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The current article is dedicated to the reception of the antique mythology in a 14th-century treatise “Ovidius Moralizatus” by Petrus Berchorius, which was intended for preaching, using as an example the myth about Narcissus and Echo. The novelty of the research consists in the comparison of Berchorius’s reception of this myth to those interpretations which were given in the poetry and theology of the 12th – 14th centuries. We underline the fact that the theological understanding, the origin of which can be traced back to the “Paedagogus” by Clement of Alexandria, was characterized by the perception of the image of Narcissus as a person who was excessively carried away by the “illusory glory” of this “transitory world”. Meanwhile, for the courtly poets of the same period of time, who usually interpreted Narcissus’s fate as a warning against breaking the “laws of Love”, the main theme was the revenge on Narcissus for rejecting Echo. The analysis of Petrus Berchorius’s interpretation of Narcissus and Echo’s story in the general cultural context of the epoch allowed us to draw some conclusions about Petrus Berchorius’s attitude towards the antique mythology: 1) Petrus Berchorius, comparing Narcissus to those people who, because of their vanity, forget to take care of their souls and as a result disappear like a narcissus flower, was a representative of the theological tradition of moralization of the antique mythology; 2) the aim of Petrus Berchorius, when drawing up the treatise based on the antique material, may have been not only to entertain his audience with the colorful examples from Ovid, but also to provide the Christian interpretation of mythological plots, which had already been familiar to his audience to some extent; 3) in accordance with what was said above, we may conclude that in the works of Petrus Berchorius the humanistic and conservative tendencies were in the close connection with each other. The research is useful both for further research of the “Ovidius moralizatus” and for a better understanding of the interaction of the theological and secular elements in the medieval reception of the antique mythology.

Keywords: Petrus Berchorius, “Ovidius moralizatus”, Narcissus, reception of the antique mythology, medieval Christian preaching, courtly lyrics

DOI: 10.22250/2072-8662.2020.2.91-98

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About the author 

Konstantin B. Kislin – Master of Religious Studies, PhD student , Department of Philosophy of Religion and Religious Studies, Institute of Philosophy, St. Petersburg State University;
5 Mendeleevskaya linya St. Petersburg, Russia, 199034;
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