Posted on August 27, 2019
This first English translation of Leontius of Neapolis’s Life of Symeon the Fool brings to life one of the most colorful of early Christian saints. In this study of a major hagiographer at work, Krueger fleshes out a broad picture of the religious, intellectual, and social environment in which the Life was created and opens a window onto the Christian religious imagination at the end of Late Antiquity. He explores the concept of holy folly by relating Symeon’s life to the gospels, to earlier hagiography, and to anecdotes about Diogenes the Cynic.
The Life is one of the strangest works of the Late Antique hagiography. Symeon seemed a bizarre choice for sanctification, since it was through very peculiar antics that he converted heretics and reformed sinners. Symeon acted like a fool, walked about naked, ate enormous quantities of beans, and defecated in the streets. When he arrived in Emesa, Symeon tied a dead dog he found on a dunghill to his belt and entered the city gate, dragging the dog behind him. Krueger presents a provocative interpretation of how these bizarre antics came to be instructive examples to everyday Christians.