Revista Studii Teologice


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Emilia sau Emmelia, cum o chema de fapt pe mama Sfântului Vasile cel Mare?

Emilia or Emmelia, What Was in Fact the Name of St Basil the Great's Mother?

Autor(i): Ovidiu SFERLEA

The name of St Basil the Great's mother has enjoyed a curious fate in Roma-nian patristic bibliography of the last century, in which it is found most of the time under the form Emilia. My inquiry starts from this largely attested fact, and aims to bring a contribution to the recovery of the correct form Emmelia.
While the form Emilia is the option of all major Romanian Handbooks of Pa-trology in use today, closely followed in this by a vast majority of scholarly literature on St Basil, one might at once take pain to notice its Latin overtones, and so to find it rather bizarre for an aristocrat Greek women from the fourth century Cappadocia to bear such a name. This, however, proved to be plainly not a very intriguing detail for most of the Romanian authors treating about St Basil's family, since I was able to discover only two exceptions to the overwhelming current consensus on the question, namely in the Reverend Fr Ioan G. Coman and the Archdeacon Ioan I. Ică jr.
In contrast with this practice, the ancient sources provide us with consistent evidence that the original form was Emmelia. This is well attested, for instance, in St Gregory of Nazianzus (Funebris oratio in laudem Basilii Magni 10,1), in the Con-stantinopolitan Synaxarion (First of January) and in Manuel Philes, a late Byzantine religious poet from the 14th century (Carmina 5,46). In Suda Lexicon (10th century, one may also find a form Ἐμμελία, which is clearly the result of a late attempt to bring the spelling of the original Ἐμμελία in line with the common noun ἐμμέλεια, as by the 10th century they were read in the same manner. In earlier periods, Ἐμμελία and ἐμμέλεια were, however, carefully distinguished, as one may learn from a passage of (Pseudo-)Herodianus, a grammarian from the 2nd century, A.D.
What has Ἐμμελία to do with Emilia? When one takes a closer look, these names reveal to be just two false friends. Emilia is the Romanian form for Aemilia, a Latin name whose archaic spelling was Aimilia, and meaning obscure. By contrast, Ἐμμελία has a wholly Greek and transparent etymology. Tempting as it may be at first sight to confuse the two, they are actually different in almost every respect. This conclusion is strongly supported by the way in which Aemilia is rendered in Greek authors from the imperial period. Thus, in Polybius, Strabo or Plutarch one finds consistently Aἰμιλία, and Αἰμιλιανός for the Latin Aemilia and Aemilianus, respec-tively, but never Ἐμμελία. As a further confirmation, in the parallel Latin translation of St Gregory of Nazianzus' Funebris oratio in laudem Basilii Magni, the modern Editors of J.-P. Migne Patrology have quite naturally rendered the common noun ἐμμέλεια by the Latin concinnitas, while they have simply transliterated Ἐμμελία as Emmelia. Indeed, no correspondent exists for Ἐμμελία in Latin.
How came Emmelia, then, to be assimilated to Emilia in Romanian scholarly literature on St. Basil? My suggestion is that their similar sonority has provided a good starting point for this confusion. The only 20th century Romanian translation of Funebris oratio in laudem Basilii Magni – which renders Ἐμμελία by Emilia - may also have contributed to a significant extent. And the decline of classical studies among Romanian patristic scholars during the communist era has achieved to do the rest.

Pagini: 69-78