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Week 10. Gesta Romanorum: Jovinianus
This week we will read a very different kind of biography - the biography of a fictitious monarch who was anything but a saint! This story comes from a strange compilation of fact and fiction about the ancient Greeks and Romans called the Gesta Romanorum, the "Deeds of the Romans." This eclectic collection of folklore combines retellings of Greek and Roman history (the adventures of Caesar and Pompey, for example), along with popular local legends, incidents from the lives of the saints, stories about animals (often drawn from the Physiologus tradition), along with some outright jokes and humorous anecdotes.
The story from the Gesta that we will read this week is about the arrogant King Jovinianus, who boasted that he was an equal to God. Never heard of King Jovinianus? You are not alone: this "caesar" seems to be purely the invention of folkloric imagination. As we will see, this arrogant king was punished for his boasting by a series of remarkable events -- it is identity theft, medieval-style. As a punishment for his sinful thoughts, Jovinianus loses his identity and becomes a stranger to all those around him. How will Jovinianus ever get his identity back...? That is what you are about to find out!