Cena Cypriani

Cena Cypriani
Coena Cypriani
Feast of Cyprian
Author(s) Unknown
Language Latin
Date c. 400 (?)
Provenance Northern Italy
Manuscript(s) 54
First printed edition 1564
Genre Biblical parody
Subject A wedding feast

The Cena or Coena Cypriani (i.e. "Feast of Cyprian") is an anonymous prose work written in Latin. The tradition ascribes the ancient and original authorship to the 3rd-Century saint Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, but the text was probably written around 400.[1][2] There is not a full consensus on this date: according to Arthur Lapôtre it was written under the rule of the Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363).[3] A wider range is advanced by Martha Bayless, who dates the work as possibly as late as the 8th-Century.[4]

The text tells the story of a banquet held at Cana where a great king (i.e. God) invites many biblical figures to attend a wedding.[1] The interpretations behind the intent of the work have often radically diverged: it has been both to be some to be a didactic work, if unusual, while others have considered it a prime example of biblical parody.[5] In Bayless words it should be read as an "allegory parodying allegoresis and biblical exegesis".[6]

While on linguistic grounds nobody argues anymore that Saint Cyprian is the author, attempts have been made to attribute the work to other authors. One of the first to study carefully the piece was Adolf Harnack who argued for it having been written by the poet Cyprianus Gallus on the grounds of its using the Acta Pauli, a view that was endorsed by H. Brewer. This position was instead opposed by Willy Hass, who argued on Cyprianus and the Cena author having made use of different versions of the Bible. Despite this he agreed that on textual evidence the Cena had been made in northern Italy.[3] A different attribution has been made by Lapôtre, who claimed the work to be a satire directed toward Julian the Apostate by the poet Bachiarius.[7]

The work was very popular in the Middle Ages to the point it was read during the coronation of the Carolingian Emperor Charles the Bald in 875.[3] Many rettelings of the story were made in the Middle Ages, the earliest and best known of which are in the 9th-Century by Johannes Hymonides and Rabanus Maurus.[8]

54 manuscripts survive of the work, the oldest from the 9th-Century.[6] The work was first printed in 1564 in a collection of Cyprian of Carthage's works.[9] The Cena has had a recent return to fame due to its role in the novel The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b Johannes Quastern (ed.), Patrology: Volume II, RCL, pp. 371-372
  2. ^ a b Michael von Albrecht, A History of Roman Literature: From Livius Andronicus to Boethius, Leiden: Brill, 1997, p. 1578
  3. ^ a b c Angelo Di Berardino (ed.), Patrology: Volume IV - The Golden Age of Latin Patristic Literature, RCL, pp. 315-316
  4. ^ Martha Bayless, Parody in the Middle Ages: the Latin tradition, University of Michigan Press, 1997, p. 215
  5. ^ M. Bayless 1997, pp. 22-24
  6. ^ a b M. Bayless 1997, p. 10
  7. ^ M. Bayless 1997, pp. 21-23
  8. ^ M. Bayless 1997, pp. 215-216
  9. ^ (German) Christine Modesto, Studien zur Cena Cypriani und zu deren Rezeption, Gunter Narr Verlag, 1992, p. 11


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