TA017 – Introduction to Classic Ethiopian Literature


Course Information

Professor: Rafael Zarzeczny,

Schedule:  Wed. I-II, 1st sem., 2 cr., 3 ECTS


After the Aksumite period (IV-VIII cent.) characterized by Greek traditions, in the XIII-XIV centuries the Christian texts were translated into Arabic. Along with the Ethiopian version of Sacred Scripture, important for textual criticism, Ethiopian literature includes diverse early and medieval Christian apocrypha (e.g., The Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Ascension of Isaiah), which were profoundly reworked. Furthermore, classical monastic literature, especially that of Egypt (Anthony, Pachomius, Evagrius, monastic rules), were translated and adapted to the local situation. The Christian spirit found its privileged expression in the liturgical texts (anaphora, hymns, and Marian compositions). The hagiographic material is quite rich, whether that translated from classical Byzantine and Copto-arabic, or original works on local saints. Celebrated books like The Glory of the King and The Miracles of Mary testify not only to an editorial fancy, but also to a culture capable of developing an original Christian patrimony.


To introduce the student to a world geographically distant from other cultural regions but permeated with them from the middle of the fourth century.


S. Uhlig (ed.), Encyclopædia Æthiopica; vol. 1-4, Wiesbaden 2003-10;


E. Cerulli, La letteratura etiopica. L’Oriente cristiano nell’unità delle sue tradizioni, Firenze-Milano 1968;


O. Raineri, Spiritualità etiopica, Roma 1996.