image of Madaba mosaic

Week 13: Egeria.

Background | Background Quiz | Starting Assumptions | Resources | Extras
Vocabulary | Etymology | Grammar | Perseus Dictionary | Perseus Tool

Reading Overview | Reading Quiz: English
| Reading Quiz: Latin
Discussion Questions | Latin Composition | Weekly Checklist

Background Information

In the year 1884, a manuscript was discovered by an Italian scholar, C. P. Gamurrini, in the town of Arezzo, Italy. This lone manuscript is our sole evidence for the so-called Itinerarium Egeriae, the account that a woman named Egeria made of her pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the 4th century. The manuscript is not complete, with large sections missing at both the beginning and the end of Egeria's account. We are not sure when Egeria made her pilgrimage: it could not have been earlier than the year 300, and could not have been later than around the year 500. The most likely date for her pilgrimage is in the late 4th century, perhaps in the 380's (which is precisely when Pope Damasus invited Jerome to come to Rome to begin his Latin translation of the Bible!).

And we are not even sure if her name is Egeria. In the late 7th century, a Christian writer wrote about the pilgrimage that a devout woman named Egeria (or perhaps Aeteria?) had made to Jerusalem centuries before. In 1903, a French scholar asserted that this "Egeria" was the author of the Itinerarium that had been discovered by Gamurrini. Egeria was most probably a wealthy woman and a devout Christian with the leisure time and money that allowed her to make this leisurely journey, traveling throughout the Middle East over a several year period. And where was Egeria's home? Because Egeria compares the river Euphrates to the Rhone river, the scholar Haggith Sivan has argued that Egeria came from France; others have argued that Egeria was Spanish.

Egeria was certainly an educated woman, but she does not make a great show of her education. She probably received a strictly Christian education, for she makes no reference to pagan texts or traditions in her writing (unlike her contemporaries Augustine and Jerome). Egeria writes in the same "popular" ("vulgate") Latin style that Jerome used in his translation of the Bible. Of course, Egeria could not have known Jerome's Vulgate; the Latin Bible she knew was the so-called Vetus Latina, the "old" Latin translations of the Bible that preceded Jerome.

Throughout her pilgrimage, Egeria made constant reference to the text of the Bible, making connections between the places referred to in the Bible with the places that she saw with her own eyes. In order to appreciate Egeria's journey throughout the Sinai desert, you will want to make sure that you review these sections of the Bible, which you can read here online:


Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM