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La fata dai piedi di mula, by Tommaso Braccini

Licantropi, streghe e vampiri nell’Oriente greco

Reviewed by Doralice Fabiano

This book is a concise sourcebook on Byzantine folklore, a topic Tommaso Braccini has already treated in a more scholarly way. Instead of providing a comprehensive list or the basic translations of the Greek sources, Braccini presents rather the ancient stories in a fresh and attractive way, making the book very accessible to non-specialist readers, in keeping with the series. All the references mentioned in each chapter are available at the end of the book (in the section “Fonti e approfondimenti”, which also includes a bibliography of modern works). This book focuses on the fantastic and daemonic creatures of Byzantine folklore, particularly those whose origins can be traced back to classical Antiquity. The persistence of this heritage in the Greek Middle Ages suggests a strong continuity between ancient Greek religion and Byzantine beliefs, despite the apparent distance between these two worlds.

In ten short chapters (introduced by a “Premessa”), Braccini explores the world of the exotikà with its supernatural and dangerous beings that are literally thought to “come from outside”, living at the borders of the human and Christian community (p. 15). They may be considered as an image of “otherness” in Byzantine culture, but, as Braccini argues in his “Premessa” (p. 17-18), these creatures may also be considered as esotikà, that is “coming from inside”, though anyone may meet/encounter them in daily life. Braccini draws attention to the fact that many creatures we find in Byzantine testimonies were already present in the ancient Greek sources, but they were interpreted as daemons within the new Christian perspective (p. 15).

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