Peculiarities of the Phenomenon of Overcoming Death by Hero and Saint

Eliso Elizbarashvili

Abstract


Late antiquity is marked by substitution of the heroic ideal by the ideal of sainthood. Preliminary studies has shown that victory of Christianity was not the victory of the one God over the many, it was a victory of man over the institutions of their past. The article discusses changing the perception of the Death from antique heroes to Christian saints. Antique ideology introduced heroes who achieve everlasting glory and fame by performing physical power, courage and heroism. They die in the battlefield a ‚καλὸς θάνατος‛ and defeat the death by their everlasting glory. This conception is destroyed in ‘Meditations’ of Marcus Aurelius: everlasting remembrance is ephemeral, after-fame is vanity. Christianity introduced a completely different path. Saints deny ephemeral material life and glory and seek martyrdom in order to attain eternal life. That common paradigm can be discerned in hagiography about warrior saints – soldiers of the Roman Empire renouncing their military service to become soldiers of Christ. Lately, in the High Middle Ages, warrior saints images contributed to the notion of the Holy War. Participants in the Holy War were promised a spiritual reward, such as remission of their sins and assurance of a place in paradise. Thus two main ways could be identified to overcome the death: everlasting glory, which defeats the death and eternal life, which denies the death. These peculiarities of Antique and Christian attitudes enable us to clarify the significance of the symbolic meaning of military service and weapon that goes back to Plato and was adopted by Christianity.


Full Text:

PDF