Critical Annotations - The Story of Dorothea
0.1 Dorothea] St. Dorothea was a Christian martyr tortured to death during the persecutions ordered by the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 303 AD. According to The Golden Legend, she miraculously recovered her strength each morning after suffering torture each day.
7 Dorus] Dorus was the father of Dorothea.
26 for aye] forever, always
38 Emperor dead] The description of the deceased emperor as “a good man with a gentle heart” (39) is Morris’s fictional invention, which serves to accentuate a dramatic contrast to the desperate era of the Diocletianic Persecution carried out against Christians from 303 to 311 AD. The brief-reigning predecessors of Diocletian were the belligerent Carinus; his father Carus, who died in the east after leading an invasion of Persia; and Probus, who was assassinated by his deserting soldiers.
59 Cappadocia] Cappadocia was a northeastern district of Asia Minor and declared a Roman province in 17 AD by the Emperor Tiberius. It is now a region in central Turkey.
78 Jove] Jove is the early Latin word for Jupiter, the father god of all gods.
79 Citharea] Citharia is a descriptive name for Venus because in Greek mythology Aphrodite is associated with the Greek island of Cytherea.
87 Eriste and Calliste] The sisters are spelled Christa and Callista in some versions of the story. In The Golden Legend, after losing their faith they merely lapse into despair until Dorothea inspires them to embrace a re-conversion to Christianity, for which they are boiled alive by Fabricius.
118 Fabricius] Fabricius is the Emperor’s prefect for Cappadocia.
221 the Nazarene] Jesus Christ, whom she professes is her saviour, the Son of God.
246 fain] gladly
358, 825 Juno’s head] Juno is the patron goddess of the Roman empire. The use of the god’s name as an exclamatory curse by Fabricius (358) or as a casual exclamation by Theophilus (825) reminds us that Dorothea’s Christian devotion is not a challenge to pagan faith but to the cynicism of godless mockers.
305-06 sword] Morris may have seen in the British Museum Cappodacian coins depicting the olive wreath and sword. Compare John Keble’s “Third Sunday in Lent” [Luke 11:21, 22]:
The olive wreath, the ivied wand
‘The sword in myrtle drest’
Each legend of the shadowy strand
Now wakes a vision blest.
488 Persian blood] Successive wars were waged between the Roman and Persian empires over several centuries. Diocletian’s predecessor, Emperor Carus, had led an invasion of Persia with a decisive victory.
823 Protonotary] Theophilus the protonotary was the chief clerk for the prefect Fabricius; as a scribe and designated notary, his role is comparable now to the chief clerk of city hall.
883 solitary bird] The analogy of the exotic angel with a solitary bird over Egyptian deserts may be echoing Wordsworth’s image of the exotic song of a nightingale over the Arabian sands (“The Solitary Reaper,” 9-12).
900 spouse] Christ is the eternal spouse of Dorothea in heaven.