; Sandnes 2011:149–150; Hinds 2014:186–187. Bažil 2009:121–122 suggests this Lucanic echo is also in conversation with early Christian epic.
[ back ] 18. Pollmann 2004:80; Formisano and Sogno 2010:380. Not all classical poetry found inspiration from Clio or Calliope, as it could invoke Apollo, a philosophical god, Cupid, Venus, a lover, or the emperor (Pollmann 2017:216–217).
[ back ] 19. Compare Juvencus Praefatio 19–27; Paulinus of Nola Carmina 15.30–33; Arator De actibus apostolorum 2.577–581. See also Green 2006:300–301; Schottenius Cullhed 2010:45; Badini and Rizzi 2011:151–152; Sandnes 2011:151–152; Schottenius Cullhed 2015:119–123.
[ back ] 20. Green 2006:16–17; Bažil 2009:121–123; Hecquet-Noti 2009:202–205; Dykes 2011:154–161; McGill 2016a. For the ways Proba distances herself from Juvencus, see Pollmann 2004:89–90.
[ back ] 21. For more on Juvencus, see Roberts 2004; McGill 2007; Dykes 2011:159; McGill 2016a:14–17; McGill 2016b; Müller 2016:16.
[ back ] 22. Pollmann 2004:80, 87–90 situates Proba as an example of an exegetical cento poet.
[ back ] 23. Compare Ovid Ars Amatoria 3.549; Fasti 6.5; Epistulae ex Ponto 3.4.93. The vates in manuscript P (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, lat. 7701) more explicitly references Proba, although Schottenius Cullhed 2015:192–193 interprets the vatis as Vergil. See also Dykes 2011:155–156; Pollmann 2017:217.
[ back ] 24. By late antiquity, Vergil and his poetry had already been appropriated within a definitively Christian context. MacCormack 1998; Pollmann 2004:89; Rees 2004b; Bažil 2009:97–105; Hinds 2014:177, 187; Pollmann 2017.
[ back ] 25. Dykes 2011:156–157. Compare Genette 1982:14–15. Hinds 2014:184 asserts that late antique literary consciousness is marked primarily by literary appropriation.
[ back ] 26. Jerome Epistle 53. The scholarly debate about the relationship between Jerome’s letter and Proba continues. See Wiesen 1971; Clark and Hatch 1981:104–105; Sandnes 2011:134–136; Sineri 2011:13; Rondholz 2012:23–24; Schottenius Cullhed 2014:200–201.
[ back ] 27. Wilken 1967; Domínguez 2010:98–111; Sandnes 2011:132–134.
[ back ] 28. Dykes 2011:156. Schottenius Cullhed 2014 challenges this traditional assumption by arguing that Jerome’s invective against a “garrulous granny” earlier in the epistle is a rhetorical trope, not a veiled allusion to Proba, as it is popularly seen. While Schottenius Cullhed argues this point persuasively, she does not address the overlap between Jerome and Proba’s cento lines.
[ back ] 29. Green 1991 is standard. See also Evelyn-White 1919; Prete 1978; Green 1999. For Ausonius’ career, see Matthews 1975:56–87; Sivan 1993; Amherdt 2004:9–12; Watts 2015; Aull 2017:132–134.
[ back ] 30. Erasmus Adages 2.4.58 (Mynors 1991:221–222). The clearest use of Ausonius as a guide to writing centos, post McGill 2005, is Sandnes 2011:108–113, who reads the PCN in a straightforward way. The tendency to invoke the PCN persists, even by authors who express doubt whether it is a universalizing model. For instance, Schottenius Cullhed 2015:94 expresses her doubt about the PCN as model but on pages 137–138 uses Ausonius’ comparison of centos to the stomachion game. See also Formisano and Sogno 2010:380, 386–389; Malamud 2012:162, 175; Hinds 2014:171, 176, 185, 188–190; Pelttari 2014:64, 96–112 for a few recent representative examples.
[ back ] 31. For the role of prefaces in late antique literature, see Pavlovskis 1967; Pelttari 2014.
[ back ] 32. McGill 2009; Pelttari 2011; Sowers 2016.
[ back ] 33. In addition to the Cento Nuptialis , Paulus is the addressee in the preface to the Bissula . Green 1991:514–515, 518, 606–608.
[ back ] 34. McGill 2014 examines Ausonius’ trope of writing hastily, often during a single night. On Ausonius’ self-presentation, see Kleinschmidt 2013:71–95.
[ back ] 35. For Valentinian’s education and exceptional memory, see Ammianus Marcellinus 30.9.4; Pseudo-Aurelius Victor Epitome de Caesaribus 45.5–6; Matthews 1975:49; Sivan 1993:105–106; McGill 2005:94. On memory and cento poetics in general, see Quintilian Institutio Oratoria 1.1.36 and 11.2.40-41; Fortunatianus Ars Rhetorica 3.13; Bright 1984:81–82; Comparetti 1997:53; McGill 2005:10–11.
[ back ] 36. Lowe 2013:337–338; McGill 2014; Sowers 2016.
[ back ] 37. This type of anxiety produced by amicitia and patronage is discussed by White 1978:76; Coleman 1988:177; White 1993:14; Konstan 1997:144–145.
[ back ] 38. For example, Praefatio ad Bissulam , Moselle 448–453, Prefatio ad Technopaegnion , Praefatio ad Griphum 17–33, and Epistle 1. See White 1993:5; Nicholson 2014:241, 249–250; Sowers 2016:518–521.
[ back ] 39. Sowers 2016:527–534.
[ back ] 40. Sowers 2016, building on Frye 2003:186–189 and Johnson 2010. Compare White 1978:85; Saller 1989:58–61; White 1993:13–14; Konstan 1997:147–148; de Blois 2001; Anderson 2002:183–234.
[ back ] 41. This phrase is not without difficulty (Bright 1984:84; Green 1991:520–521).
[ back ] 42. Ausonius uses sequential lines three times ( Cento Nuptialis 25–26, 75–76, and 97–98), although he generally follows his own rules (Bright 1984; Green 1991:518).
[ back ] 43. Bright 1984:84–86.
[ back ] 44. McGill 2005; Pucci 2016; Sowers 2016. Compare Rücker 2009; Rücker 2012:67.
[ back ] 45. Archimedes designed the stomachion to be played differently than Ausonius suggests (Netz and Noel 2007:240–241; Netz 2009:17–20, 35–36; Malamud 2012:162). Crawford 2002 compares the stomachion to the Chinese tangram.
[ back ] 46. Malamud 1989:36–37; Rücker 2012:70–71; Schottenius Cullhed 2016:98–99.
[ back ] 47. Quintilian Institutio Oratoria 10.1.20.
[ back ] 48. Formisano and Sogno 2010; Horster and Reitz 2010a. For more on ancient epitomes, see the various contributions in Horster and Reitz 2010b. For other late antique paraphrases, see Roberts 1985; Springer 1988; Dihle 1994:444, 461; MacDonald 1994; MacDonald 2001; Green 2006:44–46, 146–148; Johnson 2006a:98–99; Johnson 2016a; Müller 2016:16–17. Lamberton 1986:57 discusses an earlier, imperial example.
[ back ] 49. Pucci 1986:240; Pucci 1998. Pucci’s model complements other approaches to reading, particularly those of Barthes 1986:61; Nugent 1990:29; Hinds 1998; Pelttari 2014. For the depth of Ausonius’ intertextual engagement with Proba, see Moretti 2008.
[ back ] 50. Recent work on Eudocia’s cento includes Pignani 1985; Alfieri 1987; Pignani 1987; Alfieri 1988; Alfieri 1989; Schembra 1993; Schembra 1994; Salanitro 1995; Schembra 1995; Schembra 1996; Salanitro 1997; Schembra 1997; Usher 1997; Rey 1998; Schembra 1998; Usher 1998; Usher 1999; Schembra 2000a; Schembra 2000b; Schembra 2001a; Schembra 2001b; Arbea 2002; Schembra 2002; Schembra 2003; Schembra 2006; Schembra 2007a; Schembra 2007b; Whitby 2007; Whitby 2009; Domínguez 2010; Sandnes 2011; Whitby 2013; Whitby 2016.
[ back ] 51. Schembra 2006; Schembra 2007a; Schembra 2007b.
[ back ] 52. Usher 1999; Schembra 2006; Schembra 2007b; Whitby 2007; Whitby 2009; Whitby 2016.
[ back ] 53. Schembra 2007b:clxxxi; Whitby 2016:230. These line numbers follow Schembra’s editions; those found in Rey 1998 and Usher 1999 will differ.
[ back ] 54. Schembra 2006; Schembra 2007a; Schembra 2007b.
[ back ] 55. Schembra 2007b:cxxxiii–cxxxv follows Rey 1998, but he includes a discussion of the poetic quality of the preface (cxxxix–cxlii).
[ back ] 56. I here differ from Usher 1998:20–23, who argues that Eudocia’s cento is primarily orally composed. While Usher recognizes the multiple references to books, texts, pages, and reading, he emphasizes the presence of oral language (singing, hearing, songs).
[ back ] 57. In addition to Patricius’ Greek cento, Eudocia likely also had a copy of Proba’s cento. See ILS 818.3; Clark and Hatch 1981:103; Cameron 1982:267; Usher 1997:315; McGill 2007; Whitby 2007:216–217; Curran 2012:328–329; Kelly 2013b:34–35; Schottenius Cullhed 2015:59; Whitby 2016:229–230.
[ back ] 58. Eudocia is generally thought to be the author of the preface. See Usher 1997:310–315; Livrea 1998:70–72; Agosti 2001:74–85; Agosti 2004:70; Schembra 2007b:cxxxv; Whitby 2007:208–209; Whitby 2013:209.
[ back ] 59. As a summary of Patricius’ cento, that preface has been used to reconstruct Eudocia’s editorial hand. See Rey 1998:516–518; Schembra 2007b:cxxxviii–cxlii.
[ back ] 60. Johnson 2000:602. Compare Johnson and Parker 2009; Johnson 2010. Holum 1982:219–220 is probably correct when he suggests that Eudocia’s literary circle also produced centos. For a parallel phenomenon five centuries later, see Bernard 2014:59–124.
[ back ] 61. I will not here summarize the issue of oral reading in antiquity. The interested reader should consult Johnson 2000:594–600; Johnson 2009; Olson 2009; Johnson 2010:3–16. For poetic performance during late antiquity, see Cameron 1970:26; Livrea 2000; Cameron 2004:346–347; Agosti 2006:46; Cavallo 2006; McLynn 2006:228–233; Agosti 2012:277–280.
[ back ] 62. On the circulation of early Christian literature, see Gamble 1995:82–143; Haines-Eitzen 2000:77–104; Hull 2010.
[ back ] 63. On the identity of Tatian, as well as his role in Eudocia’s literary circle and late antique education, see Livrea 1997a; Whitby 2007.
[ back ] 64. Libanius Epistle 173.
[ back ] 65. For this practice within Byzantine literary circles, see Cavallo 2006.
[ back ] 66. Compare Pindar Nemean 7.20–27.
[ back ] 67. Plato Republic 2.376–378; Plutarch Isis and Osiris 11 . Kennedy 1989:22; Ledbetter 2003. For a summary on critical discussions of logos and mythos in poetry, see Trimpi 1971; Racionero 1998; Laird 2006; Richardson 2006:185–187.
[ back ] 68. Compare Longinus 10. See also Nagy 1990:60–63.
[ back ] 69. Cameron 1982:284; Usher 1997:310. Ausonius occasionally compares his fellow poets/critics to Alexandrian critics (Sowers 2016).
[ back ] 70. Eudocia differs here from Augustine’s argument ( On the Trinity 15.11) in favor of enigmatic hidden truths (Malamud 2011:93–95).
[ back ] 71. Compare Lucian True Stories , which contains nothing but lies and embellishments. In telling an entirely artificial story, Lucian risks many of the same charges as Patricius and Eudocia (Popescu 2014).
[ back ] 72. Compare Paulinus of Nola Carmen 33–46.
[ back ] 73. Green 1995:562; Agosti 2001:82; Agosti 2004:72; Whitby 2007:217.
[ back ] 74. Milton had a copy of the Homeric centos, along with other early Greek and Latin Christian poetry (Harris 1898). There was precedent for rewriting the Genesis account; the Book of Jubilees had already done so. For more examples of Judeo-Christian paraphrases, see Harding 2003:147–153; Johnson 2006a:78–104.
[ back ] 75. Ilievski 1993; Lambropoulou 1996; Lambropoulou 1997; Lambropoulou 1998.
[ back ] 76. On the Soul 407b30–32.
[ back ] 77. Ausonius PCN 53–55 (Green 1999:147).
[ back ] 78. Bright 1984:85. Proba also adheres to this rule: none of her 666 lines contains original material. On the other hand, numerous examples of centos do break this rule. The De alea (112 lines) and De ecclesia (111 lines) are the worst offenders, with each containing five original lines.
[ back ] 79. Ludwich 1897:84; Salvaneschi 1981:128–129; Alfieri 1988:154–155; Schembra 1994:328–331; Schembra 2007b:clxxxviii–cxci.
[ back ] 80. Schembra 2007b:clxxxviii–cxci.
[ back ] 81. Neap . II C 37. See also Pierleoni 1962:306; Mioni 1992:261; Usher 1997:314.
[ back ] 82. Usher 1997:314.
[ back ] 83. Schembra 2007b.
[ back ] 84. Ludwich 1897.
[ back ] 85. In addition to Proba’s preface, there survives an anonymous dedication that further defends Proba’s poetic contribution. See Clark and Hatch 1981:106; Shanzer 1986:233; Sivan 1993:144–145; Green 1997:548–549; Mastrandrea 2001; McGill 2007:173–174; Schottenius Culhed 2010:43; Formisano and Sogno 2010:388; Sandnes 2011:146.
[ back ] 86. Compare the prefatory remarks of Juvencus and Prudentius, among others. See also Green 2006:18–19; Mastrangelo 2016:42–43.
[ back ] 87. Clark and Hatch 1981:123–135; Roberts 1985:58; Usher 1998:81–85; Arcidiacono 2011:9–54; Schottenius Cullhed 2015:137–138.
[ back ] 88. Johnson 2006a:33–34.
[ back ] 89. Johnson 2006a:15, 28.
[ back ] 90. Johnson 2006a:95–104.
[ back ] 91. Clark and Hatch 1981:137–159; Usher 1998:113–146; McGill 2007; Bažil 2009; Arcidiacono 2011:34–46; Sandnes 2011:181–228; Schottenius Cullhed 2015:138–188; McGill 2016b.
[ back ] 92. Green 2006:128–132, 244–247.
[ back ] 93. Paulinus of Nola Carmen 10.19–32; Juvencus 1.25–27; Sulpicius Severus Life of St. Martin 4.245–50; Shorrock 2011:13–48.
[ back ] 94. Schembra 2007b, lines 1053–1160 (Usher 1999, lines 1046–1152). See Usher 1998:113–126.
[ back ] 95. Edwards 2015:148; Barnes 2016:274–275; Blessing 2016:132; Welzen 2016. Blessing 2016:133–135 compares the Samaritan woman to Nicodemus and argues that she emerges as the idealized disciple.
[ back ] 96. Schneiders 2003:136–140; Welzen 2016; Bennema 2017.
[ back ] 97. Cento 1053–1158. Eudocia’s approach differs from that of Nonnus, who adheres closely to his biblical source (Agosti 2003:111). Nonnus’ paraphrase of the Samaritan woman scene reflects the patristic readings of it (Caprara 2005; Simelidis 2016:290–291), a pattern throughout his epic (Livrea 1989:154; Agosti 2003:53, 295, 372; Simelidis 2016).
[ back ] 98. Welzen 2016.
[ back ] 99. By the fifth century, references to “Samaritans” were increasingly conflated within heresiological debates, perhaps deriving from Simon Magus’ Samaritan origin. See Noethlichs 2007.
[ back ] 100. Brown 1988; Cloke 1995:100–133; Nathan 2000:74–106, 130–132.
[ back ] 101. Milavec 2003:4–5.
[ back ] 102. Miller 2005:256–257; Moreschini and Norelli 2005:162; Trevett 2006:131.
[ back ] 103. Schembra 2007b:73 prints ἡ δ᾽ αὖ ἠρνεῖτο στυγερὸν γάμον οὔτε τελεύτα. I here follow the easier reading supported by the Homeric text itself ( Odyssey 24.126).
[ back ] 104. Nathan 2000:77, 130–131. Compare Hunter 1992; Shaw 2000; Foskett 2002:46; Deming 2004.
[ back ] 105. Jovinian, the fourth-century heresiarch, quite famously attempted to place virgins on the same moral level as married women, which in turn provoked Jerome to write his Adversus Jovinianum . See Hunter 2007:30–35. On the legal protections for women to choose between chastity and marriage, see Codex Theodosianus 9.25.2; White 1982; Clark 1993; Nathan 2000:131.
[ back ] 106. Usher 1998:113–126 examines the Homeric influence of this episode in detail.
[ back ] 107. Bennema 2017.
[ back ] 108. Compare Clement Stromateis and Tertullian Ad Uxorem .
[ back ] 109. 2 Corinthians 11:2; Matthew 22:1–14; John 3:29; Ephesians 3:22–24.
[ back ] 110. Eudocia here anticipates a trend in modern interpretations of this episode to view Jesus as wooing the Samaritan woman (Fehribach 1998:45–81; Brant 2004:247; Blessing 2016:135). This interpretation is not without its critics (Edwards 2015:126). For more context on Roman wedding practices into Late Antiquity, see Treggiari 1991:323–364; Clark 1993; Evans Grubbs 1994; Evans Grubbs 1995:156–171.
[ back ] 111. Clark 1986a; Hunter 2000.
[ back ] 112. Bynum 1982:110–169; Bynum 1991:35; Mathews 1999.
[ back ] 113. Usher 1998:114–115 argues that this episode replicates Homeric (i.e. Greek) ideas at the expense of its biblical context.
[ back ] 114. Usher 1998:113–117.
[ back ] 115. Usher 1998:133–134; Louden 2011:258–282; Sandnes 2011:217–219. Odysseus is, of course, not the only Homeric hero compared to Jesus (MacDonald 2000:136–147).